Every day in British Columbia there are motor vehicle accidents that lead to serious injury or death. According to RoadSafety BC, in 2013, the number of accidents in BC where a victim was injured was 85,000. Insurance Corporation British Columbia (ICBC) reports that high-risk driving was a top contributing factor in the 5 year average of 143 of 269 fatal crashes. High-risk driving includes failing to yield the right of way, following too closely, ignoring a traffic control device, improper passing and speeding. Each of these driving behaviours are discussed in detail below.
Failing to Yield the Right-of-Way
Failing to yield the right-of-way is one of the leading causes of accidents that result in injuries or death. When a driver fails to yield in an intersection, a pedestrian is at the greatest risk of being harmed, especially when a driver makes a left turn. Seventy percent of pedestrians that die in intersection car crashes in BC are hit by vehicles turning left when the pedestrian has the right of way. Drivers need to be especially careful to scan crosswalks before proceeding as pedestrians can easily become blind spots.
Drivers and pedestrians alike need to watch for other road users who need to cross paths in busy locations, sharing space. They need to be prepared to stop, and make safe decisions about who should go first. Signs and traffic signals often clarify who needs to yield to whom. Drivers must always be in the correct lane before making a turn and must use turn signals.
More information about yielding the right-of-way is available in ICBC's guide, Learn to Drive Smart, in chapter 4 on rules of the road. Having the right-of-way still requires you to take responsibility to try to avoid an accident.
Ignoring Traffic-Control Devices
Many drivers roll through a stop sign or traffic control device without first coming to a complete stop. Proceeding this way is illegal and puts you and other road users at risk.
Drivers need to look to see what’s coming up ahead. If a light has been green for a while, you should get prepared to stop if the light changes. Checking the pedestrian signal can give you advanced warning before the traffic light turns yellow. A yellow traffic light means you must stop unless it is unsafe to do so. A red light or stop sign means that you must stop, even if you plan to turn right.
It is important to ensure that when you are stopping that you finish behind the stop bar or the first line of the crosswalk. It is critical for your safety and for others not to run a red light. Red light cameras are installed at many intersections to penalize those who fail to follow the rules.
Once you are stopped, you should check that the intersection is clear before moving forward and that no one is jumping ahead of the green light (e.g., a pedestrian who darts across before a driver’s left turn signal takes effect). Counting to three before proceeding will add safety in your driving.
When driving through intersections you need to be particularly mindful about the potential for others crossing the road. Watch carefully for other vehicles, especially oncoming drivers who are trying to beat the red light. Driving with extra caution is in intersections is recommended, especially at night and in poor weather conditions, when other vehicles and pedestrians are more difficult to see.
Following Too Closely
Tailgating is unsafe driving behavior as it leaves too little room to stop in an emergency. It also increases your risk of being rear-ended by another vehicle as you may need to brake hard abruptly if the person ahead of you begins braking. Even if no accident results, following too closely can land you a ticket from police.
A following distance of at least two seconds is ideal in good weather and road conditions. At least three seconds distance is recommended when you are behind a large vehicle that could block your vision or a motorcycle that could stop suddenly.
Passing can be risky at times, especially when your line of sight is hidden. Passing can lead to a collision with the vehicle you are trying to pass, with an oncoming vehicle or with a vehicle or pedestrian that is attempting to cross paths in front of you. Always watch for pedestrians and be prepared to stop and yield to school buses and drive very slowly around stopped or parked school buses.
You need to make sure that any pass you plan to undertake is done safely and legally, where it is permitted. You need to pass on the left, at a safe distance, and not when meeting oncoming traffic. You must keep within the speed limit and communicate your intention to pass by using your signal and remain alert to the possibility of the vehicle in front making a left turn while you are passing, and someone behind pulling out and passing you at the same time.
Before passing a vehicle, it’s important to check in your mirror and do a quick shoulder check to see your blind spot as well. You should ensure you can see the vehicle you've passed in your mirrors before pulling back in front of it. Extra room should be left before pulling back in when you pass or change lanes in front of a truck, which will need more space in order to slow down or stop safely.
Speeding is a top cause of accidents in police-reported crashes as it reduces your reaction time and lengthens the time it takes to stop. You need time to see and react before your brakes take effect and slow you down. For example 60 MPH is 88 feet per second travelled. The posted speed limit is for optimal conditions only. The speed you are permitted to travel is relative to the road and weather conditions.
Motorcyclists need to take extra care when entering curves, which is where motorcycle accidents often happen. Motorcyclists need to plan their path through curves and adjust their speed and lane position to avoid crossing into another lane or the shoulder.
Planning for contingencies like traffic and accidents can help you to budget more realistic travel times so that you don’t feel the need to rush to make up for lost time. Speeding will only increase your risk of having an accident. Speeding can also lead to fines, as outlined in s.148(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act and s.14 of the Offence Act.
Representing Accident Victims at Bronson Jones & Co LLP
At Bronson Jones & Co LLP, we are accident lawyers in Vancouver and have 13 offices to serve you in the Lower Mainland. Our clients include the victims of accidents caused by high-risk driving behaviours. We can help you too in ensuring that liability for fault is determined correctly and that fair compensation is achieved for your injuries. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-855-852-5100. Representing vehicle accident victims. It’s all we do.