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Author Topic: Fender-bender in my bus  (Read 5166 times)
Casper4104
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« on: July 31, 2006, 08:06:24 AM »

Oy vay, what a weekend.

Finally used the bus for its main intended purpose.  I left Friday afternoon for a 2-1/2 hour run up to just outside of Cleveland OH to teach a motorcycle safety course.  We taught classroom Friday night, taught the riding exercises Saturday, and concluded the riding exercises Sunday.  I slept in the bus Friday night and Saturday night and it was just great.  At the end of the day I didn’t have to go anywhere, I cooked my own meals and saved some restaurant money and of course saved two nights of hotel charges.  The bus began paying for itself this weekend.

Good news, students were great.  Eager to learn and interested in the material.  The beginners learned basic skills, the people with riding experience refined their skills, everybody had a good time, and everybody passed the course.  5 ladies and 7 guys, which is about typical.

Bad news, I had a fender-bender with the bus.  Here’s what happened.

I went out Saturday afternoon for some munchies and a bag of ice.  It was about a 2 mile run to the grocery store.  Coming back from the grocery store, I was traveling a suburban 4 lane undivided road with a stoplight at the end of each (long) block.  Speed limit is 35mph.

I was in the left lane ready to make a left turn 300 yards ahead to return to the class site.  I was doing about 30mph, with nobody in front of me.  Traffic was light, with a few cars passing me on the right because of my slow speed.

In the middle of the block is a driveway on the right leading to the fairgrounds, no signs, no traffic lights – there was a little festival of some sort going on.  I had just been passed (on the right) by 2 cars.  When I’m maybe 200 feet from the driveway, a “Police auxiliary” guy jumps out in the middle of the road to stop traffic.  He wants to let the shuttle bus hauling festival goers out.

I mumble the S word, push in the clutch and hit the brakes pretty hard, thinking “this is gonna be close”,,,

At this point one of the brain surgeons that just passed me makes a lane change right in front of me, and makes one of those little quickie stops that minivans can do and bus conversions can’t.  I say the S word out loud this time, hit the brakes full and hit the air horn.  I was probably down to 5-7 mph with I hit him.  I did check to my left – there was oncoming traffic so I couldn’t swerve around him.

Damage to the minivan was fairly light.  Tailgate bashed in, bumper fascia scuffed.  Quarterpanels looked perfect.  Damage to my bus almost nil.  Nobody was hurt.

The cop that came a few minutes later took statements and wrote me a ticket for “Failure to stop in assured clear distance ahead”.  I protested that I had miles of “assured clear distance ahead” until Captain Minivan pulled that lane change, and he explained that my front hit his rear, and the law pretty much required that he write the ticket.  I said that I’d contest the charge, and he pointed out my court date and said “I think you might have a legitimate beef.  I put the sudden stop by the aux guy and the lane change in the report.”


Ok, I have two questions for the gang.

1. Any ideas what I could have done to prevent this?  I’m a motorcycle safety instructor and fairly experienced heavy truck driver, though the bus is fairly new to me.  I have about 3000 bus miles under by belt now.  Motorcycles and big trucks teach you to avoid trouble, and I think I’m generally pretty good at it.    I think I was doing everything right.  I had good lane position, I was proceeding at a safe and prudent speed, I had nobody in front of me.

2. Do you guys think I have a prayer of beating this ticket?  My insurance is great and I don’t think this will affect my coverage or costs, since I haven’t had an at-fault claim in nearly 20 years, but this is about principle.  The smart play would probably be just to pay the lousy ticket and get on with my life, but I don’t want to do that.  What do you guys think?


That’s it.  I hope your weekend was better than mine.  Let’s be careful out there,,,

Casper
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2006, 08:23:26 AM »

Hi Casper,

Sorry to hear about your fender bender! It's something we all fear with our busses....

At this point, I think you should fight the ticket which I'm sure carries points. Do this first!

Than your insurance Co. will handle the rest pending the outcome of your court Date.

Do you have any witnesses? Do they have any witnesses? Without them, it's he says/ she says.......

Good Luck
Nick-
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2006, 08:25:42 AM »

Casper, so sorry about your accident! What a bummer. Glad nobody was hurt. The minivan idiot could have been killed doing something like that. Sometimes you have to choose the best course of action in split seconds... and I think you chose the best one. Evasive manuvers in a heavy vehicle seldom work out even if you had a clear path in another lane... and sounds like you didn't.

Heck yeah, I'd try to beat it. If someone pulls in front of you and slams on the brakes, they have some culpability, I'd think. Show up to court with a big diagram plan of the roadway and a mini-timeline... #1, #2, #3, etc., approx. speeds, etc. Make sure that you show the path of the minivan to be very abrupt on your plan. Have some pics of your bus, weight ratings, etc.

Good luck & keep us posted!
Brian
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2006, 10:47:26 AM »

A rear-ender is pretty hard to beat but, it's been my experience that going to court and being heard will usually result in adjudication withheld and no points, no insurance increase.  It's worth it even if you end up paying the fine (and you probably will).

Len
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2006, 10:56:29 AM »

By all means fight the ticket.  There have been many cases of insurance scams where what happened to you is what they do to try to get big damage claims.  For what it is worth you might want to talk to a lawyer, dirty word,  The money you spend on a lawyer might pay big divendends since you are a motorcycle saftey instructor and truck driver.
By the way I took one of the motorcycle saftey courses when I started riding again after 30 years and it sure taught me a lot.  I recommend the course to everybody.
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2006, 11:48:14 AM »

Casper,

I am also sorry to hear about your fender bender.

