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October 4, 2011

Amber Gambler? Not a Smart Bet.

The light turns yellow. Do you stop? Do you proceed with caution? Do you floor it?

BC Supreme Court case Ruscheinski v. Biln reminds us that if you can stop safely when the light turns yellow, you must do so.

The Plaintiff, Ms. Ruscheinski, approaches a busy intersection. She wants to turn left. She enters the left turn lane and edges into the intersection. The light turns yellow, then red, and Ms. Ruscheinski makes her turn when she does not see any more oncoming traffic. She is struck by a car in the far curb lane as she makes her left turn.

The Defendant, Ms. Biln, approaches the intersection from the other direction. She is in the curb lane. The light changes to yellow and she speeds up to beat the light. She enters the intersection when the light is red.

The Judge says:

  • Ms. Ruscheinski must be sure that the left turn can be made safely –¬†even when the light turns yellow or red.
  • Ms. Biln had enough time to stop safely when the light turned yellow. She should have stopped instead of speeding up to beat the light.
  • Ms. Ruscheinski was entitled to assume that oncoming cars would obey the law and stop. It didn’t matter that Ms. Ruscheinski’s line of sight of the curb lane was obscured by the cars already stopped.
  • Ms. Biln must stop at the intersection when the traffic light turned yellow. She did not, and was found 100% at fault for the collision.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t throw the dice. ¬†Stop if you can do so safely.