Reply To: 2.4 Definitions – Accidents

Homepage Forums Reply To: 2.4 Definitions – Accidents

Posted: Aug/19/2016 at 7:56pm – author: jdolan
Originally posted by jvecchi jvecchi wrote:

Mike:  My response was to the incident where the vehicle braked to avoid the pedestrian and the vehicle behind it swerved to avoid the collision and struck a light post.  

I would consider that situation two events because I believe that the fact that the following vehicle was not able to stop in time was not necessarily related to the first person’s inability to stop.  My training was always that each driver has an independent responsibility to control his/her vehicle so that if the vehicle you’re following stops suddenly, you should have left adequate space between the vehicles to come to a stop without colliding.  Had the driver of the first vehicle swerved into the adjacent lane and caused the driver of the 2nd vehicle to have to swerve to avoid a collision, that would have been a single unstabilized situation, based on my police training.   
From my perspective, it would be difficult to find a starting and stopping point for an unstabilized situation in heavy traffic if vehicles were travelling highway speeds, but suddenly slowed and somewhere back in the pack there were rear-end collisions.  I would see the first driver/vehicle involved in a collision as the first unstabilized situation.  I would not have listed the vehicle that hit the pedestrian as a non-contact vehicle for the second collision with the light pole.
The issue here is one of semantics. Looking carefully at example nine we see the following included when referring to the second vehicle: “At the same time (i.e., when the first vehicle started to brake and before it came to rest), a second motor vehicle in-transport swerves . . . ” So, the implication is that the unstabilized situation begun by the first vehicle has not ended, therefore the swerving of the of the second vehicle is part of the same unstabilized situation. Common sense may tell us otherwise, but based on a strict reading of the definition, this is an entirely defensible position. Now, we begin to have even worse problems when we consider some other factors. Let’s ask, for example, can the second car be any arbitrary distance from the first car, and still be part of the first unstabilized situation? According to this example, the answer is “yes”! Consider a driver who has a medical event and slow rolls across the roadway before hitting a telephone pole. We all know this is not uncommon. The unstabilized situation could last for several seconds. Now, suppose I am a driver approaching this event on the same roadway, but I am playing Pokemon Go while I drive. I look up from catching a Jigglypuff only to see another vehicle slowly rolling across the roadway front of me. I swerve to avoid it, and hit a rock wall on the other side of the road. I think we’d all agree that common sense tells us that these are two separate unstabilized situations, one caused by a medical problem and the other by stupidity. But, because the first vehicle had not come to rest before I looked up from my Pokemon Go game, by definition 2.4.4 these are all part of the same unstabilized situation, and hence part of the same crash. I am not advocating that we abrogate common sense to force situations into a technical definition. Gosh, report these as two crashes. What I am saying is that this is a particular kind of logical problem inherent in language and closely related to something called the Sorites Paradox. It is a well studied problem, and there is no particularly good solution in a lot of cases, but a common approach when faced with this kind of linguistic vagueness is to develop specific criteria to define a term and to stick with those criteria come hell or high water. If we adopt that attitude then examples 8 and 9 seem just fine to me. Otherwise we need to modify the definition, but I believe that no matter what definition you choose, your going find examples that introduce this problem. I vote for leaving the standard as it is, and reporting the the crashes as they are.


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