Disputing a Yellow Light Ticket

Thank you for the informative website and I will get straight to the point so I don't waste your time. I was recently issued a ticket for failure to stop at a yellow light at an intersection. I am a class 2 bus operator and given the total stopping time of my class 2 vehicle (perception/reaction/actual braking time) and the fact I had a elderly person seated at the front on my bus, I thought it would be unsafe to either try and make a smooth controlled stop (which would have left the bus past the stop line) or make a sudden stop (possibly causing the elderly passenger to leave her seat). My question is that I have material from the ICBC "Driving Commercial Vehicles" booklet which contains the information regarding total stopping time: should this evidence be presented during legal arguments or during self-testimony? I am a bit confused as to where this evidence should properly be presented, and don't want to annoy the Justice of the Peace or demonstrate incompetence while in court. This is my first time having to dispute any sort of of traffic violation.

Answer

The section that the ticket was issued under says:

Yellow light

128 (1) When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety,

It would appear obvious that you intend to base your defence on the stop not being able to be made safely. Part of your preparation here would include the timing of the light, which you should investigate at the same time of day and day of week that this occurred. Timing can vary by day and time of day. You will want the length of each phase of the light, green, yellow and red. Next, you will want to want to measure the distance that your bus can stop from the speed that you were traveling at what you would estimate to be a reasonable deceleration rate for the circumstances. Finally, you will need the distance from the first line of the marked crosswalk or start of the intersection (I don't know which was present in your situation).

Now it's time to figure things out. Accepted perception / reaction time for this is 1.5 seconds. Calculate the distance you would travel at the initial speed you were moving at. Add the stopping distance that you measured with the bus. Now compare this to the distance that you were away from the intersection at the time the light turned yellow. If you are honest about it, you now have a pretty good idea about whether you should have stopped or not. If you think that it might be helpful to your case, you would present all of this when you give evidence on your own behalf.

This is also the method that I would have preferred to use if I were prosecuting the ticket I had issued. It clearly establishes in court what the driver should and should not do.

If it clearly shows that you should have stopped, perhaps you may consider disputing the penalty instead.

Getting to your specific question, you can elicit or present this evidence during the officer's testimony, your own, or both.

You can ask the officer about all the points I have raised above, show him the manual and ask if what you did was unreasonable in comparison to what the manual says. This would give you a good idea about how closely the officer observed the incident and if the questions cannot be answered well, this would be reasonable to point out in your summary.

If you choose to give evidence and draw the Judicial Justice's to the manual, that would be fine too. (Make 3 copies, 1 for you, 1 for the officer and 1 for the JJ) Be prepared to explain what you were taught, how you complied with it and how it fit the circumstances that day.

Please, after you dispute, let us know how it all worked out. No doubt that there are others who will be interested.

 

Couple of thoughts.

When referencing the 'Driving Commercial Vehicles' guide, be aware of the 'Statement of Limitation' that precedes the Introduction/Contents listing.

Apart from the timing of the light - which could be a constant (such as on Vancouver's downtown One-Way arterials) or sensors on the various approaches including pedestrian push-buttons - other factors which may be relevant would be whether you were on a downgrade at the time, also the road surface (damp or dry), and of course the loading of your bus.

As a Class 2 driver, you probably calculate the point-of-no-return on every traffic light you go through, deciding in advance of it changing whether you have reached that point (rather than making sudden reactive decisions once the light turns yellow).  If this is so, then I think it would be worth mentioning in court.

I believe that when Translink train new drivers, they do an exercise in a parking lot where the driver is proceeding at a constant speed, and suddenly there will be a detonation as a shot of chalk is fired downward from the bus at the road surface; the driver is expected to hit the brake as quickly as possible, at which point another shot of chalk will be automatically fired.  Driver and Instructor then secure the vehicle, and go back to see just how far that vehicle travelled from one shot to the next, in order to demonstrate how far one travels from perceiving the necessity to stop and the commencement of braking, as well as the further distance then covered by the bus with the brakes applied to bring it to a halt.  So it may well be that Translink could provide information on this that would bolster your case.

Best of luck!

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