CASE LAW - R v Harry

BC Courts Coat of ArmsWe often see serious collisions reported in the news where the offending driver was only issued a traffic ticket for the violation that caused it. Public sentiment often conveys the wish that the driver should have been charged criminally for what they have done. One yardstick for considering a criminal charge instead of a traffic ticket is whether the offending driver showed "a marked departure from the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the same circumstances."

In the case of R v Harry, Mr. Justice Marchand examines a collision that occurred in July of 2015 on highway 99 between Pavilion and Lillooet. Gary Harry was driving an SUV and responded to being closely followed by another car by accelerating away at high speed. He subsequently lost control of the vehicle and his female passenger was ejected and seriously injured in the resulting collision.

Mr. Harry was charged with and convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after the justice examined how his driving was a marked departure from normal.




One very notable thing to highlight - use your seatbelts!
Passenger was not wearing a seatbelt, driver was, the passenger was flung out mid-collision and ended up "wrapped up in barbed wire", while the driver was fairly unscathed. Driver is lucky that their passenger's flailing body did not collide with him during the tumble.

And the proper seating position is also very important. A properly secured upright position, with enough leg room and a properly tightened/adjusted seatbelt is key for minimizing injury in a catastrophic roll-over. The seat must not be "opened" to more than 120 degrees while the vehicle is in motion. Laying it down more than necessary or all the way back defeats the seatbelt's protection and results in further injury. Passengers should not keep their feet on the dash resting on the airbag - even (especially) on the longest of the road trips, and everybody "must maintain their hands and feet inside the vehicle/rollercoaster for the entire ride".

Your body must be firmly planted in the seat, while keeping your knees away from the dash. Seatbelts must be tight enough and the top mounting point needs to be adjusted (where available) to be inline with the shoulder - not higher. The head rest must be high enough to be in-line with your eyes. This ensures that you will be "seating" even when the car rolls several times. You may end up "seating" (hanging) upside down or on the side when the car comes to rest, but at least you'll be relatively unscathed, except maybe for some seatbelt bruising on your waist and shoulder.

For drivers - the "dead pedal" (the foot rest to the left of all the other pedals) is an important seat adjustment tool and a means to keeping yourself firmly planted in the seat. You must be able to "lock" your knee and leg straight while stepping on the "dead pedal" and pressing your lower back firmly into the seat. That "leg - lower back" bridge becomes your body's physical support into the turns, allowing the driver to lock their body against the g-forces in order to maintain unfettered control over steering under high lateral loads. That's why you must move your seat forward far enough to be able to fully support yourself using the dead pedal.

Serious accidents may happen when regular drivers exceed a certain "safe speeds" threshold / their regular comfort zone speed. Certainly taking a left curve from an 8% down-grade at 160km/h in a 2003 Chevy Blazer is much beyond what some would consider conventionally safe or comfortable. However, it doesn't mean that it is a guaranteed crash.  Because the majority of commuters use their steering wheels as their primary "handles", the driver in this case may've simply slid on their seat when going into the curve at high speed which resulted in an unintentional steering input that set the whole vehicle out of balance while it was rounding the curve at the top of its frictional performance.

Unfortunately it is very common to see drivers with seats opened up like a beach loungers, moved too far back, seatbelt upper mount adjusted all the way up the B pillar - not even touching the shoulder and the head rests all the way down pressing on the back of the neck. Such driving position may be comfortable for everyday driving but could result in a life-time of pain and disability in a flash.

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