It is not uncommon for police officers in Michigan to issue a citation for failing to stop within an assured clear distance when there is a rear-end collision. In fact, MCL 257.402(a) states "[i]n any action, in any court in this state when it is shown by competent evidence, that a vehicle traveling in a certain direction, overtook and struck the rear end of another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or lawfully standing upon any highway within this state, the driver or operator of such first mentioned vehicle shall be deemed prima facie guilty of negligence." There is a presumption under the law that the vehicle striking the other vehicle from behind was at fault because a driver should have control over his or her motor vehicle at all times.
MCL 257.627(1) states as follows:
- "A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition existing at the time. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead."
Failure to stop within an assured clear distance can be cited even if a person is driving at or below the posted speed limit. For example, if a vehicle is driving at a speed inappropriate for ice or snow and collides with another vehicle, the driver can be cited for failing to use due care and caution under the circumstances. Of course, determining what speed is appropriate for the conditions is completely subjective.
Failure to stop within an assured clear distance is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. It is also considered a moving violation that adds two points to the offender's Michigan driving record which remain for two years from the date of conviction. Additionally, being convicted of a moving violation may cause your automobile insurance premiums to increase since your insurance company may conclude you are a risky driver.
A person accused of failing to stop in assured clear distance is not required to admit responsibility but rather can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. An experienced traffic attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor for a reduced charge of impeding traffic or a parking violation where points will not be imposed on the driver's license. If the driver is represented at a hearing, the attorney may convince the judge that the vehicle was handled reasonably under the circumstances and dismiss the charge.
A small investment into an experienced attorney may help you avoid greater expense down the road. If you are charged with failure to stop in an assured clear distance or any other traffic offense, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC.