Reaction time matters – Find out why

Could a heavy vehicle driver have a duty of care to not collide with a car that is failing to give way to them?

Could a heavy vehicle driver’s reaction time to a hazard result in the driver being deemed as negligent?

Does the capacity of a heavier vehicle to cause greater damage influence apportionment of culpability?

In a car and truck accident case heard in the NSW Supreme Court (Accident happened in WA, based on WA laws) all these thing were considered and the Judge concluded:

After stopping her vehicle over the give way line, the plaintiff proceeded onto the highway without looking to her right. If she had looked, the prime mover would have been visible to her at a distance of 150 metres and for a time in excess of 7.5 to 8 seconds. The plaintiff was obliged to give way to traffic travelling in either direction on the highway. The traffic in the southbound lane was hardly moving and was “bumper” to “bumper”. In these circumstances, by proceeding onto the highway the plaintiff was grossly negligent and endangered the driver of the prime mover and the drivers on the highway who were travelling south. In these circumstances, I give little weight to the fact that the defendant was driving the heavier vehicle. A reasonable driver in the position of the plaintiff would not have proceeded onto the highway and would have remained at the give way line. The plaintiff’s degree of departure from the standard of care of the reasonable person was very high and was the prime reason for the collision between the Camry and the prime mover, whereas the failure by the defendant to sound the horns was a slight departure from the standard of care of the reasonable person when all of his conduct that includes taking his foot off the accelerator and putting it over the brakes, moving the vehicle further to the right, immediately braking heavily, disengaging the gearing and sounding the air horns when the Camry moved off from the give way line is considered in combination. I assess the plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 80%. Verdict and judgment for the plaintiff against the defendant in the sum of $606,473.60.

Read the case here: Zheng v Wallace

The full case should be read to fully understand the facts but what is abundantly clear is that truck driver’s need to be very careful on the roads and minimise distractions.

A heavy vehicle driver is required to constantly scan for potential and actual hazards. A heavy vehicle driver is expected to respond almost immediately to an identifiable hazard. The response must be that of a reasonable person and may include (depending on the context), emergency braking, sounding of horn, changing direction of travel.

As this case demonstrates, a heavy vehicle driver cannot simply rely on the fact that a car driver must give way at a particular intersection. Clearly, the heavy vehicle driver has a duty of care to avoid an accident where possible.

We recommend that truck drivers be highly alert and continuously scanning, with observation priority to areas with the higher potential for hazards to arise, such as intersections.

These professional driving techniques are covered in our Advanced Heavy Vehicle Driver Training. Call us if we can help 1300521289