Q&A - Legal Defences for a 144(1)(c) Ticket?

Q&A ImageI'm disputing a ticket issued for a 144(1)(c), Speed relative to road conditions, and I'm wondering what is admissable as a legal defence for the violation.

I'd been travelling northbound in snowy conditions, and I was travelling at 40 kms, with a posted limit of 50. I was operating a Mazda MPV, with snow tires and four wheel drive engaged, and was in the left hand lane because it was more traveled, hence clearer. I decided to reduce speed further coming up on the intersection, and began applying brakes gently. It was a curved intersection, and as I entered the intersection, my tires hit the ruts from the turn lane, and I lost control and hit a lamp standard in the intersection. My glasses flew off my face on impact, leaving me mostly blind, and my phone had been laid out on the passenger seat. I quickly turned off the vehicle, and began fumbling for my glasses. Once I had glasses in hand, I exited the vehicle on the drivers side to open the passenger side, where I recovered my phone from the floor and used it to call 911. Afterwards the police arrived to take my statement, and it was then that I was issued a ticket for speed relative to conditions.

However, I've tracked down some case law, R. v. Orban 2007 BCSC 760 (CanLII), 2007 BCSC 760, in particular this portion: "It is trite law that one cannot be found guilty of operating a motor vehicle contrary to section 144(1)(c) of the Motor Vehicle Act solely on the basis of an accident having occurred.  A reasonable doubt threshold is not met by this one factor."

So I'm hoping I'll be able to dispute that I had been travelling at a 20% speed reduction to account for road conditions, with a vehicle equipped with snow tires and in four wheel drive, despite previous traffic flow up Bowen which had been travelling at up to 50 kilometers, and that I had taken every precaution against an accident that any reasonable person would have.

But again, I am curious to know the accepted legal defences for speed relative to road conditions. And I happen to be going to court in a little under three and a half hours.

The fact that you mention that you've had the four wheel drive engaged as relevant to this situation reveals an insight into a misconception you may be harbouring: "four wheel drive is good for braking"

It is a common misunderstanding on the road, evidenced by the slew of SUVs in the ditches on the first days of snow.

Simple physics is behind why four wheel drive adds no improvemement to braking: most cars already brake with all four wheels, independent from the drive-train configuration.

It is my advice to not mention "four wheel drive engaged" in court in reference to "reasonable action to prevent an accident".

Honestly speaking, the four wheel drive might have saved you, if you actually looked, steered and accelerated away from the lamp standard. On the other hand  the older MPVs are heavy bus type vehicles, the largest of the "mini vans" ever built, so as a measure of improving yourself in the future, think of your van in terms of weight and straigh lines and speeds.

I personally think you've got the ticket because you called 911 for a single vehicle accident with a lamp standard. Had you called the towers and reported the accident to your insurer - no ticket would have perspired. You may want to argue in court towards diminishing of your ticket, since your actions were self-punished via deductible you will have to pay to effect the repairs, and subsequent possible premium increase.

If you ARE gunning for a full dismissal, then state that you WERE travelling below speed limit, that you DID have winter/snow tires on, and the reason the accident occured was due to turning lane channels and your ability to counteract the drag was hindered by the near by traffic, so you made a desicion to exit the roadway, instead of risking a potentially hazardous situation for other road users.

But my hunch is that you need to take some winter training - simply as a means of avoiding future winter-time accidents, as I feel your confidence on winter roads is below sufficient for a well-rounded road participant.

In reply to by Outrageous

So you were driving 20-30 kph when you lost control and hit a lamp post? How much damage did it do?

 A lot of assumptions and judgements in that last comment. I wouldn't assume all SUV drivers are incompetent they can be driving anything even semi trailers. I see semi's in the ditch all the time on the coq too, along with SUVs, pick-ups, vans, cars etc. I can see what you mean some SUV drivers are over confident, but I see over confidence in most drivers on the road winter or not and in any type of vehicle. An overwhelming amount of drivers speed, tailgate, drive aggressively, text, talk on the phone etc etc. I think most people need lessons, people do not realize the risk until its too late. You could drive badly for years but, all it takes is one time to kill, mame or injure someone or yourself. 

Here is the law you are alleged to have violated:

Careless driving prohibited

144 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway

(c) at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.

The officer has to show that you were the driver of a vehicle on a highway and that you were traveling at a speed that was imprudent due to conditions.

You have made a good start with your case law. Print 3 copies of the judgment and bring them with you to court. One for you to refer to, one for the officer and one for the justice. Print the entire judgment and highlight the part that you refer to above.

I don't know what you might have said in your statement, but if that is entered as evidence you will have a chance to deal with it as well. You may be able to have it excluded entirely if you had not been advised of your Charter rights and given the police warning, especially if you thought that you were required to explain as part of your collision report. Information given for the report is not admissible as evidence.

In my opinion, the explanation that you gave above is a good defence. You slowed down, had good winter equipment and were traveling at a speed lower than some of the other traffic around you that was not having difficulty maintaining their lane position and stopping or slowing as needed.

If the road conditions were any different at the site of the collision than you encountered elsewhere in your trip, that should be explained as well. If you could not have reasonably forseen the conditions at this intersection because they were notably different from the rest of your trip you may not have been able to adjust for them.

Please come back and let us all know how you make out.

Surprisingly on my part, it didn't make it far enough to even take out my prepared copies of the case law, in fact, I didn't even crack my binder. The Honorable presiding Judge asked the Officer serving as the court official something, immediately as I went to the front. The officer who gave the ticket was not present, and had not requested an adjournment, therefore he determined a stay of proceedings. I take it this is a good thing, and that I would be informed if the case were to be re-opened. So I thanked His Honor, and left.

So that was my day in court.