08 Jul Road Rage Incident Caused Accident

In Davies v. Elston, 2014 BCSC 2435, a motorist was found at fault for a road rage incident. 

The Plaintiff, age 77, and his adult son were riding side by side in a bike lane. The Plaintiff’s son made a comment about the Defendant’s parked vehicle mirror encroaching into the designated bike lane as they road past. The Defendant, who was nearby, overheard the comment and got into his truck to follow and confront them.

 When the Defendant caught up to the cyclists, he drove closely alongside the cyclists and they exchanged words. After a brief exchange, probably less than 10 seconds, the Defendant drove away and the elderly Plaintiff fell off his bicycle , injuring himself.

At trial, the Defendant suggested that his actions had nothing to do with causing the Plaintiff to fall.  The Court did not agree. 

In finding the Defendant liable, the Judge stated:

 [167] As for whether Mr. Elston’s conduct was negligent, I find that the defendant fell below the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent driver, in driving alongside the two cyclists and yelling at them, while so close to the bike lane that it made it intimidating, threatening and unsafe for the cyclists; and then in addition in pulling away quickly, without warning, with Mr. Davies so close by and with his hand on the truck. 

[168] It is obvious as a matter of common sense that such driving conduct was without reasonable care for the safety of the cyclists and was negligent.

[169] No matter how aggravating a cyclist’s behavior might be, and I find there was nothing aggravating about the Davies’ conduct, a driver of a motor vehicle can never be justified in deliberately using a motor vehicle to confront a cyclist who is riding a bike. Confrontation creates a serious risk of harm to the cyclist which is way out of proportion to anything the cyclist might have done. A driver of a motor vehicle is not entitled to impose a penalty of death or serious bodily harm on a cyclist just because the cyclist was rude or broke a traffic rule.

[170] It has to be remembered that motor vehicles have four wheels, automatic brakes, seat belts, and the driver is nicely encased in a heavy steel cage and that a person on a bicycle is not in a situation which is the least bit comparable, even if going the same speed as a vehicle. A cyclist cannot stop on a dime, is vulnerable to losing balance, and can be seriously injured or killed if he or she makes contact with a motor vehicle or falls at high speed.

The Defendant asked the Court to find the Plaintiff contributory negligent because he and his son had been riding side by side. The Judge found that there was nothing in the Motor Vehicle Act that prohibited riding abreast in a bike lane and, even if there was, nothing about the two cyclists riding abreast caused or contributed to the accident.

The Court found the Defendant 100% liable for the accident.