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.


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Getting the Scale and Seriousness of US Road Crashes in Perspective

It is effectively inevitable that road safety advocates will use air crash data to try to get people to understand the staggering seriousness of road crashes when compared to commercial plane crashes, but even then the true scale is rarely stated.

Wikimedia Commons: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 ‘G-TUMA’ TUI Airways (46886857481). Copyright-free photograph by Alan Wilson, from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs., UK
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The Need for Quality Driver Training, Even by the U.N.

Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for UN staff worldwide, but sadly that can be no surprise because the same tragic scenario often applies to soldiers, even within actual conflict zones. And work-related driving (fleet safety) is in a similar category.

It has become common or perhaps just fashionable in recent years for some traffic safety academics to decry driver training around the world as something that does not work. This frankly is a preposterous belief and a new United Nations report clearly indicates this.

Driving through a busy village in a tourist area can oresent many different safety challenges.
This common scenario shows a whole host of potential hazards which with no disrespect we would challenge the vast majority of researchers to even fully identify without studying the photograph for some time — and even then probably failing to recognize them all — and that much time at one small point of a journey is something which drivers of moving vehicles typically do not have in abundance. (Copyright image, 2017.)

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Ideal Mixed (Bad!) Weather Conditions for a Gold Advanced Driving Course

Of all the different levels of driver training we provide at Advanced Drivers of America [AD0NA], “Gold” courses are often the most gratifying because we can guide and watch people achieving the highest levels of safety — far above the standards that other drivers are even aware of.

The very first driving day (following a full day in a classroom setting) was by far the most challenging for the weather, but while this isn’t always available, the snow was an ideal addition for the purposes of a gold-standard, maximum safety, advanced driving course. Copyright image.

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Advanced Drivers of North America’s Role in the USA’s “Vision Zero” Goals

If your corporation or small business employs drivers, Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] can take them farther towards maximum safety than any other training supplier in the USA, and this article outlines how.

The Road to Zero Coalition logo
Advanced Drivers of North America is proud to be a member of the Road To Zero coalition.

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Driving Issues the USA Teaches Badly: Pulling Straight Off the Shoulder

Do not drive on the shoulder!  It’s a state law in many states but we have yet to encounter any Federal agency or state government in America that actually teaches this subject well… meaning for best safety!

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Work-Related Defensive and Advanced Driving Courses in Cities in the USA and Canada

Most of our requests for the provision of safety training for drivers, whether at defensive or advanced driving levels, relate to city locations throughout the USA and Canada.  This short article is intended to provide some guidance for our corporate clients on how to get the best return from your investment in connection with city-based courses.

Photograph of relatively light traffic on a major road in Seattle, WA.
Relatively light traffic — in this case in Seattle — is naturally easier to deal with for drivers, but average speeds can be higher in these conditions so potential dangers can be a bit different, too. Uniquely,  at ADoNA,  we teach a fully time- and research-proven *system* of driving which allows the widest-possible range of dangers to be safely negotiated,  not just five or six of them.  Please use our CONTACT US link if you would like to request a summary of the basic themes we teach, covering over 300 safety topics.  (Copyright image, 2014.)

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A Catastrophic Increase in Deaths of Pedestrians in the USA

Excerpt:  “…Pedestrian deaths have jumped 46 percent since reaching their lowest point in 2009, as pedestrian crashes have become both deadlier and more frequent. The increase has been mostly in urban or suburban areas, at non-intersections, on arterials — busy roads designed mainly to funnel vehicle traffic toward freeways — and in the dark, a new IIHS study shows. Crashes were increasingly likely to involve SUVs and high-horsepower vehicles…

Photograph of a pedestrian on a crosswalk.
Despite erroneous official claims that America’s road safety is improving, deaths of pedestrians alone have increased by almost 50 percent since 2009 — an entirely unacceptable situation. (Copyright photo, 2017.)

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An Accurate Insight into the Danger of Tire Failure

In our fifteen years of operating in the field of safe driving, here in the USA, we have never seen any significant data on the dangers caused by tire failures or blow-outs, and yet there can be no doubt that, every year, many Americans are killed or severely injured by these events.

Photpgraph of the front tire on a pick-up truck.
Once a week — yes, week, not month — check the pressure in your tires against the pressures shown on the driver’s door post of your vehicle or in the handbook, NOT the *maximum* pressures shown on the sidewall of the tire itself.  Check the tread and sidewalls for any punctures or cuts, and of course enough tread depth.   (Is that white dot in the tyre tread on this photo just a bit of gravel, or is it the head of an embedded screw or nail?)   Copyright photo, 2018.

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Motorcyclists Drive Distracted, Too!

Don’t assume that drivers and some pedestrians are the only ones who dangerously use cell phones on the roads.  As you can see, this young rider has his left hand off the handlebars and although this bit can’t be see from the angle of the photograph, it did very much look like he had a cell phone in his hand as he went past.  And that’s not as unusual as you might think.

Photo of a motorcyclist with one hand off the handlebars, apparently holding a cell phone in a viewable position, in that hand.
A young motorcyclist, possibly tired of life, who appeared to have a cell phone in his left hand as he rode past us at speed, on our right hand side. Photo taken from the passenger seat. (Copyright image.)

Remember that even if it’s “the other guy’s fault,” it is infinitely better to be able to use anticipation to keep out of a bad driver or rider’s path.  (This does NOT mean using evasive tactics, which often create as much or more danger as they are claimed to prevent.)

Keeping your people unharmed and untraumatized and keeping your company unafflicted by the cost of not-to-blame crashes is a wonderful and achievable target.  Save crash-related costs by getting your employees properly trained on how best to protect themselves from other people driving badly (and from their own, potentially unrecognized errors, too).  Get details of our corporate defensive and advanced safe driving courses, then contact us from that page with any questions you might have.