23 Oct Accidents Involving Left-Turning Vehicles

Everyone who drives has had to turn left at an intersection where there is no advance turn light.  If traffic is busy, it can be nerve racking as you try to judge when it is safe to turn.  Who is at fault if you make that left turn and are hit by an oncoming vehicle?

In general, there are two things drivers need to know in these situations.  The first is that left turning drivers must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic that is either in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal, the left-turning driver may turn and oncoming traffic must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn. (s. 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318).

The second thing drivers need to know is that when the traffic light turns yellow, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must stop before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety. (s. 128(1)(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318).

However, while these sections of the Motor Vehicle Act are important in determining a driver’s standard of care, they are not exclusive measures of that standard.  This is both because the rules of the road cannot comprehensively cover all possible scenarios and because users of the road are expected to exercise reasonable care, even when others have failed to respect their right of way.

In the recent case of Miller v. Dent, 2015 BCSC 1820, the Plaintiff attempted to turn left at an intersection when he was struck by the Defendant’s oncoming vehicle. The Judge concluded that the light had turned red by the time the Plaintiff began to execute his turn and that the Defendant ought to have brought her vehicle to a stop prior to entering the intersection. The Judge found the Defendant driver entirely responsible for the collision.

These cases can be complex and results depend on many factors including witness evidence, driver recollection, sequencing of the lights, road conditions, weather conditions, etc.  If you are in an accident involving a left–turning vehicle, contact us as we have the experience and expertise to represent you.