On August 6, 2015, a suspected impaired driver driving her burgundy-colored sedan north caused an accident in the Pattullo Bridge. From different news reports, it was reported that she was attempting to overtake the vehicles in front of her. Instead, she went into the centre lane and plowed through the pylons and eventually crashed into a concrete divider. The driver has been charged and currently being investigated. Around 30 cars sustained damages from frantically avoiding her and the debris left in her wake. Thankfully, no one seriously injured but it could’ve been much worse, especially at the time of the accident and at Pattullo Bridge
Pattullo Bridge is accumulating a bad reputation when it comes to accidents. Just a month prior, a truck lost control and collided with 2 other vehicles and caused the bridge to close. In both instances, drivers are suspected to be at fault and could be facing charges. But can you imagine if both drivers caused a domino effect and caused a massive pileup? Who will be considered at fault in such cases?
In an accident, the assessment of fault differs greatly by what specific type of accident it is. For accidents involving vehicles overtaking other vehicles, the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 s.157 states:
157Â (1) Except as provided in section 158, the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle
(a) must cause a vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance, and
(b) must not cause or permit the vehicle to return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, a driver of an overtaken vehicle,
(a) on hearing an audible signal given by the driver of the overtaking vehicle, must cause the vehicle to give way to the right in favour of the overtaking vehicle, and
(b) must not increase the speed of the vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
Depending on what the road conditions are and what the traffic is like, drivers can be found equally responsible for the accident. It could be something that they did not do, such as not being aware of other vehicles, or something they did do, such as approaching a blind section of a highway and attempting to overtake slower vehicles. In the recent Pattullo Bridge accident, the driver in question attempted to overtake vehicles during heavy afternoon traffic. Samograd v. Collison raised the question of who is under a greater obligation to avoid a collision, the driver being overtaken or the driver overtaking another. The trial judge found both drivers negligent and indicated this:
I find that the greater obligation is on the overtaking vehicle to ensure it can do so in safety. That vehicle has the view ahead of it, and in this case of a vehicle ahead of him signalling its intention to turn, in those circumstances the onus is on the overtaking vehicle to see that signal and adjust his progress accordingly.
Reports of last week’s accident did not indicate whether or not the driver of the burgundy-colored sedan bothered signalling. Even if she did, she would have had a hard time doing so in heavy traffic and in that bridge. Had she been speeding, this would have resulted in numerous fatalities rather than damages. For those who sustained damages, this accident was a close call and they were lucky and severely inconvenienced. But wouldn’t you rather be alive and inconvenienced than dead?