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Streetcar Accident

Hank

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I was hoping someone here might be able to help me clarify the laws with respect to a run-in I just had with a streetcar while I was driving.

I was driving east on Queen, approaching Broadview. There was an articulated streetcar in the left lane, and no one in the right lane. The streetcar's doors weren't open, so I drove up beside it (I don't entirely remember whether the streetcar had entered the intersection or not; if it had, it wasn't by much). As I approached the intersection the light changed, so I stopped at the front of the right lane. As the light turned red, the streetcar went to turn left (north) onto Broadview. As it turned, the rear of the streetcar jutted out into my lane, scraping the side of my car pretty badly.

As I was discussing this with the police officer later she basically told me that, even if my car was within my lane, the accident was still my fault if my car was within the curved dashed line that indicates how far the front and back end of the streetcar swings into other lanes when it turns (ie there's the regular lane line, then a series of small dots describing a curve of a maximum of maybe a foot or so into the lane that shows where the back of the streetcar sticks out when it turns...hopefully that's fairly clear).

I understand what the police officer is saying, but my question is: in which law or bylaw is the purpose of these curved streetcar turning radius lines set out? I quickly scanned the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and the Toronto municipal code and didn't see anything, so I was hoping someone here might know better. I'm basically wondering how it can be negligent for me to drive my car into the area between the dashed line and the lane line if the purpose of the dashed line (which I don't believe is a common road marking) is not set out in any of the municipal or provincial traffic laws.

Anyway, this is probably going to result in me paying a huge deductible at the very least, but I'm at least trying to put together some sort of argument for it not counting as an at-fault accident with respect to raising my insurance rates. Any help people can provide would be appreciated.
 

W. K. Lis

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I was hoping someone here might be able to help me clarify the laws with respect to a run-in I just had with a streetcar while I was driving.

I was driving east on Queen, approaching Broadview. There was an articulated streetcar in the left lane, and no one in the right lane. The streetcar's doors weren't open, so I drove up beside it (I don't entirely remember whether the streetcar had entered the intersection or not; if it had, it wasn't by much). As I approached the intersection the light changed, so I stopped at the front of the right lane. As the light turned red, the streetcar went to turn left (north) onto Broadview. As it turned, the rear of the streetcar jutted out into my lane, scraping the side of my car pretty badly.

As I was discussing this with the police officer later she basically told me that, even if my car was within my lane, the accident was still my fault if my car was within the curved dashed line that indicates how far the front and back end of the streetcar swings into other lanes when it turns (ie there's the regular lane line, then a series of small dots describing a curve of a maximum of maybe a foot or so into the lane that shows where the back of the streetcar sticks out when it turns...hopefully that's fairly clear).

I understand what the police officer is saying, but my question is: in which law or bylaw is the purpose of these curved streetcar turning radius lines set out? I quickly scanned the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and the Toronto municipal code and didn't see anything, so I was hoping someone here might know better. I'm basically wondering how it can be negligent for me to drive my car into the area between the dashed line and the lane line if the purpose of the dashed line (which I don't believe is a common road marking) is not set out in any of the municipal or provincial traffic laws.

Anyway, this is probably going to result in me paying a huge deductible at the very least, but I'm at least trying to put together some sort of argument for it not counting as an at-fault accident with respect to raising my insurance rates. Any help people can provide would be appreciated.

A streetcar, light rail, or heavy rail, are considered railways. Railways have the right-of-way over automobiles, trucks, and buses.
 

Hank

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A streetcar, light rail, or heavy rail, are considered railways. Railways have the right-of-way over automobiles, trucks, and buses.

That may be true, but I'm not sure that it disposes of the issue. Right of way where? In the lane that the streetcar is in? In the next lane as well? Also, if a streetcar read-ends a stopped car, I doubt that the driver of the streetcar can escape liability simply by claiming that the streetcar had right of way.
 

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Looking at the street markings on Google maps I cannot see how the cop could claim that this was your fault. There is nothing to indicate that you are to stop before the dashed line in fact the white stop line is right at the intersection - not before the intersection as you would expect it to be if it was unsafe to stop where you were stopped. It seems to me that the streetcar driver should have been able to see you in his side mirror and should never have made the turn if he did not have the needed clearance.
 

Hank

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In Streetview for Queen and Broadview I see the dotted white line as lane markings. If you were over the dotted line, then you were in the other lane.

Like elsewhere in the city, lanes are marked by white markers. The streetcar's "lane" does not go to the edge of the concrete, it goes to wherever the markers are.

If that's the way the intersection appeared today, then there would be no problem. Unfortunately, it appears that they repainted the intersection after the street view picture was taken. There is now a dashed lane divider as well as separate round white dots that extend in an arc over the lane divider and into the curb lane.
 

CDL.TO

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If that's the way the intersection appeared today, then there would be no problem. Unfortunately, it appears that they repainted the intersection after the street view picture was taken. There is now a dashed lane divider as well as separate round white dots that extend in an arc over the lane divider and into the curb lane.

If true, that's very poorly designed by the city or TTC and clearly could cause confusion.
 

can332

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I would have to argue that the lines that the TTC set down on streetcar curves aren't "lanes" but guides to advise other motorists exactly where the streetcar will protrude as it makes its turn. These guides often protrude away form and into the space of the official lane markings. While it would certainly be prudent for a motorist to mind these guide lines, the responsibility is entirely that of the streetcar operator to ensure that he can start his turn safely before moving from a stopped position - especially when the 2nd vehicle is stopped. Those guides are there for his benefit as much as for the other motorist's.

