Was she right or wrong?

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Today I overheard a woman describing a rather unfortunate event that had happened to her.

She was driving along and suddenly an Alsatian dog ran out in front of her car. She did an emergency stop, causing a bus to go into the back of her car and, unfortunately, killing one of the passengers onboard the bus.

The woman felt partly responsible for the death.

So, my question is….. should she have carried out the emergency stop?

I put this on Twitter yesterday and received a large number of very different replies, so thought it would be interesting to have people debate it on here.

121 comments on “Was she right or wrong?

  1. Easy. It doesnt matter why she stopped. She could have hallucinated the landing of a space ship.

    • Most of the answers below are interesting as there really is no right or wrong answer definitively. However, ‘She could have hallucinated the landing of a space ship’ belongs to the a*sehole of stupiidity!

    • Dennis says:

      You are quite correct Rose. In my experience, an insurance company or the police in Australia would hold the driver of the bus responsible for the car accident because s/he was tail gating. If braking to avoid hitting a dog were illegal, the driver of the car would be charged for that. If someone else drove into the back of the bus they would be held responsible for tail gating the bus.

      In my opinion, if the woman died of injuries caused by bouncing around inside the bus the driver’s tail gating makes him/her responsible. If the dog could be shown to be habitually wandering the streets, the owner of the dog could also have some responsibility; but if the dog were loose in a one-off situation the owner would not have any responsibility. However, the question should be directed at a policeperson or lawyer with some sound knowledge of traffic laws in the jurisdiction where the accident took place because there could be variations in the law across jurisdictions.

      Andy, try to recognise hyperbole.

    • She could have been charged with cruelty to animals, if not dangerous driving if she had not stopped. In regards to the bus passenger, the death was the responsibility of the bus driver, not her responsibility. If he had followed the rules of the road and maintained a safe stopping distance behind her, he would have been able to stop the bus before he hit her. If their positions had been reversed, the passenger may still have died when the bus driver stopped.

      We can only be held responsible for the consquences of our own actions, not the actions of others.

      To put this another way, let’s change the objects involved. I see someone choking on a stick of chewing gum, perform the heinlich manoevre and the gum shoots out of their throat. I have saved their life. We shake hands and go our seperate ways.

      Unfortunately, half an our later, a passerby steps on the gum and whilst he is busy trying to scrape it off his shoe a jumper, intent on ending their own life, lands on him, killing him outright.

      You can argue that each of the people mentioned is partly culpable of the gumshoe’s death, as a natural consequence of cause and effect, but it would be unreasonable to hold either the choker or me responsible, and even the jumper’s actions were not a deliberate act of murder.

  2. Clearly the bus was tail-gating or the bus driver wasn’t paying enough attention or had misjudged the conditions. Ultimately, the bus-driver bears most of the blame.

    For her part, the woman should have checked her rear mirror before executing an emergency stop, because tail-gating is so common as to be the norm. I always try to do that if I have to make a sudden stop.

    But that’s a lot to ask (checking the mirror and judging the abilities of the driver behind her) is a lot to ask when making a snap decision about braking for a dog.

    The only remaining question is whether a human really does have a higher moral value than a dog. Most people think so, though Peter Singer makes some interesting philosophical arguments around the question.

    • Drew says:

      You should be aware of what’s behind you at all times but NEVER check your mirror before executing an emergency stop.

      Fractions of a second count when a child runs out in front of you.

      And you’d likely fail a driving test if you did.

    • Josh says:

      Drivers in general and bus drivers in particular must always leave enough space in front to stop & be aware enough to react in time. The bus driver is at fault. If you meant to ask whether a human life is more valuable than that of a dog, you should have just asked outright.

    • Chris Emerson says:

      There is a reason driving examiners and instructors check behind the car for you before asking you to do an emergency stop – it’s because you are expected NOT to check!

    • One Eyed Jack says:

      This is so clearly the bus driver’s fault that there shouldn’t even be a discussion.

      I is ALWAYS, 100%, no question, the responsibility of every driver to leave enough room between themselves and the vehicle in from of them so that they can stop safely in any situation.

    • Josh: “If you meant to ask whether a human life is more valuable than that of a dog, you should have just asked outright.” — Isn’t that what I did? How else could you read my words?

    • Yvonne says:

      agree.
      the bus driver should keep a safety distance from she’s car.

  3. At the point of carrying out the emergency stop she had no idea of the consequences of her action so, yes, she was right to brake.

  4. Mark says:

    Of course she was right. If the Bus driver could not stop then he was either following too close or not paying attention

    • This is absolutely right. And a dog the size of an Alsatian can stove in the wing of a car enough to make the body slice through the tires, so if she hadn’t stopped she would likely have lost control and possibly hit something or someone else as a result.

    • Gus Snarp says:

      Paul: an excellent additional point. This is posed as a real scenario, not a contrived what if, so we have to realize that there are lots of possible unintended consequences to any action, and yes, hitting a large dog could cost other lives as well. You make the best decision in the moment and you take the unintended consequences that you get, and she made the right decision.

