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Crashing Headlong Into Jail Time

, , , , , | Legal | January 4, 2019

I work as the compliance manager for a haulage company. My job largely involves making sure the drivers follow the numerous laws, restrictions, and regulations placed on haulage drivers in the EU; however, my side job is that I handle all incidents or crashes involving our company vehicles, accident reports, statements, CCTV footage. It’s all run through me, and I send things off to the relevant parties who need them. Many of these accidents are very mundane, drivers reversing into posts or clipping someone’s mirror off. Every now and then, though, I get something rather more interesting.

In spite of the risks involved in deliberately taking a hit from a vehicle many times the size and weight of a regular car, lorries have always been a hot target for cash for crash scams. The arrival of full-coverage onboard cameras in the last five to ten years has somewhat reduced the amount of these scams in recent years, but we do still get one now and then. This one was a particularly brazen effort.

Our driver was travelling down a motorway at the vehicle’s top speed of 56 mph. The road ahead was clear until a Range Rover pulled in front after overtaking; the Range Rover was very slowly accelerating away, so our driver took no action. This continued for a further half a mile or so, and the Range Rover was 60 or 70 feet ahead when a BMW tore past our driver and dove in front of the Range Rover.

The BMW braked very briefly, but the Range Rover slammed onto the brakes and didn’t let off them. Our driver braked hard himself, but with passing traffic keeping him in his lane, he had nowhere to go but straight into the back of the Range Rover.

Our driver had a load of uncut steel on at the time, and his total vehicle weight was in excess of 40 tons. Our driver was still going just over 40 mph when he hit the Range Rover which by this point had nearly stopped. The impact was devastating, completely caving in the vehicle up to the rear axle, and sending it spinning into the embankment to the side of the road where it proceeded to roll before landing back on its wheels.

Further footage from the onboard camera showed our driver running to the vehicle whilst ringing the emergency services. The occupants of the car were an adult couple and two children aged 11 and 7. Both children, amazingly, were able to exit the vehicle unaided, but the parents were both removed by the ambulance crews.

The police took copies of our footage at the scene, and after reviewing it, released our driver without charge after concluding he did the best he could under terrible circumstances and that the accident wasn’t caused by negligence on his part. The following day, once his vehicle had been recovered and I received the footage myself, I had issues with several aspects of the crash, chiefly the extreme brake response exhibited by the Range Rover which led to the crash.

I passed the footage on to our insurance group citing possible insurance fraud. After reviewing it themselves, our insurance agreed and I left them to it.

They came back to me only a few days later regarding this incident to confirm that it was being treated as an attempted cash-for-crash scam and that the police were involved. It was several weeks later before they returned to me again with full details.

The couple in the Range Rover had conspired to take part in the scam, and had put their unknowing children in the back seats as extra collateral; however, the mother, who was driving, had braked much harder than intended, which caused the accident to be much more severe than they had intended. They might still have gotten away without charge had the BMW that cut them off not been owned and driven by the father’s brother.

As it was, the couple and the man’s brother were all arrested on charges of insurance fraud, dangerous driving, and reckless endangerment. The parents were also charged with child abuse for involving the children. They all received sentences of five to ten years, and the children were sent to the mother’s parents to live whilst their parents served their sentences.

Fifteen years ago, before dash cams were really a thing, this crash would have seen our driver likely lose his license and possibly face criminal charges. Crashes like this saw my company adopt vehicle cameras fleetwide six years ago, and now, thanks to them, we’ve defended against dozens of scams that would have cost our company thousands upon thousands of pounds otherwise — not a bad investment.

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