Traffic Signal Sequence Evidence Resolves Liability Dispute

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating the potential value of traffic signal sequence evidence following an intersection collision.
In this week’s case (Kuma-Mintah v. Delange) the Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in an intersection collision.  The Plaintiff was heading westbound through a T-intersection.  At the same time the Defendant was attempting a left hand turn.  Both motorists claimed to have a green light arguing the other was to blame.  Evidence of the intersections traffic signal sequence ultimately proved important in resolving the dispute.

The Defendant initially gave evidence that she was stopped at the intersection for 30 seconds before the light turned green.  However traffic signal sequence evidence demonstrated that the vehicle would have only had to wait 11.3 seconds before changing sequence.  This ultimately undermined the reliability of the Defendant’s evidence.  In highlighting the significance of this evidence Mr. Justice Walker provided the following reasons:
[19]         Ms. Delange claims to have been stopped facing south at the Intersection on a red traffic signal. She said that she waited to turn left to head eastbound on the Lougheed Highway before the signal facing her turned to green. Once the traffic signal facing her turned to green, she proceeded slowly into the Intersection. As she did, she heard her husband, who was sitting behind her in the passenger seat on the left side of the vehicle, yell out that Mr. Kuma-Mintah’s vehicle was not going to stop. The collision occurred.
[20]         There was a period of time while she was giving evidence during the trial when Ms. Delange sought to move away from her wait-time estimate of 30 seconds that she gave at her examination for discovery. Her discovery evidence was very clear on the point. She also suggested the possibility that other vehicles were present at or near the Intersection. The evidence from the traffic engineer concerning the traffic signal sequence for the Intersection, which was not expert evidence, became known to Mr. Kuma-Mintah’s counsel only a few days before the trial began and to defence counsel shortly before the start of the trial (no adjournment of the trial was sought by the defence). While I do not consider that Ms. Delange, in providing new evidence suggesting a different wait-time and the possibility of other vehicles at or near the Intersection, was attempting to provide dishonest or misleading testimony following the recent disclosure of the traffic engineer’s evidence, her attempt to explain away her very clear discovery evidence was indicative of her ongoing struggle to comprehend how the accident could have occurred. I accept that she was trying to provide an overall account that she thought was truthful; it was, however, an account that was premised on post hoc reasoning…
[24]          Ms. Delange’s vehicle was the only one present at or near the Intersection that could have triggered any of the embedded traffic sensors. And as I have pointed out, I find that other than Ms. Delange’s vehicle, there was no traffic on the Lougheed Highway or United Boulevard during the relevant time before the accident occurred that would have made any difference to the traffic signals affecting Mr. Kuma-Mintah. That means that if Ms. Delange was stopped at the Intersection as she claims, then she would have been waiting for only 11.3 seconds, and not 30 seconds, before she could proceed to make her left-hand turn. Her vehicle would have automatically triggered the various traffic signals controlling the Intersection to change in accordance with the sequence design….
[29]         I find that Ms. Delange proceeded into the Intersection on a red traffic signal and collided with the vehicle being driven by Mr. Kuma-Mintah, contrary to s. 129(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318. Mr. Kuma-Mintah was entitled to proceed through the Intersection on a green traffic signal pursuant to s. 127(1). I accept his explanation that there was insufficient time for him to have taken evasive action.
[30]         My findings are made on a balance of probabilities. My determination of fault is premised on the clear objective evidence concerning the sequence design of the traffic signals and the evidence of the accident reconstruction expert contained in his report. My determination is only partly derived from my assessment of the credibility of the witnesses when they gave their testimony. I have determined that the description provided by Mr. Kuma-Mintah is in “harmony with the preponderance of probabilities”: Faryna v. Chorny, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 354 (B.C.C.A.); Gariepy v. Ritchie, [1993] B.C.J. No. 2304 (S.C.); and Hou v. McMath, 2012 BCSC 257 at para. 27.

bc injury law, intersection collisions, Kuma-Mintah v. Delange, Mr. Justice Walker, Section 129 Motor Vehicle Act, Section 129(1), Traffic Signal Sequence Evidence

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ERIK
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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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