Ames, IA asked in Traffic Tickets for Iowa

Q: I bumped the car in front of me due to anti lock breaks failing. Ticket for "following too close" Worth contesting?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Benjamin Kohn
Benjamin Kohn
  • Traffic Tickets Lawyer
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Licensed in Iowa

A: Possibly. That you rear ended the car in front of you is weighty evidence that you were, in fact, following too closely, but not is not per se conclusive that you were. Iowa Code 321.307 provides:

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

How much distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you that you had a duty to maintain depends on on what following distance met a strictly construed, criminally punishable degree of unreasonableness or imprudence in the same set of circumstances you were in, including road conditions and comparative speeds. If the only reason you rear ended them was due to an equipment defect that you did not know about ahead of time and could not reasonably have discovered ahead of time, and but for that equipment failure the following distance would have allowed the average person ample time to stop without a collision for those road conditions and comparative speeds, then I don't think you would be guilty of violating that criminal misdemeanor statute the traffic ticket is charging you with. However, if the brake failure was only a contributing factor and the following distance had been unreasonable even assuming working brakes, then you'd probably be factually guilty.

Which takes us to your question of is it worth fighting? That this is part and parcel to an accident does not work in your favor, being considered at fault for an accident is likely to make you look unsympathetic to most jurors and many judges, which (shouldn't, but realistically can) have the effect of making the legal determinations and discretionary factual inferences end up biased against you, increasing the chances of conviction even if you do fight it. Yet, that this goes to the cause of an accident may make it highly advisable to do everything possible to fight it anyway, if liability had not been conceded and the accident itself might become a personal injury civil dispute, especially if there was bodily injury involved. If you pay the ticket, you're pleading guilty, which means admitting the facts that constitute elements of the charge, and those same facts are deemed admitted in a civil case and cannot then be litigated if in dispute. Aside from that, the consequences of traffic ticket convictions generally can be a lot higher than is commonly known, especially for Iowa's system of them which labels all violations as criminal misdemeanors and creates a public misdemeanor record. You may have also heard about the impact they have in car insurance premiums come renewal, for years, which by itself can end up in the thousands of dollars.

If your car insurance is defending the accident, ask the attorney who they provide you for advice as to the ticket before pleading guilty, and be mindful of your deadline to respond to the ticket, so you're not deemed to have pleaded guilty by default. If your insurance settles the accident, I'd recommend consulting an attorney through a more private forum to give you a more individualized assessment. Anything I write here should not be relied upon as legal advice, and is general information that could be affected by outside facts.

I offer various consultation types and services in traffic ticket defense, which you can read about at:

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