Warning Others of a Breakdown

Breakdown Warning DevicesWhat do you have stored in your vehicle to protect yourself and other road users in the event of a breakdown or collision? Most of us will probably reply that they don't have anything prepared for this eventuality. In fact, with the reliability of vehicles today and perhaps not having been involved in a significant collision before, we may be lulled into thinking that we don't really need it.

Cole Notter may have felt this way. He's the subject of a court case where he was involved in a single vehicle collision and left his black Kia sitting across one lane of highway 1 east of Chilliwack, at night, with no lights on and did nothing to protect others.

Others stopped to offer assistance, parking on the opposite side of the road with their hazard flashers on.

Edward Godbout approached the scene driving a loaded tractor trailer unit. Thinking that the hazard involved the vehicle with the hazard flashers on, Mr. Godbout changed lanes away from it. He failed to see the Kia in time and was unable to avoid a collision.

That collision left Mr. Godbout's truck and trailer laying on it's side in the median and the load of scrap metal strewn across the westbound lanes.

Subsequently, he claimed an injury to his left arm and shoulder, neck and back. He also experiences headaches. Most significantly, he claims to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, vertigo, decreased sex drive and vision problems arising as a result of his injuries.

Mr. Justice Jenkins found Notter to be 100% liable for the collision involving Godbout because he had done nothing to warn others of the hazard that he had created. The settlement amounted to almost $600,000.

In my experience, it is not uncommon to attend a collision at night and find the disabled vehicle sitting in the darkness without any lights on and the vehicle's lighting system still capable of being used.

Even if you are on the shoulder of the highway it is wise to use your hazard flashers or leave your parking lights on at night.

A set of breakdown warnings is not a significant expense. With a little bit of thought, you can equip yourself fairly well for less than the cost of an oil change.

If you ever need to use your breakdown warnings, a bit of thought is in order for their deployment. The higher the speed, the further away the first warning should be placed from the scene. Remember that drivers need to see the warning, decide that they need to do something and then do it, all before they arrive at the difficulty.

Our freeways may be posted at 120 km/h or just over 33 m/s. 4 seconds for perception and reaction is not out of the question and means that more than 120 meters has been traveled before the driver applies the brakes. If it's slippery, the braking distance could be significant too.

Hills, curves and multiple lanes may require extra warnings so I would suggest that a minimum of three devices would be wise to have.

You may never need to use breakdown warnings to protect yourself or others but this case is a great example of what a bit of thought and a few dollars in safety equipment could save.


Here's another....

A lot of us have helped someone with a dead battery by "jump starting" their vehicle with jumper cables.

On a dark rainy night, broken down vehicle stopped on the shoulder of the roadway, a helpful passing motorist or a friend summoned pulls nose to nose up to the disabled vehicle.

In your mind,,,, the disabled vehicle is parked facing the same way traffic is flowing on the shoulder of that side of the roadway and the helpful motorist/friend is facing traffic on the wrong side of the road on the same shoulder of the road.  Not a big deal ?  Right ?

With today's vehicles, even if you turn off your headlights, your daytime running lights remain on.  Yes, if you think of it, some vehicles, can be run if the vehicle is started with the emergency brake engaged, but in our scenario, it's dark and rainy, likely some light is needed.

While the jumping is being conducted,,, what do we have ?  headlights on the extreme wrong side of the roadway.  Depending on the location of the two vehicles in relation to each other and the height of the vehicles, white headlights could be expected to be shinning toward oncome traffic on their side of the roadway.

This happened on the outskirts of Lumby BC, the on-coming vehicle's driver became confused and swerved to the right of the headlights, driving off the roadway.

Yes, the helpful motorist/friend is now liable for the collision.

Submitted by E-Mail

Love this article! You can buy foldable triangular warning signs for very few dollars that take up very little space. As a commercial driver in the ’70’s, I very nearly had the same experience as Mr. Goodbout just east of Hinton, AB.

