After a Crash, Claiming that Something Happened 'Suddenly' is Usually Just an Excuse

It’s a very misguided belief that crashes are somehow acceptable if something went wrong ‘suddenly,’ on the road ahead.

Writing this as a retired traffic patrol police officer who has dealt with and investigated countless crashes, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve been at a crash scene and had drivers tell me:

“It wasn’t my fault. Suddenly they [drove/walked/ran/cycled] right out in front of me!”

Here’s a classic example of a potentially lethal crisis that could easily be avoided not only by the pedestrian using more sense but also by any approaching driver. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

A driver might actually feel justified in making such a comment but the difference between a poor driver and a truly good driver is that the poor driver could very likely be telling the officer this while standing near to people who have quite unnecessarily been killed or injured.

The fact is that to a properly-trained* driver, virtually nothing happens ‘suddenly,’ up ahead, because they are thinking ahead, planning their drive, and using a disciplined, accurate and relevant regime of observations. (And this typically does NOT follow the common but simplistic advice of merely looking 10/12/15 seconds ahead of your vehicle. There is much more to it than that!)

Does this mean that a person we are calling a ‘good driver’ plans and makes allowances for other people’s errors or even downright stupidity, so that the potetial collisions never happen? Yes; you bet it does.

Think of it another way. Would you sooner go home and tell your family that you were in a collision that killed somebody, or would it be nicer to tell them — for example — “a child ran out in front of me today but I had thought of the possibility and slowed down before I even saw the kid, so he’s okay!”

This is just one example of what proper advanced driving is about, and it saves lives every day.

Anyway, here’s the full sequence for the critical moment shown in the photograph above:

As you can see: A pick-up pulling out from a street on the left, and a man correctly using the crosswalk. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
The woman foolishly ignores the very nearby crosswalk and crosses between slow moving vehicles. Note that if she had crossed behind that huge pick-up truck rather than in front of it, she would still have been out of sight to vehicles coming from the camera direction. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
The moment of crisis. Cars approaching from the camera direction can legally be doing 30mph, which is 44 feet-per-second, which is fast enough to create a very significant risk of a pedestrian being killed. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
And the ‘reason’ for this pedestrian’s illegal act of stupidity? Why, to get to her car without walking an extra 30-40 paces, of course. Really well worth risking life and limb for! (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

But here’s the key point…. In which of the above photographs did you first see the woman?

I hope you were truthfully able to answer the first photo in the group of four. Anything less than that is not paying enough attention — the first stage of distracted driving — and in turn, that invalidates any excuse that something “happened suddenly,” ahead of you.

Not convinced?

Here it is again, close-up:

Admittedly she’s quite well obscured but is there to be seen, none-the-less. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

It is worth adding that it doesn’t really matter to whom a court attributes blame after a crash; the only thing that really matters is harm to people or — more appropriately — the lack of harm to people.

Becoming a dramatically more attentive and observant driver is a small price to pay if one day you or one of your fleet drivers are truly able to prevent a death or a serious injury that a regular driver would have failed to anticipate.

Can some drivers do such things naturally, without additional training? The answer to this is that everyone is occasionally capable of spotting something in advance but — having trained many thousands of already-experienced drivers for Fortune-500 companies and other major corporations — we can honestly say that nobody we have ever trained was already near the standard of seeing as much as they could have done or should have done.

It really is that important.


* The training we provide, at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], is based very closely on the ‘System of Car Control’ — nowadays sometimes referred to by the acronym of ‘IPSGA’ — which has been continually refined and developed since 1935 by the traffic patrol police in Britain who, in turn, are acknowledged as being the safest drivers in the world.

It’s not just for police drivers though. It was adapted for civilian drivers in 1955.

Importantly, though, at ADoNA, we have also very carefully adapted the System for the highway engineering, the rules and the road safety culture in the U.S.A.


To discuss what ADoNA training could do for your corporation in terms of dramatically improved safety as well as huge financial savings and a visible increase in community image, please Contact Us.


Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links on social media to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Rick Steves is Criticized for Dangerous and Illegal Driving Tactics in England

It is obviously important for all drivers heading for foreign shores to learn as much as possible about the relevant driving laws and requirements, before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle in the country being visited.

A ‘selfie’ screenshot of American television personality and travel expert Rick Steves driving, from the video he shared on Twitter (Image: Rick Steves)

Living in New York State, as we do, my wife and I are fans of Rick Steves ‘Europe’ travel shows — they are fun, and he’s often likably goofy in his presentations. But in many years of watching him, we have never before seen him do any blatantly illegal and unsafe driving.

