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Maryland Car Accident Lawyers: What is the Time-Distance Test For Proving Liability?

In Maryland car accident cases, injured victims must prove that the other driver was negligent. One method of proving negligence is to show that the other driver was speeding, which is a violation of Maryland’s traffic laws. If victims can prove that the other driver was speeding, that is typically a major piece of evidence that proves the other driver is “at fault” and can be held legally liable to pay compensation for medical bills, lost wages, damage to vehicles, pain and suffering, emotional injuries, and more. The “time-distance test” is one method of proving that the other driver was speeding. If you have been injured in a Charles County, MD car accident, contact us here at the Law Office of Robert Castro. We have offices in Waldorf, MD and our number is (301) 870-1200. We are experienced and top-tier Maryland auto accident lawyers.

The time-distance test is a basic application of mathematics using three variables: distance, time, and speed. If you have the numbers/values for two of the three variables, then using basic math, the number/value for the third variable can be determined. For example, if we know a car drove one mile and that it took one minute for the car to travel one mile, then we can calculate that the car was driving at the speed of one mile per minute. Since there are sixty minutes to an hour, with a bit more math, we can also determine the speed to be sixty miles per hour.

A real-world example can be seen in the case of Suriel v. State, Case No. 1596, September Term, 2022 (Md. App. 2024). Suriel was a criminal case, but the discussion of the time-distance test is equally valid for Maryland auto accident cases. In Suriel, the defendant was convicted of speed racing that resulted in a fatal car accident when both speeding vehicles collided with another car in an intersection. At the time of the collision, the defendant (and the other driver) was alleged to have been driving 90-100 miles an hour. At trial, he denied this and claimed he was going the “normal” speed. One question for the jury was whether the deadly accident would have been avoided if, in fact, the defendant had been driving at a “normal” speed. This specific question was whether the victim would have cleared the relevant road intersection before the defendant’s car arrived.

The time-distance analysis is commonly conducted by police officers. In Suriel, one of the responding police officers conducted a time-distance analysis and concluded that the defendant was NOT driving at a “normal” speed. If he had been, then the victim would have been beyond the intersection and there would have been no accident. The specifics are as follows:

  • Based on data from one of the car’s event data recorder (its “black box”), that the cars were about 700 feet from the intersection 5 seconds prior to the crash
  • The posted speed limit was 50 miles per hour (“mph”)
  • Had the defendant been driving at 50 mph, he would still have been over 300 feet (and 4.5 seconds) away from the scene of the crash
  • Based on a similar time-distance analysis, it was calculated that the victim only needed 1 second to clear the intersection
  • Conclusion: had the defendant been driving the speed limit, the cars would not have collided

The same type of analysis can be used in a civil personal injury and car accident case to determine if a driver was speeding.

Contact Waldorf, MD Personal Injury Attorney Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer at (301) 870-1200. We are Waldorf, MD, Personal Injury lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.