What is a Waving Accident?
Anyone who has driven any length of time has been in a situation where traffic is backed up and it’s difficult to see oncoming vehicles. There may be multiple cars at a 4-way stop and it’s unclear who should have the right of way, or you may be trying to pass multiple lines of traffic and some lanes have stopped to give you space to go though. Some well-intentioned Samaritan may wave at you to signal that you are clear to proceed, or you may decide to try to wave at another vehicle to let them go ahead of you. But what happens when a well-intentioned wave off leads to a car accident?
When an incident like the above scenario occurs, it’s considered a waving accident. One driver is waved on by a second driver, and the first driver ends up colliding with a third vehicle. These accidents can set off a lot of questions about who is at fault, who contributed to the accident and whether or not individuals should ever consider waving off another car. Ultimately, it is up to each driver to ensure they have a clear path free of incoming traffic before they decide to continue. Is another driver’s wave off enough to make them liable for damages caused as a result of the accident?
State laws vary on this very controversial issue, and it’s common for a waving accident to result in a long and complicated court process seeking to determine the liable party. Stories about waving accidents have been increasingly making headlines in recent years. In 2016, police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma reported to News on the 6 that such waving accidents are more common than you’d expect. Police were responding to an incident in which an SUV was waved into incoming traffic and collided with a school bus full of children. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this incident. The police department advised drivers everywhere to be cautious when following another driver’s wave or waving on someone else. A similar incident made national headlines when a New Mexico off-duty police officer was waved into oncoming traffic and collided with an incoming vehicle. The incoming driver was injured and argued that the waving party was negligent in signaling the off-duty officer into his lane. These incidents, along with hundreds of other nationwide cases, highlight the dangers of both waving off other drivers and accepting another driver’s wave off.
Waving Accidents in New Jersey
Despite being a very common practice, giving other drivers an “all clear” wave can and has opened up the waving party to liability issues. It’s not uncommon for injured parties to attempt to seek compensation from a well-intentioned driver who simply waved on another driver. New Jersey’s laws hold that any individual who waves another vehicle into the line of traffic can be held liable when that vehicle causes an accident. New Jersey’s courts first visited the issue of whether the waving driver has a duty of care to any injured persons when a collision occurs after a wave off in 1998. The courts analyzed whether the waving driver had an obligation or duty of care and whether it was foreseeable to the driver that another vehicle was approaching. The New Jersey court noted that a waving driver can prevent harm by either being certain the gesture will not cause harm or by not waving at all. In any new waving accident case, New Jersey courts will analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and make a determination about whether the wave contributed to the accident. If you are considering giving another a courteous wave off, then make sure you consider the potential consequences of your actions. A courtesy wave off should never come at the expense of your own safety or the safety of other commuters. When in doubt, don’t wave or signal another driver. This simple inaction can save you from liability issues. Don’t be afraid of being seen as inconsiderate, rather realize you are keeping everyone safer by not waving. It’s not in any driver’s best interest to attempt to direct traffic for others.
What Should You Do When Waved to Proceed?
If you are on the receiving end of a courteous wave off, then be wary of completely trusting the neighborly advice. Other vehicles may still have the right of way. The other driver could also be mistaken and fail to see a car in their blind spot. Worst of all, the other driver may not notice a pedestrian or cyclist. There is always a chance that you could be mistaken in interpreting another driver’s motions as an “all clear” signal when that was never their intention. Another driver could have been conversing with a passenger, dancing to music or attempting to alert you of a different concern. If an accident does occur, then the other driver may argue that they never gave an “all clear” indication. The other driver may even argue that they were attempting to warn you of the incoming traffic or pedestrian rather than urge you forward.
When you trust a stranger’s wave, you are ultimately assuming responsibility for what happens next. If you lack visibility to assure that you are all clear to proceed, then it is wise to wait. You can give the driver waving you off a polite sign indicating you’d rather wait or simply disregard the advice. Don’t hesitate to prioritize your safety and the safety of everyone on the road. Waving accidents are much more common than you think, so utilize extreme caution when you see other drivers attempting to direct traffic with waves.
Contact an Egg Harbor Car Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love has been injured in a waving accident, or any other type of motor vehicle accident in Atlantic City, Galloway, Egg Harbor, NJ, or anywhere else in South Jersey, please contact the Law Offices of Richard A. Stoloff via our Linwood, NJ office at 609-601-2233, or our office in downtown Philadelphia, at 215-988-9800. or simply send us a message via our online contact form to get started on your case today.