  5. Zawia Saki says:

    The responsibility is the owner of the dog’s. She merely responded as she thought best.

  6. Dan says:

    Legally, I believe you are not meant to brake for animals, but on the same note any vehicle behind should keep a safe stopping distance.

    Even if she wanted to just plow through the dog, it must be very difficult to not immediately slam on the breaks if something (particularly something large like a German Shepherd) runs out in front. I can’t see it going any other way, realistically.. That bus was too close to her.

    • 46xy says:

      Braking for the dog isn’t necessarily to save the dog, it is to both prevent damage to your car and to prevent injury to yourself and any passengers from striking a road hazard. Whether or not their would ever be any legal requirement to brake for animals as opposed to humans is irrelevant.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are correct, legally…the dog is not grounds for an emergency stop. While tailgating is illegal the insurance companies would argue that the primary negligence was the first driver breaking illegally. But ultimately this is down to highway law.

    • Gus Snarp says:

      Anonymous: I think you’re wrong and 46xy is right, you stop to avoid hitting a large object in the road that could damage your car and cause a further accident, it hardly matters what that object is. It could be a bucket dropped from a truck, doesn’t matter, you’re more likely to kill someone by hitting the large object and losing control of your car than by getting rear ended. If this is a real story it was a total fluke, the odds of a passenger on a bus getting killed because the bus rear ended a car in an emergency stop are pretty small.

  7. Mad Kev says:

    In all probability the person on the bus was old and would have died soon anyway #nothingtoseehere

  8. finn says:

    I responded to you on twitter about this. Technically the fault is with the bus driver. There needs to be enough space between vehicles to cover an emergency stop situation. The bus was too close to the car to perform a safe emergency stop.

    Although I do know you are not meant to emergency stop for animals, an Alsatian is a big dog. I’d see something and brake before my brain caught up with what I’d seen. Better to not hit a small child.

  9. Strictly, I’d say she wasn’t wrong. The bus driver is obliged to drive at a distance which will allow them to stop safely if the vehicle in front stops. The reason why she stopped is irrelevant, it could have been a child running out, it could have been a mechanical fault with the car, whatever the initial reason the bus should have been travelling at a safe distance.

  10. Jettatura says:

    Absolutely she was RIGHT! No question about it, at all! Her instinct to brake to save the dog was initially correct ( I’m assuming that the dog survived and that there’s no particular significance in mentioning that it was an Alsatian) – If the bus following her wasn’t also able to make an emergency stop – then the issue is with the driver of the bus! – who’s culpable for the passengers death? I’d have to say that for me the biggest portion of blame goes to the bus driver, although I would argue that there are mitigating circumstances an that on balance, sometimes an accident is exactly that, an accident. But that’s just me!

  11. follystone says:

    Well, every time we choose to drive on the roads we are creating an environment in which there is danger. So arguably the lady concerned was partially responsible. However she was no more responsible for a death on the day of this accident than she was on any other day that she chose to drive. Assuming the facts of the incident are correctly & fully stated, the bus driver was at fault for the accident either failing to leave a sufficient braking gap to the vehicle in front or for failing to pay due attention. It is important to note that unless we are 100% confident that all relevant facts are known & understood, recognition of fault (a better phrase would be root cause) must not equate to assigning blame. It should also be borne in mind that the passenger chose (presumably voluntarily) to undertake an activity in which there is a known level of risk, unfortunately this was the day that an incident of very low probability did actually occur.

  12. Navneeth says:

    Forget about the woman, I want to know whether it was right or wrong of Dr. Wiseman to be overhearing others’ conversations instead of posting illusions for us.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think in this case the responsible is the bus drive, he or she has the duty to keep a safe distance from the car that woman was driving…

  14. follystone says:

    I should have included above that the actions or inactions of the dog’s owner (if not a stray) should also be considered but we don’t have any information on that part of the story.

  15. You don’t emergency stop for animals, only people. I learnt that in the driving lesson I had the morning of my driving test when a squirrel ran out in front of me, and I slammed on the brakes. “That would’ve been an instant fail” he told me. So if you want to save an animal, check your mirrors first. If she’d braked to avoid hitting a person, then it would be cruelly poetic that someone would have died by her saving another; but she didn’t, so it wasn’t.

    • Peter says:

      Not being facetious, but how about large animals? If a pony suddenly ran onto the road, which must happen in some parts of the country, you would certainly make every effort to stop before hitting it. How large is large enough according to the law? Ploughing into a big dog could seriously damage your car, even if the law doesn’t care about the dog.

      Surely the default position should be to try to save a life, whether animal or human?

      And the bus driver is definitely the one at fault. He should have kept a safe stopping distance.

    • You have to stop for a large animal – a kangaroo or a cow will flip over the bonnet and come through your windshield killing you and/or your passenger.

