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What do you legally have to do when your car breaks down?

What is your responsibility when your car breaks down? -Gudella
What is your responsibility when your car breaks down? -Gudella/123RF Stock Photo

SYDNEY, N.S.  — You’re driving your car when it suddenly breaks down.

There’s a snowbank to your right, so you try to move your car as far out of the roadway as possible but it’s still a potential hazard to other traffic.
What’s required of you under the law?

Questions about the legalities and liabilities around what to do in the event of a vehicle breakdown on a public roadway have arisen in light of a recent incident on Highway 105 on Kellys Mountain. A Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board bus struck a trailer that had been attached to a transfer truck that broke down and was left partially in the roadway. While the truck was removed, the trailer was left behind overnight.

The 11 students on board at the time of the crash sustained only bumps and bruises. The bus driver had to be extricated using the Jaws of Life and was transported to hospital in Halifax for treatment of serious injuries as a precaution.

Robert Drinovz of New Waterford was travelling on Route 4 in the Soldiers Cove area a couple of years ago when he encountered a flatbed trailer on the side of the road.

“It was a case of where you go up this little hill and then you’re starting to turn — that’s where it was at,” he said. “It was just a terrible spot.”

Fortunately, it was a clear day and there was no oncoming traffic, Drinovz said, as he was forced to cross the centre line to avoid hitting the trailer.

When he arrived in St. Peter’s, Drinovz called RCMP because, “it was an accident waiting to happen.”

In an email in response to questions posed by the Cape Breton Post, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke wrote that there are sections of the provincial Motor Vehicle Act dealing with the issue.

“There may be a criminal charge that could be applicable, but that really depends on the specific circumstances of the incident,” Clarke wrote.

In addition, she noted there may be civil liability that applies to the situation.

Baddeck RCMP are continuing to investigate the Kellys Mountain collision, Clarke wrote.

“The circumstances of why the trailer was left partially on the highway are part of that investigation,” Clarke stated. “An RCMP collision analyst attended the scene to gather evidence and is undertaking a detailed examination of the circumstances of the collision. If charges are laid as a result of our investigation, the RCMP will provide an update.”

The Motor Vehicle Act also has provisions for failing to park as far as possible off roadway; parking when less than 4.5 metres of roadway width remains for traffic; parking commercial vehicles on a highway for longer than two consecutive hours; failing to display lights as required when parked on highway; and failing to display marker lights or reflectors as required, Clarke noted.

The fines for those offences range from $151.25 to $352.50, in addition to potential criminal or civil liability.

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