With regular loadshedding causing traffic light malfunctions, intersections can become precarious places for drivers. You might think you’re doing everything right: treating the intersection as a 4-way stop, waiting your turn, and proceeding with caution. But what happens if another car misses your approach from the right and collides with you? Seems pretty cut and dry. It’s their fault, right?
Well, according to Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at King Price Insurance, it’s not that simple. Although you had the right of way, this doesn’t automatically entitle you to a 100% settlement of damages. If you’d been more alert and driven at an appropriate speed, the accident might have been avoided.
In such cases, liability for damages can be shared between both parties. The other driver might be held 60% accountable for your damages, for moving at an ill-judged moment. Simultaneously, you could be held responsible for 40% of their damages, for not maintaining a proper look-out and failing to take any evasive action.
Seems unjust? The fact is, as a driver, you’re obligated to be aware of your immediate surroundings when you enter an intersection, whether it’s controlled or not. This principle has been well established in court.
In the Neuhaus vs. Bastion Insurance Company case, the judge stated that maintaining a proper look-out involves more than just looking straight ahead. It requires awareness of what’s happening in your immediate surroundings. A motorist should be mindful of the entire road from side to side, including the pavements in urban areas.
Furthermore, in Rose’s Car Hire Company (Pty) Ltd vs. Rice, it was ruled that motorists must be vigilant when approaching an intersection where they could reasonably expect traffic to emerge. Even if an intersecting street is a statutory stop street, it doesn’t free the driver from their duty to stay alert.
Van Vuuren adds, ‘Each case is unique, and damages are allocated accordingly. But the takeaway message is that it’s essential to stay super-alert every time you enter an intersection. Even if you have the right to proceed, you still have a responsibility to look out for, and avoid, any hazards. If we all adopt this approach, there’ll be fewer accidents on our roads.’
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