A rear-end collision involving a car and a farm tractor in Amelia County, Virginia (VA), nearly killed the tractor operator and left the elderly woman behind the wheel of the car facing charges. The crash happened near the intersection of U.S. 360/Patrick Henry Highway and Jackson Lane on the afternoon of January 27, 2018.
Police received the call about the incident southeast of Richmond at around 2:15 pm. They determined that an 80-year-old driver struck the left rear corner of the tractor as both vehicles traveled in the right-hand lane of eastbound U.S. 360. The impact knocked the tractor off the road and into a stand of trees.
Authorities had the tractor operator flown by helicopter to a local hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. The elderly driver also suffered injuries and was initially charged with following too closely.
Under section 46.2-816 of the Virginia Code, a driver commits the offense of following too closely when he or she drives behind another vehicle at a distance that does not permit slowing down or stopping in time to prevent a collision. The alleged offense is not tailgating, as what counts as sufficient braking time changes with the flow of traffic and with driver-specific characteristics such as reaction time.
It should be noted that the tractor operator who was hit from behind appears to have been using U.S. 360 legally. Virginia law permits tractors and other farm vehicles to use highways as long as the vehicles are properly registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles; carry a Farm Use, or F-tag, license plate; display a slow-moving vehicle sign; and keep to the right.
Another thing to consider is that since this rear-end collision occurred in a very rural part of Amelia County between the communities of Maplewood and Jetersville, drivers should expect to encounter farm vehicles in the right lane from time to time. When a driver does find him or herself approaching a slow-moving vehicle like a tractor, they have legal duties to reduce their own speed and to only pass when doing so is safe.
My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I hope the tractor operator who suffered life-threatening injuries in this rear-end collision makes a full and rapid recovery. We also urge all drivers to watch for and give enough space to slow-moving vehicles.