CASE LAW - Singh v Lepitre

BC Courts Coat of ArmsSandra Lepitre parked her car at the curb in front of 2871 Aurora Road in North Vancouver and walked to work from there. At lunchtime, Amrinder Singh and Jaskirat Singh Sekhon, who had been working at a nearby construction site, sat on the street in front of Ms. Lepitre's car to eat. While they were there, Ms. Lepitre returned to her car intending to drive off on an errand. She struck both men.

Madam Justice MacNaughton examined the circumstances to determine liability for the collision. She determined that Mr. Singh and Sekhon were not pedestrians as they were seated on the roadway. Despite that, Ms. Lepitre still owed a common law duty of care to all road users. The men were there to be seen and she did not pay sufficient attention to her surroundings when she started to drive.

The two men could have chosen to sit side by side along the curb or facing Ms. Lepitre's vehicle instead of having their backs to it in order to increase their own safety.

In these circumstances, liability was apportioned at 10% to the two men and 90% to the driver.

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The Blind Zone

Who has heard of this? How many readers of this site were trained, either by an instructor or a parent or friend, to comprehend that every vehicle has a blind zone? Probably very few. And this has nothing to do with blind spots, incidentally.

Whenever a driver is behind the wheel, there's an area of roadway (or driveway, whatever) around him that he cannot see. Depending on the height of the driver, along with the height of the vehicle (and it seems like many people, particularly moms, have some kind of SUV these days, just like Ms Lepitre) this cannot be seen, only viewed beforehand. For the automobiles I grew up with, it would typically extend a vehicle length forward, a vehicle width leftward, 2 vehicle widths rightward, and at least 3 vhicle lengths behind when the driver looks through the back window.

Let's take a moment to watch a related video.

There's not much difference between the height of a child a considerable distance ahead, and that of a cross-legged adult closer to the vehicle.

You would expect that the ICBC 'Learn to Drive Smart' and 'Driving Commercial Vehicle' manuals would have some reference to this. Well, wouldn't you?

After all, it's essential that a driver understand what they can't see, when behind the wheel. On commercial tests, Driver Examiners are particularly careful to note how well the Applicant ensures that they know at all times what's behind them, when they're about to reverse. This is particularly important, when driving buses, in terms of ensuring that nobody is hit. Oftentimes, it's necessary for the driver to secure the vehicle, then walk around it to check the conditions behind, immediately before reversing.

Did you ever notice that when Shaw or Telus drivers park a vehicle, even in a normal parallel parking spot on the street, they put cones down at front and rear? Why do you think they do that? I'll tell you why, it's because that's the company policy even though it may seem like a nuisance. And why is it the policy? Because it forces the driver to look at both ends when he picks up the cones, before driving away.

Look at FedEx parcel trucks, or School Buses. Why are they festooned with convex mirrors all around? It's to provide the driver with as much 'blind zone' information as possible.

So next time you go to drive your car, will you take a look to see if there's anything in the immediate path of travel? Will you?

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