Is Brake Checking Illegal in Massachusetts?

Have you ever been frustrated by a slow moving vehicle in front of you whose driver was constantly hitting the brakes, or found yourself held liable when the motorist ahead of you suddenly slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason and you rear-ended that vehicle?  If so, that motorist might have been engaged in illegal brake checking. 

Brake Checking In Boston

Most brake checking by motorists is done because the driver wishes to keep a motorist closely following him to stop tailgating although doing it incessantly could be considered reckless driving.  If someone you are following is doing this, it is best to find an opportunity to change lanes, safely pass the car, or simply hold back until you reach your destination or can turn off the roadway. 

Brake Checking and Insurance Fraud

But there are instances where the other motorist is attempting to commit insurance fraud by suddenly braking while at a high speed so that you have no choice but to rear-end the car.  The motorist then feigns injury so as to have an injury claim against you.  In this instance, the motorist can claim you were driving too closely and that he had to brake to avoid debris or something in the roadway that presented a hazard. 

There is no specific traffic code that addresses brake checking or its legality but anyone engaging in it could be guilty of reckless driving under General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24.  The definition of reckless driving is operating a motor vehicle in such as way as to exhibit a willful disregard for the safety of other persons using or on the roadway.  If you or someone in front of your vehicle does engage in such brake checking, it may lead to an allegation of reckless driving that can have civil as well as other consequences for you or that person’s driver’s license. 

Liability Issues

If you rear-end another vehicle, you will typically be held liable for the accident.  However, if the other motorist was indeed brake checking, then liability could rest on that individual. But without an independent witness or other corroborating evidence such as an auto video camera, it can be difficult to prove that that person was driving recklessly by brake checking.

Many road rage incidents result in accidents.  A motorist who is following you becomes frustrated at your slow driving and tailgates you, honks his horn, or flashes his lights.  You respond by tapping on your brakes to let the motorist know to keep a safe distance behind you.  But if you keep tapping your brakes and then suddenly slow even more so that the following vehicle rear-ends you, it is unclear if this was an effective way to proceed.  

However, there are times when you have to slam on your brakes due to a large object suddenly appearing in the roadway or because someone darted out into your path of travel and you had to swerve and brake to avoid a tragic result.  If so, then you were merely exercising reasonable care to avoid a collision. 

In newer model vehicles, there are sensors or “black boxes” that might contain data that can show that you were constantly having to slow down or, if the opposing party was brake checking, that they were either braking every few seconds or were at a high rate of speed before suddenly slamming on their brakes so that liability can be imputed to them.  If the accident was in an urban area, there might be surveillance cameras from overhead traffic poles or adjacent businesses that might have footage of the collision.  Also, if there are opposing versions of the accident, the motorist who slammed on his brakes might be suspected by a medical provider of falsifying his injuries that if proven will affect that person’s credibility and version of the accident. 

Avoid Brake Checking

You should always avoid even the appearance of engaging in brake checking. You can do this in the following ways:

  • Always maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front and around you
  • If you are being tailgated and you can move to the side of the road or into another lane, do so at your earliest opportunity
  • Should your vehicle have a mechanical issue, then put your flashers on and stay in the slow lane if applicable
  • Elderly or inexperienced persons often drive too slowly.  If possible, do not let them drive or only go with the person during non-rush hour times or on less congested roads
  • If following someone who is driving too slowly, give them a honk or flash your lights to enable them to move over or to the side. Do not escalate the situation by constantly honking or driving on their tail. 

Being in an accident where brake checking is alleged and is complicating liability should only be handled by an experienced car accident attorney.

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain

Not all car accident claims are the same. Issues of coverage, liability, and damages can be complicated and overwhelming. Do not hesitate to contact our office if you were injured in a car accident. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim. 

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