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Slippery road conditions no excuse for causing a crash

Picture this: You’re driving at nighttime in heavy snow. You find yourself at the top of a steep, snow covered hill.  At the bottom of the hill is a stop sign at an intersection with a busy thoroughfare.  As you cautiously proceed down the hill, you press your brake pedal and start to slide. Your car slides right past the stop sign, and enters the busy thoroughfare, where you are t-boned by another vehicle.  Was this an inevitable accident, or the foreseeable result of a driver that should have known better

This was the question the Court faced in the recent case of Tran v. Edbrooke, 2013 BCSC 1802.  In answering it, the Court provided:

[35]   The road surface was extremely slippery. It is a notorious fact that when Vancouver streets are covered in fresh snow, whether it is because of the moisture present or the fact that the ambient temperature is often quite close to the freezing point and not much colder, or for some other reason, they can be expected to be very slippery and car crashes occur with regrettable frequency.

[36]   In the result, the level of hazard was significant. The downhill slope to be negotiated aggravated that situation.

[37]   Drivers must conduct themselves with appropriate caution. That didn’t happen here.

[38]   Put another way, is it reasonable to find that the defendant was met with a hazard of which he had no prior warning or indication? The answer to that is no. He, as a reasonable driver, must be taken to have known that the road surface was slippery. What surprised him was the extent of the slipperiness, and that being able to safely control his vehicle as it approached Nanaimo Street would be essentially impossible.

[39]   With great respect for Mr. Edbrooke, who impressed me as a careful and conscientious person, this is not a matter of inevitable accident. It was unfortunately a moment of judgment that, in these particular circumstances, fell short of an acceptable standard of care.

[40]   I find that liability has been made out. The collision was caused by the defendant’s negligence and he is therefore liable to the plaintiff in damages.

This case should serve as a reminder to all us road users to take extra caution at this time of year.

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