the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Motorist’s duty to make way for crazy drivers?

A High Court judge has just heard a road traffic accident case in which a driver responsible for an admittedly dangerous overtaking manoeuvre sought to blame the driver of the car she was overtaking for not “letting her in”, so contributing to the accident. 


In Pykett v Clement [2011] EWHC 2925 (QB) Ms Clement persisted in two sustained attempts to overtake Mr Pykett along a stretch of road characterized by dips and bends.  She collided with an oncoming van whose lane she was driving in.  She accused Mr Pykett of accelerating so as to prevent her from overtaking him.


The judge, Coulson J (normally to be found in the TCC, but here fulfilling the traditional role of the Queen’s Bench judges out on circuit, ending up in Bradford), found as a fact that Mr Pykett had not driven in that way, but had kept a steady course: he may have accelerated from time to time as he came out of tight bends, but that was entirely consistent with the changing road conditions as he went.  But should he have slowed to let Ms Clement complete her overtaking manoeuvre without a collision?


The judge held that there was no such duty.  He looked at two previously-decided cases.  In Ogden & Chadwick v Barber & Higgs [2008] EWCA Civ 1113 the Court of Appeal apportioned 80% of the blame against the driver being overtaken, blaming him for deliberately accelerating to prevent the overtaking manoeuvre.  But the case of Smith v Cribben [1994] PIQR 218 went the other way, with the driver being overtaken entirely absolved of blame by the Court of Appeal. 


In the latest case, Coulson J took concluded that the motorist being overtaken was under no duty to slow down to accommodate the dangerous driver.  It was not for him to slow down or to take other steps merely to assist Ms Clement to avoid the manifest dangers that her driving had created – even if she was alongside him for up to 10 seconds, trying and failing to get past. 



Comments are closed