Vehicle brake checking another car in South Carolina

Following too closely behind another car, also known as “tailgating,” is dangerous. Car accident statistics in South Carolina show about 10,000 accidents each year are caused by a driver following the vehicle in front of them too closely.

Some frustrated drivers choose to vent their anger at drivers following too closely by slamming on their brakes to frighten the tailgating driver, a practice known as “brake checking.” While it may seem tempting, this is a dangerous practice that can exponentially increase the risk of a rear-end accident. Brake checking is illegal in South Carolina. When it comes to rear-end collisions, many people think the driver in the rear is always held responsible, but that is not always the case.

A driver who slams on their brakes for no reason other than to frighten a tailgating driver may be found at fault if a crash occurs. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was brake checking in South Carolina, a knowledgeable personal injury attorney at Joye Law Firm can help you evaluate how South Carolina’s contributory negligence laws apply to your accident.

Joye Law Firm has been helping injured people in South Carolina recover compensation for their losses since 1968. We have a track record of success in recovering the compensation that injured South Carolinians deserve. If you have been injured, we would like to review the circumstances of your accident and discuss the steps you can take to hold the at-fault driver accountable. Contact us today for a free case review.

What Is Brake Checking?

Brake checking occurs when a driver needlessly applies their brakes to startle, frighten, or retaliate against a driver who is following closely behind. The practice of brake checking includes slamming on the brakes and repeatedly tapping the brake pedal to send a message to the trailing driver.

Usually, a driver who “brake checks” another driver thinks they are being tailgated and hopes to scare the driver into slowing down and backing off. This aggressive behavior, however, is counterintuitive and actually increases the odds of a collision. If you believe you are being tailgated, it’s important to remain calm and change lanes, if possible, to let the other driver pass by.

Is It Illegal to Brake Check a Tailgater?

You won’t find a specific state statute addressing brake checking in South Carolina. But S.C. Highway Patrol troopers and others have long been on the record as calling brake checking “reckless driving.”

South Carolina law (SC Code § 56-5-2920 (2012)) says: “Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

The S.C. Courts have prepared suggested instructions to the jury for a judge to read if a reckless driving case goes to trial. The 560-word address says in part that, “Willful can be defined as doing something deliberately… As a general rule, something more than mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle is necessary to constitute the offense of reckless driving. Generally, the offense denotes the operation of a vehicle under such circumstances as to show a willful or reckless disregard of consequences.”

It quotes a previous court case, State v Rachels, 218 S.C. 1, 61 S.E. 2nd 249 (1950), saying: “Recklessness implies the doing of a negligent act knowingly.”

Further, a jury is told, “The law permits you to judge whether or not the defendant was reckless by his acts. … Secondly, it is not necessary that you find that he knew his acts endangered the safety of others; that is, that he was actually conscious of the fact. It is necessary only that you find that he should have known in light of the circumstances.”

If a driver slams on their brakes needlessly, knowing that a car is close to the rear bumper, the driver may be charged with a traffic offense. There are safer ways to deal with a tailgater.

How Can You Prove that a Driver Brake-Checked You?

Usually, the driver of the rear vehicle in a rear-end collision is presumed to be at fault, because he or she failed to slow down or stop in time to avoid the collision. However, the presumption is not absolute. If the rear driver presents evidence establishing that the lead driver’s negligence contributed to the accident, the insurer or a court must consider it.

Evidence of a driver having stopped short or practiced brake checking before a crash may be gathered from:

  • Witness statements, including passengers in either car or others who saw the crash. Witnesses may have video, especially if they saw repeated brake-checking in traffic or the brake-checking driver was upset after the accident and admitted what they did.
  • Skid marks on the roadway.
  • Event data recorder (EDR) readout from the lead vehicle, showing braking or acceleration, among other information from the moment before the collision.
  • Surveillance video, which may be found at nearby businesses and may show the accident.
  • Dashcam footage provided by the rear driver.

Obtaining this type of evidence requires experience in interacting with local law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and their legal representatives. An experienced personal injury attorney plays a crucial role in determining fault after a serious collision.

Fault and Liability for Brake Check Accidents

You should never follow another car too closely, and you should never brake-check a tailgater.  Either reckless driving practice can lead to a rear-end accident and serious injuries that don’t need to happen. Always allow enough space between your vehicle and the car ahead to stop safely if the car in front brakes unexpectedly.

In an accident involving tailgating and brake checking, it’s possible that both drivers may be found partly responsible for a collision.

Even if you are partially at fault for a car accident, South Carolina law allows accident victims who are less than 51 percent at fault for an accident to pursue injury claims against other motorists who were found at fault. An experienced South Carolina car accident attorney at Joye Law Firm can seek evidence to demonstrate that a brake-checking driver or a tailgater should be held financially liable for the accident that injured you.

Talk to a Skilled Car Accident Attorney in South Carolina

If you were injured in a collision when the driver in front stopped unexpectedly in an active traffic lane, you likely have expensive medical bills, lost wages, car repair bills, and other costs from the wreck. Joye Law Firm can help you evaluate the legal options available to you.

Contact our offices today at 888-324-3100 or online to schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney. To provide you with the best service possible, we have offices across the state in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Summerville. We can review your case and provide the legal counsel you need to help ensure that you get a fair settlement.

About the Author

I’ve been with Joye Law Firm for nearly seven years and had the distinct honor of opening our Columbia’s office doors at the beginning of 2016. I handle personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. My clients come from all walks of life. I also handle premises liability cases in which we investigate whether there was a negligent or hazardous condition that let to personal injuries. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, and exercise. I have two young boys and try to have regular “adventures” with them.

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