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Don’t pass the buck when it comes to keeping the gas tank sufficiently full

Offensive as it may be, I am a member of a two vehicle family.   My office is a 20 minute walk from my home.  Surely to goodness we could do with one vehicle.

Of course my wife gets to drive the nicer, newer of our two vehicles.

I can imagine the headline of my wife’s responding letter to the editor:  “Hergott dreaming if he thinks he could ever drive the wife’s car”.  That’s a inside joke for regular readers of this column.

Actually, I do get the pleasure of driving the nicer car from time to time.  I get to be the chauffer when we go out as a family.  When that happens, I can count on one extra stop.

The extra stop is at a gas station because, seemingly without exception, the warning lights are all excited about how low the fuel level is.

You may not know what I’m talking about, and rightly so.  There’s no reason to ever become familiar with those warning bells and whistles.  If you pass a multitude of gas stations any time you go for a drive, why would you wait until you’re driving on fumes to fill up?

It’s sort of like using up the last of the toilet paper and not putting on a new roll, or draining the juice in the fridge without making a new jug.

Well, not quite.  If it’s your car, it’s just you who you’re inconveniencing by getting to that point of having to find a gas station because you’re just about to run out.

Unless you’re driving the family vehicle.  Unless you can count on your husband getting behind the wheel from time to the time.

It’s sort of like your husband having a special, separate roll of toilet paper, and using that one up.

I’ve distracted myself from the point of this column.  By now, perhaps several sentences ago, I’ve lost my female audience.  What good is it to make my point to the men who aren’t the problem!?

Oh boy.

What is it that motivates me to be so offensively sexist from time to time?  What is it that draws us to putting our own safety and wellbeing at risk?  What makes bungee jumping, zip lining and jumping out of airplanes so alluring?

Finally, the legal advice you’ve been waiting for.  Forget about making your husband happy.  It is actually negligent to drive with so little gas in your tank that you could run out of gas.

A stopped vehicle on a roadway presents a hazard.

There is a case that came to my attention recently, even though it was decided in 2007.  You can find it on the Supreme Court of British Columbia web site using “Smith and Tucker” as the search criteria.

The decision of Madam justice Russell contains the following conclusion: “I conclude that the reasonably prudent driver would have foreseen the risk of the vehicle running out of fuel on the basis of the warning tone and, given that gasoline stations were located en route, would have stopped to refill or top-up the vehicle to avoid an incident such as the one that did, in fact, occur.”

She goes on, addressing the clear attempt by the woman driver to “pass the buck” and blame her husband for her own negligence:  “The defendant’s reliance on her husband’s erroneous advice does not obviate her personal responsibility as the operator of a motor vehicle to ensure that it is in proper working condition.  Therefore, I conclude that the defendant was negligent in permitting the truck to run out of fuel and stall while travelling in traffic.”

If there are flashing lights and bells and whistles telling you that you are low on fuel, you’re probably low on fuel.  If your husband tells you that you’re fine to keep going and not fill up, he may be trying to collect on life insurance.

Anyway, how about making a practice of filling up before the tank gets to the one-half point?  Aside from giving your husband a warm, fuzzy feeling when he gets that periodic privilege of chauffeuring the family around in the nicer vehicle, you will be driving more safely, eliminating the chance that you will run out of gas and create a hazard on a roadway.

Published September 27, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News