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Motorist 50% at Fault for Crash After Entering Intersection on Late Amber

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing fault for a common type of intersection crash; one involving a left-hand turning vehicle and a through driver.
In this week’s case (McPherson v. Lange) the Defendant was travelling Northbound on Canada Way in Burnaby, BC.  The Defendant was intending to make a left hand turn.  (Defendant’s view depicted in below photo)

At the same time the Plaintiff was travelling in the on-coming southbound lane.  The Defendant committed to the intersection and waited to turn.  After the light turned amber she began her turn.  The Plaintiff drove through on a late amber light and the collision occurred.  In finding both parties equally to blame Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[40] Based on Ms. Lange’s and Mr. Enns’ description of the events leading up to the accident, I have concluded that she stopped before entering the intersection, entered the intersection and stopped again. She proceeded on the amber light, and erroneoulsy believed that she had sufficient time to complete her turn without contributing to a risk of collision with the oncoming McPherson vehicle. She did not see the McPherson van before making her decision to proceed with her left turn and did not look again or see him as she started to travel through the balance of the intersection.

[41] It also appears to me that when she first saw the McPherson van some distance from the intersection, she misjudged the speed and/or distance of the vehicle. She did not express any expectation that Mr. McPherson would be able to stop or would stop before colliding with her…

[45] Section 128 of the MVA required Mr. McPherson to stop his vehicle unless the stop could not be made safely. He could not suggest or explain why he could not have stopped his vehicle safely in the time between the appearance of the amber light and the impact. He did not say he was too close to the intersection to bring his vehicle to a stop or that there were any other circumstances that would have prevented him from stopping his van. It is clear that his light was amber for 4.5 seconds and that he entered the intersection towards the end of that 4.5 second time. I conclude the McPherson vehicle had time to stop safely without entering the intersection. This is corroborated by the testimony of Mr. Melin who was in the lane to Mr. McPherson’s right. Mr. Melin said that he had ample time to stop and was surprised that Mr. McPherson sped past him after the light turned amber. I also find on the evidence that Mr. McPherson did have enough time to stop before the light turned to red, and in choosing not to do so, he created a significant danger.

[46] In my view Mr. McPherson did not drive prudently and his failure to stop his vehicle before entering the intersection was a breach of his duty to Ms. Lange. Mr. McPherson admits that his negligence contributed to the accident but he argues that Ms. Lange is also contributorily negligent…

[49] The tension between the obligations of the left-turning driver and the through driver are difficult to resolve. It is clear from Morgan, Mitchell and Tejani that the left-turning driver has an obligation to keep a lookout for a vehicle obviously headed into the intersection in disregard for the traffic signal…

[54] I cannot measure the differing degrees of fault between both the plaintiff and defendant and accordingly, I apportion liability at 50% against Mr. McPherson and 50% against Ms. Lange.

bc injury law, McPherson v. Lange, Mr. Justice Armstrong, section 128 motor vehicle act, Section 128(1) Motor Vehicle Act, Section 174 Motor Vehicle Act