Category: Flashing Green Lights

Court Of Appeal Discusses Law With Respect To Flashing Green Lights

There is a common misconception in ICBC injury claims that if there is a car accident at an intersection with a flashing green light, then the accident will always be the fault of the driver who was proceeding on the flashing green light. The flashing green light indicates that, if you are proceeding through the light, then you must approach the intersection with caution. If you fail to take the reasonable care required for the circumstances, then you can be held to be wholly or partly at fault for a car accident, even though you were originally the dominant driver and had the right of way with the flashing green light.

 

Section 131(5) of the Motor Vehicle Act deals with flashing green lights.

 

In Lutley v. Southern, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, and brought an ICBC claim for damages arising therein. The accident occurred at an intersection with a flashing green light. The Defendant was traversing across an intersection after leaving a stop sign, when the right rear corner was struck by the right front corner of the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The Plaintiff was faced with a flashing green light at the moment of impact. At trial, the trial judge ruled that the Plaintiff was 40% at fault for the collision. The Defendant appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, however the appeal was dismissed.

 

[35]           Having concluded that the appellant had the right of way as she crossed Oak Street, I turn to the legal position of the respondent.  She was passing to the right of a row of cars stopped at an intersection.  At the intersection was a flashing green light.

 

[38]           Had the light at 67th and Oak Street been merely green, pursuant to s. 127(a)(iii) the respondent would have been obliged to yield the right of way to the appellant who was lawfully in the intersection when the green light was exhibited.  Because the light was a flashing green light, pursuant to s. 131(5)(a), the respondent was obliged “to approach the intersection or signal in such a manner that … she [was] able to cause the vehicle to stop before reaching the signal or any crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal if a stop should become necessary”. Clearly, the respondent did not do so and the trial judge so found.

 

[50]           While a dominant driver is entitled to assume servient drivers will obey the rules of the road, a dominant driver cannot act unrealistically.  It is an unfortunate reality that servient drivers like the respondent do disregard their obligations and dominant drivers cannot ignore that fact.  A dominant driver passing through an intersection who is confronted with a new risk – a seemingly empty curb lane the view of which is obstructed – must proceed with some caution.

 

[55]           Both drivers proceeded in the intersection at lane 6 without knowing whether it was safe to do so. Neither could see the approach of the other. They were both careless in causing the accident.

 

[56]           With all due respect for the contrary view, I do not think the apportionment of fault in this case depends on the statutory provisions governing the right of way. Each party can assert a right of way but, on the facts, neither exercised the common law duty of care in a situation requiring caution.

 

[57]           In my judgment, it was not an error to find the parties roughly equal in liability. While the apportionment might have been reversed or assessed at 50:50, the judge’s determination is within a reasonable range and I would not disturb it.

Court Discusses Area Of Law With Respect To Flashing Green Lights

In Nonis v Granata, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, and brought an ICBC claim for damages. The Plaintiff was in the far right curb lane of six lanes of travel (three in each direction), and had stopped at a stop sign. The Plaintiff then proceeded, and collided with the Defendant’s vehicle, which had been turning left on a flashing green light. The Court would end up apportioning liability, as the Defendant was found to be 25% at fault, and the Plaintiff 75%. The Court discussed the area of law with respect to flashing green lights.

 

[12] A driver approaching a flashing traffic signal also has a duty to proceed with caution.  Section 131(5) provides that when a flashing green light is exhibited by a traffic control signal at an intersection,

 

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection or signal and facing the signal must cause it to approach the intersection or signal in such a manner that he or she is able to cause the vehicle to stop before reaching the signal or any crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal if a stop should become necessary, and must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in a crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal or in the intersection …

 

[13]         Although this section has been held to advantage pedestrians, the presence of a flashing green light may be considered in assessing the potential liability of a dominant driver involved in a collision with another vehicle: Gautreau v. Hollige, 2000 BCCA 390.  Accordingly, in the circumstances of this case, I am entitled to consider the flashing green light as a factor in assessing the driving of the defendant and his obligation to respond to the da