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Traffic Tickets

Reasonable Vigilance: Why You Got a Ticket When You Weren’t at Fault!

Imagine this: you’re carefully driving down the road at the posted speed limit. Hands at 10 and 2, with your seatbelt on, and your phone tucked away. As you look over at your child in the back seat, a vehicle swerves into your lane and crashes into you. Next thing you know, you’re signing a traffic ticket for not exercising “reasonable vigilance” in violation of New Orleans traffic laws.

Many citizens are unaware of what exactly this term means, and are often even more perplexed when they receive hefty fines for what is often a very minor infraction. Read on to find out what is meant by “reasonable vigilance,” and how our team of traffic ticket attorneys at Crescent City Law can help you to avoid the tickets that come with failure to exercise such care.

What is reasonable vigilance?

Most of the time it’s rational to assume that if you have taken reasonable steps to avoid being involved in an automobile accident, you won’t be punished if you do find yourself in such an unfortunate situation. Accidents happen, and if they’re not your fault, you can’t be held responsible, right?

However, you may still be fined even though you were driving in a cautious and prudent manner, under section 154-400 of the New Orleans Code of Ordinances:

“The operator of any vehicle in this city shall maintain a reasonable vigilance at all times while driving, sufficient to avoid collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or other private or public property.”

This means that drivers in New Orleans must be extra careful when driving within city limits. If drivers take their eye off the road for a second, or fail to look twice for oncoming traffic, they may be subject to a fine under this law.

How can I avoid being fined for lack of reasonable vigilance?

As mentioned above, the best way to avoid fine or punishment for failure to exercise reasonable vigilance is to be extra cautious on the roads. Driving with the primary intent to avoid an accident at all costs is often called “defensive driving.”

Here are a few ideas to help you practice defensive driving:

  • Plan your route ahead of time
  • Be aware of the weather and road conditions
  • Brake early and accelerate slowly
  • Leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front of you
  • Avoid any distractions, including cell phones, loud music, or eating while driving
  • Do not expect other drivers to react safely or the same way that you would react
  • Drive Defensively at All Times

Unfortunately, no matter how many precautions you take, this ordinance can be subjective in nature. It may be hard to argue that you in fact took every necessary step to avoid an accident. 

This is where a qualified New Orleans traffic ticket attorney can help you if you are issued a citation under this law. Experienced attorneys in the field of traffic law in New Orleans know how to investigate and what to look for when arguing that a client has exercised reasonable vigilance on the road.

Another way you can exercise reasonable vigilance is to take certain steps you may not think are necessary when driving. A case out of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana illustrates this point nicely.

In that case, the defendant was merging onto a street from I-10. Although the defendant was cautious and looked both ways before entering, his vehicle struck the plaintiff’s vehicle on the rear passenger side.

The federal judge found for the plaintiff, and added, “the fact that [the defendant] looked both ways before entering the intersection and did not see [the plaintiff’s] car does not absolve him of liability . . .”

Another important point in that case was that because there were no eyewitnesses, and the defendant failed to present any evidence to support his case, he could not win.

This highlights the importance of finding a dedicated attorney in this area who knows the law and how to help you  properly investigate your case. Although the “reasonable vigilance” ordinance isn’t always objective, the right attorney can help ensure you are not unfairly punished.

Hire a traffic attorney in New Orleans today

If you have received a ticket for reasonable vigilance, contact Crescent City Law to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys have the experience and understanding of the law to help you defend yourself in the unfortunate case of an accident, and make sure you don’t get any unnecessary marks on your driving record.

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