Defendant Relying on “Waving” Motorists Still Found Liable For Crash

Relying on another motorist waiving you through an intersection is no defense to an allegation of negligence if the intersection is in fact not clear.  Motorists must keep their own proper and clear lookout and relying on representations of others that ‘all is clear’ does not displace this duty.  This principle was demonstrated in reasons for judgement published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.

In today’s case (St Denis v. Turner) the Defendant was stopped attempting to turn left at an intersection.  The first 2 of the 3 oncoming lanes of traffic had vehicles backed up at the intersection and these motorists apparently ‘waved on’ the Defendant.  As he proceeded with his turn and entered the final oncoming lane the plaintiff drove into the intersection and a collision occurred.  The Court found both motorists liable with the Defendant shouldering more of the blame.  In finding that relying on ‘waving on’ motorists was no defence to negligence Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:

[42]         The defendant testified that he travelled across the left and middle northbound lanes of 200th Street with the drivers of the cars in each lane stopped before the gap waving him through. He said that in the middle lane he was travelling at 2 to 3 km/h and that he then accelerated to 10 to 15 km/h prior to impact. He noted that, unlike a car powered by an internal combustion engine, an electric vehicle has “zero lag” when the “gas pedal” is pressed. He acknowledged that the gist of what he told the police after the Accident was:

That I had two cars wave me through and that I went and then I got hit.

[43]         I find that the defendant did not stop in the middle northbound lane to determine whether there was a vehicle in the northbound curb lane approaching the intersection. I find that, while “waved on”, he maintained a slow speed (2 to 3 km/h) as he travelled across the middle northbound lane of 200th Street and then accelerated quickly into the northbound curb lane as he attempted to complete his left turn onto 62 Avenue. I find that he did not “nose” or “inch” in the middle lane or into curb lane.

[44]         I find that the middle northbound lane of 200th Street was backed-up south of 62 Avenue for at least five to seven cars consistent with the testimony of the defendant and Mr. Pettalano. I reject Mr. Shepherd’s description that there were no vehicles behind his car. The testimony of the other witnesses supports my finding that there were a number of vehicles in the middle northbound lane behind Mr. Shepherd’s car.

[45]         I find that without a clear view of the northbound curb lane, the defendant accelerated quickly into the northbound curb lane. He did not see the plaintiff’s car before impact…

[65]         The defendant breached s. 174 of the MVA by turning left and not yielding to oncoming traffic that constituted an immediate hazard. With traffic blocking the defendant’s view, he could not determine whether there was an immediate hazard.

[66]         I reject any suggestion by the defendant that he had a clear view of the northbound curb lane. If he had, he would not have pulled out in front of the plaintiff’s vehicle. He also testified that he did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle before impact.

[67]         Relying on the waves by facing drivers in the left and middle northbound lanes of 200th Street does not justify the defendant proceeding, let alone accelerating, into the northbound curb lane.

[68]         Before entering the intersection, the defendant should have waited for the northbound congested traffic to clear after the light at the intersection north of the subject intersection turned green. Mr. Smith stated that he monitored the light at the intersection to the north.

[69]         Without a clear view of the northbound curb lane of 200th Street, the defendant should not have attempted to enter or cross the intersection.

bc injury law, intersection collisions, left hand turn, Mr. Justice Funt, St Denis v. Turner, Waving On


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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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