CASE LAW - Varga v Kondola

BC Courts Coat of ArmsNicola Varga was late for an Epicure party and was using her iPhone's GPS app to navigate westbound on the Lougheed Highway from the Golden Ears Bridge in Pitt Meadows. She needed to make a left turn at the Park Road intersection so she began to make her way from the acceleration lane across three lanes of traffic to the left turn lane for the intersection. As she crossed from the center through lane to the left through lane she was hit from behind by a delivery truck driven by Bryan Kondola.

That collision caused the Varga vehicle to cross over the median and strike an oncoming vehicle driven by James Swanson in the curb lane on the other side of the highway.

Mr. Kondola had followed Ms. Varga onto the Lougheed Highway and took up a position in the middle lane two vehicles behind her. He watched the two vehicles jockey for position and formed the opinion that Varga did not know where she was going and was a hazard due to her sudden lane changes. He did not slow or change lane position until Ms. Varga lane changed immediately in front of him and braked. At that point all he could do was brake, but he was not able to avoid the collision.

The Honourable Madam Justice Griffin discussed the Motor Vehicle Act provisions regarding driving without due care and lane changing in the context of the evidence. She found Ms. Varga 75% at fault for making the unsafe lane change and Mr. Kondola 25% at fault for failing to exercise caution in the face of Ms. Varga's erratic driving.



Makes sense to me.

There's no excuse for bad lane-changing, and that includes following GPS directions - if you miss your turn, the unit will typically start re-calculating and figure out the best way to get you back on track toward your destination.

I have a Garmin (still useful in the hinterlands, or situations where internet is weak or expensive) and Google Maps in my Android phone (which just gets smarter all the time, remarkably) and both devices provide all the warning possible to position for your next maneuver.

GPS must be included in standard driving instructions

Too often I am seeing drivers that are acting distracted and driving erratic only because they are unfamiliar with the area and are looking at their GPS more than at where they are going.

I think all drivers should be instructed to study their route and must be tested on map reading and self-orientation as part of their Driver's License exam. The following things need to be explained to all new drivers:

- Know your route (with or with-out GPS)

- Its OK to miss a turn

- Road over screen

Old school turn counting works best for me - whenever I travel to an unknown area I always count the total number of intersection turns I have to make - even if I miss a count while driving - the awareness of how many lefts and rights I've made and still need to make tells me where I am on my route. Whenever I plan a route I always keep in-mind a "miss a turn" contingency - or rather I study my turns and make note of turns that are easily missed (i.e. can turn next block) or turns that I must prepare for in-advance (i.e. highway entrances or highway direction changes). Staring at the GPS presents a bigger distraction than reading texts - trying to read street names on a cluttered screen feels way worse than reading a text message - I just don't do it - I listen to voice instructions.

Choice of a GPS matters too. I've had a pleasure & displeasure of driving rented vehicles with built in GPS - some systems made me miss every single turn or turn early. Some systems like Google Maps on iPhone have improved dramatically. Best systems always display the lane configuration of the intersection that you need to turn at in-advance. I find these snippets of "what the intersection will look like" to be most informative, especially when its 5 lanes going one way and another 4 going the other way - its imperative to know what lane to aim for in-advance.

Voice directions could still use a little work on Google Maps, although they are constantly getting better, I am still sometimes confused with the useless instructions like "in 500 feet merge left onto Hwy 1" - when getting on-to the on-ramp; I mean it's not like I have a choice - except for driving into the ditch maybe.

One thing I've noticed the GPS to be severely lacking is HOV awareness. Some highways in the USA have some amazing HOV routes - dedicated by-passes that skip huge highway cloverleafs and give drivers a fast track that is sometimes completely different from the regular lanes. I find that most GPS systems are completely oblivious to these parallel HOV routes and you have to look out for the highway signs to resolve each such HOV detour - but it's worth it in heavy traffic and keeps you alert and aware - which is always nice. It would be nice if you could "declare as HOV" to your GPS unit - so that it guides you onto the HOV routes.

I also find that GPS can induce a light hypnosis on a long journey, where you as a driver feel like you are offloading a part of your duties onto the GPS and you feel like some part of the usual awareness can be turned off. This phenomenon is a false sense of security - we must consciously recognize it and give our heads a timely shake.


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