Failing to Overtake Traffic "As Quickly and as Reasonably As Possible" Found Negligent
Update July 20, 2016 – the below decision was overturned today by the BC Court of Appeal.
Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that it is negligent for a motorist to not drive ‘as quickly and as reasonably as possible‘ when overtaking another vehicle on a highway.
In today’s case (Borgiford v. Thue) the Plaintiff vehicle was in the left hand lane of a highway overtaking tractor-trailers who were travelling at a low rate of speed as they ascended a steep hill. The Plaintiff vehicle’s motorist was a ‘timid’ driver and was overtaking the slow moving vehicles at a speed of 85 kmph despite a speed limit of 110 kmph. At the same time a Suburban approached the vehicles at a high rate of speed, clipped one of the slow moving tractor-trailers and lost control resulting in apparent profound injuries to his passengers.
The Court found the speeding motorist clearly negligent but went on to find the slow passing plaintiff vehicle was also negligent for not passing the tractor trailers as quickly as possible. In reaching this finding Mr. Justice Rogers provided the following reasons:
 In my view, the standard of care owed by a reasonable and prudent driver in Mrs. Boizard’s situation required that hypothetical driver to overtake Mr. Einarson’s unit as quickly as reasonably possible. I find that is the standard because the speed limit on the highway was 110 kph and any reasonable operator on that road would have known that motorists often go faster, sometimes much faster, than the speed limit. A reasonable driver in Mrs. Boizard’s situation would have known that for so long as he was in the left-most lane the entire width of the highway was occupied by relatively slow moving traffic. A motorist approaching from the rear and traveling at 110 kph would find his way blocked by the slower vehicle in the left-most lane.
 I must therefore ask myself: was Mrs. Boizard overtaking Mr. Einarson as quickly as reasonably possible? Here Mr. Fiorin’s opinion does not really help Mrs. Boizard. That is because the key element of Mr. Foirin’s opinion is that operators of large vehicles are entitled to take steps to keep up the momentum of their units as they ascend a hill. That may be true, but it does not apply to Mrs. Boizard. That is because on Mrs. Boizard’s own evidence the pickup truck she was driving was capable of going up Larson Hill faster than 85 kph. This was not a case of the Boizard truck struggling to keep up its speed of 80 to 85 kph. This was a case of Mrs. Boizard making a conscious and deliberate decision to not go faster than 85 kph.
 I do not doubt Mrs. Boizard’s sincerity when she testifies that she felt that it was safer to go 85 kph while passing Mr. Einarson. However, her subjective opinion cannot carry the day. The real question is whether a reasonable and prudent motorist in her situation could have and would have overtaken Mr. Einarson more quickly. The evidence does not satisfy me that a higher speed for the camper while passing would, in fact, have created an unsafe circumstance for either the Boizards or Mr. Einarson. I am thoroughly satisfied, however, that clearing the left-most lane would have created a safer circumstance for other motorists approaching from the rear. Put another way, the less time that Mrs. Boizard stayed in the left-most lane, the safer it would be for other, faster traveling, motorists who also wished to overtake Mr. Einarson’s unit.
 In short, I find that Mrs. Boizard was a timid driver – she could have driven her camper faster and could have overtaken Mr. Einarson’s tractor-trailer more quickly. Instead, Mrs. Boizard chose to drive at a relatively leisurely pace and in so doing, she blocked the left-most lane for a longer period of time than was reasonably necessary. I find that Mrs. Boizard’s decision to drive as slowly as she did and to occupy the overtaking lane for as long as she did fell below the standard of care that she owed to other users of the highway. I find that she was negligent in that regard.
 The question now arises whether either of Mrs. Boizard’s negligent acts was a cause of the accident. As we know from Athey it is not necessary that Mrs. Boizard’s negligence be the sole cause of the accident. The law is also clear that causation is not determined by which of the defendants had the last clear chance to avoid the mishap. All that is necessary is for Mrs. Boizard’s negligence to be a cause; that is to say, but for her negligence, the accident would not have happened.
 In my view, the link between Mrs. Boizard’s negligence in changing lanes as she did is too weak to support a finding that that particular act caused the accident. I have come to that conclusion because the Thue Suburban was not in sight when Mrs. Boizard changed lanes. The Suburban came around the first curve on Larson Hill after Mrs. Boizard was in the left-most lane. The lane change itself did not put Mr. Thue and his passengers in jeopardy.
 However, had Mrs. Boizard accelerated her camper to a reasonable overtaking speed, she would have blocked the overtaking lane for a shorter period of time. Given that when the accident happened the camper was at the junction between Mr. Einarson’s tractor and trailer, it would not have taken much more speed on Mrs. Boizard’s part to have gotten past Mr. Einarson ahead of Mr. Thue’s arrival. In my opinion, there is a sufficient causal link between Mrs. Boizard’s decision to overtake at a leisurely pace and the accident to support a finding that but for that decision, the accident may not have happened. Put another way, in order for the accident to have happened the way it did, it was necessary for Mrs. Boizard to have blocked the overtaking lane.