It took me to the next day to figure out what had happened - what I remember made no sense. What I had run across was a "false visual reference" illusion.
The readers digest version of the illusion is that I misinterpreted the side view of the limos lights as headlights far off in the distance, the big black gap between the headlights and other lighting as an empty piece of road and the lighting on the passenger doors as lights off on the horizon.
In reality there were a whole bunch of factors that contributed to this to make it work. If its helpful, I could post the whole thing.
I have a meeting with the prosecutor in a few days and being an utter newbie have no idea what to expect. I had a few questions and was wondering if someone could clue me in.
Is an optical illusion - a perceptual error a defense against undue care and attention?
I have had a pristine driving records before this. Does anyone care ?
Is the prosecutor going to listen to me, or does he just want to automatically offer me the next lowest ticket to keep things moving. Is there any chance of getting the ticket nixed. I have run potential tickets through a insurance quote website and realise how little negotiating power I have. On the other hand I have driven like a granny my entire life and have seen two guilty as sin crazy divers get off on the same ticket. I really fell like I did nothing wrong.
I had just dropped the collision on the car because I had never been in an accident. Would it help to bring up an "I have suffered enough" argument..or would the prosecutor not care.
I have lots of information describing the illusion and why it would occur. It is a sort of thing that pilots are trained to avoid All mainstream stuff. But how do I introduce that in court ? Can I reference articles or do I need to get an expert witness ?
What would my chances be if I took this to court. I think I have a good explanation if you read through all the stuff. On the other hand I would make a poor witness. I don't make eye contact and speak somewhat odly/impulsively. I always seem to get extra attention at the border.
When I made my video taped statement at the accident scene I left out the key parts of the illusion because they did not make any physical sense. I know when the cop asked something at the end, I debated telling him, but I only said I was "very confused". I might have made an illusion to not knowing where I was on the road. In retrospect, I should have told the whole story...but I likely would have been drug tested if I did. How damaging is this
The key to the illusion (and the only way I figured it out) was that I remember going around a curve that was not there. I have a witness who remembers arguing with the me the next day as to the location of the accident. I thought it was after the curve because I remember going through the curve, but it was really before the curve and the going around the curve was part of the illusion....does the prosecutor care ? Would the court care ?
How valuable are those fight your ticket places? At work we deal with someone who runs one of those places and I am really not impressed by them. If all the person is going to do is get the same plea deal I could, or just goes to court thinking the cops won't show then it is not really worth it. The police force I am dealing with is overstaffed and will likely show.
The Limo was a long black limo with an SUV sort of front. The front lights were really odd. Kind of long and thin. There was no side lighting on the limo except some weird sort of LED pin striping on the passenger doors. I have looked at hundreds of limo pictures and cannot find anything to match this.
The road was a dark county road in a very flat agricultural area with flat land and few trees. You are always able to see all sorts of lights on the horizon.
The part of the road just before the accident goes dark however. The road bends and as you go straight along you are looking into some bushes and the side of a house. There are a TON over evergreen trees to the one side that obscure the normal back ground lights.
As I was going alone, I noticed a vehicle in the distance with a weird left headlight - looked like it had been in an accident or something.
What I was really looking at was the side view of the limousine's headlights. After the accident I noticed the headlights were odd, but it did not click at the time. The way you gauge the distance of headlights in the distance is looking at their size, brightness and distance apart. Because of the side view, they were dim, small and close together - poof they must be far off. At the same time I was looking at them past the last street light before the accident, so the much dimmer led side lighting was likely not noticeable.
Suddenly I went around a curve that I thought was a bit farther along.
In reality, at that point in the road, almost all the light came from the limo. When he moved the car back and forth trying to angle into the driveway, the only thing I could really see was the lights on the limo. My entire horizon shifted at once. To my brain that meant the world just shifted, or I went around a curve. My brain made the logical choice since the world never shifts - It told me I just went around a bend.
