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The Court of Appeal on the rules of the road, and of road traffic litigation - Sebastian Bates, Temple Garden Chambers

23/01/23. In Taylor v Raspin [2022] EWCA Civ 1613, the Court of Appeal gave guidance on reasonable driving and the adjudication of road traffic litigation.

As William Davis LJ summarised at [2]–[3], Mr Raspin had ridden his motorcycle along a major road, approaching a junction with ‘a minor road on his right’. Ms Taylor had pulled out from the minor road and turned right, colliding with him. She ‘had looked right, left and right again before she pulled out from the minor road’, but UTJ Ward, sitting at first instance, considered that (i) ‘she should have looked left again as she continued to pull onto the major road’ and (ii) ‘[h]er failure to do so was causative of the collision’.

Ms Taylor appealed on both points. With respect to the first, the judgment records (at [21]) that it was ‘accepted that a driver emerging from a minor road onto a major road owes a continuing duty of care to traffic on the major road’. However, Ms Taylor submitted ‘that, in the circumstances of her case, this did not require her to look left for a second time’.

Conclusion and Comment

The appeal was dismissed. William Davis LJ explained at [24] that he had ‘no difficulty in rejecting the first ground of appeal’. Given that Ms Taylor had been ‘moving out [at slow speed] onto a road on which a regular flow of traffic was to be expected where the view to her left was affected by the bend in the major road’, she had an increased ‘need to check for a second time that it was safe to continue into the far carriageway of the major road’. He regarded ‘the notion that it was unforeseeable that a vehicle would be exceeding the speed limit to a significant degree on the major road’ as‘not sustainable’. He stated (at [25]) that he did not accept that this impermissibly amounted to ‘a duty [. . .] to keep the major road clear’.

At the trial, an expert had indicated that ‘approximately 50% of drivers would consider that it was reasonable to emerge onto a major road in the circumstances facing the defendant’: see [21]. William Davis LJ’s view (at [26]) was that this ‘could not be determinative of whether the defendant was in breach of duty’.

After rejecting the second ground of appeal as to causation at [28]–[32], William Davis LJ returned to the expert evidence at [34]–[35]. He observed, obiter, that UTJ Ward had overemphasised the expert evidence. The ‘central focus’ ought to have been the eyewitness accounts.

The Court of Appeal’s account of drivers’ continuing duty when emerging from minor roadscommends itself to all road users as well as those acting for them in road traffic litigation. Such advisers will also wish to be aware of the Court’s observations on expert evidence.

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