Six years after a crash in a Coquitlam parking lot involving two teenaged drivers, a B.C. Supreme Court Justice found the case hinged on excessive speed in a ruling released last week.
Shortly after midnight on June 18, 2016, a 2005 Mini Cooper collided with a 2003 Honda Civic in a Town Centre parking lot. Both drivers were congregating in a parking lot near their high school before the crash.
Driving his Mini Cooper, Kesean Kanhai arrived at the parking lot at the southeast corner of Pinetree Way and Trevor Wingrove Way at about 8:30 p.m.
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After celebrating his high school graduation with his family, Matthew Eric Small drove his Civic to the parking lot where he joined about 20 students at 11:30 p.m., according to his evidence.
Kanhai did a few powerslides around the parking lot and smoked one joint over the course of the evening, according to his evidence.
A powerslide involves the driver hitting a high speed and then braking while cornering so the rear end of the car slides outward. During one of the powerslides before the collision, Small was sitting in the backseat of Kanhai’s Mini Cooper.
Both students were 17 years old at the time.
The weather was warm and clear, and the roads were dry. The parking lot was fairly well lit, according to the judgment. Both teens were familiar with the lot, according to the judgment.
At about 12:30 a.m., with the remaining crowd planning to head to a nearby viewpoint, both drivers got in their cars to head out of the parking lot.
Small took the middle lane north and planned to turn left at the median.
Kanhai told the court he was planning to turn right at the northern tip of the median after which he planned to hit a powerslide.
Kanhai did not use his turn signal or scan the intersection as he was approaching, according to his evidence.
Small testified that he slammed on his brakes with the nose of his Civic inching into the intersection. Between one and one-and-a-half seconds later, the Mini Cooper turned into the gap and crashed into his car, according to Small.
Each party to the litigation hired an expert – a professional engineer with expertise in motor vehicle accident reconstruction – to testify about the time it would have taken the Mini Cooper to get from the start of the tire marks to the point of impact.
While the two engineers disagreed on some points, they concurred that the Mini Cooper would take between 1.5 and 1.8 seconds to get from the start of the tire tracks to the point of impact.
One of the experts noted that a number of studies concluded the average response time to brake in response to a hazard is in the range of 1.5 seconds.
Kanhai told the court he didn’t see Small’s Civic until right before the crash and there was no time to honk his horn or to signal Small.
Based on how the car felt, Kanhai estimated he was driving about 10 kilometres per hour.
After studying the tire tracks, the engineers each concluded the Mini Cooper’s centre of gravity had shifted to produce “yaw-based cornering marks.” The Mini Cooper would have been going “at least 40 kilometres per hour in order to make such marks,” according to the engineers.
With estimated repair costs of $6,000 for the Civic and $8,000 for the Mini Cooper, both cars were written off.
Both drivers asserted the other party was 100 percent responsible for the crash.
In his ruling, Justice Hugh William Veenstra found Small to be a credible witness but noted concerns about Kanhai’s evidence.
“I accept the conclusion of both experts that Mr. Kanhai was driving at least 40 kilometres per hour,” Veenstra wrote. “Not only was he driving at more than twice the speed limit, his speed was excessive relative to the location and conditions of the parking lot.”
The collision was also caused by Kanhai’s failure both to keep a proper lookout and to use his turn signal, according to Veenstra.
Kanhai argued that the collision wouldn’t have happened if Small had kept to the right. While there are no lane markings in the parking lot, the lanes are wide enough for two vehicles to pass, according to the judgment.
Veenstra agreed, noting Small failed to stay in his “notional lane.”
Ultimately, Kanhai was found to be 75 percent responsible for the collision while Small was 25 percent responsible.