Brake Checking in New Mexico – Laws, Risks, and Tips
Navigating the roads of New Mexico requires patience, diligence, and extreme caution. Those who have spent time on New Mexico roads know driving through the Land of Enchantment can be less than enchanting, especially when confronted with aggressive drivers. Road rage, and by extension brake checking, has long been a concern for the state. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the legality of brake checking, explore the potential dangers it poses, discuss how fault can be determined in brake checking cases, and offer essential tips to avoid falling victim to brake checking.
What is Brake Checking?
Brake checking is when a driver suddenly and intentionally applies their brakes with the purpose of disrupting the vehicle behind them. Brake checking is not a response to a legitimate danger, such as slowing down for a hazard in the road. This maneuver is a form of aggressive driving and typically occurs as a response to tailgating or perceived aggressive driving behavior from another vehicle. Brake checking is a deliberate attempt to startle (or “check”) the driver behind them, creating an abrupt and unexpected deceleration that can catch the trailing driver off guard. The dangers associated with brake checking stem from the fact that the following driver might not have sufficient time to react and brake in response, leading to rear-end collisions.
Is Brake Checking Illegal in New Mexico?
Brake checking in New Mexico is illegal. In New Mexico, as well as most states, brake checking is against the law – but you may not find that exact verbiage in a New Mexico statute. While the words “brake checking” may not be explicitly stated in certain legislation, brake checking falls under reckless driving, which is against the law.
Reckless driving, as outlined in New Mexico law, involves operating a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” When a driver deliberately slams on their brakes with the intention of impeding, harassing, or endangering another driver, it falls under reckless driving.
Can You Be Arrested for Brake Checking in New Mexico?
Depending on several factors, you can be arrested after brake checking another driver in New Mexico. While brake checking itself might not directly result in an arrest, the consequences of brake checking could potentially lead to legal repercussions. Law enforcement agencies view brake checking as a manifestation of reckless driving, which, as previously discussed, involves operating a vehicle in a manner that demonstrates willful or wanton disregard for safety. If a driver’s brake checking maneuver is perceived as intentionally endangering others, law enforcement officers could consider it a form of reckless driving, leading to potential arrest and subsequent legal consequences. If convicted of reckless driving, you face up to ninety days imprisonment or up to a $100 fine for a first conviction. Second or subsequent convictions can land reckless drivers in jail for up to six months and/or fines up to $1,000. Reckless drivers also face suspension of their license for up to 90 days following a conviction.
Additionally, if someone is injured or killed due to brake checking, you could face serious legal and financial repercussions.
Is Brake Checking Dangerous?
Yes, brake checking can seriously injure or kill you and other drivers. The hazards associated with brake checking are substantial to all parties involved. The sudden deceleration of the leading vehicle can catch the trailing vehicle off-guard, leaving them with minimal reaction time. This can easily cause a rear-end collision capable of inflicting grave injuries or even fatalities. If the brake checking is severe enough that the following vehicle doesn’t have time to hit the brakes at all, they may hit the leading vehicle at full force, causing further damage. The impact can cause serious harm to drivers and passengers in both vehicles, including whiplash, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), lacerations, spinal damage, and wrongful death.
Additionally, brake checking can harm innocent bystanders. The abrupt change in speed can cause either vehicle to lose control and collide with surrounding vehicles, go through guardrails, or even cross medians into oncoming traffic.
Beyond the physical repercussions, brake checking can often escalate road rage incidents. The initial frustration caused by a minor traffic violation might be further exacerbated by the intentional brake check, triggering a cascade of aggressive behaviors from both parties. Unfortunately, this behavior is something we see far too often in New Mexico.
Is Road Rage Common in New Mexico?
Road rage, including brake checking, continues to be a serious concern for the state of New Mexico. Studies have shown for years what our drivers already know – our state has a serious problem with road rage. Road rage can range from aggressive gestures, verbal abuse, reckless driving (including brake checking), and even physical confrontations. One study of drivers across the U.S. ranks New Mexico as the fifth-worst state for road rage, with nearly 1 in 3 New Mexico drivers reporting they knew of someone in the state who had been injured due to road rage. Another report from 2022 shows New Mexico had the highest rate in the nation of individuals who were shot in road rage incidents. As road rage will likely remain a persistent concern for the foreseeable future, proving fault will be critical to obtaining compensation for any injuries a reckless driver may cause you.
If You Get Brake Checked Is It Your Fault?
Determining fault following a brake-checking incident can be a complicated process. Many drivers incorrectly believe that the car that rear-ends the vehicle in front of it is immediately at-fault. However, as previously discussed, brake checking is a form of reckless driving. When the leading driver operates their vehicle recklessly by speeding, swerving, brake checking, or otherwise driving in a way that endangers the vehicle behind them, they can be found at fault.
New Mexico operates under pure comparative negligence law. Unlike other states that may prohibit you from obtaining financial compensation if you’re determined to be more than 50% at fault, New Mexico will allow you to pursue compensation even if you’re found to be 99% at fault for a collision. The amount of compensation you can obtain will be reduced by the percentage of fault you are assigned. However, this gives accident victims, especially those who are unable to prove a rear-end wreck was caused by another driver brake checking, the assurance that they can still obtain compensation for their injuries.
Proving fault in the accident and asserting the other driver’s role in causing the wreck by brake checking can often be difficult. Below, we’ve outlined a few suggestions to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by reckless drivers.
How Do I Protect Myself from Brake Checking?
While you may not be able to control other motorists’ actions, there are things you can do as a driver to deescalate hostile situations and drive defensively.
Increase your following distance. If someone in front of you is brake checking you, slow down to increase the space between you. If the aggressive behavior continues, you may try to change lanes or exit the road altogether to get away. However, should you decide to evade the other driver, make sure they don’t follow you to a place you frequent, like your home or office. If you’re followed, contact the authorities, then make your way to the nearest police station.
Remain calm. The worst thing a driver can do when being brake checked is panic. Keep your composure and maintain control of your vehicle. Avoid swerving or jerking the wheel. Don’t feed into their anger or hostility. Focus on maintaining your distance and keeping a level head.
Contact law enforcement. If you suspect another driver is brake checking you or driving aggressively, contact law enforcement. They can attempt to intervene on your behalf before a tragedy occurs. If you’re involved in a collision, contacting law enforcement will also ensure the details of the event are included in the police record.
Document the event. Should you fall victim to brake checking, document the incident meticulously. Photograph the scene, including any injuries. If you or your passenger can do so safely, record the actions and erratic behavior of the other driver. Gather contact information from any witnesses as well as their statements.
Install a dash cam. A picture is worth a thousand words. Having concrete evidence of the events leading up to a brake checking wreck will be invaluable to your injury claim. Some cameras overwrite video to save space. Make sure your camera has a way to back up data or a failsafe in place should a collision occur so you don’t lose any critical video evidence.
Contact An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
If you’re injured in a wreck caused by brake checking or other reckless behavior, call us today at 898-BELL. Our team is well-versed in New Mexico traffic regulations and has a team of experience Albuquerque car accident lawyers that can fight to obtain evidence of the negligent driver’s wrongdoing. We know the tricks insurance companies use to shift blame onto innocent victims, and we’ll advocate to get you every dollar you deserve.