Who's Responsible for a Crash?

image of left turn crash at drivewayWho is responsible for a crash? This is a question that I am asked fairly frequently, usually by a driver who is expecting that the other driver is totally at fault for a collision that they have been involved in.

In many cases both drivers are partially responsible for the crash.

An Example Collision

You are driving on a straight two lane stretch of highway marked with a single broken yellow line. You approach a driveway intending to turn left and are slowing and signalling your intention to make that turn. The vehicle behind you slows and the driver of the vehicle behind it becomes impatient, passing on the left and collides with your vehicle when you make the turn.

Both Drivers are Responsible

Who is responsible for the collision? The answer may surprise you, because both drivers, the one turning and the one overtaking are at fault.

Driver Turning Left

The driver turning left is allowed to make the turn if they have evaluated the conditions that are present or might reasonably be expected to be present and has determined that it it safe to do so.

Driver Passing on the Left 

The driver making the pass may drive to the left side of the highway to do it if they have determined that they can make the pass in safety. Clearly, the onus to be safe is present for both drivers and the collision means that neither one has fulfilled their duty.

Shared Responsibility

Many driving situations involve a duty placed on more than one road user at the same time. This means that you have to examine each set of circumstances and consider all possible outcomes before you make the choice to carry on.

The car stopping in the lane beside you might mean that they are yielding to a pedestrian making it illegal for you to pass them, even though the lane ahead of you appears to be clear.

Distracted Driving

These are probably perfect situations to comment on distracted driving as well. If you aren't paying full attention to the driving task you won't be doing all the mental processing needed to make an informed decision.

As we have seen, expecting the other driver to make a decision might not be enough to keep you out of trouble.

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