1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Homework Help: Using physics to prove my innocence

  1. Oct 22, 2009 #1
    Vehicular collisions happen all the time and generally we try to avoid them (albeit in certain circumstances, but that's a completely different matter). This is my story from yesterday morning (October 21 2009)

    Now I was driving to go get my braces put on-with an 8:20 a.m. appointment time; that I left for at 7:30 a.m.-and was having a bit of trouble finding the exact plaza the building was in amoungst the somewhat confusing layout of the roads and other plazas in the area. Pulling over into a Best Buy parking lot to take a phone call from my father about said appointment (since driving while on the phone is not safe) I explained my frustrations and that I'd seen another plaza right up the road and was going to see what was in it and call him back if I was completely lost and couldn't find the place, he insisted that I stay on the line with him and drive up the road so he could give me directions. Now I'm all one and for not driving while on your phone, but I'm not going to hang up on my father (despite telling him that I didn't want to drive while talking to him), I told him "bye" and that I'd call him back. So I get to the stop sign, look both ways and see no oncoming traffic in either direction, begin the left turn, and right before I started straightening my vehicle out I was struck by a van on my right side.

    After we both pulled over to the side of the road, right on the other side of the parking lot I needed to be in, he got out and asked if I had seen him stating "I saw you and thought you weren't going to pull out," and after we saw the minimal damage he called whomever he works for, as he was driving a company vehicle, we then pulled into the parking lot and when I tried to give him my information (as it was nearing the 8:20 mark and I did not want to be stuck with a missed appointment fee and have my spacers in for any longer than they had to be) he informed me that "I don't need that, you can give it to the cops."

    Now the damage was basically nothing, his left back bumper had struck my right front fender and there was some scraping on my tires with a bit of damage to my rim, but his vehicle needed nothing more than a hammer taken to the inside of the bumper to push it back out again and some buffing to look almost like new again. Why you call the cops about that is beyond me, but it probably had something to do with the fact that he was driving a company vehicle.

    The police get there at around 10:30 (really prompt service there guys) and give me two citations. One for violating his right of way after leaving a private property and another for not having a current insurance card. Now I had ordered new insurance cards and have the same policy number that is on the cards in my wallet, this guy was just trying to fill his quota (you will always get more citations and tickets for things near the end of the month versus the beginning) and it has never been a problem before, it's just that my insurance company never sees the need to give me new cards even after I renew my policy with them. My card had expired in June by the way, so I'm getting punished because my insurance company is too stupid to send me a current card whenever I renew my policy with them.

    Now here's my problem with the other citation, the other guy's brake lights weren't on until he decided to pull over and he was moving fairly quickly when he struck me. I believe he was speeding since it was a 30 mph zone and he appeared to be moving at about 40 when he passed me. The thing about this road is that it is on both a curve and a slope, so you can't see any oncoming traffic from the right side that isn't over the rise in the road. The curve is to the left when driving down this road. You have about fifty feet of visibility, now since the sun was on my left and front when I was going to turn there was no way it was reducing my visibility. I was also looking in my rearview mirror and saw no one coming, only a white van in my right side mirror looking like it was going to pass me in the right hand lane just a little to close for comfort. I figure this curve is about 30 to 35 degrees based on just visual measurements and Google Earth.

    These are my problems with this guy's story.
    -I hadn't straightened my vehicle out yet (it's only 190 inches long, 67.9 inches wide, and 63.5 inches high) meaning my vehicle was as far to left as it could possibly be when this happened. Meaning his vehicle would have had to have actually re-entered the left lane to actually strike me.
    -I was in the left lane and there was no other traffic to block his movement into the right lane to simply go around me
    -If I had actually pulled out infront of him as he told the police, they didn't seem interested in my side of the story, then why was the collision on the front part of my vehicle and the back part of his. Seems odd that if I get infront of you, you're going to strike the front part of me and not the back.
    -There were no skid marks on the road or any indication that he had really done anything on his part to avoid a collision.
    -There are no markings anywhere behind my right front tire of his vehicle striking me, if I had actually pulled out infront of him and he'd not had enough time to go around me there would be a large scratch down the entire right side of my vehicle and I would be missing a side mirror, or a brake light.
    -There was already a dent on the left side of his vehicle right before the bumper, looked like a tennis ball had been pushed into it. Not saying he hit me on purpose to cover up him damaging the vehicle, but it's a valid theory.