This was a bit hard to understand at first, but I have done lots of reading and your visual sense will override your other senses. If your visual sense tells you something you will believe it. Pilots are taught this (and still crash planes due to illusions).
After going around the curve I felt kind of disoriented, and confused because I thought the curve was farther up.
The sense of disorientation, for lack of a better word is a clue for pilots they are experiencing an illusion. One page I was reading said the minute you begin to feel that hand the controls to your co-pilot because you can no longer trust your eyes. If you are the only pilot stop looking out the window and look at your instruments. Of course, I knew nothing of this at the time.
At that point I had the sense I was not in my lane. Also, the car in the distance seemed to have jumped up, but it was really hard to figure out if it was moving. I tried to figure out where I was on the road, but everything seemed jet black.
What I was really doing was looking straight into the side of solid black limo to try and determine where I was. The car had jumped because the angle of the lights would change. At this point it may have no longer been logical to determine the lights were headlights, but there is a sort of perceptual inertia that takes affect.
I was getting really confused at this point and the road seemed weird. A second or two later I saw the refection of my headlights on the black limo. I still did not realise what I saw and tried to go around it...only to then realise there was a limo there too.
Once I got out the car, it was no longer that dark and there was a limo there. I was thinking of how I would explain to the cop how I got disoriented when I went around the curve, but I looked back and the curve was not there. At the time I assumed it must be farther back and I must have lost track of time somehow.
It was not until the next day drove by with the person who picked me up that I realised the accident was BEFORE the curve. Not after like I remembered. The above illusion was the only way I could reconcile what I saw with the physical events. It took a whole lot of reading to determine why it happened.
Basically when presented with an ambiguous scene the brain interprets it as what should be there. Either its a car approaching or some weird limo wedged in the middle of the road. Sort of an Occam's razor sort of thing.
Another way of illustrating this type of illusions is looking at New Zealand's worst air disaster. In broad daylight an airliner flew straight into the side of a mountain making no efforts to turn. When they got the cockpit voice recorder just before the crash they heard impending collision warnings going off and the pilot screaming for "go round power" (extra power to go around an object). Oddly enough though, the pilot never turned the plane.
They could not figure it out until they realised earlier in the tape that a crew member mentioned seeing a landmark that was no on the route they were taking. It turned out that the route had been changed in the computer that ran the autopilot. The landmark the crew member saw was on the path he THOUGHT the plane was on. The crew interpreted the ambiguous things they were seeing as what they expected to see. I think the killer was the white cap of the mountain became an ice shelf off in the sea. Even at the last second, they were unable to see what was right in front of them.
The pilots were, posthumously, deemed not at fault.
That was what happened with me. You see a car approaching you on a dark road all the time. I have never seen a limo wedged across the road, never seen those headlights and never seen the weird led lighting. I saw what I expected to see.
> If a person is crossing the road and you think you're seeing an oasis in the horizon or a unicorn----should you escape liability?
I believe it would certainly clear you of any criminal responsibility. People have raised it in the past. However, I don't think the concept of liability is relevant here (IMHO). I was charged with careless driving, which is basically not paying attention to the road. I was paying a great deal of attention to the road and am therefore not guilty of careless driving.
>Beyond the obvious question as to whether you were under the influence of anything so as to impede your capacities (e.g. alcohol, >drugs, lack of sleep, etc.), your argument just sounds weird
I would agree my argument sounds really weird, which is why I ended up over explaining it". The only person I had get it right away was someone who had something similar happen to them.
The problem is it is not an "argument", it is the truth and using another "argument" would be a lie.
Also, be aware that the general basis of your defence is actually a concept called "automatism". Highway hypnosis is merely a form of automatism. Automatism basically challenges the 'voluntariness' aspect of an action. The argument has been used successfully in criminal cases; even murder cases. Of course, there's nothing to say it can't also be successful in a traffic case. However, be aware that it will undubtedly require expert testimony---your word/testimony won't be sufficient. So, bottom line: you'll have to do a cost/benefit analysis on whether to continue with that type of argument and spend the money on getting your expert. And finally---be sure that your paralegal isn't just giving you empty promises----this type of argument will likely be heavily contested by the prosecutor----after all, they don't want precedents of this type. I highly doubt it will be 'dropped before trial' as your paralegal seems to think!!!!
