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4 Tips for Protecting Yourself from Legal Repercussions While Driving

— September 23, 2021

Anything you do while acting in a public space puts you at risk for a legal confrontation. However, your behavior largely dictates the outcome of your actions.

Passing your road test and having adequate vision may be enough to get you licensed to drive in your state, but they don’t make you accident-proof. You have an ongoing responsibility to protect yourself, other drivers and passengers by maintaining situational awareness and avoiding risky driving tactics.

Additionally, by operating a vehicle on a public road, you subject yourself to the legal consequences that result from criminal or civil infractions. Here are four tips for protecting yourself from legal repercussions due to your actions on the road.

1. Keep Your Insurance Up to Date

Vehicle accidents are inevitable. If you spend time behind the wheel, on the roads you share with other drivers, then you most likely will be involved in a crash at some point. Because you can’t predict when an incident will occur, the safest way to protect yourself is to carry a current insurance policy on your automobile at all times. Most states require a minimum of liability coverage on vehicles, so if you do cause an accident, your insurance can cover damages and injuries to the other parties. It may seem tedious and unnecessary at the moment, but driving without insurance risks your very livelihood if a judge finds you at fault and orders you to pay.

2. Maintain a Complete and Accurate Record

Sometimes, there are multiple interpretations of a single event, and while the truth may be on your side, your word alone may not be sufficient evidence to support your claims. Perhaps, the driver that cut you off in traffic is blaming you for the subsequent fender bender. Or the officer that pulled you over refuses to accept it wasn’t you who ran the red light. In many situations, arguing on your own behalf only escalates the problem and leads to more conflict.

Don’t rely on public surveillance and trust in the system to vindicate you when you find yourself in legal hot water. Installing a vehicle camera system can serve as proof of what happened and help you defend yourself against false charges or wrongful accusations.

3. Drive Safely and Defensively

Man driving, in-focus view of dash with out-of-focus view of car ahead; image by JoeNomi 1961, via Wikimedia Commons, CC0.
Image by JoeNomi 1961, via Wikimedia Commons, CC0.

The best way to protect yourself from a stressful legal problem is to avoid one altogether.

  • Assume the worst from other motorists: It may seem like a negative mindset, but anticipating problems on the road will help you avoid them.
  • Stay away from distracted drivers: When you witness another driver texting, eating or using the phone behind the wheel, you can change your route to get away from that potentially dangerous situation.
  • Avoid the roads at peak traffic times: The more cars on the roads, the more likely you are to have an accident, so plan your driving time around rush hour, holidays and events that lead to traffic backups.

Taking actions to keep yourself safe and out of litigation is worth the minor inconvenience of watching the bigger picture while you’re on the road.

4. Follow the Law at All Times

In addition to defensive driving, making sure you always follow the law will significantly decrease your odds of winding up in a courtroom. Being a responsible road citizen includes following the rules of the road and not driving while impaired or intoxicated.

Additionally, maintaining your credibility and composure with authorities will help you stay clear of suspicion when problems do arise. When working out the details of a car crash for a report, only give your testimony to officers and don’t provide conflicting information. If you are stopped for a traffic violation you haven’t committed, be cooperative and polite, and give yourself the best chance to clear your name.

Anything you do while acting in a public space puts you at risk for a legal confrontation. However, your behavior largely dictates the outcome of your actions. By being a responsible and vigilant citizen who cares about yourself and others, you can avoid situations that land you in legal trouble.

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