    • ythaca says:

      You didn’t mention wombats, wombats make a real mess of the car. They’re solid as a rock and depending on the size of the wombat are likely to write off the car if not the occupants.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yeah she was right the bus driver was in the wrong as he must have been too driving too close to the car in front.

  17. kaggyxaggy says:

    Yes she was right to stop, the bus crashed as it did not keep a safe braking distance.

  18. RLQ says:

    In America, it is the responsibility of each driver to stay at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front of them. I would imagine for larger vehicles, the necessary space is much larger. For this reason, she is not responsible in any way.

    There may be other factors she did not consider, nor could she have control over, such as: was the bus safe? Properly inspected? Was the deseased sitting properly in a seat?

    Her guilt is one of survival, not one of cause.

  19. cghera says:

    I think she did the right thing. This could happen on a red light also and the bus driver was not keeping the right distance.

  20. Rob says:

    Agree with the others, it is the drivers fault. It does bring up interesting questions about seat belts and safety features on buses. regardless of the fact that the bus’ mass is greater than others, people will still be thrown forwards in a sudden stop as in a car.

    As for the morality of the women. She was right. Do unto others as unto you.

    If the Doctor permits links here is one;
    “The Science Of Rights & Morality”

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ie9g5BTcUEJb_77UYiuWRGZIFkfPExRWxa5tkeshXzY/edit?pli=1

  21. Paul says:

    She was driving at the correct speed to make an emergency stop. Same thing as if it was a child darting out in front of her. The bus driver was too close to do react in a similar way.

  22. Donall Quinn says:

    Even if she had kept going, the size of the dog would have caused her to stop anyway.

  23. Simon says:

    Emergency stops happen instinctively. She shouldn’t even have had time to think whether or not she should be doing it; it should have just happened.

  24. PaulC says:

    Another question: Was there really a dog? Or was that just an excuse to make up for the fact that she’d really been on her phone, drove badly and caused the death of some one on the bus, and was now feeling guilty?

    If the dog was real, she should still have been aware of the bus. There used to be a question on one of the DSA Theory Tests about vehicles travelling too close behind where the correct answer is for the car in front to gradually slow down thereby reducing the risk of being hit from behind.

  25. Jon says:

    Clear cut this one.

    She did not play any culpable part in “causing a bus to go into the back of her car”. The Highway Code is quite clear that space should be left between you and the vehicle IN FRONT so that you can safely stop. Whether her action in performing an emergency stop to save the life of an animal was or was not was justified is completely separate from whether the driver of the bus was driving without due care and attention by not leaving him/herself enough room to safely stop. The cause of the bus going into the back of her was down to actions of the driver of the bus, not to her.

    In any case if you were going to place any blame on her then it should rightly be immediately shifted onto the owner of the Alsatian. There is no rule in the Highway Code about not being allowed to perform an emergency stop should an animal cross your path, there is however one (Rule 56) about not letting a dog out on the road alone, so the only way she could be responsible would be if she was also the owner of the dog.

  26. Brayden says:

    Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. At least here in New Zealand. One of the things I was tought is never swerve or brake suddenly if you aren’t definately sure of what is around you and what could happen.

    • Dave says:

      Well, if that advice is of the same quality as the spelling that they taught you, you might want to take it with a pinch of salt.

    • Even if the woman was wrong to brake suddenly (and I don’t necessarily think she was), the responsibility for the bus passenger’s death lies with the bus driver, who was following the vehicle in front of him too closely. In this case, it was only a dog, but there are other reasons that vehicles stop suddenly. Following a vehicle so closely that you can’t avoid hitting it in the case of a sudden stop is dangerous.

  27. Moray says:

    I blame the person that died – should have been wearing a seatbelt!

  28. Steve Jones says:

    It’s easy – in legal and practical terms she was clearly in the right. Quite apart from the life of the dog, such a large dog as an Alsation (don’t we call them German Shepherd Dogs these days now that the war sensitivities have faded?), they are a large breed and people have been killed by such large animals coming through a windscreen.
    The bus driver does, of course, have a duty to be alert and drive at a suitable distance, and from his/her high seated position should have had an advance view of what was happening. Emergency stop reactions are also not carefully thought out events – they are, to a large extent, pre-programmed as the conscious mind is simply not capable of weighing up the fine calculations involved in the time available. It’s job is to assess situations in advance and try and avoid them (so an alert driver might have spotted a loose dog).

    Of course feeling psychologically guilty is a wholly different thing, and when you are involved in a situation and acted with the best of intentions yet it resulted in a tragedy, then it’s only human to have such feelings.

  29. NMC says:

    There are 2 levels:

    First: Legal Level:
    #1: The bus driver lost control of his vehicle and is responsible.
    #2: The bus driver has one circumstance reducing his fault: the dangerous stop of the woman. So the woman is also responsible.
    #3: The woman also benefits from circumstances: the dog. So the owner of the dog is also responsible.
    In short: insurance companies will negotiate the share of responsibilities.

