“Late again!” I glug down the last of my coffee and dash to my car. I have five minutes to get to my appointment and if traffic doesn’t play nice, I’ll be late.
I turn onto the main thoroughfare from my neighborhood and pick up speed, determined to be on time. My foot is to the floor, but I’m not even at the speed limit yet, when another driver oozes out of a street right in front of me.
I clearly have the right of way.
I clearly am not speeding. Yet.
I clearly am entitled to keep going and plow right into the other driver, causing harm to him and others (even myself).
But I don’t.
In that nanosecond, I choose to slam on my brakes and skid nearly sideways to avoid a fatal accident. In spite of this near-miss accident, I make it to my appointment on time.
I reflect later: Why do I stop—almost automatically—for that errant driver on my neighborhood street?
The Last Clear Chance Rule
The answer is the Last Clear Chance Rule I learned in Mr. Dessecker’s Driver’s Ed class in my freshman year of high school. It says:
“The last clear chance doctrine is used in tort law for cases involving negligence and is applied when both the plaintiff and defendant are responsible for an accident that resulted in harm. … The doctrine considers which party had the last opportunity to avoid the accident that caused the harm.“ (Wikipedia)
The Last Clear Chance Rule calls it ‘negligence’ when you have the “last clear chance” to avoid an accident that causes harm to another, you must stop pursuing your rights.
That’s why I stop. That’s why you would stop too.
The Last Clear Chance Rule doesn’t just apply to driving. It exists to apply common sense to complex issues. The rule implies that we must take care of each other rather than pursue our own rights. To do otherwise is considered ‘negligence.’
The Bible says it another way: we must “prefer one another in love” (Romans 12:10), and ‘one another’ is defined by anyone with whom you come into contact.
As I think of my near-miss accident, I consider that if I prefer someone over myself, the Last Clear Chance Rule could be applied as a simple solution to many complex issues. I might not get to exercise my rights, but it is for the greater good. And when we look at Jesus, who gave up all His rights for us, who are we NOT to follow His example and give up a right or two?
I thought of this one first:
We have the right NOT to vaccinate.
We are within the law if we choose not to vaccinate.
We are not entitled to expose ourselves and others to harm if we choose not vaccinate.
If you are teetering on the fence about your COVID vaccination, the next time a driver cuts you off, ask yourself this:
“Why would I choose to give up my rights to save the life of a stranger, but I would not choose to vaccinate myself to prevent harm to the ones I love most?”
Choose the Last Clear Chance Rule. Choose to vaccinate.
Could it be that simple?
Could we return to a simpler time by applying an old rule?
What other complex issues can you think of that could be approached using the Last Clear Chance Rule?