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Motorcyclist Crossing Centre Line on Hairpin Turn Found at Fault for Accident in ICBC Case

In the recently published case of Hale v. MacEwen, 2011 BCSC 1404 Mr. Justice Harvey considered the duty on a driver who is confronted with an unexpected situation caused by the negligence of another driver.  This case deals with the driver of a motorcycle who crossed the centre line of a highway in the course of negotiating a tight turn.  The driver of the motorcycle was impaired by alcohol.  The result of his misjudgement was that he and his passenger were thrown from their motorcycle after it came into contact with the rear view mirror of a deliver van driving in the opposite lane.


Judge’s Analysis in ICBC Accident Claim


While conceding that the accident occurred in the defendant’s portion of the laneway, the plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the defendant was partly to blame for the accident because he was “unreasonable” in maintaining a course of travel so close to the centre portion of the roadway knowing the hairpin nature of the curve where the accident happened.  Justice Harvey disagreed with this analysis and found the plaintiff solely at fault for the accident.


The plaintiff’s lawyer relied on a Court of Appeal case (the “Wilson” case) in which plaintiff was found at fault for travelling 6 to 8 cm from the centre line while approaching a large truck on a highway.  In that case the court held that it was not reasonable for the plaintiff to “hug the solid line” when she knew she was approaching a large vehicle.  The court found that if the plaintiff had been driving in the centre of her line the collision would have been avoided.  Accordingly, the plaintiff was found 25% at fault, although she was travelling entirely in her own lane.


Justice Harvey distinguished the case from Watson by noting that the plaintiff’s violation of the rules of the road (specifically s. 151(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act) was unusual and unexpected.  In coming to the decision that the plaintiff was at fault for the accident Justice Harvey said the following:


[64]         A driver’s conduct must be judged by the standards of normal persons and not by applying the standards of perfection:  Freedman v. City of Côte St. Luc, [1972] S.C.R. 216.


[65]         A driver is bound to anticipate on the part of the other drivers, only those follies which according to the teachings of experience commonly occur:  Provincial Transport Co. v. Dozois, [1954] S.C.R. 223.


[66]         Nothing in the driving of the plaintiff forewarned the defendant of the possibility that he would fail to maintain his vehicle within his lane.


[67]         Here, unlike in Watson, the distance between the outer edge of the van and the centre line was 20-25 cm or 9-10 inches. The front of the van, while not perfectly centered within the defendant’s lane, was set back from the centre line even further.


[68]         Whatever contact occurred between the defendant’s mirror, the plaintiff, his passenger, and/or his vehicle, did not occur in the plaintiff’s lane of travel.


[69]         To require the defendant to position his vehicle farther from the centre line in anticipation of the negligence of the plaintiff requires a standard of perfection, not reasonableness.


[70]         In the result I am satisfied that the accident occurred wholly as a result of the plaintiff’s negligence. The action is dismissed.


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