The M6 Motorway looking north, and here still in Lancashire rather than Cumbria, about 30 miles south of where Rick Steves was filming himself, presumably with a cellphone, while driving. (Copyright image, 2014.)

Ironically, the section of motorway where Rick did his filming, just north of the Sedbergh Road interchange (M6, Junction 37) was one of my old patrol areas during my time on the Traffic Patrol department with Cumbria Police. So Rick, I have to tell you that you committed at least three separate offences!

  • Having a hand-held electronic device in your hand while driving — in this case clearly to record video;
  • Eating while driving (although that is just implied from the preparation, as shown in the film footage); and
  • remaining unnecessarily in the middle lane on the motorway. (Yes, people do it all the time in the USA because reprehensibly they have not been taught the dangers associated with this behavior, however when combined with America’s tacit approval of passing on either side on divided highways, it undeniably is a factor in the much higher highway death-rate in the USA than the rate for such in Britain.) The relevant British phrase is ‘lane discipline’ and it applies to all lanes at all times.

Article: American travel writer slammed for videoing M6 journey from Blackpool to Cumbria on phone

These are the same hills that Rick Steves was about to drive through, and in different weather conditions, but this is the so-called Tebay Gorge and the Howgill hills from the north, whereas Rick was approaching from the south. (As always, all of our photographs here were taken from the passenger seat!) Copyright image, 2014.

On a lighter note, Rick, your rental car was not ‘Airbag‘ as you said — probably just in jest — it was a Citroen. And while you said you were heading first to Windermere, then to Keswick, you had missed the exit (Junction 36) for Windermere!

If any of our U.S. or Canadian friends or readers are planning a trip to Britain and will be driving while there, please read the UK Highway Code first.

The A66 ‘trunk road’ at Threlkeld, Cumbria. (Copyright image, 2014.)

If Rick continued to Keswick (which has a silent ‘w’ – say ‘Kezzick’) from where he was shooting video, rather than turning back towards to Windermere, he passed through my own home valley of Threlkeld, just one of the many beautiful valleys in the English Lake District National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited national park in the world.


Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

The above copyright stipulation does not apply to the photograph of and by Rick Steves.

Move Over Or Slow Down — the wording is important

Around the USA, most states have legislation for which the name is typically shortened to the ‘Move Over Law,’ but some states then go on to give bad advice that is potentially unsafe.

An almost perfect sign in New York State. The safest advice is ‘Move Over or Slow Down.’ See the article for a full explanation. (Copyright image, 2019.)

For example “slow down and move over” is inviting extra danger yet some states do use that wording in their advice.

Anytime a driver has to change lanes on a multi-lane highway, it is naturally important to ensure there are no faster-moving vehicles catching up in the lane you wish to move into. In that one sentence is found the logic behind the correct wording for this scenario.

If a driver slows down and then tries to change lanes, it is quite possible they will have created an unsafe situation in relation to vehicles catching up from behind. If a lane-change is necessary, as it is under the Move Over laws, then if it is safely possible it is wise to maintain speed and then do a safe lane change.

So the safest advice is:  Move Over OR Slow Down

If it is not safe or possible to make a lane-change then it is imperative for drivers in the lane nearest the static vehicle/s to slow down significantly. Some states, for example, require that under these circumstances a vehicle must be doing at least 20mph below the posted speed limit when it passes the static vehicle/s, but this varies and you should check what the law says in your state.

A state police trooper emerging from his unmarked SUV to deal with a speeder he had just stopped. Clearly, the officer is at significant risk from drivers who pay no attention and fail to comply with the ‘Move Over or Slow Down laws’. (Copyright image, 2019.)

This, too, requires care because of any vehicles in the same lane, behind yours. If you brake quickly then you might trigger being hit from behind. This is why it is so important to always leave plenty of space between your car and the vehicle ahead. In turn, this makes it easier for you to see further ahead, see the static vehicle/s sooner, and plan your own actions sooner, without rush or panic.

Any emergency, recovery, or road maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing must be treated in this manner, but a good driver will do the same for any static vehicle, such as a broken down car.

One of the most dangerous scenarios when passing static vehicles.   (Copyright photo, 2014.)

