The Standard of Care For Drivers Approaching Flashing Green Lights


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the issue of fault for intersection crashes governed by a flashing green light.
In today’s case (Nonis v. Granata) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision with the Defendant’s vehicle.  The crash happened at a busy intersection in Burnaby, BC.  The Plaintiff approached an intersection which was governed by a stop sign in his direction of travel.  He left the stop sign and attempted to drive through the intersection which consisted of 6 lanes of travel.  Vehicles were stopped in the first 5 lanes.  As the Plaintiff entered the 6th lane the Plaintiff failed to see the Defendant’s oncoming vehicle and the collision occurred.
The Defendant was not speeding.  He was faced with a flashing green light as he approached the intersection and had the right of way.   Despite this the Defendant was found 25% at fault for the crash for not taking appropriate care in all of the circumstances.  In reaching this verdict Madam Justice Fisher provided the following reasons addressing motorists responsibility when approaching a flashing green light:

[12] A driver approaching a flashing traffic signal also has a duty to proceed with caution.  Section 131(5) provides that when a flashing green light is exhibited by a traffic control signal at an intersection,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection or signal and facing the signal must cause it to approach the intersection or signal in such a manner that he or she is able to cause the vehicle to stop before reaching the signal or any crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal if a stop should become necessary, and must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in a crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal or in the intersection …

[13]         Although this section has been held to advantage pedestrians, the presence of a flashing green light may be considered in assessing the potential liability of a dominant driver involved in a collision with another vehicle: Gautreau v. Hollige, 2000 BCCA 390.  Accordingly, in the circumstances of this case, I am entitled to consider the flashing green light as a factor in assessing the driving of the defendant and his obligation to respond to the danger that was presented by the plaintiff…

[28] The defendant, while the dominant driver, proceeded toward an intersection with a flashing green light in circumstances where the traffic in the immediate two lanes to his left had either stopped or was barely moving.  In my view, he had a duty – consistent with s. 131(5) of the Act – to slow down sufficiently to be able to cause his vehicle to stop should this become necessary.  This he did not do.  His evidence was that he was driving at approximately 40 kilometres per hour.  Had he slowed down, he would have had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision, as he would have been in the same position as the vehicles to his left.  His failure to keep a proper lookout contributed to the accident….

[33] For all of these reasons, it is my view that both parties were at fault for this collision.  Because the defendant was the dominant driver, I consider him to be less at fault.  Although he failed to slow down, he was not speeding, as were the defendants in both Andrews and Hynna. Under the Negligence Act, I find the plaintiff 75% at fault and the defendant 25% at fault.

bc injury law, fault, Flashing Green Lights, intersection crashes, liability, Madam Justice Fisher, Nonis v. Granata, passing on the right, right of way, Section 131(5) Motor Vehicle Act, section 158(1) Motor Vehicle Act

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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