Drivers to exercise reasonable care
Fault for motor vehicle accidents is assessed under the law of negligence. In order to establish that a person was negligent it is necessary to prove that they failed to meet the standard of care that was expected of them in the circumstances. In the case of motor vehicle accidents the standard of care to be met is the level of conduct of a reasonably competent driver in the circumstances.
Drivers will not be held to a lower standard because they are new or inexperienced drivers. For example, in Ayers v. Singh, 1997 CanLII 3410 (BCCA) a driver planning to proceed straight through an intersection stopped at a green light because, when he saw a left turn arrow change to red, he was confused as to whether the light for him was still green. The driver behind him was not confused, did not expect him to stop in those circumstances, and ran into the back of him. In finding the driver of the lead vehicle 100% at fault the court commented that he was inexperienced:
The trial judge found that the defendant's vehicle, which was the first of the three that I have talked about, came to a very sudden stop at the intersection. The trial judge also found that the reason why it did so was that the left turn lane signal had changed to prohibit traffic turning left and that Mr. Singh, who was not an experienced driver, reached the conclusion that the red light was for him and so he stopped.
(Ayers v. Singh, 1997 CanLII 3410 at para. 3 (BCCA)).
The driver of the lead vehicle was not excused from liability merely because he was an inexperienced driver, which confirms the principle that all drivers will be expected to perform to the level of a reasonably competent driver in the circumstances.
However, it is important to note that drivers are only expected to act “reasonably”, and are not expected to meet a standard of perfection.
[T]he standard of care of a driver is not one of perfection, but whether the driver acted in a manner in which an ordinarily prudent person would act
(Hadden v. Lynch, 2008 BCSC 295 at para. 69).
Therefore, a driver may not be found at fault for failing to avoid an accident that could possibly have been avoided by a professional driver with special skills.
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