Canadian Underwriter

Fume all you want, don’t hit erratic drivers in front of you

May 26, 2022   by David Gambrill

Angry woman driving a car.

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No matter how much a driver might fume about the slow driver ahead, the driver behind him is still responsible for maintaining a safe distance to avoid a collision — even if the slow driver tries to block the driver behind him from passing, or stops suddenly in the middle of the street because he might have seen a cat under a parked car.

Insurers typically assign fault to drivers who follow too closely behind others, creating the risk of a fender-bender in case of a sudden stop. And B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal found the province’s public insurer was not wrong in assigning partial fault to the following driver in Dusdal v. ICBC.

ICBC insured both vehicles involved in a collision on Oct. 8, 2021 in Campbell River, B.C.

ICBC found Jacob Dusdal and the driver in front of him, identified as “R.S.,” were equally responsible for the collision. Dusdal disagreed, and went to the CRT for reimbursement of the $1,250 deductible he had to pay to fix his car. Under the province’s Insurance (Vehicle) Act, if Dusdal is not responsible for the accident, ICBC must pay for his vehicle repairs, including the deductible.

The court referred to evidence that “the parties were involved in somewhat of a conflict while driving prior to the accident.”

Dusdal testified that R.S. was driving erratically ahead of him. He said he gave R.S. a “fairly polite honk” on Lal Road for driving slowly. According to Dusdal’s evidence, he tried to “very slowly” pass R.S. on the left when R.S. “suddenly” drove forward to “block” him.

R.S. says he was driving on South Murphy Street with Dusdal following closely behind him. To allow Dusdal to pass, R.S. said he turned left onto Lal Road, thinking Dusdal would continue on South Murphy Street. However, Mr. Dusdal also turned left onto Lal Road.

R.S. described Dusdal’s perception of a “block” maneuver as a realization that, as R.S. turned right onto Galerno Road (where the collision occurred), Dusdal tried to overtake his vehicle on the left at the same time R.S. was turning. R.S. said he realized there was not enough room for the two vehicles to do the left together, so as he completed his turn, Dusdal pulled in back behind him.

As both cars drove straight along Galerno Road, R.S. noticed a parked car to his right. He thought he saw a cat coming out from under the parked car, so he “applied his brakes firmly but not spiked.” Dusdal hit his vehicle from behind.

ICBC assigned fault to both drivers. And the CRT agreed.

“I find it likely that R.S. was driving negligently in positioning his vehicle and stopping in the middle of the road,” CRT vice chair Andrea Ritchie wrote in her decision. “Although there is no cat seen in the video footage, I find that does not mean one was not present. I also note from the video footage the stop is not overly sudden. However, given the circumstances, I find R.S. stopping in the manner he did was in breach of section 144 of the MVA (Motor Vehicle Act).

“But I also find Mr. Dusdal was negligent in the circumstances. I say this because Mr. Dusdal’s own account of R.S.’s driving behaviour leading up to the accident should have led Mr. Dusdal to keep a greater distance between their vehicles. Whether R.S. saw a cat, other hazard, or stopped for no reason, I find Mr. Dusdal was following too closely behind R.S. given the events that had already occurred.”


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