Police Officer Not Negligent For Crash While Running Red Light in Course of Duties

While operators of emergency don’t enjoy complete immunity when running a red light in the course of their duties, they do enjoy a statutory right of way to disobey traffic controls in appropriate circumstances.  Reasons for judgment were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, clearing a police officer from fault following such a collision.
In the recent case (Singh v. British Columbia (Public Safety)) the Plaintiff entered an intersection on a green light.  At the same time the Defendant officer, who was responding to a call of a man with a knife threatening a child, ran a red light while responding to the call.  A crash occurred and the Plaintiff sued for damages.  The claim was ultimately dismissed with the Court finding that the Plaintiff was negligent and the officer properly entered the intersection within the scope of her duties.  In exculpating the officer of fault Madam Justice Adair provided the following reasons:
[68]         Constable Parrish testified that her siren was activated when she approached and was at the intersection of Scott Road and 96th Avenue.  She explained when and how she activated her siren.  She explained how the siren is activated by pressing a button, and that, once the siren button is pressed and the siren is turned on, it remains on until the button is pressed again.  She explained that she reactivated the siren after speaking with her dispatcher, and that she had it activated as she travelled down 96th Avenue towards the intersection with Scott Road.  Her explanations were logical, appropriately detailed and consistent with the circumstances in which Constable Parrish was operating.
[69]         I find that when Constable Parrish arrived at the intersection of Scott Road and 96th Avenue, both the emergency lights and the siren on her vehicle were activated, and they remained activated when she proceeded into the intersection.  I accept Constable Parrish’s evidence in this regard.  Her evidence is supported by and consistent with the evidence of Constable Lucic and also Mr. Barros (whose evidence was unchallenged).  The conclusion that both the emergency lights and siren were activated is not contradicted by the evidence of Mr. Deol or Mr. Chand, which I find to be equivocal.  Moreover, I conclude that, on this point, Mr. Singh does not accurately recall the events.
[70]         I conclude, therefore, that, at the intersection, Constable Parrish had the right of way, and Mr. Singh was obliged to yield to her.
[71]         I find further that Constable Parrish had reasonable grounds to believe that, at the relevant time, the risk of harm to members of the public from the exercise of the privileges under s. 122(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act was less than the risk of harm to members of the public (namely, the child threatened with harm) if those privileges were not exercised….
[78]         I find that Constable Parrish was proceeding cautiously across the intersection, with her emergency lights and siren activated, and her conduct was consistent with that of a reasonable officer acting reasonably and within the statutory powers (and duties) imposed on her in the circumstances on September 12, 2007.  In my view, she was entitled to assume that Mr. Singh would yield the right of way to her.

bc injury law, Madam Justice Adair, Motor Vehicle Act Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation, section 122 Motor Vehicle Act, section 177 motor vehicle act, Singh v. British Columbia (Public Safety)

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ERIK
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Personal Injury Lawyer

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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