    Second: Moral Level
    If we asked many people if they would prefer to kill a passenger or a dog, the majority would probably answer that killing the dog is the best option. So we are not in such a difficult situation as in the trolley problem (see for example: http://reason.com/archives/2010/11/02/the-science-of-libertarian/singlepage ).

    • One Eyed Jack says:

      There is no moral dilemma for the woman driving the car. The death of the bus passenger was an nu-intended consequence, so there was no moral choice involved.

  30. Peter says:

    Bus driver, s/he should have also seen the dog, as others have said, too close, buses are slow so must’ve been close.

  31. ColinG says:

    Maybe the bus driver shouldn’t have been so close behind her.

  32. Simon Taylor says:

    Your question is wrong. You state that “She did an emergency stop, causing a bus to go into the back of her car”. This statement is incorrect, it should be “She did an emergency stop, and a bus ran into the back of her car”. Your phrase implies it was the woman’s fault.

    It does not matter why she stopped, the bus was clearly too close, and didn’t have time to stop.

    As for the morals of NOT stopping for animals. 1) they can cause a lot of damage and 2) they themselves can injure or kill the driver if they go through the windscreen. So yes, I brake for dogs, cats, deer, horses, cows…

  33. Peter Vickers says:

    It is interesting that no one has yet thought about the circumstances of why the passenger died. Everyone has naturally assumed the death was caused directly from the crash. In own similar experience of traffic accident, not involving a dog though, no-one was critically injured. This was also at a high speed on a dual carriageway. This was probably not the case in Prof Wiseman’s scenario. Yes, the car driver should not emergency brake for an animal, according to the highway code. But the code also states that if you hit a dog you must stop and report it to the police immediately. The drive took the instinct option to brake. Yes, too, the bus driver did not anticipate any sudden braking from the car in front. But how many people actually do this every single road journey? I believe the passenger was unvoluntarily responsible for their own death. Not knowing the actual cause of death is the major factor of this scenario and applaude the prof on such a thought provoking topic.

    • Neil says:

      What on earth are you talking about? Leaving enough space in case the driver in front brakes suddenly is one of the simplest things you can do while driving.

      As for the passenger being involuntarily responsible for their own death, that makes no sense, no matter how often I re-read it. Buses don’t have seat belts, so passengers expect the driver to drive so as not to need to brake hard enough to hurl them around. Unless you’re blaming the death on the act of boarding the bus in the first place, it’s hard to see what other precautions they could have taken.

  34. Peter Vickers says:

    I should also answer the actual question. No the woman should not feel partly responsible for the death of the passenger. But you might have guessed that already!

  35. Was I the only one looking for a twist here, like there’s no such thing because Alsatian was spelt wrong or something?

  36. Martin says:

    Insurance companies and the law are fairly clear on this. If you go into the back of someone, it’s YOUR fault. It doesn’t matter why or how quickly that person stopped; it’s your responsibility to maintain a safe stopping distance. Here the bus driver is most certainly at fault.

  37. Easy one. She should have drove on and hit the dog. The owner of the dog is legally responsible for any damages caused to her car and she was still driving in a controlled manner, emergency stops are never controlled. For a bus to run into the back of her though, the bus driver must have been driving too close for his speed.

    • Anonymous says:

      How is an emergency stop NOT controlled? You should stop as quickly as possible without skidding. That is controlled.

      Would you carry on and hit a cat or a deer too? Owners of these animals are not legally responsible for any damage to a car (deer are normally wild anyway).

      Now, in the dark, we have to decide if the animal we are about to collide with is a dog or a deer… Is that a dog (run it over)? Is that a deer (avoid it)? That decision process could make it too late either way.

  38. Peter says:

    She was right…the bus driver was either going too fast or driving too close to her to be able to deal with any road conditions that might arise…

  39. Ron Uminium says:

    The bus driver was too close and/or not paying attention. She should not feel guilty.

  40. Stu says:

    No – she was not responsible.

    The last thing I want is for people to “turn off” their automatic reactions and try to think about what’s going on.

    “Oh, something in front of me…shall I stop?…what is it?….what’s behind?….”

    …and while that person thinks and wonders, the car travels on, and its your child that gets hit.

    So no. She bears no responsibility – although crucially (assuming she was driving legally) she would also bear no responsibility had she braked and avoided killing a human in the road. If its an automatic reaction, then you carry neither blame nor credit, surely?

  41. Juan AR says:

    At least in Spain the bus driver must maintain enough distance to stop before crash. This includes the act of an emergency stop. So the only responsible must be the bus driver. I can understand the woman feelings but the security distance is very important for these situations.

  42. Wendy Turner says:

    She was most definitely right. The bus dtiver was at fault for failing to keep a safe distance behind her. Whether she was legally obliged to brake for the dog is a different matter, I don’t think she was, but hitting an Alsation would be a significant impact damaging her car and likely injuring her too. She did the right thing.

  43. Keith says:

    The bus driver is at fault for being too close to the woman’s car. BUT it will be the dog owner who ends up in court as the animal was not on a lead.

