If you have ever been involved in a traffic collision, you know how stressful the experience can be. Imagine the additional stress if you discovered that the accident was actually "set up" or staged, placing you as the party at fault. Staged collisions are criminal conspiracies that usually involve numerous suspects. The victims, other drivers, have been intentionally targeted by the suspect(s) who commit these acts for financial gain. The two most common types of staged collisions are the "Swoop and Squat" and the "Drive Down or Wave On."
Swoop and Squat
The "Swoop and Squat" involves two suspects, each driving a separate vehicle. Generally, these suspects target a late model vehicle occupied by a single victim, so the victim has no witnesses to the collision. The squat vehicle, usually containing two suspects, positions itself in front of the victim’s vehicle, slowing to close the gap between the vehicles. The swoop vehicle then changes lanes in front of the squat vehicle and stops suddenly, forcing the squat vehicle to stop, and subsequently for the victim to rear end the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle then leaves the scene. The suspects in the squat vehicle will frequently indicate that an unknown vehicle "came out of nowhere" and stopped, forcing them to brake.
Drive Down (Wave On)
The "Drive Down" or "Wave On" involves a situation where a targeted vehicle does not have the right-of-way and the suspect gestures or "waves" to the targeted motorist offering the opportunity to proceed ahead of them. When the targeted vehicle proceeds, the suspect purposely drives their vehicle into the targeted vehicle creating an accident (staged collision) attempting to make it appear the targeted vehicle is at fault.
Protect Yourself, Be Aware
Here are some tips on protecting yourself from becoming the victim of a staged collision:
Be aware of other vehicles around you; always allow ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Be careful when turning from a lane that allows two vehicles to turn simultaneously. Criminals who commit staged collisions often prey on this situation and purposely sideswipe a targeted vehicle.
Fully insured motorists, driving alone, are the favorite targets of criminals involved in staged collisions. Lone drivers are preferred, because passengers make good witnesses. Also, luxury and commercial vehicles are often targeted because of extensive insurance coverage.
If you become involved in a traffic collision on a busy street or highway, remove your vehicle from traffic lanes, if possible. Advise the other motorists of your intentions, so they do not think you are attempting to flee the scene.
Once you are safely removed from the roadway, exchange information with the other motorists involved. Try to obtain statements from potential independent witnesses, and write down their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
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.
Carry a disposable camera in your vehicle. If you are involved in a traffic collision, whether you believe it was staged or not, take pictures of the damage to each vehicle, the license plate of the vehicles involved, and the driver and passengers.
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.
If you suspect you are the victim of a staged collision, immediately report the incident to the local law enforcement agency.
Driving is a full time job. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a staged collision if you apply the aforementioned tips, adhere to the rules of the road and always drive defensively. Additionally, do not drive when you are tired or stressed. Diminished concentration on the road can lead to carelessness, which will make you more vulnerable. Refrain from using a cell phone, map, or anything else that will distract you from the road while you are driving.
Officer And Community Responsibilities
It is the responsibility of the Police Department to enforce violations of the California Vehicle Code, and to educate the community on traffic safety. These efforts, combined with the active participation of the community will help ensure the safety of motorists throughout the City.