From the prosecutor's perspective
1. The paralegal I was using use to be an expert witness for the crown. The credentials he was spouting went over my head, but when he was a police officer, he had investigated a somewhat similar incident involving fatalities for a another department. To me that would seem to make him an expert. He told the prosecutor he would have another paralegal handle the trial and would testify that I was lucky to stop when I did.
2. The prosecution agreed the limo driver should never have been there. I know that is not legal defense, but it likely would have some sway. I did not get the full story because I was late for a meeting, but the paralegal said that one of the witness statements would be problematic for the prosecution. Since I freely admit to hitting the guy, I think the problematic portion was either the limo drivers behavior before the accident, or his behavior after it (he went around briefing potential witnesses about that happened. He told them I made no attempt to stop when I clearly did). A limo driver matching his general description (race, height, age) working the same area has a reputation for being a jerk. While I cannot be sure it is the same guy, I would not doubt it.
3. I was not a danger to society. I had not even received a speeding ticket up to that point.
4. The police records of the incident were really weak. They did not even take a picture of the limo.
if I were the prosecutor, I might be thinking that it would take a great deal of effort to counter the testimony of the expert witness only to prosecute someone with a pristine driving record for an accident that never would have happened if the other party was a competent driver or employed a bit of common sense. (seriously, stuck in the middle of a road, sideways.....maybe turn on the 4-ways ?)
I am sure they got some repeat offender who was 100% guilty and easy to prosecute that they would rather spend their resources on.
As well, the whole illusion story probably works a lot better with the prosecutor than it would with the general population. From what I have learned researching this, people are a whole lot dummer than they think. We only pay attention to a tiny portion of what we think we are paying attention to. The rest is filled in with assumptions. For example, one famous study showed that most people cannot tell when a stranger they are talking to changes. Someone walks up to a counter to fill out a form, the person they are talking to ducks under the counter to get the form and a similar (same age, sex, but different clothing colour and hair colour), but different person stands up. Most people do not notice the person has changed.
Prosecutors are very aware of the this weakness because it comes to play in the unreliability of eyewitness accounts.
I am sure this must have been dealt with somewhere before. I am sure it would not create a precedent.
But if it was going to create a precedent, I think it would make it even more likely that the prosecutor would want to drop it. If you just drop the charge then you don't have to worry about a precedent. If you fight and lose, then you create a precedent.
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use at your own risk"
use at your own risk"
Well, I am sure you know more about this than I do, but I don't think that would have been the big issue, because I freely acknowledge I hit him. The paralegal did not seem to think that was the big issue. Then again, I was not there and cannot tell you what was said
>I doubt it was your hypnosis theory that was the basis for his/her decision.
It has nothing to do with hypnosis. It is a form of a common illusion. It happens to pilots a fair bit, it is just not part of our everyday experience because it is very hard to create in highway environment. You tend not to question your horizon.
The whole turning thing makes it sound a lot goofier than it was. Try going down a dark road at 80 kmh and see when you can make out the roof of the an oncoming vehicle. By the time you can, you have no time to stop. Looking straight ahead I was looking straight into a black object while being blinded by light in front of and beside it. There was no back lighting to describe illuminate the object. There were some weak white lights on the passenger doors, but they were not right in front of me...and again appeared to be off in the distance (or perhaps were too weak to see when looking at the headlights) Going 80 kmh on a dark country road with low-bean headlights, you are almost over driving you headlights anyway, and I was looking at a pair of lights which reduced my ability to detect the black object even further.
It does not take much of an illusion to make that dangerous. The sense of the false turn might even have saved my life because I got nervous and confused. I might have started to slow down a bit as well.