  44. becksvector says:

    Often when I’m out riding my motorcycle, an animal will jump out in the road. It, for me, is instinctive to pull the brakes. If that’s what happened then no fault on her part surely. Bus must have been too close.

  45. Gareth says:

    In my experience, people rarely leave enough room when driving. It’s amazing the number of people you see even travelling at 70mph (or more!) on the motorway who are less than a car’s length behind the car in front. Utter stupidity!

    For a bus, the distance should be even further than the usual “two seconds” (I was always told three), because they’re bigger, heavier and often stuffed full of passengers, so should need to slow down more gently anyway.

    While on the subject, I do wish buses would clamp down on the lazy sods who won’t walk a few paces to sit down, so stand near the driver, meaning that more people get on, think that there are no seats and so also stand, eventually with the bus driver refusing to pick up new passengers because he/she thinks that there are no more seats! Not that I take the bus anymore, that is. Public transport in this part of the UK is absolutely shocking. I’d rather walk!

    Oh, and I agree with the majority. The woman shouldn’t technically have stopped for the dog, but (a) would have done so instinctively, and (b) would possibly have suffered injury if she had hit it. The bus driver did not leave enough of a gap, so the collision was his/her fault, along with the fault of the dog’s owner.

  46. safc4ever says:

    The only way she could have ’caused the bus to run into the back of her’ is if she was initially in a different lane from the bus and cut in front of it whilst swerving to avoid the dog. This is because she would have been cutting into the safe stopping space of the bus, leaving the bus driver no option to prevent the crash.
    I use a powered wheelchair and have a responsibility to not run into the back of people walking in front of me. However, when moving slowly in a crowd, people behind see the gap in front of me and overtake, filling the gap. If they then suddenly stop before I have the chance to open up the gap again, I can not be held at fault for any injuries sustained. Similarly, If I stop suddenly to prevent hitting someone ahead of me and somebody else walks into the back of my wheelchair, the person following is at fault for getting too close. If, however, I constantly get too close to stop safely and hit someone in front, it would then be my fault.

  47. charm98 says:

    easy she shoudnt have killin a dog is better than killing a human being

  48. “Emergency stop” to me sounds like it was a reaction, and not a calculated maneuver. I wouldn’t fault her for that. Not to mention that the bus should not have been following that closely. In most or all of the USA, if you’re hit from behind, it’s the other guy’s fault. I guess as long as you aren’t driving in reverse or something, heh.

  49. Gail Hatton says:

    No, she was’nt wrong, if she had braked for a cat, then yes, the law states you should brake for a dog running into the road, the driver of the bus was following too closely and not watching the road ahead, probably a man, thinking that hes driving a large vehicle, so therefore owning the road and right up the woman’s bumper, so it was her fault.

    • Simon Taylor says:

      Woah! Now we have to identify the breed!

      Some small dogs are smaller than cats, but we have a legal responsibility to report a collision with one (unlike cats). Dog ownwers are responsible for any damage (unlike cat owners).

      I would say that it could be difficult to tell the difference between a persian cat and a Shitzu for example.

      When in doubt, stop.

  50. No, she wasn’t wrong. We can’t decide to run over living creatures simply because there is a chance that it might cause another living creature’s death. This was a terribly unfortunate event but not the norm. I would like to think that if another dog/cat/goose/squirrel/ etc. were to run out in front of her car that she would still execute an emergency stop because it’s the right thing to do.

  51. Gordon says:

    I learned how to drive In Lanark. Lots of country roads. Instructor told me if it’s a sheep or smaller hit it.

    • Simon Taylor says:

      “if it’s a sheep or smaller, hit it”

      I bet you spend a fortune on car repairs. Even a bird can cause considerable damage to a car. Also, a sheep jammed in the wheel arch could render your car uncontrollable and put you at risk.

      Bad advice from a driving instructor IMHO.

    • Noadi says:

      Your instructor was either a moron or didn’t like you. As the other poster said: hitting an animal can cause considerable damage to a vehicle or cause it to go out of control. A whitetail deer is similar in weight to a sheep (though they’re much taller so they look bigger) and people are sometimes killed by hitting them. Not to mention that if you are looking straight ahead that thing running into the road in the corner of your vision might be an animal or a child or much bigger than a sheep (around here that would be a moose, and people usually lose hitting one of them).

  52. Berber Anna says:

    While I wouldn’t blame her, the fact does remain that she should’ve been aware of the bus behind her. If there was no possible way to swerve to avoid the dog (no unoccupied space anywhere next to her), sad as it may be, she should have run over it. Not because a human life is more valuable than a dog’s life, but because there were more human lives than dog lives at stake. A bus is a big, heavy thing — it doesn’t brake very fast, and when it slams into another vehicle, it causes serious damage. Also, people on buses don’t tend to wear seatbelts (I wish they would, though) which puts them at high risk in the event of a crash. So while the dog would have been one potential death (not certain, dogs can and do survive accidents), the bus could have meant more than one potential death.

