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Sheriff's Corner

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By The Staff

What a traumatic experience, to be involved in a vehicle collision, but was it a true accident or was it a "staged collision"? There are some collisions that are "staged" and are "criminal conspiracies" where criminals intentionally place motorist and their passengers in harm's way by staging collisions for financial gain.

The most common types of staged accidents are the "Swoop and Squat" and "Drive Down" also known as the "Wave On". With the "Swoop and Squat" criminals maneuver their vehicle in front of a targeted vehicle and slam on brakes. By doing this radical maneuver, the criminals are attempting to cause the target vehicle to collide with the rear of their vehicle and create an accident scene or "staged collision" where the victim's vehicle appears to be at fault.

The "Drive Down" or "Wave On" involves a situation where a targeted vehicle does not have the right-of-way and criminals gesture or waves the targeted motorist on, offering the opportunity to proceed ahead of them. Once the target vehicle takes them up on their hospitality, the criminal purposely drives their vehicle into the target creating an accident which appears to be their fault.

The following are some driving tips to protect motorist from staged collisions:

*If you are involved in a collision on a busy street or highway, your first and foremost thought should be your safety and the safety of your passengers. If possible, remove your vehicle from the traffic lanes. Before removing your vehicle, make sure you inform the other motorist involved that you are removing your vehicle for safety reasons and are not attempting to leave the scene of the accident and are not a hit and run driver.

*Once you and your passengers are in a safe place, exchange information with the other motorist involved. Also, be aware of persons at the scene of the collision who might be potential witnesses. Approach these persons and try to obtain a statement from them of what they saw. Also write down their individual names, addresses and telephone numbers for future reference.

*Carry a disposable camera in the glove compartment of your vehicle. Take as many pictures of the other vehicle and its passengers as possible.

*If you think you have been involved in a staged collision, make sure to count the number of passengers in the other vehicle. If possible, get their individual names, addresses, telephone numbers and driver license numbers. Often more people will file claims than were in the vehicle when the collision occurred.

*Fully insured motorists, driving alone, are the favorite targets of criminals involved in staged collisions. Criminals involved in staged collisions prefer "lone drivers" because "passengers" make good witnesses. Luxury and commercial vehicles are often targeted because they offer the promise of extensive insurance coverage.

*When driving, be aware of other vehicles around you. Always allow immediately report the crime to Law Enforcement Authorities. Ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Look beyond the vehicle in front of you. If you see a vehicle slowing down in front of you, begin to slow down also. Do not wait for the vehicle in front of you to slow down first.

*Be very careful when turning from a lane that allows two vehicles to turn simultaneously. Criminals who commit staged collisions often prey on vehicles that cross the centerline, purposely sideswiping a targeted vehicle.

*Oftentimes, "phony witnesses" are positioned near the scene of the staged collision to support the involved criminal's account and to contradict the innocent driver's account of what actually happened. In some instances, criminals inflict injury upon themselves or claim "hard to dispute" soft-tissue injuries in order to collect on insurance claims.

*If you suspect you have been involved in a staged collision

Because of everyone's busy schedule, our driving habits are not taken seriously enough. Reduce your chances of being an accident victim by always practicing defensive driving.