In 2022, over 45,000 people were injured — and almost 1,000 were killed — in car accidents in Missouri. Most of these kinds of crashes are preventable, but they are rarely intentional. However, that isn’t the case for those caused by brake checking. These accidents are indeed intentional, as well as preventable. 

The following is everything you should know about this dangerous activity:

What Does It Mean To Brake Check?

When a driver in front of you slams their brakes for no apparent reason, that’s a case of brake checking. A driver brake checks when they brake purely to force the person behind them to either have to swerve to avoid a collision or quickly use their brakes. There are different reasons why people choose to brake check, but it isn’t done for any necessary driving action.

Comparatively, if a driver believed that a young child was about to dash out onto the road in front of them, they would have a legitimate reason to slam their brakes, even if the child ultimately didn’t run into the road. 

With a sound reason to believe the child would run into traffic, the driver made a reasonable decision to slam their brakes, even if that forced the person behind them to do the same.

Is Brake Checking Illegal in Missouri?

According to Missouri statutes, it is illegal to stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle on the road unless it is safe to do so and only when an appropriate signal is given. 

That means drivers should make all possible efforts to brake slowly so that their brake lights can warn others behind them that they are slowing down. Drivers can be charged with a class C misdemeanor if they violate the state’s statutes.

With that said, you may still ask, “Why is brake checking illegal in the first place?” The answer is simple: Brake checking is likely to result in a car accident. If you slam your brakes without warning, there is a good chance the person behind you won’t be able to react quickly enough to prevent an accident. 

According to Missouri law, the resulting crash would be your fault, and if the accident resulted in a death, you could be charged with vehicular homicide.

Why Do Brake Checks Happen?

Typically, there are two common reasons that brake checks happen: road rage and fraud.

Road rage most commonly occurs when the driver in front believes that the person behind them is tailgating them. They’ll get angry and slam their brakes, hoping to force the person behind them to do likewise. Usually, such an action is not done with the express intent to cause an accident; it is just a way of expressing anger at the person behind them. Regardless of intent, though, it is illegal, and if an accident occurs, the person who brake checks would be at fault.

The other common cause of brake checking is an attempt to defraud car insurance companies. In particular, brake-check-related fraud relies on the fact that the driver of the rear vehicle is usually found to be at fault in rear-end car crashes.

In these situations, the person brake checking is intentionally trying to cause an accident. They’ll usually slow down so that they are close to the car behind them or suddenly pull into the lane in front of them. Thus, when they slam their brakes, the person behind them usually can’t react quickly enough to avoid an accident.

The goal is to get money for fake injuries. Typically, the car that caused the accident intentionally has multiple passengers in it, and everyone in the car claims to have sustained injuries like whiplash. These types of harm are easy to fake, especially if the fraudulent party includes a doctor among the conspirators.

How To Avoid a Car Accident Caused By Brake Checking

The simplest way to avoid getting into a car accident caused by brake checking is to never brake check the person driving behind you. That can be difficult if you are being tailgated, but rather than give in to road rage, it is better to pull off the road and cool down. Doing so will also allow the tailgater to move past you and no longer present a threat.

Still, that only solves half the problem; you also need to avoid someone brake checking you. The best way to do that is to give plenty of room to the car in front of you: Make sure there is at least one car length per 10 miles per hour you are driving between you and the vehicle in front of you. That should give you enough time to stop if the person in front of you slams their brakes.

How To Prove That Brake Checking Caused a Car Accident

The best way to prove you were brake-checked if you get into an accident because of it is through the use of a dashcam and the footage it captures. 

It is a relatively inexpensive investment that can protect you from liability in case of a car accident. Without it, it will be your word against that of the other driver, and the driver in the rear — as mentioned earlier — is often presumed to be at fault. 

Unless you are lucky and a witness observed the accident or another nearby camera caught the accident on film, you will probably be found at fault. Thankfully, though, a St. Louis car accident lawyer can help you gather evidence in such a case.

Brake Checking Is Dangerous and Illegal

While the type of carelessness that causes most car accidents is regrettable, careless drivers aren’t intentionally putting others on the road in danger. When someone brake checks, on the other hand, they are intentionally ignoring the safety of others. As a driver, you should never brake check and take care to avoid other drivers who are engaging in such a dangerous activity.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in St. Louis, MO

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:

St. Louis, MO Law Office
1430 Washington Ave Ste 225, St. Louis, MO 63103
(314) 444-4444

Ladue, MO Law Office
9807 S 40 Dr, St. Louis, MO 63124

Columbia, MO Law Office
28 N 8th St # 502, Columbia, MO 65201

Creve Coeur, MO Law Office 
999 Executive Pkwy Dr #205, Creve Coeur, MO 63141