  53. David Wood says:

    My thoughts echo others: She was right to perform an emergency stop. The bus should have had sufficient braking distance, and so, the bus driver was in the wrong. The lady who stopped is not responsible – though of course if I were in her place, I’m sure I would also feel partly responsible. However, I’m also confident that, again, if I were in her place, I would emergency stop again if another animal came running out into the road. Also, it should be remembered, that the emergency stop is also quite a reflexive operation – you do it without really thinking.

  54. Dharmaruci says:

    suppose she had emergency breaked for a child had run in front of her. the child is saved but the blind driver behind runs into the women motorist and his guide dog is killed, would he b responsible for training a new dog?

  55. Gus Snarp says:

    There’s no way she could know the bus would hit her, so she did the right thing. No bus driver should be going fast enough and following closely enough to not be able to stop. Of course, in reality divers often do follow too closely too quickly and that’s why accidents happen, but it’s not the fault of the person in front in any way. It’s all on the bus driver, who is wholly responsible for ensuring he or she has time to stop should the vehicle in front have to stop for any reason.

  56. pablo oldaq says:

    The bus driver was distracted by the gorilla.

  57. severn says:

    I braked for a large bird flying in fron of my windscreen. The car behind was tailgating and sounded his horn. Fortunately there was no collision.

    If a large object suddenly appears in front of you, you brake automatically, before you have a chance to judge the situation. This is a response built into us by evolution, and I don’t think the woman could be held responsible for braking.

    Even if you do have time to think about a response, you have to make a judgement: will this object cause damage or injury? You could make this judgement correctly or incorrectly in the circumstances. Would the dog cause either? Depends on the circumstances, I guess. I think the bird might well have broken my windscreen (another bird on another occasion wrecked my door mirror), and the car behind should not have been tailgating.

  58. severn says:

    And of course the bus driver is liable, because it could have been a child or another vehicle that ran out in front of the woman.

  59. Henry Ruddle says:

    The woman didn’t have a choice in the matter. Something alive — it doesn’t matter what — darted into her path, and she reacted instinctively. The bus was obviously following too close, so the bus driver is entirely to blame for that crash. She would have needed superhuman powers to slow down time and precisely estimate speeds and distances to do anything else, but if she had those abilities she would have swerved safely and avoided the situation all together.

  60. If something large moves out in front of you, discriminating whether it’s animal, human or something else ( just wait till robotic animals are on the loose!) may take more time than is necessary to apply brakes to save a life. Depending on the circumstances, an animal may be closely followed by a pursuing human.

    There are so many reasons for why an animal might be on the road, maybe it was chased there or its owner stumbled while on the pavement etc etc.

    While I would probably say the bus driver was most at fault for not keeping a correct stopping margin ahead, I must say that the rear vehicle is not always to blame. My brother once had a driver reverse into him when taking off from traffic lights, but the driver said her husband would be too angry if she admitted blame so my brother had to wear the cost of her error.

  61. Anna says:

    It seems to me that the bus, if following too closely behind, would have gone into the back of the lady’s car whether she had actively braked or not, as the act of hitting a large dog even without breaking would have sufficiently slowed down her vehicle.

  62. Skysland says:

    All is depends how to see. The question is if wrong or right feels of responsability of her. One dead in two possibles cases. I think in the future of the woman, when past time is better for her, kill the dog (alsacian) accidentaly, than cause  dead of man, when we think in man dead, we thinking in sons, wife, family, and the drama is bigger. But I was take same decision of she, is instinctive. I think…

  63. Skepdirk says:

    In Germany it’s called “Sicherheitsabstand”, probably “safety/minimum distance” in English.
    It means you have to hold a certain distance to the car driving in front of you to be able to break and stop your car in time regardless of whatever misfortune befalls the car driving in front of you. Clearly, it would be the bus driver’s fault.
    Unfortunately, in reality almost nobody is keeping the required minimum distance, so whenever I feel the urge to break, I have to take into account that I might cause some kind of similar accident, which is actually sad but should not stop me from breaking anyway.

    • Skepdirk says:

      The woman wasn’t able to choose between the dog’s and the man’s live, though: only the dog’s death appeared to be certain, whether she couldn’t know that a man’s live in the bus driving behind her was at risk as well… So she did the right thing, in my opinion.

  64. Andy Davis says:

    Yes she should have done the emergency stop, the bus driver is in the wrong, the over riding principle of driving is: “you must be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear in front of you” the bus driver obviously could not and was therefore following too close.

  65. Simon Taylor says:

    So, for those who think the woman was wrong to brake, think of this (true story):

    I was stopped at traffic lights and watched as a car appeared around the corner behind me and continued at speed directly into the back of my car. There was some 80 or so yards behind me, the driver had no reason to not stop. She was a new driver and was panicking with brakes, I think she hit the accelerator instead.

    I was stopped, correctly with the handbrake on, but could have jumped the lights and accelerated away and avoided her hitting me. There was plenty of time to do that, but I chose to remain where I was, with the handbrake applied, waiting for the impact.