    Now here's my personal theory on the matter. He was speeding down a road he thought no one else was on, saw me in the left lane and figured he could just go in a straight line around me and not slow down. Not remebering that he was in a large work van (an E350 or something like that) and not a small car, he forgot that he had to slow the bloody hell down when you drive on a curve and can't just barrell through. Then when he went to pass me, as I was speeding up at this time, he miscalaculated and went to get back in the left lane, hit me and straightened out.

    Now during this whole ordeal, his attitude just didn't seem right. He avoided eye contact with me, kept looking down and away whenever I spoke to him, and had absolutely no anger in his tone or actions, it seemed like his actions were almost premeditated. He already knew the phone number of the police and was dialing it right after he called his company. He didn't even consider exchanging information with me for a minor bump, that was probably his fault anyways, it was an immediate call to the police that it was my fault with no thought as to his own actions. I heard his explanation too (I have very good hearing) it went something like this.

    Officer: So what happened?

    Douchebag: I was driving along and he pulled out infront of me, I tried to avoid him and he hit me.

    Officer: Is that all?

    Douchebag: He says he didn't see me coming.

    Officer: Anything else?

    Douchebag: Nope, that's it.

    Seeing as how this douchebag, sorry "guy," didn't even bother slowing down before any of this happened I suspect it was his fault that this happened and am considering taking this to court to fight my citation, since it will raise my insurance costs by about $1,000 a year or so for the rest of my life. I'm also a law major and minor in psychology, since I can read people like an open book I found these two fields a natural fit, so I know what I'm capable of doing. Now after reviewing the details, thinking about what happened over and over, and even constructing a scale model using K'Nex, Hotwheels, and Google Earth, I have come to the conclusion that I am not at fault and whatever company he works for should be responsible for the costs incurred to my vehicle as well as the discharging of my citation, that he be given a citation, and whatever else I can squeeze out of them. I can't sue him as he was in a company vehicle and presumably on the clock, therefore I go to court with the company by virtue of vicarious responsibility.

    Obviously my conclusions shall be somewhat biased in the models and tests I conducted so here is the amount of damage done to my vehicle (so you can figure out how fast he was moving based on the direction and weight of his vehicle).

    There is scraping along my right front tire, slight warping of the rim, scraping along the curve of the right front fender, and a two inch vertical break in the sheet metal of my fender where the collision took place.

    All the vehicle he was driving had was a softball sized dent and a bit of my paint in his back bumper on the left side. The direction and shape of the paint marks indicated he was moving at roughly four times my speed (13 mph). Seeing as how that part of the vehicle is designed to collapse and just "spring" back into place it has a bigger dent than if another part of his vehicle were to have been struck.

    I'd like you all to at least give me an equation I can use to further my case against idiot drivers like him who make people like me pay for their mistakes. I'd also like to have you request more information if you need it since I'll gladly give you anything I can to make this process go by quicker.

    1. Determining if taking this to court is a wise decision or if I'm wasting my time. All information has been provided in above situation and more can be requested.

    2. See Newtons Laws of Motion and your basic sloping graphs, that and whatever else you think of using.

    3. Building scale models and trying to prove myself wrong, failing miserably at it too. I have also adjusted the angle his vehicle was moving at and have found that if he were to have been telling the truth, his vehicle would have been "drifting" around the corner, but facing the wrong way; to my knowledge, that is impossible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You failed to yield right of way. No matter how the accident happened, it is your fault. At a stop sign, the law says you must wait until the way is clear before proceeding. By definition, the way was not clear.

    While I understand there may have been lots of things the other guy might have been able to do, the simple fact remains that it was your responsibility to yield right of way. No amount of physics calculations or scale models will change that fact.

    It would be an open and shut case even if that were all there was to it.

    But by freely admitting that you were distracted, taking this guy to court might well backfire on you. He might be able to build a case of negligence against you.

    Rather than trying to nail this guy, you need to examine your own irresponsible and completely preventable behaviour that directly resulted in a collision. You know you were acting irresponsibly, which is why you spent your entire second paragraph trying to rationalize your way out of it.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook