Legal Brief: Controlling Uncontrolled Intersections (CAN)

Considering the law relating to uncontrolled intersections and right-of-way.

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In a recent decision involving a seven-year-old cyclist, the Supreme Court of British Columbia considered the law relating to uncontrolled intersections. The case was a retrial of an action for damages sustained by the boy who alleged that he was struck by the defendant’s vehicle while proceeding through an uncontrolled intersection.

This case is a reminder that the issue of fault is not resolved by simply looking at who got to the intersection first. Nor does the right-of-way analysis turn on “who hit whom.” Instead, the test is the same as it has always been. The driver on the left, whether that is a motorist or a cyclist, must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right if they approach the intersection at approximately the same time and if there would be an imminent hazard of collision if both continued along the same path at the same speed.

The injured cyclist argued that the obligation to yield the right-of-way fell on the driver, who had been on the cyclist’s left as he approached the intersection. Even if it could be said that the driver had arrived there first and the cyclist seconds later, that did not alter the basic proposition that the person on the right has the right-of-way. So said the cyclist.

While the court accepted the cyclist’s analysis of the law, and accepted that the cyclist had been to the motorist’s right, the court found that the accident did not occur at the intersection, but before the motorist reached the intersection. The court found that the collision occurred after the cyclist had cut the corner and essentially ridden into the car before it had arrived at the intersection. The rules and principles relating to the right-of-way at uncontrolled intersections were found not to apply because the accident was found to have occurred outside the intersection.

The take-away from this case for cyclists is that the location of an accident is critical to any analysis of liability. Cyclists who find themselves in this unfortunate situation would do well, if they are able, to do whatever they can to determine where the collision happened. A phone camera photo of the resting positions of the car and bicycle can go a long way towards providing this important evidence, and confirmation of the accident location from independent witnesses, including the police, is also very useful.


David Hay is a litigation lawyer and partner at Richards Buell Sutton, LLP. He has special interest in bike injury law and can be contacted at 1-604-661-9250 or dhay@rbs.ca.

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