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In July of this year Sheriff Napier sitting at Aberdeen Sheriff Court decided upon the case of Smith v Fowler and found that drivers ought to bear in mind the rules of the highway code and should not accept the flashing of lights from other vehicles as a signal that it is safe to perform a right hand turn. Any driver who relies upon this alone and fails to check the road is clear for themselves will be found to be negligent.

This accident occurred on a single undivided carriageway wide enough to allow two lanes of traffic on either side. Ms Fowler was travelling in one direction when she indicated to turn right. A van in the offside lane travelling in the opposite direction stopped and flashed his lights allowing her to turn. As she turned she struck the offside of Mr Smith’s vehicle as he was proceeding along in the nearside lane. Ms Fowler contended that Mr Smith had overtaken the van, however his evidence that he had been travelling in the nearside lane which Ms Fowler has failed to check was clear was accepted.

It was noted in this case that Mr Smith was a much more credible witness. He had good knowledge of the road, the normal flow of traffic and the Highway Code and his evidence was clear. Ms Fowler however was noted to be unclear as to the normal flow of traffic on the road, the Highway Code and the accident circumstances themselves.

The Sheriff confirmed that it is well set out in the Highway Code that a vehicle must not turn until it is clear and safe to do so and drivers must be vigilant of all vehicles on the road. The Highway Code also makes it specifically clear that vehicles should not flash their lights for the purposes of signaling another driver, and that drivers should not rely upon signals from other vehicles. This accident was held to have been caused by Ms Fowler’s failure to check that the road ahead of her was clear before commencing her right hand turn.

This case serves as a reminder to drivers not to follow the direction and flashing of lights from other vehicles without checking the road is clear themselves. It may seem as though another vehicle is providing assistance however it is the driver of the vehicle undertaking the manoeuvre who will be found negligent should an accident occur.

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