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By Jordan W. Charness

Sometimes what you do impulsively is not what you should do. Even though it may seem reasonable at the time, your actions may be governed more by reflex than by thought, and when this happens, what seems right is wrong and the law has very little tolerance for this type of action. Take what happened to Jamie.

Last year, Jamie was involved in a hit-and-run accident: he was stopped at a red light. The light turned green and the car ahead of him started to move and so did he. At the same time he made his first mistake by glancing out the side window of his car rather than watching the traffic ahead of him. Suddenly and for no apparent reason the car in front of him came to a dead stop halfway through the intersection.

Jamie did not have enough time to stop before hitting the other car from behind, thereby making his second mistake in just a few seconds. (Jamie is legally obligated to leave enough space between him and the car ahead of him to come to a complete stop at all times).

As far as he could tell, Jamie had just given the car’s rear bumper a little nudge since he was doing perhaps five km/h when he made contact. The driver immediately rolled down the window and began to yell at him. He could not understand why he was being yelled at and in fact didn’t even understand the words that were being yelled at him. His third mistake was to yell back at her. Although the words he was shouting – “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, are you all right? There is no damage to your car! Why are you shouting at me?” – may have been all right, his tone of voice certainly was not.

The driver of the other car continued to yell at him, so he made his fourth mistake and decided against getting out of his car, which he was sure would have caused the situation to deteriorate into a yelling contest over what he considered to be nothing. Mistake number five was deciding to leave.

As Jamie began to drive away, the lady in the other car started to chase him, which led to mistake number six, when Jamie tried to lose her by driving through small back roads and twisting and weaving through traffic. Eventually, Jamie arrived at a street under construction where there was no way for him to pass.

With the irate driver right behind him Jamie decided to stop the car and get out to explain again how sorry he was. Unfortunately, mistake number seven was changing his apology into an accusation that the lady should never have stopped her car in the middle of the intersection.

The driver continued to yell at him and called the police; Jamie made his first good decision in deciding to wait for them to arrive so he could explain the situation to them rather than taking off once again. It took about 20 minutes for the police to arrive. They spoke with her and then to him and asked him if it was true that he had made contact with her car and proceeded to drive away. Jamie admitted that it was so and tried to explain the situation.

Mistake number eight was Jamie’s raising his voice and yelling at the police officers that it really was no big deal and they should leave him alone. He was handcuffed, detained in the cruiser and released shortly thereafter with the warning that he would have to speak with a police investigator at a later date.

That date finally arrived and Jamie tried to explain to the detective what happened. After his explanation he was given a ticket for $850 and nine demerit points for “leaving the scene of an accident.”

Mistake number nine was failing to understand that even an accident that causes little damage is still considered an incident and leads to the legal obligation to stop and exchange identity and insurance information with the other party. Failing to do so will indeed lead to a conviction for hit-and-run.

Jamie’s perception that clipping a bumper and chipping a few inches of paint could be ignored was a costly 10th mistake. Since he only had a probationary license to begin with, the nine points he gets will be way over the maximum of four demerit points that he is allowed. Jamie’s license will now be suspended giving him plenty of time on the bus to go over his mistakes in his mind.

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