RCMP Constable Mark Maddex is driving southbound on a four lane highway near Parksville, B.C. He is using radar to monitor the speed of oncoming traffic. There are no vehicles travelling close behind (at least 10 to 15 car lengths). He is travelling 80 km/h in the right passing lane of the highway.
Maddex’s radar picks up an oncoming truck speeding at 126 km/h. He decides to pursue the driver. Maddex turns on his emergency lights and gradually slows to make a U-turn to apprehend the driver of the speeding truck.
Daniel Sigouin is behind Maddex, driving a full-size commercial van towing a trailer in the same lane. The trailer in tow is equipped with brakes, but they are not connected and operational.
Sigouin is unaware of what is unfolding in front of him. He does not notice the police car slowing down and flashing its emergency lights. At the last moment, Sigouin pulls into a left turn lane of the highway to avoid rear-ending the cruiser. Constable Maddex initiates his U-turn just as Sigouin pulls into the left lane. Sigouin’s van hits the driver’s side door of the police car.
Last year a BC Supreme Court ruling found both Maddex and Sigouin equally at fault for the accident. The Judge said Constable Maddex’s decision to make a U-turn was unsafe because Sigouin’s commercial van was too close behind. The Judge notes that emergency lights and sirens do not provide a “shield of invincibility or absolute right” to law enforcement officials.
The Judge found Sigouin 50% at fault for travelling too close to the RCMP cruiser and failing to see and react to the flashing emergency lights.
But now a BC Court of Appeal decision has cleared Constable Maddex of negligence, finding Sigouin 100% at fault for the accident.
“There was only one act of negligence that caused this accident: Sigouin drove without due care, and without attention to the police car responding to an emergency ahead of him, in clear contravention of the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act,” read the Appeal ruling.
“All drivers must at all times be particularly aware and accommodating of police officers responding to highway emergencies in carrying out the onerous duties with which they are charged as part of their public service.”