In S.C., 'brake-checking' could be costly mistake

In S.C., 'brake-checking' could be costly mistake

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A viral video of an SUV wiping out in Wisconsin after an apparent "brake check" is raising questions about what a driver can legally do when being tailgated.

A "brake check" happens when a driver who feels he or she is being tailgated taps the brakes, hoping to scare the driver into slowing down.

"It's basically road rage," South Carolina Highway Patrol Cpl. Sonny Collins said.

In the viral video, the second vehicle hits the brakes and appears to lose control, skidding and eventually coming to rest in the median.

On Facebook, reaction has been mixed.

Some users say the driver who appears to be following too closely was in the wrong for doing so and "deserved" the wipeout.

Others say the driver who brake-checked was in the wrong, and should have simply moved over.

State law would side against brake-checking, according to Collins.

"Simply moving to the right would be appropriate," Collins said. And that applies to either driver. "One driver needs to have the cooler head."

A driver who rides the bumper of the driver ahead of him could face a charge of following too closely, he said.

But a driver who brake-checks someone he feels is following too closely could face an even more serious charge.

Collins pointed to South Carolina Uniform Traffic Law Section 56-5-2920, which reads, in part, "Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving."

"When you hit the brakes to cause a reaction in the other driver, it's a willful act, and it shows a 'wanton disregard' for their safety," he said. "That's reckless driving."

A reckless driving ticket means six points on your driver's license plus a fine, he said. A second conviction results in a suspended license, according to the law.

If you find yourself being tailgated by a driver and you can safely move to the right lane, that's the best choice, Collins said.

"Simply move over, let that aggressive driver just go," Collins said.

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