Canadian Underwriter

Can’t hear the ambulance? Turn down your radio

January 17, 2019   by David Gambrill

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A B.C. driver has failed in his bid to receive a refund for his insurance premium increase and deductible after B.C.’s public auto insurer found him 100% responsible for failing to clear an intersection for an ambulance.

A B.C. ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring slowed down in an intersection, before colliding with a 2015 Jeep Cherokee driven by Sean Weatherill. The driver said he was not aware of the lights or sirens until the ambulance was already driving into the intersection, at which time he sped up to drive through the intersection to avoid “a T-bone situation.”

The ambulance struck the Jeep in the intersection, causing it to hit a light post. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. found Weatherill 100% at fault for the collision because he did not surrender the right of way to the ambulance.

“Mr. Weatherill admits that the lights and sirens were on, but says he was not aware of the ambulance until he was already in the intersection,” B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal Member Kate Campbell found. “He says he scanned for hazards before entering the intersection, but did not see any dangers. He also says he did not hear the ambulance because of the Jeep’s sound-proofing, his radio which was playing loudly, and background noise.”

Weatherill’s vehicle was a total loss. He did not dispute the damage to his vehicle when he appeared before the B.C. small claims court, which has a jurisdiction to hear cases involving damages of $5,000 or less. Instead, he sought an order that ICBC’s liability decision be reversed, and that BC Ambulance be held at least 75% responsible for the collision.

Weatherill also sought a $300 refund of increased insurance premiums, a refund of the $300 insurance deductible, and $275 for work he missed due to the accident.

The small claims court denied his application.

Section 177 of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act states: “On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle giving an audible signal by a bell, siren or exhaust whistle, and showing a visible flashing red light, except when otherwise directed by a peace officer, a driver must yield the right of way, and immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.”

The tribunal noted that Weatherill passed a vehicle to drive through the intersection, instead of simply stopping behind the vehicle, thereby leaving the intersection clear for the ambulance.

Relying on s. 177 of the MVA, the ICBC adjuster issued a June 14, 2016 letter stating that Weatherill was 100% responsible for the collision. The adjuster wrote that two witnesses confirmed that the ambulance had its lights and sirens on before it reached the intersection, and that it slowed before entering the intersection.

“It is undisputed that the ambulance’s lights and sirens were on,” Campbell wrote for the tribunal. “While Mr. Weatherill says he did not hear or see them until he was already intersection, that did not remove his duty to yield the right of way, as required under MVA section 177. If his loud radio impaired his ability to hear and comply with section 177, as he argues, this is solely his fault. For that reason, I reject his argument that BC Ambulance ought to have installed a different type of siren.”

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1 Comment » for Can’t hear the ambulance? Turn down your radio
  1. Keith says:

    It is amazing the number of drivers I see on a daily basis who feel that they should not move to the right and allow either an ambulance, fire truck or police car to pass when the lights are flashing. I have even witnessed a bus driver honk his horn at the car in front of him who did not move because of the fire truck entering the intersection with the lights and siren on.

    It would be interesting to see how many of these people would complain, or try to file a lawsuit, about a person who didn’t move over to allow the ambulance or fire truck to get to their home and it resulted in serious injury or damage to their home. You don’t know if they have your mother, father, brother, sister, child or partner in mind when they are responding and have the lights and siren on.

    It is very simple. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure that you can see or hear the lights or siren and move over to let them do their jobs.

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