Gravel Road Dust Makes Crash with Vehicle to the Rear Foreseeable

There was a crash in Mitchell County near the town of Osage that occurred on November 2, 2007. This to-the-rear-end near-collision is one that illustrates how the driver in the front can be considered negligent. Iowa being a comparative fault state there is probably fault to be attributed to both drivers but let's examine how this can be so to the front vehicle. Normally we would blame fault on the driver to the rear and that may be the situation in this case, but experience tells me that in this case front positioned driver may share the lion’s share of fault.

Here is what the officer described in the investigative report. This is a two car collision with no contact between vehicles. Both cars are traveling in the same direction on what appears to be a gravel road. The driver to the rear is 16 year old Benjamin Mobley. His 14 year old brother is a passenger. They are traveling east bound on 410th Street, which appears to be a gravel road because they are driving in dust. The car to the front slows to look at a deer in the ditch. And that is where I believe the negligence of the front driver comes into play. Due at least in part to the cloud of dust young Mr. Mobley doesn't realize the front vehicle is slowing. The accident investigation report indicates he doesn't realize the front vehicle has slowed until it is too late and to avoid the collision takes evasive action by turning to the left. The left front wheels drop off the roadway on the north side causing the driver to lose control and the vehicle to roll over, ejecting the passenger.

Now the law of negligence is about “foreseeability” and anyone who has driven on a gravel road knows that they are kicking up a cloud of dust. The cloud of dust will and usually does obstruct the vision of the driver following behind. And that foreseeability should indicate to the front driver he should not slow down unexpectedly or slow down or stop in the middle of the road lest he cause an obstruction that the rear driver will not anticipate or have enough time to avoid striking. In other words it should be foreseeable to the front driver that the driver to the rear will not have a normal view of what the car in front is doing; like slowing or stopping. And that once the driver to the rear clears the dust he will have little time to avoid striking the slowed or stopped front vehicle that now obstructs his path on the road. And further that once he sees the front car his stopping time will be diminished due to surface considerations that affect braking distances.

So what lawyers do is use the Iowa State Patrol investigation to assist in analyzing negligence to right the wrong which in this case cost the young passenger his life. A good thorough investigation is always a part of a tough liability case and perhaps can make the difference in a successful lawsuit.

Know your rights, protect yourself and guard your rights against those who would take them away.

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