Speeding as a cause of accidents

This page discusses assessment of fault in accidents where speed is a factor.


The fact that a driver was breaking a rule of the road (e.g. exceeding the speed limit) does not automatically mean that the driver was negligent in causing an accident:


In Canada v. Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, [1983] 1 SCR 205, the Supreme Court of Canada established that the breach of a statute does not amount to negligence per se nor is prima facie evidence of negligence. The Court concluded that the nature and degree of a party’s fault, as distinct from a statutory breach, should govern the imposition of civil liability. Consequently, the bare fact that Mr. Cavezza was exceeding the speed limit does not, of itself, amount to negligence.

(Mills v. Seifred, 2009 BCSC 447 at para. 85).


However, where the speeding contributes to the accident the speeding driver may be found primarily at fault for causing the accident. For example, in Dickie Estate v. Dickie, 1991 CanLII 2109 (BCCA) the plaintiff was in the process of making a u-turn when he was struck by the defendant’s vehicle travelling at the grossly excessively speed of approximately 137 km/h. In negotiating his u-turn the plaintiff had crossed over the solid double lines. At trial, the judge concluded that the defendant’s speed was the sole cause of the accident and found no contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. The Court of Appeal varied that finding and found the driver of the u-turning vehicle 20% liable for the accident for not exercising sufficient care when making the u-turn:


Dickie [the driver of the u-turning vehicle] was engaging in a manoeuvre that was fraught with danger. He placed himself and the oncoming drivers in a position of risk. That being so, in my opinion, the law required of him a very high degree of care which would manifest itself in a sharp look-out before he crossed over the solid double line into the northbound lanes on the causeway. There was nothing to prohibit Dickie from seeing the oncoming De Sousa vehicle before his vehicle entered the northbound lanes of travel. The trial judge found as a fact, and this is not challenged on this appeal, that the De Sousa vehicle was going at least 137 k.p.h. In my opinion, on these facts the only possible inference is that Dickie failed to keep a look-out which the law required of him in these circumstances. If he had been keeping such a look-out I think the inference is irresistible that as a reasonable driver he would have become aware that the De Sousa vehicle was exceeding the speed limit by a margin such as to make it dangerous for him to proceed into the northbound lanes.

(Dickie Estate v. Dickie, 1991 CanLII 2109 (BCCA)).


Drivers are not expected to drive below the speed limit simply because it is possible that some other road user may foolishly create an emergency situation:


There is no obligation on a driver to travel below the speed limit to meet unforeseeable emergencies, such as a pedestrian who is so careless as to step off a curb directly in front of an oncoming car.

(Ibaraki v. Bamford, 1996 CanLII 1814 at para. 13 (BCSC)).




Need help with your claim? Click here for our recommended lawyer.