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Some Thoughts on Section 173 of the Motor Vehicle Act

Although the BC Motor Vehicle Act specifcally addresses the right of way at intersections controlled with and without yield signs, the legislation does not specifically address the right of way when vehicles approach and stop at a 4 way stop-sign controlled intersection at the same time.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this.
In last week’s case (Demarinis v. Skowronek) the Plaintiff and Defendant approached an intersection at approximately the same time.  Ultimately the Court found that the Defendant approached first and had the right of way.  Before getting to this conclusion the Court addressed the commonly held notion that the driver to the right enjoys the right of way at 4 way intersections.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[26]The plaintiff argues that since both parties entered the “intersection” almost simultaneously, because the plaintiff was to the right of the defendant, she had the right-of-way. Accordingly, the defendant had a corresponding obligation to yield the right-of-way to her.

[27]Surprisingly, neither party was able to identify any case law which arose from circumstances similar to those in this case. The plaintiff argues, however, that the excerpts from the ICBC publication “Road Sense for Drivers, British Columbia Driving Guide”, which includes the following guidance for “four-way stops”, is of assistance:

four-way stops — when there are stop signs at all corners:

• The first vehicle to arrive at the intersection and come to a complete stop should go first.

• If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the one on the right should go first.

[28]In doing so, the plaintiff accepts that the Road Sense Guide does not contain “rules of law”, but submits that the Guide, in combination with other considerations, can inform the standard of care which is relevant in particular circumstances.

[29]I do not consider that the Guide advances the proposition that the plaintiff advocates. The foregoing language from the Guide, and in particular the words, “the first vehicle to arrive at the intersection and come to a complete stop should go first”, presupposes that the four stop signs at an intersection will be placed at the same distance from the intersection at issue. The excerpt from the Guide also treats the words “intersection” and “stop sign” synonymously. Were it otherwise, there would be no need for a vehicle to stop at the intersection. Instead, more properly or more precisely, the vehicle would be required to stop at the stop line.

From my perspective it appears litigants need not rely on the ICBC Driving Guide to establish the right of way analysis.  Looking at section 173  it states that:

if 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there are no yield sign the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to the vehicle that is on the right of the vehicle that he or she is driving.”

A four way intersection controlled by stop signs is an intersection where “there are no yield signs” so the above section appears to be applicable.

Please feel free to comment if you have differing views on the subject.

bc injury law, Demarinis v. Skoronek, Mr. Justice Voith, right of way, section 119 motor vehicle act, Section 173 Motor Vehicle Act, Section 175 Motor Vehicle Act, section 186 Motor Vehicle Act