Illinois Traffic Violations That Could Adversely Affect Insurance Rates, Driving Records, and Lead to Up to $1000 in Fines and Costs.
Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a)
Driving Too Fast for Conditions (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a)
If you are ticketed for Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident or Driving Too Fast for Conditions, you may need legal representation. Both offenses are petty offenses punishable by a fine of up to $1000. Convictions for these offenses could have serious consequences for both your driver’s license and your insurance.
Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident is the most common ticket issued when a traffic accident has occurred. Usually, they are issued by a police officer who arrives on the scene of the accident after it has already occurred and then makes a determination of fault with in minutes of arrival. Very seldom are traffic accidents actually witnessed by a police officer. Sometimes, an officer will, in addition to speaking with the people involved in the accident, talk to other witnesses who were not involved in the accident, but saw it occur. However, this is not always the case, and often the officer will not obtain information that identifies who these third party witnesses are so they may be called to testify in court.
Proving Failure to Reduce Speed
To prove a charge of failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident the State must prove:
- That you were driving a vehicle on a public highway;
- That you collided with a person or a vehicle on that highway,
- That you did so in violation of your duty to use “due care”.
With the most typical failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident ticket, the first two requirements are usually easy for the State to establish. It is the third requirement that is the most difficult. Was the accident unavoidable? Was the other party to the accident the person who was not exercising due care? Were there road conditions or unusual obstacles that caused the accident? Were there equipment issues with your vehicle that caused the accident? The duty of due care is a nebulous concept, and an experienced traffic attorney can use this subjective standard to your advantage.
Driving Too Fast for Conditions
Driving Too Fast for Conditions is a less common violation than failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and is often issued in the case of a one vehicle accident in which a car slides off the road due to snow, ice, rain, fog, road surface or other environmental condition. It is not limited to this situation, however. Just like a failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident ticket, these are seldom witnessed by a police officer. In fact, there are often no other witnesses to the accident other than the driver who went off the road. The officer just sees the accident, looks at the road conditions, and concludes that the driver was going to fast, and that is why he/she went off the road.
To prove a charge of driving too fast for conditions the State must prove:
- That you were driving a vehicle on a public highway;
- That you did so at a speed that was greater than what was “reasonable and proper” when accounting for highway conditions such as traffic, weather, and road surface,
- You endangered the safety of any person or property.
Much like the “due care” standard, “reasonable and proper” is a broad definition that can vary widely depending on the subjective opinion of the officer issuing the ticket. In many ways, it is even more subjective, and, therefore, even more difficult for the State to prove. A traffic attorney with years of experience can ensure that the State meets their burden to prove every element of the ticket against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
For both offenses, the fact that you did not exceed the posted speed limit at the time of the accident is generally not a valid defense. This is a very common misconception about accident tickets. Not exceeding the speed limit can be a factor to be explored when cross examining the state’s witnesses about whether or not you used “due care” or were traveling at a speed that was “reasonable and proper”, but this is a very complex argument to make, and is best accomplished by an attorney with the experience to ask the right questions.
Both tickets are also eligible for Court Supervision, which is sometimes referred to as earned dismissal. This means that as long as certain requirements are followed (usually a payment of fines and no tickets for 3 to 6 months after the term of supervision begins) the ticket will not be placed on your driving record as conviction by the Secretary of State, and will not place any points against your license. A common misconception about Court Supervision is that the record of the ticket just “goes away”. It does not mean that the record of the ticket disappears entirely, it can still be seen by law enforcement and the court system, but it is not accessible to other parties. Even if you don’t want to challenge the ticket in court by making the State prove all the elements against you, an attorney can negotiate a disposition of Court Supervision with the prosecutor, and, in some counties, do so without you ever having to go to court. This can be very advantageous to those with busy schedules.
Contact an Illinois Attorney Today
If you are ticketed for Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident or Driving Too Fast for Conditions, it is advantageous for you to contact an experienced traffic attorney to represent you. Attorney Jeff Hall is a former chief traffic prosecutor in Central Illinois and he can assist you. Email Jeff at [email protected].