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COMMONWEALTH v. STEPHENS (07/30/55)

July 30, 1955

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STEPHENS, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 141, Oct. T., 1955, from judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Lehigh County, April T., 1954, No. 94, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. E. L. Stephens, III. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

Donald E. Wieand, with him Butz, Hudders, Tallman & Rupp, for appellant.

Bernard B. Naef, Assistant District Attorney, with him M. Jack Morgan, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Ross, Wright, Woodside, and Ervin, JJ. (gunther, J., absent).

Author: Hirt

[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 256]

OPINION BY HIRT, J.

The defendant was charged with reckless driving in violation of § 1001(a) of The Vehicle Code as last

[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 257]

    amended by the Act of August 24, 1951, P.L. 1368, 75 PS § 481. He waived a hearing before the magistrate and upon trial in the lower court was found guilty of the offense and was sentenced. He contends that the proofs do not sustain his conviction.

The testimony at the trial was not reported. To supply a record in this appeal the district attorney and counsel for defendant entered into a stipulation of the material facts to this effect: On January 22, 1954, the defendant while operating a Ford coupe westwardly on Route 222 in Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County, ran into an automobile standing along the north side of the road. The owner testified that he had parked his car earlier in the day at the side of the highway and had left it there approximately four feet off the traveled cartway. The prosecutor, a police officer, testified that he had observed the car parked off the highway at 6:45 p.m. that evening, and that when he returned to the scene after the accident, one half hour later "he found the defendant's car 165 feet from the point of impact." [i.e., from the point where he had seen the parked car]. Defendant testified that he was driving, within the legal speed limit, at about 45 miles per hour on his right hand lane of the three lane highway. The surface of the pavement was clear. Two automobiles approached over the crest of a hill a short distance from the defendant. One was in the center lane in the act of passing the other. In the language of the stipulation "As these approaching vehicles came nearer, defendant was blinded by their lights and automatically pulled his car somewhat to the right. Defendant then decelerated his vehicle but did not apply his brakes. Within a few seconds after these vehicles passed and before defendant's eyes had again become adjusted to darkness, he struck the parked car. This car had not been seen by the defendant prior to impact

[ 179 Pa. Super. Page 258]

    because he had been blinded by the approaching lights. The impact caused the steering gear on the defendant's car to snap and his right front wheel to lock. Defendant, thereafter, had no control over his car and because it was a convertible and because there was no approaching traffic, he threw himself upon the floor of his vehicle. His car traveled a short distance ahead and across the highway where it came to rest without further damage."

Section 1001(a) of the 1951 amendment of The Vehicle Code, supra, provides: "Reckless driving is unlawful, and, for the purpose of this act is construed to include the following: (a) Any person who drives any vehicle or street car or trackless trolley omnibus upon a highway carelessly disregarding the rights or safety of others, or in a manner so as to endanger any person or property." In Commonwealth v. Forrey, 172 Pa. Superior Ct. 65, 92 A.2d 233, we construed the language of § 1001(a) as setting "the minimal requisite of the statutory offense of reckless driving at less than wilful and wanton conduct on the one hand and, on the other, something more than ordinary negligence or the mere absence of care under the circumstances" and we there held that the phrase "reckless driving" in the section connotes culpable or ...


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