    Her car was written off, airbag deployed, she was badly bruised and shocked – could have been killed. My car suffered extensive rear damage, costing over £6,000 to repair.

    I you think the woman should NOT have braked to avoid the accident, I imagine you think I should have driven off to avoid this one too?

  66. Emma says:

    There are people left behind the deceased in both cases, probably. The dog likely has owners who love it and would be very sad if it died. The people on the bus all have families (presumably) who love them. So the woman was damned if she did . . . Personally, I’d find it as hard to keep driving if a dog ran out in front of me as if a person ran out in front of me. It’s a reflex action to stop, I think.

  67. Gareth Price says:

    To those in the minority who think that the woman should not have performed an emergency stop, I am interested to know what she should have done? Braked somewhat and hit the dog? Continued at the same speed and hit the dog? Taken her foot off the accelerator and hit the dog?

  68. Neil says:

    In that sort of situation it’s usually just instinct that takes over to make you do an emergency stop. More interesting would be if she was equally aware of both the dog and the bus behind her and can her brain make a snap decision and action. In the situation you describe above, you can’t really ask the question should she have done the emergency stop. She did, she reacted and it, if a real situation, was an unfortunate accident for which she can’t be held responsible.

  69. fonji says:

    She did the right thing. She couldn’t know the bus was too close and it’s the bus driver’s responsability to keep a safe distance.
    If she chose to hit the dog she might have lost the control of her car anyway, which most likely will result in the same death and the dog’s.

  70. Andrew says:

    When I saw this on twitter I wasn’t sure if it was a passenger in her car or the bus that died. I was initially thinking that the woman was upset because her emergency stop led to the bus ploughing into the back of her, killing someone in her car.
    The story is also unclear as to whether it is the act of performing an emergency stop or the impact with the car that caused the death.
    It may well be that the emergency stop would have caused the injuries to the passenger, even if it had stopped a few feet behind the car.

  71. I’m glad to see general agreement here. There’s such a thing as a braking distance and you keep to it, particularly of you’re driving a bus.

  72. Seraph says:

    Reminds me of Michael J. Sandel’s open course in Harvard. He gives a very similar case in the beginning of the class.

  73. Noadi says:

    She couldn’t have known that the bus would hit her (and clearly the bus was either too close or the driver inattentive to be unable to brake) while she could know with reasonable certainty that the dog would be killed or injured if hit by her car. She was absolutely right to stop.

  74. mittfh says:

    Besides which, even if she had mowed over the dog, the impact would probably have caused significant damage to the car and may have slowed / stopped it, thus there’d be no guarantee the bus wouldn’t still mow into the rear of her car.

    Another way to put it: what if the animal in front of the car was a juvenile member of Homo sapiens? Regardless of age, you’d perform an emergency stop – and if you had time to notice the bus, you’d probably also apply the hand brake to minimise the chances of the bus shunting you into the child.

    Drivers will instinctively try to avoid anything on the road if at all possible, including (as I witnessed at the weekend) multiple drivers all swerving to avoid…

    ….a pigeon (!)

    It was sitting contentedly in the road, completely oblivious to all the oncoming traffic, presumably safe in the knowledge that nobody would dare mow it down…

    Question: was the pigeon (a) brave, (b) arrogant, or (c) stupid?

    • Anonymous says:

      My guess is that the pigeon was in shock from hitting a windscreen (and not dying).

  75. Ricardo Scofidio says:

    Hindsight, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place. The lady for whatever reason stopped to avoid hitting something and this initiated a sequence of actions. All else that followed was only one possibility of a million possibilities. Was the driver following too close or did something else happen that took his attention? Was the driver on drugs, or sleepy, or new to the job? Was the passenger seated or standing or walking to the door in preparation for an upcoming stop? The story has too many unknowns. The action to avoid hitting something with an automobile is instinctive and something we are taught to do. In this case it was an automatic instinctive reaction to a sudden stimulus. The emergency stop was unavoidable and it is the only fact that cannot be challenged. All else is guesswork and hindsight.

  76. M says:

    The fact that the bus crashed on her car because of an emergency stop makes it the busdrivers responsibility. A person must be able to make an emergency stop. You can’t check your rear mirror first. There’s no time

    It’s tragic tough.

  77. oddbodd13 says:

    I think two very natural aspects of human nature are at play here. Firstly, if you’re driving along the road, and any hazard suddenly appears in front of you (a human, a dog, a football, whatever), your natural reaction is going to be to go for the brakes. Secondly, it’s also natural that if you’ve been involved in the death of another person, you’ll feel some guilt, however irrational.

    I’d agree with those points about the bus driver not paying enough attention. Though I’d disagree with the idea that the woman should have checked her mirror first. A fraction of a second could be fatal. I’d certainly prefer to have my no-claims bonus lost after a vehicle going into the back of my car than to have a loss of life on my hands.

  78. kharamatha says:

    That’s a reflex.

