Turning left on yellow: tribunal rules through driver 25 percent at fault in Surrey collision

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      Here’s how it went down.

      Nicholas Logan was driving westbound on 72nd Avenue in Surrey on New Year’s Eve.

      He pulled into an intersection on a green light, and waited to turn left onto 138th Street.

      When the traffic light turned yellow, an eastbound Honda vehicle in the opposite direction proceeded straight through the intersection.

      Logan then started his left turn.

      Kirpal Singh was driving behind the Honda, and entered the intersection while the light was still yellow, as Logan was crossing her lane of travel.

      Singh honked.

      However, neither she nor Logan attempted any evasive maneuvers.

      The two cars collided.

      Kristin Gardner, a member of the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, recalled these undisputed facts of the accident that happened on December 31, 2019.

      Logan filed a claim with the tribunal, arguing that the provincial car insurer ICBC made a mistake when it assessed him to be 100 percent at fault.

      He argued that Singh should be held solely responsible, asserting that she had enough time to stop when the light turned yellow.

      According to him, Singh should not have proceeded through the intersection.

      Logan scored a partial victory in this dispute.

      Gardner ruled that Logan was 75 percent at fault, and Singh, 25 percent.

      In her reasons for judgment, Gardner went through what the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) says about yielding right of way on left turn.

      According to Section 74 the law, Gardner wrote, “when a driver is in an intersection intending 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”.

      “Having yielded and given the appropriate signal, the driver may turn left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite directly must yield the right of way to the left turning vehicle,” Gardner continued.

      The MVA also provides that a “driver approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause their vehicle to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety”.

      Gardner also noted that courts have “regularly stated that the onus is on a left turning driver to prove that they started to turn left when it was safe to do so and that the through driver was not an immediate hazard”.

      Also, “While a left turning driver can reasonably assume that approaching drivers will obey the rules of the road, they cannot proceed blindly on that assumption.”

      In the collission between Logan and Singh, Garnder found that Logan “proceeded with his left turn immediately after the Honda drove past him, without pausing to assess whether Ms. Singh was slowing down or was going to stop”.

      “In fact, Mr. Logan admits that Ms. Singh did not appear to slow down at all,” Gardner noted.

      Therefore, “I find that Mr. Logan blindly assumed that Ms. Singh would stop for the yellow light and was in breach of section 174 of the MVA when he started his left turn without confirming it was safe to do so.”

      “Had Mr. Logan paused even momentarily before starting his turn, he would have seen Ms. Singh was not slowing for the yellow light and been able to safely wait to complete his left turn once she passed through the intersection,” Gardner wrote.

      Logan bears “some responsibility for the accident”, but not all.

      As for Singh, dash cam video from Logan’s car showed that the light “turned yellow at least 3 seconds before Ms. Singh’s front tires crossed the stop line into the marked crosswalk, at which point Mr. Logan had already started his turn”.

      “The light turned red less than one second later, just as the vehicles collided,” Gardner noted.

      Singh entered the intersection on a “stale yellow” light.

      “The onus is on Ms. Singh to prove that she was unable to stop safely in all the circumstances,” Gardner wrote.

      According to the tribunal member, Singh “provided no evidence that it was unsafe for her to stop for the yellow light”.

      “Therefore, I find that Ms. Singh also bears some responsibility for the accident,” Gardner ruled. “However, given the high onus on left turning drivers, I find Mr. Logan bears more of the responsibility.”