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    A Bad Day for Sandy Dayton  

Part 3: The Facts of the Case

Officer Matthews was back at the station, and was preparing to file his report on the accident at the corner of S. College and Delaware Ave. He read through the various statements of the drivers, and witnesses to the accident.

This is part of the statement made by Sandy Dayton, the owner of the 1978 Ford:
I was heading to class in my car, when the light at the intersection turned yellow. I saw students starting to cross and so I hit my brakes, coming to a stop. I heard more screeching of brakes, then a van crashed into the back of my car, throwing my car into the intersection. I was traveling at the speed limit, but the driver of the van must have been speeding. I think my car must be totaled! Did you get the van driver's insurance information?

This is part of the report submitted by the police accident reconstructionist who examined the vehicles at the scene:
At the scene of the accident, it was apparent that the front of the van had been damaged. The car was badly damaged in the rear. There were skid marks, showing that both vehicles had braked. The speedometer of the van was stuck at 15 mph, leading me to believe that the van was traveling at least 15 mph when it crash into the other vehicle.

This is part of the statement made by the driver of the van, Jerry Lane:
I had just delivered some boxes at the Ag school and was on my way to deliver the last of my load at Clayton Hall, coming up South College. This college kid in an old beat-up Ford was in front of me - when all of a sudden, she slams on her brakes. So did I, but I still slammed into her. The light had just turned yellow, we both had time to go through the light. This is her fault!

This is a copy of part of Officer Matthew's report on the accident at S. College and Delaware Avenue:
At 11:35am, Newark Officer Davidson and I received a call on our car radio, directing us to an accident on the corner of S. College and Delaware Avenue. The accident was reported by an unknown witness via a 911 call. We arrived at 11:40am. There was a large group of people around. The driver of the car was sent to the emergency room after complaining of neck and chest pain. The accident appeared to have resulted from a van colliding into the rear of a stopped car at the intersection. The impact moved the car into the intersection. We set up flares and directed traffic around the wreckage site, and called for a police accident investigation team to be sent over.

We interviewed some witnesses, including several students. Several told us that it seemed both cars were speeding and almost ran over some students who started to cross the road as the light turned yellow. Others felt that the car and truck were traveling at normal speeds for the area. We took a full statements from three witnesses. We also took a detailed statement from the driver of the van, who appeared to be unhurt. At 12:30pm, I left Officer Davidson and the Accident Investigators at the scene, and went to the emergency room to interview Ms. Dayton.


  1. From the various accounts of the police officers, the two drivers and witnesses, what do we know that is fact in this case?
  2. What information do we need to know in order to determine whether a car can safely (legally) go through an intersection when the light turns yellow as opposed to stopping?
  3. What additional information do you need to obtain from the accident report in order to know if Sandy and/or Jerry were speeding?
  © Barbara Duch, Univ. of Delaware, 2001.
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