I had a similar incident once where a guy pulled in front of me to stop and pick up a girl hitch hiker.

He stopped in the road near a light and I tapped the rear of his car,  I also received a ticket.

I did exactly what Brian suggested and explained (humbly) what happend with some diagrams.

As I was, and you probably will be, the only case of the day with drawings and the like, the judge dismissed my case.

I was amazed at how many people came to court dressed for the beach.  I think my appearance and the time I took to present my case

was appreciated by the traffic judge.  Good luck with yours.

Cliff
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2006, 02:16:46 PM »

Call several lawyers who are local to the court. The first call is free, so make good use of this courtesy by calling as many as you can. You will learn who the good & bad ones are. You will also learn some law & have a better idea as how to present your case.

A good lawyer will know the traffic code & be able to tell you how to use it to your advantage.

If you present your case properly (you need to cite laws the minivan broke & you were following, judges love that stuff), there should be no problem in getting cleared since your record shows you are a safe driver.

The diagrams will help show you were acting in a reasonable & prudent manner, unlike the minivan who was driving in a reckless manner by his abrupt lane changes, etc...

I was once charged with reckless driving. Since this was so serious a penalty if convicted, I hired a lawyer. Best $$$ I ever spent. After my lawyer recited the law to the judge (in my favor, of course), all charges were dropped & the cop was reprimanded by the judge. Man that cop was pissed at me.

Good luck & may justice prevail.
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2006, 02:38:50 PM »

I'd be thinking that aux cop who jumped out and stopped the traffic in a less than timely fashion is key to the whole mess.

Little to no training on how to stop traffic, negligent behaviour by the pretender, minivan driver changes lanes while panic stopping for the badge without regard to the bus that was just passed, investigating officer just wanted it done with.

Fight the good fight, insurance company only cares what you just got caught doing, not the last 20 years...

Good luck and be:

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2006, 03:30:13 PM »

This has me thinking....Hummmm.......

I'll bet we can rig up a camra/ recorder system in our coaches to record while we are driving.

This system can be very simple. We can make it so that we can just record over the last trip we took.

If you think about it, we can really be big targets for some hotshot lawyer who may say that we could be inexpierenced,

or that we drive a commercial type vehicle without an equivelant license, no legal certifications to operate such a vehicle, or

that we have no legal papers to varify that we properly inspect our coaches for highway safty......ect.

What do you guy's think?  Let's hear some input.

Nick-
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« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2006, 07:11:08 PM »

`I'll bet we can rig up a camra/ recorder system in our coaches to record while we are driving.'

There are security video systems on a few of my employers coaches. It's a loop setup, wherein hard drives are over-written every half-hour or so. Whenever you have an incident, you push a button, which stores/locks/protects the previous 15 minutes of recordings.

This is a six-camera system, primarily intended to monitor our lovely clientele. Of course, the cameras are obviously there, on top of signs warning of their presence and operation, so in effect, they only catch the REALLY STUPID bad guys.
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2006, 07:21:44 PM »

Lightfoot,

Yes, but we would only need one camra facing the road ahead. Just like the cop cars have!

Any other ideas out there?

Nick-
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« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2006, 08:43:45 PM »

Casper -

I agree w/ Buswarrior & Kyle - Get a "liar-for-hire" involved to find and subpoena the rent-a-cop, then beat him up on the witness stand in court - putting the negligence for the accident on him and his company for its lack of training, not to mention the minivan driver for doing something stupid.

FWIW. . .
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Casper4104
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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2006, 09:12:59 PM »

Not a rentacop guys, Police Auxiliary. Mostly retirees that the PD employs to help with traffic control and such.

The reason this was so unexpected was that I didn't recognize him as an officer.  Older guy, in jeans and a dark blue shirt (with badge) and a ball cap.  No radio, no utility belt, no gun.  He was facing the road, so I didn't see the badge until he turned to his left and raised his hand.

Until he raised his hand and the tires started squealing, I just thought he was some gray haired dude waiting for a cab or something.  There was nobody waiting to exit the driveway, shuttle bus was nowhere in sight.

I'm not sure what I'll do yet.  I need to find out how many points, how big a fine, and what will this do to my insurance.  I'll make a couple of trips on principle, but I'd not inclined to blow serious money on an attorney if this is just a $60 ticket.  We'll see, I'll let you guys know.

BTW, to get a lot of opinions, I posted this same tale on that other board.  they're not quite so charitable to my situation over there.  That's OK, I was there, and I know that BJ McKay, Sonny Pruitt and the Snowman would have done the same thing I did.  Big Joe and Phantom 309 might have done something heroic - I just proved that I've been around big trucks for a while huh?   Smiley

Thanks for the input and advice guys.

Casper
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2006, 10:01:24 PM »

It might also help if you should go to court to have a mechanic give you a written statement on the excellent mechanical condition of your bus. In my state, (Virginia) if you are found to be at least 1% at fault, (like brakes out of adjustment, marker light out, etc.) even though the other person is 99% at fault, you can still be found guilty. I agree with the other posts, know your state laws, go prepared, and fight it. If you’re insurance company gives you a freebee that’s great. But if you use it, there goes your buffer zone. My insurance agent claims that regardless of how many good years of driving one may have that statistically, after the first accident claim, often there is a second. I do not know why that is but he has the numbers to show it. FWIW.
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« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2006, 10:51:01 PM »

Casper, 

You may have been around big trucks too long.  Haven't heard those names in decades, bring back memories.

Tom
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