Curb lane vehicle strikes left turner

Where there are multiple lanes of heavy traffic heading in on direction it is not uncommon for collisions to occur between vehicles that try to get ahead by driving up the curb lane, and oncoming vehicles that are turning left through gaps left in the traffic by the vehicles stopped in the lane(s) to the right of the vehicle travelling up the curb lane. Assessment of liability is sometimes difficult in these cases because, as set out below, both the curb lane driver and the left turning driver have arguments they can make against the other.

 

A Curb lane driver involved in such an accident may say that he was the dominant driver and that the left turning driver was servient and should not have turned into the lane of the curb lane driver when it was unsafe to do so. The curb lane driver will point out that according to s. 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, RSBC 1996, c. 318 drivers completing left turns across oncoming lanes of traffic are required to yield to oncoming traffic:

 

Yielding right of way on left turn

174 When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

 

The left turning driver may say that the accident caused by the curb lane driver passing on the right when it was unsafe to do so. The left turning driver will refer to s. 158(2) of the Motor Vehicle Act which states that one must not pass vehicles on the right unless it is safe to do so:

 

Passing on right

158 (1) The driver of a vehicle must not cause or permit the vehicle to overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle, except

(a) when the vehicle overtaken is making a left turn or its driver has signalled his or her intention to make a left turn,

(b) when on a laned roadway there is one or more than one unobstructed lane on the side of the roadway on which the driver is permitted to drive, or

(c) on a one way street or a highway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement, where the roadway is free from obstructions and is of sufficient width for 2 or more lanes of moving vehicles.

(2) Despite subsection (1), a driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right

(a) when the movement cannot be made safely, or

(b) by driving the vehicle off the roadway.

 

Although resolution of liability in each case will depend on the facts of the particular case, there are some general principles that apply in such cases.

 

Where the left turning drivers are required to cross multiple lanes of oncoming traffic, they are required to check that it is safe to cross each lane of oncoming traffic before proceeding across each successive lane: Clark v. Stricker, 2001 BCSC 657 at para. 8; Carich v. Cook (1992), 90 D.L.R. (4th) 322 (BCCA).

 

Where the lanes to the left of the curb lane driver are backed up with traffic the curb lane driver is required to look out for cars turning left through the gap in the stopped traffic: Clark v. Stricker, 2001 BCSC 657 at para. 10 -11, Andrews v. Roffel, 1997 CanLII 4378 at para. 19 (BCSC).

 

In other words, although the curb lane driver is the dominant driver and the left turning driver the servient driver, they are both required to look out for each other and exercise care.

 

As indicated by the following table, there is often a split in liability in such cases and left turning drivers have been have been found between 20% and 75% liable.

 

Case

Left turner

(%)

Curb lane

(%)

Andrews v. Roffel, 1997 CanLII 4378 (BCSC)

25

75

Berar v. Manhas, [1988] BCJ No 677 (QL)

75

25

Clark v. Stricker, 2001 BCSC 657

75

25

Hedges v. Robinson, [1987] BCJ No 3039 (QL)

20

80

McGiveron v. Lee, 1991 CanLII 436 (BCSC)

25

75

Moody v. Sandau, [1988] BCJ No 528 (QL)

20

80

Reynolds v. Weston, [1989] BCJ No 49 (QL)

25

75

 

If the curb lane driver is speeding, that will increase the likely liability of that driver: Andrews v. Roffel, 1997 CanLII 4378 (BCSC).

 

If the left turning driver does not re-check for oncoming traffic upon crossing each lane of oncoming traffic that will likely increase the liability of the left turning driver: Clark v. Stricker, 2001 BCSC 657.

 

 

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