So please remember, unless circumstances genuinely prevent it, the safest sequence is:

  • Make sure you maintain a good view ahead at all times by always maintaining a safe following distance;
  • Whenever you see a static vehicle, check immediately to see whether the adjacent lane is clear, then signal when it is safe to do so, in that order (so that you don’t frighten another driver potentially into swerving away from you);
  • Change lanes when safe to do so, preferably without slowing down first and thereby increasing danger from behind;
  • If you cannot safely change lanes to put an empty lane between your car and the static vehicle/s then you must slow down as described above.
  • Watch very carefully indeed for any pedestrian activity near the static vehicle/s because there are occasions when someone might unexpectedly step into what is now hopefully the empty lane, and it is our responsibility as drivers to keep those people as safe as we possibly can;
  • Be particularly careful in the dark or during bad weather when visibility or tire-grip might be affected.
A state trooper almost invisible on the roadside as he conducts a traffic stop at night.
At night or in bad weather, the ‘move over law’ is even more critical, when officers or vehicle operators can be extremely difficult to see, especially when the flashing lights are so bright that they dazzle! Move over safely and in plenty of time, before you get anywhere near. (Copyright image, 2017.)

On roads with only one lane in each direction, the normal ‘move over’ component is often not possible but if there is a good, safe view ahead and it is legal to do so, a good driver will create space by at least partially crossing the central, dotted yellow line to keep away from a static emergency vehicle with its lights flashing. Whether or not that can be done, it is more than ever essential to slow down significantly under these circumstances.

At Advanced Drivers of North America, the ‘Move Over Laws’ and ‘Safe Following Distances’ are just two of over 300 important safety techniques we teach on our unmatched defensive- and advanced-driving courses. For more information, please Contact Us.


Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Don’t Turn the Door Mirrors Outwards. It Causes Far More Danger than it Cures!

Back in 2003, I first wrote the article Setting a Driver’s Mirrors for Maximum Safety, for the not-for-profit organization, Drive and Stay Alive, then we updated it in 2017 and reposted it here on the ADoNA website.

This is the view through the passenger-side door mirror and the red text speaks for itself, as one of the ten reasons mentioned in the paragraph below. (Copyright image, 2019.)

As a Driver, Protect Your View and Maintain Your Conspicuity!

Even in normal weather, it is possible for vehicles to become harder to see if they pass from sunlight to shade, or pass through a cloud of smoke or dust. And in low light, or in high-contrast lighting, things can quickly get more extreme.

Continue reading “As a Driver, Protect Your View and Maintain Your Conspicuity!”

The Latest Cars can NOT Drive Themselves!

If you are feeling drowsy, please don’t trust your car’s gadgets. They are nowhere close to that extent of trust yet…

Overestimating what your latest car can do is a terrifyingly good way to kill yourself or somebody else.

Even driving with one hand off the wheel increases reaction time and reduces a driver’s ability to respond to a sudden crisis such as a front tire blowout, but this driver was way down the ladder from that! (Copyright image, 2019.)

American Drivers aren’t Horny Enough!

Yes, the title contains innuendo but for a serious reason!

If those killed by motor vehicles in parking lots, etc., are included, then over 40,000 people are killed each year in vehicular collisions in the USA [NSC]. By comparison, ‘road rage causes a relatively small… percentage of fatalities on U.S. roadways, linked to 467 fatal crashes in 2015‘ which is roughly 1.2 percent of all crash deaths and 2.7 percent of all homicides.

A standard symbol for the horn — a bugle — in the middle of the steering wheel, but most countries except the USA have made the horn control much more accessible to drivers’ thumbs so that nobody need ever leave go of the wheel to use the horn… an obvious safety advantage. (Copyright image, 2019.)
Continue reading “American Drivers aren’t Horny Enough!”

USA: Buses Letting People Get Off Into Danger

Would YOU, as a driver, unfailingly be expecting people to get off the blue bus in these photos, into the right-hand lane in front of you?

A few days ago, while we were running an advanced driving course in Albany, NY, we saw a bus stop in the second lane from the curb to let people get off, and it was horrifying to watch. Fortunately, no vehicles came.

This is where the CDTA bus stopped — you can clearly see the edge of the open door. The asphalt between it and the curb appears to be a regular lane, for traffic going straight ahead or turning right, and on other occasions we have certainly seen it used in that way. See the continuing sequence of photographs below. (Copyright image, 2019.)
Continue reading “USA: Buses Letting People Get Off Into Danger”

I was just a few miles over the speed limit, officer!

Even some police officers may be heard voicing the opinion that speed, on its own, does not cause crashes. But in safety terms this belief is highly flawed.

Many drivers resent being fined for speeding and some people say that speeding is not dangerous.

Copyright image but viewers are free to share it at will, as long as the image and text remain intact.
Continue reading “I was just a few miles over the speed limit, officer!”