New York Speeding Tickets: Speed Not Prudent Charge Cannot Be Based Upon The Mere Happening of An Accident

Have you been charged in New York with “speed not prudent” by an officer who did not witness the alleged offense? Were you involved in an accident and then issued a ticket for an infraction by an officer who did not witness the accident? Judge Malone of the Justice Court of Mendon, New York, noted in People v. Genovese, that the practice whereby police officers in New York issue tickets for traffic infractions they did not witness occurs every day in lower courts across the State.

One of the most common scenarios is where an officer arrives upon the scene of an accident he did not witness and, after conducting an “investigation”, concludes that one of the drivers (or the only driver if it was a single car accident) had to be driving at a speed not reasonable and prudent and issues a traffic ticket to the “offending” driver charging him or her with violating VTL 1180(a) – “Speed Not Prudent” – which states that:

No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable
and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual
and potential hazards then existing

This practice is wholly improper. First, as detailed above, a police officer cannot issue an appearance ticket for a traffic infraction not committed in his presence. Second, “[t]he mere happening of the accident because of the skidding of [driver’s car] did not warrant the conclusion that there had been negligent operation of a motor vehicle or that the statute had been violated.” Weisinger v. MacDuff, 285 A.D. 607, 611 (1st Dept. 1955). To be guilty of driving faster than is reasonable and prudent, the conduct of the driver must constitute more than mere error of judgment or simple negligence. People v. Benway, 41 Misc.2d 39 (1963) see also Hessney v. MacDuff, 284 A.D. 70, 72 (4th Dept. 1954)(Negligent operation of a motor vehicle may not be inferred merely because a car skidded or an accident happened); Fake v. MacDuff, 281 A.D. 630, 633 (4th Dept. 1953)(The fact that the car skidded or slid off the road does not, standing alone, even constitute ordinary negligence).

If you have been issued an appearance ticket/uniform traffic ticket for offense anywhere in New York State, feel free to contact Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-877-377-8666 or visit us on the web at More detailed information can be found in our book “Appearance Tickets in New York” available at

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