Is Brake-Checking a Motor Vehicle Illegal in Washington State?
Can You Legally Brake-Check Someone In Washington State?
If you've ever been driving down the highway and had someone suddenly and unexpectedly brake-check you, then you know how annoying and potentially dangerous it can be, but is it illegal in Washington State?
Are You Liable For Damages If You Are Brake-Checked In Washington State?
What does "brake-checking" mean, exactly? Brake-checking involves slamming on the brakes of your vehicle suddenly and without warning when another vehicle is closely following behind, often as an act of aggression or annoyance.
It can also be done as a way to signal to another driver that they need to back off or slow down. Although it may seem like a harmless act, it's important to note that brake-checking can be very dangerous—it can cause rear-end collisions between vehicles and lead to serious injury or even death.
Now that we understand what brake-checking is, let's take a look at Washington State law.
Yes, brake-checking someone is illegal in Washington State, as it can be considered a form of aggressive driving or reckless endangerment.
In Washington State, reckless endangerment is a criminal offense that can result in a fine, license suspension, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
Washington State law defines reckless endangerment as creating a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Brake checking someone could be considered a form of reckless endangerment if it puts the other driver at risk of a collision or causes them to lose control of their vehicle.
In addition, brake checking can also lead to a charge of following too closely, also known as tailgating, which is also a traffic violation in Washington State.
Under RCW 46.61.500, the penalty for aggressive driving includes fines of up to $5,000 and/or jail time of up to 90 days for first offenses; subsequent offenses can result in even harsher penalties including license suspension or revocation.
It's also important to note that if an accident occurs as a result of brake-checking someone else—whether intentional or not—the person who was doing the brake-checking may be liable for damages caused by their actions which could include medical bills, property damage costs, lost wages due to missed workdays, pain and suffering damages and more depending on the circumstances of the accident.
It’s best practice for drivers operating motor vehicles in Washington State to follow all traffic safety laws and practice safe driving behaviors at all times in order to minimize any potential risks associated with road rage incidents such as brake checking.