I would challenge the officer to advise you which provincial regulation or City of Toronto by-law you contravened. Since you did not state that you were charged with any offence, I would suggest that you did not break any law. I can recall many occasions where I have seen streetcar operators not start their turn because there was a large vehicle beside them. If I was in your position and was listed as "Driver #1", even though my vehicle was stopped, I would certainly be pursuing legal remedies. The TTC can draw whatever lines they want on the public highway. It doesn't mean those lines have any weight in law. I would be consulting legal council to see whether there is any case law that speaks to this situation.
 

W. K. Lis

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Streetcar operators (and bus drivers) are given three "incidents" in each year. An "incident" could include a collision or even a bump with some other vehicle, whether it is their fault or not. They could be standing still, not moving, and have an "incident" that counts against them. An "incident" could also include a passenger slipping as they step off the bus, its a mark against the operator.
 

Hank

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I would have to argue that the lines that the TTC set down on streetcar curves aren't "lanes" but guides to advise other motorists exactly where the streetcar will protrude as it makes its turn. These guides often protrude away form and into the space of the official lane markings. While it would certainly be prudent for a motorist to mind these guide lines, the responsibility is entirely that of the streetcar operator to ensure that he can start his turn safely before moving from a stopped position - especially when the 2nd vehicle is stopped. Those guides are there for his benefit as much as for the other motorist's.

I would challenge the officer to advise you which provincial regulation or City of Toronto by-law you contravened. Since you did not state that you were charged with any offence, I would suggest that you did not break any law. I can recall many occasions where I have seen streetcar operators not start their turn because there was a large vehicle beside them. If I was in your position and was listed as "Driver #1", even though my vehicle was stopped, I would certainly be pursuing legal remedies. The TTC can draw whatever lines they want on the public highway. It doesn't mean those lines have any weight in law. I would be consulting legal council to see whether there is any case law that speaks to this situation.

That's essentially my thinking. The police officer told me at the scene that I wasn't going to be charged with anything; this is obviously good, although frankly I'm not sure what I could have been charged with anyway. They're going to get back to me, after they review the video from the outside of the streetcar, as to who is driver 1 and who is driver 2. If they take the position that it is my fault, I'm definitely going to pursue this.
 

Hank

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Streetcar operators (and bus drivers) are given three "incidents" in each year. An "incident" could include a collision or even a bump with some other vehicle, whether it is their fault or not. They could be standing still, not moving, and have an "incident" that counts against them. An "incident" could also include a passenger slipping as they step off the bus, its a mark against the operator.

That seems a bit unfair...it counts as an incident if it's not their fault? If someone slips while getting off the bus? I'm surprised the TTC union agreed to a rule like that. What happens after three incidents? Are they fired?
 

W. K. Lis

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That seems a bit unfair...it counts as an incident if it's not their fault? If someone slips while getting off the bus? I'm surprised the TTC union agreed to a rule like that. What happens after three incidents? Are they fired?

Over three in a year, no "award" for you. To prevent an "incident" from happening to you, you have to be "defensive". You have to watch out for the actions (or lack of action) of other drivers on the road. For example, looking both ways at an intersection to see that traffic has actually stopped on their red light before moving on your own green light.
 

nfitz

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Unless I'm missing something in the description, I don't possibly see how this can be anything other than 100% the car driver's fault. The dashed lines showing where the streetcar swings are clearly painted on the road, and there's plenty of room at this location for cars to be in the parking lane at that intersection. The only accidents I've noticed at this corner previously are trucks turning onto south onto Broadview (from the left-hand lane) and taking out the car in the same position.

Presuming the streetcar didn't derail and leave the tracks, there's no question that it was in it's ROW. So there's no question that the car was in the wrong place.

Now, I don't know what's been painted there since Google Streetview was last done ... but I travel through there every day, so I'll keep my eyes open on the streetcar, and see where it swings. There's a lot of ALRV's doing this turn currently as the 501 is detouring up Broadview for the next few weeks. If you think that it's actually swinging over the dashed line, it wouldn't take long standing at that intersection, and observing the ALRV's doing it.
 

nfitz

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I looked closely on the way home today. The difference between now, and what's in Streetview, is that they've repainted the paint between the lanes, which seems completely missing in Streetview. Now the lines for the streetcar do run a bit inside the line for the lane; but no more than the thickness of the line for the lane.

If one was inside the regular lane, but other the streetcar lane, one really would have been too close to the edge. And the streetcar markings were quite clear.

I believe the ALRV and CLRV vehicles have the same amount of swing (the same distance from the back axle to the back of the car). So doesn't really matter that it was articulated, though if you pulled up after it had started to turn, then there'd be a lot smaller chance the streetcar driver would have seen that you were over the line.

I looked in streetview at some other curves. All have those dashed lines for the streetcar clearance. And they are pretty clearly marked still at Broadview. I really don't see much defence.

If it's not too expensive, you might just leave the insurance out of it.

On the other hand, who knows how the adjuster would think. If you stress that you were in your lane, and you still got sideswiped, and play down that the other vehicle was on rails, and wouldn't have been anywhere unusual ... then you might get away from it. Can't imagine that too many insurance adjusters are used to streetcars, and they may not fully think through the implications. Remember that people often call them cars :)
 

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