Thread: Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent
07-08-2009, 03:17 PM #1
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Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent
I was recently cited a speed not reasonable and prudent citation by a NYS trooper in St Lawrence County, NY. Here are the details.
I was travelling down a marked 55 mph road in which there are several farms, a few of which have dairy cattle. This road is very poorly maintained and I had not driven it very often. I also love my car to an unhealthy extent and given the amount of dirt and broken pavement, I typically travel that road (which I now travel semi-frequently due to my girlfriend living off that road) at a speed well under the posted speed limit, typically 35mph or less if it is inclement weather.
Coming upon a farm, a farmer had strung a 1/4" nylon yellow rope across the entire road, from one fence post to another. Distance I approximate to be about 35-40' from pole to pole. Their were no cattle crossing the road, and the farmer himself had not opened either gate. My girlfriend says it looks like he might have been calling the cattle to the gate when the event took place. I ended up strking the rope after seeing it at the last second, applied my brakes but the rope ended up riding up over my car and doing about 12-1500 dollars worth of damage to my rear trunk deck and spoiler.
The farmer called the state troopers, which I was fine with as I wanted an accident report. The trooper, upon arriving, interviewed the farmer, then myself. He did not take any kind of testimony from my witness (girlfriend) who was riding with me. The trooper then wrote me a citation for Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent V&T 1180A. On the supporting deposition, he stated that I told him I "was going about 40mph". This is in fact not true, it was my girlfriend who said "he never he even goes 40mph on this road!". This fact aside, I asked the trooper why I was being given a citation since there is no way it is legal for ANYONE to obstruct a roadway and he said he looked up the law (but would not tell me which law or section he looked up) and stated that the guy could do anything he wanted to get his cows across so long as there were cattle crossing signs posted. This is a sticking point as well because there was ONE cattle sign (typically you would find two, one for each direction of travel) and it was not a cattle crossing sign, it was a Cattle warning sign, an important distinction my research would find out. According to the DMV a Cattle warning sign indicates you should be mindful of cattle potentially getting out of their fences and wandering into the road. This is similar to a Deer warning sign. A Cattle Crossing sign is a modified Cattle warning sign that is essentially the Cattle Warning sign with a "XING" attachment to the bottom. Its purpose is to indicate the same as the Cattle warning sign AS WELL AS the fact that cattle cross the road to get from pasture to pasture/barn. 5 days after the accident, another Cattle Warning sign was erected for the other lane.
Personally, I think this is ludicrous and it was only after I began to leave the farmer yelled to me "Thats what you get when you f*** with someone who lives next door to a state trooper sonny boy". Possible bias aside, I am now stuck with having to defend myself in court.
I have 3 avenues I can attack, only 2 of which I think are worth proceeding with.
1: The ticket be tossed on account of the fact that obstructing a roadway is illegal. *I dont know if it is to be honest*, but everyone I have talked to has stated that it presents such a safety issue that there is no way it can be. If I had been riding my motorcycle, there is a good chance my head would have been lopped off judging from the amount of damage it did cutting into my spoiler. I have gone to the library, contacted a PHD in criminal justice who I know, and attempted to speak to the village police. No one can definitively say it is illegal but all agree (except the village police who refused to comment citing jurisdiction) that if it is legal, it shouldnt be because of the inherent danger it causes. If any can tell me if it is illegal and cite some reference that I can utilize this would be my preferred vector of attack as it would place the blame on the farmer and not me. It seems ridiculous to me that someone could obstruct a roadway in this manner, no orange cones, no safety lights NOTHING but a 1/4" yellow rope.
2: Assuming I was going 40 (I doubt I was, it was closer to 35 given the gear that I was in at the time) I would need to prove that the speed I was traveling was indeed reasonable given the circumstances.
Pros for my case: It was perfect weather. No rain, no clouds etc. The road is marked as 55 mph and I was going WELL under that speed. I have a witness (my girlfriend) who will testify to that fact.
Cons for my case: the trooper "observed the approach to be at grade and curve". My understanding of this means that I would have limited sight-distance and my reaction to an obstacle would be undermined. However (and I will take photos and measurements to support this) the grade is very slight and does not interfere in anyway with vision or ability to stop - in fact the fact that it is slightly uphill would ENHANCE my ability to stop due to gravity. The distance from the accident site to the curve is at least 350 feet, giving me ample time to stop if one assumes I was going 40mph per the officer's misquote on the deposition.
3: (and I dont think this will bode well though circumstantial evidence does support this is what happened to me) The officer wrote me the ticket because he knows the guy personally and did him a favor to ticket me so I could not go after his homeowners insurance for my damages. I did check that his neighbor is in fact a current active duty state trooper and works with the trooper that wrote me the citation (though he was not the trooper himself). It took the trooper 95 minutes to arrive on the scene, plenty of time for some calls to the neighbor and back and forth. The officer was blatantly rude to me right from the get go and constantly interrupted me as I was telling him my side of the story. When my girlfriend attempted to tell her side, he told her to be quiet and did not allow her to speak despite her being a material witness to the accident. He also blatantly misquoted me, to his advantage if the ticket were to go to court. I have been given some tickets before, I am not nearly stupid enough to say how fast I am going in ANY situation with the police.
Tactic 3 is not nearly as defensible as 1 and 2 obviously.
Can anyone give me some advice in this situation? I will get a lawyer if absolutely necessary, this isnt about the money. Its about the fact this guy TO THIS DAY is still stringing up a rope across the road. It is impossible to see and god forbid a motorcyclist goes down that road and has the misfortune of hitting it. He/she will be decapitated, of that I have little doubt. The people who reside on that road I can tell you drive MUCH faster than I do on that road. If I cant see it at 35mph, there is no way they are going to see it at 55-60mph. Its only a matter of time before someone gets hurt beyond just having their car damaged.
Thanks in advance, sorry for the length but I feel it is necessary to relay all the information.
07-20-2009, 12:23 PM #2
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Can anyone offer some advice? Again my primary concern is not my vehicle damage, but the fact that what this guy is doing is completely unsafe!