J.A.‘s recent post reminds us that when a light turns yellow, you must stop so long as it’s safe to do so.
BC Supreme Court case Henry v. Bennett gives us another example of why not to run a yellow light.
In this case, Ms. Bennett is stopped patiently in a left turn lane waiting to make a safe turn.
Travelling in the opposite direction, Mr. Henry approaches the intersection as the light turns yellow. Although cars on either side of him have already come to a stop, Mr. Henry continues through the intersection. He does not make an attempt to slow down.
Thinking it clear to proceed, Ms. Bennett begins to make her left turn and collides with Mr. Henry’s car just as the light turns red.
Mr. Henry sues Ms. Bennett for damages. His lawyers rely on section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act which says drivers intending to turn left must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction.
But lawyers for Ms. Bennett reference sections 128 and 129 of the MVA, saying that a driver approaching an intersection with a yellow light must come to a stop so long as it’s safe to do so.
The Judge concludes that Mr. Henry violated his duty as a driver, basing his decision on the following:
- Mr. Henry passed stopped vehicles on either side of him as he approached the intersection.
- He was well behind the last car that had gone through the intersection.
- He was aware that Ms. Bennett was sitting in the intersection waiting for an opportunity to turn.
- He made no attempt to slow down or to come to a stop, even though the light was about to turn red and he could have done so safely.
Ms. Bennett, on the other hand, waited until the traffic light was red before moving into her turn. She did not aggressively accelerate, but cautiously moved left since her view was slightly compromised.
The Judge says that Ms. Bennett did not strike Mr. Henry’s car; rather, he ploughed into hers.
Mr. Henry is found 100% at fault for the accident. His claim for damages is dismissed.