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ICBC Woes: Is a Bee in My Car an “Emergency Situation”?

(Remain Calm!)

Now that the summer weather is upon us, a question on every driver’s lips is “if a bee flies into my car, am I still required to control my car?” The short answer is yes. A live bee in your vehicle does not constitute “an emergency situation”  – you must remain calm.

This was addressed in the seminal 1972 decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, Sinclair v. Nyehold, (1972) 29 D.L.R. (3d) 614 (B.C.C.A.).  In that case, the defendant was driving along with his shirt off. A bee flew into the car and landed on his bare torso. He glanced down and observed it was alive and crawling up his stomach. The defendant was so engrossed with the bee that he made no attempt to apply his brakes or to hold his car to its proper course. Unfortunately, he was at a curve in the road, and instead of managing the turn, he continued into the oncoming lane, causing an accident in which the plaintiff was injured. The defendant argued that the bee on his chest constituted “an emergency situation”. A unanimous Court of Appeal rejected this argument, holding that: “there was no emergency in the sense in which that word is known in the law of negligence.”

More recently, in Wong v. Gonzalez, 2000 BCPC 205, the British Columbia Provincial Court held that a driver must be proactive about a bee in the car, and should not wait idly by until the bee stings the driver. Rather, the court endorsed evasive actions, such as getting out of the car, putting on the emergency brake, or directing a passenger “to swing at the bee or do something or other.”

(written by Troy McLelan)

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