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Blame for Animal-Vehicle Collisions?

A recent court case in BC involved a vehicle striking a moose. The case arose from an animal-vehicle collision that occurred on the night of January 19, 2004, on Highway 37, approximately one kilometer south of the Terrace-Kitimat airport. A truck driver was northbound on the clear, dry, straight, level highway when his truck hit a moose and knocked it so that it completely stretched across the southbound lane.

The truck driver suffered cuts to his face from his broken windshield and was “shocked, dazed and in a panic,” so much so that he was found wandering around the scene of the collision “without a clear purpose.” His truck remained in the center of the northbound lane without its hazard lights on because he reportedly could not get them to work.
Then, a few minutes later, another northbound vehicle, a van, arrived at the scene. The van driver saw the back end of the truck, realized it was stopped in his path, and took evasive action by driving into the oncoming lane. The van hit the moose and jumped into the air and crashed to the ground.
The van driver made a claim against the truck driver for money for the injuries that he reportedly suffered from this crash. The court decided that the truck driver was not responsible for the crash of the van.
Although he was not to blame for the injuries to the van driver, it appeared that the truck driver was negligent. The truck stopped on the roadway and the moose carcass clearly created a hazard to other vehicles. The truck driver had a duty to take all reasonable steps to warn other motorists and to move his truck off the road, if possible.

The van driver lost because the court found that even if the truck had been moved off the road, the van would still have hit the moose carcass. The point is that there must be a connection between negligence and injuries. In this case, it was the moose carcass on the road that caused the injuries, and not the truck driver’s mistakes.

Animal-vehicle collisions are often unavoidable accidents. However, in areas where animals such as deer and moose are present near the highway, here are some precautions to keep in mind:

  • Look for Deer-crossing warning signs.
  • Keep your speed down, particularly at night, even on the main highway.
  • If you see one animal by the roadside, you can expect others.
  • Stay off the cell phone.
  • At night use your high beams if possible. This gives a better chance of spotting the animal.
  • Know which times are worse than others. (Typically, an hour before sunset until midnight).
  • If you do see an animal in the road ahead, sound the horn.
  • An attempt to swerve around the animal may lead to loss of control. It can also result in a collision if the animal leaps into the path of the swerving vehicle.
Please drive safely.

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