  79. ginamodschooler says:

    Easy. The bus driver is at fault for the crash and passenger death. The owner of the dog is at fault for having an off-leash dog running into traffic. As others have pointed out here, the car driver cannot control for someone behind her who is too close to stop suddenly. Nor does the law expect you to, it’s on the person following to make sure there’s enough stopping distance, relative to speed, to prevent a crash in the event of an emergency.

  80. Anonymous says:

    The woman who braked did the right thing: saved the life of a dog.
    As far as any normal person can tell in the situation, there were two outcomes:
    1. She keeps going, kills dog.
    2. She brakes, saves dog.
    One loses a life, the other does not lose a life (though in this case a life was incidentally lost in choosing the second option)

    The fact that the second one caused damage was misfortune, it wasn’t malevolent intent or even a bad choice, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The only way you can fault the woman is if you hold the belief that a human’s life is in some way greater than a dog’s, and that the outcome of a situation is more important than the intention.

    • Anonymous says:

      (Addendum)
      I’d also like to point out that this tries to categorize the real world into a black-and-white morality, and things are never, ever, that simple.

  81. Michael says:

    I’m not sure because I haven’t read every comment, but it seems like the larger issue hasn’t been touched on. Who’s at fault doesn’t really factor into it. It’s a basic ethical question the answer to which seems obvious.

    The woman did not know that the bus was going to hit her. If she knew, then things might be different. However, faced with the prospect of hitting the dog, there was no moral dilemma, no choice made. She did what any normal person would–try not to hit the dog. The unintended consequence was that the bus hit her, etc.

    To say that she’s at fault would be to implicate anyone in any chain of causation that resulted in a negative outcome. A man buys a Coke from a convenience store. As he selects his Coke, he pushes aside another can of Coke that happens to be tainted. The next customer who comes in buys that Coke, drinks it and dies. Is the man guilty? How far removed from the end of the chain of causation do we need to be before we feel guiltless? Is a feeling of guilt directly proportional to one’s proximity in the causal chain to its endpoint?

    Conversely, should we be able to claim credit for happy outcomes in which we had a hand, even if we didn’t know it?

    Awareness is the key. Without awareness, there is no decision. Without decisions, there are no moral consequences–it’s just shit happening.

  82. Henry Ruddle says:

    This was advertised as an ethical problem with diverse answers, and yet the consensus here, as well as from the dozen or so people I’ve posed it to is that she did what anyone would do, has nothing to feel guilty about although it would be quite natural for her to do so anyway, and the bus driver was totally at fault. I just don’t see the controversy.

  83. NSFWjonathan says:

    I’d imagine that given the split second nature of the event, she had little choice as to whether to try to stop or not – it was an instinctual reaction.

  84. Aidan says:

    Clearly there’s not much detail but braking seems to me to be correct, principally because:
    1. A sudden stop is rarely a lethal manoeuvre. The worst you could normally expect would be panel damage if the vehicle behind is slow to stop. Had the woman swerved into the opposite lane to avoid the dog and risked hitting oncoming traffic that’s very different and I don’t think that would be justifiable.
    2. If a dog suddenly appears, there’s a fair chance someone will be running after it, perhaps a child who has just lost control of it. Even if braking wasn’t instinctive, I think it’s rational because the risk of hitting a person following the dog seems greater than the risk of someone in a tail gating vehicle being killed or seriously injured.

    On a related theme, I was once involved in an accident where car 1 braked hard to avoid a pheasant, car 2 didn’t notice and went straight into the back of it, probably writing off at least one of them, I was car 3, and braked late because I didn’t get the warning of car 2′s brake lights, and almost stopped but not quite. My view was that it wasn’t car 1′s fault – they were entitled to make an emergency stop when they felt necessary, I was partially to blame because I should have allowed enough space for the car ahead to stop without warning and car 2 was mostly to blame as they hit car 1, and also created a situation that was very difficult for me to avoid.

    The insurance companies wrangled it out between them, so I don’t know the ultimate decision, but I understand that the orthodox position is that the last car in a chain picks up the tab. Presumably this is to avoid the complexity of attributing a proportion of the damage to each of the collisions, but it creates the bizarre situation in which car 3 is responsible for damage that occurred between 1 & 2 before 3 became involved. I can understand the administrative simplification, nevertheless to me that seems something of an affront to causality.

  85. Dom says:

    What I find interesting is that most replies agree that the bus driver is responsible for the death of the passenger, because people assume that the driver was either tailgating or distracted. But the bus brakes could have been deficient (in which case the company can be held responsible), or even if the driver is responsible for the accident, the fact that a passenger died in these circumstances could still be attributed to insufficient safety regulations (like compulsory seat-belts in buses).

  86. Keith says:

    The emergency stop is the only manoeuvre where a driver does not need to undertake a mirror check first. Normally it’s the MSM routine, in this case its brake hard, the signal being the brake lights. The bus drive, a professional should have allowed for this possibility by keeping a safe distance.

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