Bottom Line
Road Law
Bad luck

You’ve heard the phrase, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Bad luck is certainly what happened to a driver who called us about a really bizarre case that involved an accident and, unfortunately, a fatality.

 Q. I was involved in a wreck when a northbound car crossed the median into the southbound lanes and hit me almost head on. The driver of the other vehicle was the only one in the car and was killed.

The officer who came to the scene gave me a drug test, checked my logbook, inspected my vehicle and found no problems. Since there were no problems with me or my truck, the officer said he didn’t really know what kind of ticket to give me so he gave me a ticket for “impeding traffic.”

I asked him why I was getting a ticket at all when it was obvious the other driver was totally at fault and may have even been an unfortunate, yet successful, suicide victim. The officer said again that he agreed with me but felt that he had to issue a ticket.

As for the ticket, it’s my understanding that the charge “impeding traffic” is really like a parking ticket and that the fine is only $45. The officer told me, “You should just pay this ticket and forget about it.”

Should I just pay this ticket and will it hurt my driving record?

A. Well, let’s take this problem one step at a time.

First, it’s certainly unfortunate and tragic anytime you’re involved in a fatality and you may want to find a mental health professional to talk to before you end up with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Second, you never want to simply pay any ticket you receive when there was a wreck involved.

Remember, when you pay a ticket, you’re also pleading “guilty” to the charge. Pleading “guilty” means that you’re making a voluntary admission of guilt. If you admit guilt on a ticket you received when there’s a wreck, you’re making it much easier for someone to successfully sue you for property damage or personal injury claims.

In other words, when you simply pay your ticket, you’re admitting guilt and so the person who’s suing you no longer has to prove your guilt. In this case, you would plead “not guilty” and request the matter be set for trial. 

Third, the charge of “impeding traffic” is basically an allegation that you were blocking the reasonable flow of traffic and it isn’t, on its own, considered to be a “serious” traffic offense according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

However, because there was a fatal collision, any citation you received, even your charge of “impeding traffic,” automatically becomes a “serious” violation according to the federal regs.

Fourth, there’s another issue you need to consider or at least be aware of. Because you were involved in a wreck and the citing officer made an accident report, the actual word “accident” will now be posted to your permanent driver record.

Having this word “accident” appear on your permanent driver record is, in and of itself, a big penalty for you as it may affect your ability to qualify for liability insurance. This fact needs to be explained to the district attorney handling your case in order to convince him/her that even if your original charge of “impeding traffic” is dismissed, you’ll still be “penalized” with the word “accident” appearing on your driver record. This explanation may help you a lot in having your charge dismissed.

The bottom line is you were involved in a very serious wreck resulting in a fatality. You need to treat the citation you received just as seriously regardless of the small fine amount or the bad advice that the citing officer gave you at the scene. LL


Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email roadlaw@att.net.

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.