By Jordan W. Charness

“I know you are going to say that it is my fault,” said Peter. “But did you ever stop to consider just how many things have to go wrong in order for me to be at fault all the time? You know it is possible that I might be right this time.”

Peter’s story was indeed one of those that shows that some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. People like Peter never seem to catch a lucky break. A moment of inattention can have dire consequences.

Peter’s house has one of those steep sloping driveways. You know the type where the driveway is a couple of car-lengths long, is straight and narrow and descends below ground level to the basement portion of the house. This type of driveway can be difficult to shovel and keep clear of snow and ice. Sometimes the only way to get to the top is to get a running start out of the garage and boot it.

On this particular day, it was snowing lightly and there was just enough snow to decrease visibility and make the driveway slick and slippery. Peter was running late for work and jumped into the car ready for takeoff. As usual Peter had driven into his garage front-first since it was easier this way to negotiate the slippery slope and entrance to the garage.

On that same morning someone had chosen to double-park in front of Peter’s next-door neighbour. Because of the double parking a minivan was forced to stop in front of Peter’s house but in the second lane from the sidewalk. According to Peter the van would not have been visible even if Peter had been paying particularly close attention.

So now we have that big mixture of bad luck and circumstance. The double parked car caused a minivan to stop in the middle of the road. It was snowing, slippery and Peter was in a hurry. Peter backed his way out of his garage and only made it halfway up before his wheels started spinning. He allowed the car to roll slowly back into the garage to try again.

On his first attempt uphill the minivan had not yet made its appearance. On his second attempt the minivan was already stopped behind the double parked car. Since Peter was really trying hard to get out of his garage he jammed on the gas to get the maximum momentum.

He was more concerned with avoiding the stone walls that lined both sides of his driveway then he was with what was behind him. After all during his first attempt just moments ago the road had been clear. His second attempt was more successful. At least he made it all the way up his driveway. By the time he reached the sidewalk and backed into the street his pace had slowed.

Just as he crested the hill he noticed that there was a minivan blocking his path. Slow as he was going, he was still going too fast to recognize, react and stop before hitting the van. He gently plowed his rear bumper into the right passenger side of the other car.

Peter’s only good fortune was that he did not really cause any damage to his own car and that no one was hurt in the other car since he was not going very fast. Nonetheless he did cause a big dent in the side of the van.

Peter’s attempt at justification was twofold. In the first place, he claimed that the car should never have been double parked in front of his neighbour’s house. If the car had not been double parked, the minivan would not have been stopped and he would not have hit it. His second theory was that there was a defect in the way the house was constructed since it was virtually impossible to see anything that was stopped in the second lane while he was backing up the driveway. The angle was simply to steep for him to see properly.

Although I had to give Peter full marks for creativity, the law was not on his side. In any crash between a stopped vehicle and a moving vehicle the moving vehicle is likely to be the one that is at fault. There are a few exceptions but this is not one of them. Even though there was a car double parked causing the minivan to stop in the middle of the street, Peter was not entitled to ram into it.

Trying to blame the builder was also somewhat of a stretch. Peter had been living at this house for several years and was well aware of the fact that when backing up he could not easily see over the crest of the hill. It was up to him to be sure that he did not back into anybody. Gunning the motor and shooting out of the garage was a sure recipe for eventual disaster.

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