It’s snowing heavily. You’re driving on an unplowed highway at a safe speed. A semi races by, obscuring your view with his massive “rooster tail”. We’ve all been there.
The Motor Vehicle Act requires that we pass in the left lane, only when it’s safe to do so, and at a safe distance. The same goes for our safe return into the right lane.
A recent judgment of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Link v. ICBC, 2014 BCSC 1765, dealt with the duty of care drivers owe to other drivers when overtaking them on a snow-covered highway.
Mr. Link was driving on an unplowed Highway 99 in heavy snow. An SUV approached from behind, moved into the left passing passing lane then drove past at high speed. It then cut back in front of him and thrust a rooster tail of snow onto his windshield. Blinded by the snow, Mr. Link braked, lost control, and crashed into the highway median.
The Court found the SUV driver had breached the standard of care and Mr. Link was not partly responsible, or contributorily negligent, as braking was a reasonable reaction to “losing total forward visibility”.
I’ve heard 2 criticisms of this decision:
Passing in winter conditions will generally cause snow to be raised into the air obscuring the view of the vehicle being passed. Does this decision mean overtaking a vehicle on a snow-covered highway is negligent? Granted, there is a difference between some snow in the air and a rooster tail on a windshield, but how can one gauge the amount of snow their car will raise in passing, and at what point does that amount of snow constitute negligence?
Winter driving requires avoiding sudden driver inputs. Mr. Link should have taken his foot off the accelerator and steered straight, letting the wipers clear the windshield. By suddenly braking, he was partly responsible, or contributorily negligent, for the accident.
Putting aside the legal arguments, the timing of this decision nicely coincides with the falling leaves, foreshadowing the oncoming winter driving season.
Ensure your car is ready for the ice and snow, and keep in mind that your driving affects other drivers. Always drive responsibly and with courtesy and due care—especially when dealing with rooster tails and snowy trails.
Einfeld Law is a highly knowledgeable and experienced BC personal injury law firm specializing in motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other negligence claims involving bodily injury. We have successfully litigated many ICBC and other insurance claims, including out of province, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury, whiplash, soft tissue injury, and all other bodily injury claims. We have collected millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. We never act for ICBC or other insurance companies.