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Is Brake Checking Illegal?

Posted by Harlene Labrum | Apr 22, 2022 | 0 Comments

Brake checking and tailgating are common behaviors on our roads. These two aggressive driving behaviors are correlated. In most cases, one driver brake checks another driver when the latter is tailgating. But is brake checking illegal? Like any other aggressive driving behavior, brake checking could lead to a preventable car accident. According to Insurance Information Institute, operating a vehicle in a reckless or erratic manner accounts for 3.7% of all fatal accidents in the United States. If you have suffered injuries or property damage in a car crash involving brake checking, tailgating, or other erratic, reckless, or negligent behaviors, consider contacting an experienced attorney. You can get a free case review with our lawyers at Labrum Law to determine liability in your car wreck in Nashville. Call (615) 338-9500 for a free consultation.

What Is Tailgating and Brake Checking?

Before we answer the question “Is brake checking illegal?” it is essential to understand the meaning of the terms “tailgating” and “brake checking.”

  • Tailgating. Tailgating refers to the act of driving behind another car too closely without leaving an adequate distance between the vehicles. Under Code Ann. § 55-8-124, following other vehicles more closely than is “reasonable” and “prudent” is considered illegal. Failing to maintain a safe distance could lead to a rear-end collision if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes. In that situation, the tailgating driver would most likely be held at fault for the crash because they failed to leave enough space between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them.
  • Brake checking. Brake checking is a maneuver in which a driver intentionally applies the brakes to get the driver behind them to back off. Brake checking is something many drivers do when the driver behind them is tailgating. In many cases, brake checking can lead to a collision if the tailgating driver does not have enough time to brake or swerve to avoid hitting the front vehicle in the back.

Both of these behaviors are considered forms of “aggressive driving” that might lead to preventable collisions. But is it actually illegal to brake check a tailgating driver?

Is Brake Checking Illegal?

Brake checking is considered an illegal act because intentionally and suddenly hitting the brakes could create a dangerous situation for other drivers on the road. If the driver is following too closely or does not have good reflexes to stop in time to avoid a collision, a car accident is likely to happen. However, following too closely is also illegal, which is why determining fault in a car crash involving brake checking and tailgating can be complicated.

Consider contacting a skilled and detail-oriented attorney at Labrum Law to help you gather all available evidence and prove that the other driver was at fault for the crash.

Who Is at Fault in Brake Checking vs. Tailgating Car Accidents?

Many people mistakenly believe that the driver who rear-ends another car is always at fault for the collision. However, that is not always the case. Determining liability in a wreck involving two forms of aggressive driving – brake checking and tailgating – can be tricky.

Technically, either driver could be deemed at fault for the collision. In some cases, both drivers may share liability for the accident if one of them was tailgating and the other intentionally hit the brakes.

If a collision occurs after a driver decides to “brake check” the tailgating driver, the fault will be determined by considering the following factors:

  • Did the driver who applied the brakes act intentionally?
  • Did the driver in the back leave enough distance between the vehicles?
  • Did the driver in the back have enough time to react and avoid a collision?
  • Did the act of brake checking endanger the tailgating driver?

Tennessee adopted a modified comparative negligence doctrine. This means that multiple parties may be held liable for causing a car accident. If both drivers are found partially at fault for causing the crash, their damages award will be reduced by the percentage of their respective degree of fault. Under Tennessee law, a driver is barred from recovering any damages if they are 50% or more at fault.

How to Prove That the Other Driver Engaged in Brake Checking?

Proving that the other driver engaged in brake checking, which ultimately resulted in the crash, is a challenging task. In most cases, arguing that the other driver was tailgating or brake checking becomes a “he said, she said” issue unless any of the parties can demonstrate visual evidence (e.g., videos surveillance footage or dashcam footage) or have a witness who can confirm that the other driver was brake checking or tailgating.

Whether you were the one who engaged in brake checking or tailgating, you might want to consider speaking with a lawyer to collect evidence and fight for compensation in your case.

What to Do if the Driver Behind You is Tailgating?

Tailgating is something that millions of drivers deal with on a daily basis. That is why so many people wonder, “Is brake checking illegal?” thinking that suddenly hitting the brakes is an effective way to deal with tailgaters. 

However, brake checking is not the best way to stop someone from tailgating you, not to mention that suddenly applying the brakes can lead to an accident. If the driver behind you fails to maintain a safe distance, the safest thing you can do to deal with a tailgater is give them an opportunity to pass. However, consider contacting law enforcement if this does not help and the other driver continues to drive aggressively, endangering you and other people on the road.

Get a Free Consultation with a Nashville Car Accident Lawyer

If you suffered injuries or property damage in a car accident caused by brake checking or tailgating, consider contacting an attorney to determine liability in your case and help you understand your options for compensation. If you still wonder, “Is brake checking illegal?” you can schedule a free consultation with our attorneys at Labrum Law to discuss your unique case. Call (615) 338-9500 to get answers to your questions.

About the Author

Harlene Labrum

Harlene is focused and passionate about helping those injured in car wrecks.  She earned her J.D. at Nashville School of Law and her Bachelor's degree at State University of New York at Albany, awarded with the highest GPA and high honors.  Harlene began her career in law as a personal injury par...

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