By Jordan W. Charness

It was her very first car: Mary was 25 years old, had graduated from university a couple years back, and was solidly entrenched in her first full-time job. She was finally making enough money so that she could buy her very own brand new car. She got the best car that she could afford, and even though her monthly payments stretched her budget, they were still well within tolerable levels.

Generally speaking, Mary had always been a careful driver, but since she had purchased her own vehicle, she was doubly-careful when driving. She did all the responsible things: she never drove after drinking alcohol, always wore her seatbelt, she signalled when changing lanes and kept a reasonable distance from the car ahead of her. She hardly ever exceeded the speed limit and truly felt that she was accident-proof.

Unfortunately, sometimes life disagrees with even the most carefully laid plans. That probably explains the accident that totalled Mary’s car.

Last Thursday she was driving back from work on a grey, dreary and rainy day. As usual, she was driving not only within the speed limit but at a reasonable speed for the driving conditions. She kept a careful eye on all the traffic around her knowing that this type of weather with its poor visibility and slick roads could lead to an accident.

After rounding a curve she noticed that all the cars ahead of her come to a stop. All she could see was a sea of red taillights. She immediately hit her brakes and the anti-lock braking system jumped into effect. Since she had been driving properly and left plenty of room between her car and the car ahead she came to a stop well before the mass of cars ahead of her.

She then slowly drove forward until she was a few meters from the car ahead of her when she came to a complete stop. Unfortunately for her the car behind her was not driven by as careful a driver as she was. Warren’s car came whipping around the curve at 10 km/h over the speed limit. He too noticed the sea of red taillights ahead of him and slammed on his brakes. His ABS system also performed as designed but even the best braking system will not stop your car if you’re going too fast and leave too little room between your car and the car ahead of you.

He was only going about 30 km/h when he ploughed into the rear of Mary’s car pushing the nose of her car into the trunk of the car ahead of her. Her car crumpled like an accordion but the shell around the driver stayed intact keeping her safe from injury. Her car, however, was a write-off. In fact, of the three cars in this accident, her car was the one in the worst shape.

According to law, the person at fault for this accident was Warren, who failed to drive appropriately for the conditions of the road. In general, whoever ploughs into the back of your car is the one responsible. One of the major exceptions is, of course, what happened to Mary. Since she was not able to control her car after Warren slammed into her, the mere fact that she hit the car ahead of her did not engender any responsibility on her part.

The knowledge that she did everything right was however cold comfort for Mary who still had to deal with her insurance and all the other problems of having her brand new car replaced. Even the fact that Warren was ticketed with dangerous driving did not make Mary feel any better.

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