Driving in Poor Weather Conditions

It is common for drivers in BC to have to contend with foggy and rainy driving conditions. When those conditions are present, it is important for motorists to modify their driving to prevent accidents especially when the conditions are such as to affect their visibility.

In a case of Ferguson v. Shan, 2019 BCSC 740,  the court had to consider which driver was at fault for an accident that happened where fog limited both drivers’ visibility.

The plaintiff in this case had been driving her vehicle south on Highway 97 north of Clinton when the defendant attempted to turn his truck left in front of her causing a collision. Because of the fog and poor road conditions, neither driver saw the other until it was too late.

At trial, the court heard how the plaintiff had been travelling along Highway 97 for some time. She continuous moderated her speed based upon how dense the fog was and how it affected her visibility. She gauged that her speed was equal to that of vehicles travelling in opposite direction.  As she approached the intersection where the accident happened, the fog got substantially denser and she slowed down in response.  

ICBC, on behalf of the defendant, argued at trial that the plaintiff was 100% responsible for the accident. In support of their position, the defendant testified that he had been stopped at the intersection for several seconds before starting his turn. At that time, he could see about 20 to 30 feet in front of him.

Unfortunately for ICBC, the court disagreed and found the defendant 100% at fault. The judge noted that the standard of care he expected from both drivers was higher due to the foggy weather conditions. Important to this finding was his determination that the plaintiff had reduced her speed and was driving in a prudent manner consistent with the weather conditions prior to the accident. The judge further noted that the existence of fog did not relieve the defendant of his obligation to ensure that his turn could be made safely. Specifically, the court found that the defendant could have waited longer before attempting his turn, rolled down his windows to attempt to hear the sounds of approaching vehicles, or waited to see if the fog cleared. In the court’s view, the defendant took no steps to modify his driving behaviour in the presence of the fog.

As this case shows, it is important for all drivers to modify their driving behaviour if the weather and road conditions are restricting their visibility of other motorists on the road.

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