Warning others

Just looked it up Canadian tires have folding emergency triangles on for 10.00 and electronic flashing flares for 22.00.

Have to admit I drove for several years with nothing. Then starting my own company and taking a first aid course around the same time I saw the merit in them. In first aid you are told to secure the area. Can't provide much help when you are now part of the accident scene.

It wouldn't hurt that when you take your drivers written test that you are also given one regarding being first on the scene of an accident. This information could also be included with your insurance when you re-new. Everything depends on the number of people with you and how many on the scene but the first priority should be getting those triangles and flares out for other drivers. One should also park several meters away. Take the moderators advice and park 100 - 150 meters away with 4 way flashers, triangles and flares.

I find it so often when you come across an accident the first vehicles that arrive like to park beside the accident. Then they meander like cattle on the road. 

I understand the problem of jump starting. One can stand in front of the offending headlight when you see a car coming. Another thing that would help is to put your lights on low beam if you haven't already done. Suprising the number you see that do not dim headlights. And once you are connected you can turn on the four way flashers.

Complaint against emergency vehicles and their drivers. Put your low beams on or even use parking lights if conditions permit. Light bars. The LED lights are now so bright that they are blinding. Should be equipped with a lower intensity light once darkness arrives. And one of the stupidest idea is that of the alternating low/high beams flashings. When you talk to emergency personnel they have numerous complaints against the other drivers. First they complain that they do not slow down like they are suppose to, then in the next sentence the complaint is everyone wants to go so slow and gawk at the accident. Please get your stories straight. And please think of the other drivers and not try to blind them with bright lights.

I will be purchasing those electronic flares next time I am in a auto parts store. Excellent idea and way better than the flares I have now.

Ontario Accident

Here is a link to a video made of a car hitting a pick-up

This is a good example of not securing the scene of the accident.

There is no excuse for the driver of the car having the accident in the first place but we have a tow truck driver not bothering to mark the accident and the people originally involved also failing to take action. They had phoned for a tow truck and if they had any emergency equipment with them that should have been put out.

In the case of the tow truck driver his first priority should have been to put out emergency markings. He had driven by the scene and knew there was nothing out. Instead he talked to the people involved in the accident and then proceeded to call the OPP to report the accident. Whether or not his own emergency lights could be seen over the canopy of the pick-up is not really as issue. Markers should have been established on the ground giving other motorist a warning of problems ahead.

Thankfully no one was killed. But this is a good example of not what to do.

Nobody ever seems to know how to do this!

In BC, vehicles in the Class 1, 2, 3, 4U category are required to carry such safety devices as a Fire Extinguishers First Aid kit, and devices such as Flags or Flares (the 3 F's) though the latter will these days typically be approved Reflectors. 

Generally speaking, the extinguisher and first aid kit will remain unused; but it's not uncommon to see those triangular Reflectors (there will usually be three in the red container) set up somewhere behind a stalled vehicle. Sometimes a city bus, other times a semi. And yet, every time in my living memory, the driver has erected those things within a few meters of the rear of his/her stationary vehicle.  And they think they're  'professional' drivers?

The rules require that the Reflectors be placed 30 meters ahead and behind the vehicle (that's ten big strides) and suggest that the other one be placed 60 meters or more behind the vehicle, to properly mark it as stopped (on or off the roadway).

There's no point in having safety devices (including hazard lights), if people don't know when, where, and how to use them.

It Depends

I always looked at this only from the point of view of the MVA and MVAR. There may be other rules set by WorkSafeBC that I am unaware of.

Advanced warnings for commercial vehicles depend on width or passenger seating capacity. A minium of 2 are required and during darkness they are required to be placed one 30m to the front and one 30m to the rear of the disabled vehicle. This may be totally inadequate on high speed roads where curves or hills are involved.

Fire extinguishers are required for vehicles that carry explosive cargo and commercial passenger vehicles with a seating capacity of 10 or more.

The first aid kit requirement is also for passenger vehicles with a seating capacity of 10 or more.

Google Ads