A proposal to add cameras to school bus stop-arms easily cleared the House of Representatives, but appears to have died in the Senate.
An incident in eastern Kentucky, when a driver ignored a stop arm, drove past a stopped bus, and fatally struck a man, inspired HB 221. “I was astonished by these numbers. On that one day, over 2,800 bus drivers on the road in Kentucky, they detected over 470 passing violations,” Representative David Hale said. A legislative committee approved the measure by a 10-1 vote, and it passed the House 87-5.
Although no senators went on record, privacy concerns likely derailed the proposal in that body.
Traffic Tickets and Negligence Per Se
A traffic ticket doesn’t only mean a trip to traffic court, or if some lawmakers had their way, a possible stint behind bars. Traffic tickets also affect civil cases, due to Kentucky’s long standing negligence per se rule. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate safety laws and cause crashes could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Normally, victim/plaintiffs must prove four elements (duty, breach, cause, and damage) to obtain this compensation. But in a negligence per se claim, they basically must only prove cause. So, if it’s available, a claim based on this time-saving shortcut is usually the way to go.
Frequently, however, negligence per se is unavailable, even if the tortfeasor clearly broke a safety law. As far as many law enforcement officers are concerned, car wrecks are civil matters. They’re reluctant to write traffic tickets, because they’re afraid they, and their departments, will get sucked into them.
Penal safety laws, like the DUI law, are the big exception. Many law enforcement departments have mandatory DUI arrest policies. If the driver is legally impaired, officers must arrest the driver, regardless of the circumstances.
If emergency responders don’t issue a citation, for whatever reason, the ordinary negligence doctrine is available. Once again, DUI is a good example. Many drivers are dangerously imoaired but they aren’t drunk enough to be legally intoxicated. Impairment violates the duty of care. This legal responsibility requires motorists to be at their best, mentally, emotionally, physically, and otherwise, when they drive. If that breach causes injury, compensation is available.
Common Traffic Tickets in Kentucky
Kentucky’s Vehicle Code is full of obscure laws. Truthfully, most drivers cannot travel more than a few blocks without violating at least one. Non-moving violations, like an expired inspection sticker or an expired temporary license plate, don’t involve the negligence per se rule. Violating these laws doesn’t cause wrecks. Some of the more common moving violations, and how they affect damage claims, include:
- Speeding: Excessive velocity increases the risk of a wreck and the force in a collision. Speed increases stopping distance, which means it decreases reaction time. The increased force principle comes from Newton’s Second Law of Motion.
- Running a Red Light: These violations sometimes involve excessive speed, or at least sudden acceleration. Many drivers put the pedal to the metal to beat the light. This offense is also a symptom offense. Many people run red lights because they weren;t watching the road.
- Failing to Yield the Right of Way: A Lexington personal injury attorney often cites failure to yield as the cause of a wreck. FTY also violates the traffic code. If they issue this citation at all, officers usually issue it in illegal turn or sideswipe accident cases.
- DUI: Technically, Driving Under the Influence is a traffic violation. Despite a decades-long drunk driver crackdown, alcohol still causes almost a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in the Bluegrass State.
If officers don’t cite tortfeasors for these violations, the illegal conduct is relevant in an ordinary negligence claim. Most people, including most jurors, know full well that it’s illegal to speed, run a red light, or whatever. This behavior indicates that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk. If that’s what jurors believe, they usually award additional compensation, up to and including punitive damages.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.