“Ghost Cars:” When Visibility Issues Cause Accidents


Footage from a Russian dash cam has been making its way around the web recently, its popularity driven by the eerie appearance of what many have dubbed the “ghost car.” The video was recorded on an overcast day, and although it’s hard to tell if it’s raining, the ground appears to be wet. In the short clip, we see a car making a left hand turn at an intersection just ahead of the car whose dash cam is recording the footage. The car has the right of way, and enters the intersection to make a turn. Then, just as it reaches the middle of the intersection, a driver going straight through the intersection (who clearly doesn’t have the right of way) cuts the car off, forcing both that car and the car behind it to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision.


The strange part about the video—and the part that’s lead too many people obsessively re-watching it—is that you can’t see the car going straight ever enter the frame. It comes into view a split second before cutting off the left-hand turn cars, surprising the viewer almost as much as it clearly surprised the drivers. If you want to see this bizarre incident for yourself and try to determine where the “ghost car” came from, you can watch the video here.


How Can a Car Come Out of Nowhere?


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Commenters on the internet have had a field day coming up with possible explanations for the car’s sudden experience. Speculation ranges from the humorously unlikely (black holes and teleportation) to the somewhat more likely (the car is blocked from view by other vehicles). One of the most popular explanations is that the car, which is running a red light, is driving between the truck and box-trolley waiting to go the other direction and is blocked from view until the last second due to the positioning of the cars turning left. One astute viewer points out that if you look carefully, you can see the rear bumper and taillights of the “ghost car” as it enters the intersection. A red car on the right side of the screen sees this vehicle much sooner than the other cars in the intersection and applies their brakes before everyone else.


One thing that is clear from the video is that the cars in the intersection almost got into a potentially serious T-bone collision because of lack of visibility (and, of course, the “ghost car” entering the intersection when it didn’t have the right of way). The left-turning car in the center of the video barely had time to slam on the brakes as the other vehicle cut them off, and if that car had been taking the turn just a little faster, they probably would have skidded into the “ghost car,” with the car recording the dash cam video rear-ending them.


Lack of Visibility, a Serious Issue on Roads


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Although the confluence of specific factors that led to the near-accident in this video may be unusual, lack of visibility is a very common cause of auto accidents. You may even have been in a situation yourself where a car has suddenly entered an intersection or turned out of a side street, seeming to “appear out of nowhere.”


Cars are fairly large vehicles, and it seems strange that they could escape our notice—yet they do on a somewhat regular basis. So what causes this? Here are a few of the reasons why visibility may be an issue:


Poor weather conditions. As you can see in the dash cam video, the near-accident occurs on a cloudy day with low visibility on the road. Snow and rain are also factors that limit visibility, and something such as fog can severely impair a driver’s ability to see, reducing visibility to a quarter mile or less. You should avoid driving in poor weather conditions as much as possible, but if you do have to drive in bad weather, be prepared to slow down and listen for traffic that you can’t see.


Night driving. When you’re driving at night, your headlights do not illuminate the entire area that you need to see—you’re essentially driving with blinders on and can only see what’s directly in front of you, unless you’re in an area that’s well-lit by street lights. To make matters worse, the headlights of oncoming vehicles can create a glare that essentially blinds you for a couple seconds. This is another situation where you need to slow down and pay close attention to your surroundings. If you are driving somewhere without oncoming traffic, turn on your high beams so you can see farther down the road.


Dark-colored vehicles. You might have guessed that darker cars have more visibility problems, and now there’s concrete evidence to back up that theory. A 20-year study from Monash University in Australia revealed that black cars are up to 47% more likely to be involved in an accident than light-colored cars. The safest colored vehicles are white, gold, and yellow.


Distracted driving. This one should be fairly obvious, but it’s worth including anyways. If you’re distracted by something like your phone, a vehicle passenger, the flashing lights of nearby casinos, or a scene playing out on the side of the road, you’re not going to be able to see everything that’s happening on the road around you. When we start taking in extra visual information while driving, we don’t have the mental resources for all tasks and end up concentrating on only a subset of tasks (say, texting or fiddling with the car radio). You may think that you can successfully multitask while you drive, but science says otherwise!


As a driver, you should do everything you can to make sure that you’re clearly visible to other vehicles, and you also need to concentrate on the road so that you can react in time if another vehicle does “come out of nowhere.” However, if you are involved in an accident due to lack of visibility and the other driver is at fault—as the “ghost car” in the video would have been, if it had caused the accident—then you need to call an auto accident attorney as soon as possible. You deserve compensation, and the negligent driver shouldn’t be able to use the “I didn’t see them” excuse.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”-an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state-and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”