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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 69361
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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What is the responsibility of the driver of a tractor with

Customer Question

What is the responsibility of the driver of a tractor with a front digger when exiting a private driveway, with a minimum visibility splay, on to the public highway?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Traffic Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
Can you explain your situation a little more?
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
My wife recently had a collision with the digger of a tractor that could not be seen because there were trees the whole length of the drive from which it was emerging; she was not aware of the digger which was very rusty and, as she realised once she got out of the car, blended in with the surrounding trees and anyway at the time she had been. The digger hit her nearside wing mirror which smashed the front near side window throw glass all over the inside of the car. She stopped, was badly shaken because she had no idea what had happened and was approached by the tractor who apologised profusely and said he hadn't seen her and no doubt she would not have seen him; he then added ''anyway with the oncoming traffic you had no room for manoeuvre'' He gave all his details and told her to contact his secretary and she would sort out everything. His insurers now dispute liability because they claim that he was waiting to enter the public highway and if she had seen the digger she should have realised this. I fail to understand the rationale of that statement, surely the tractor should not infringe any part of the public highway until he can ensure that it is safe to do so. That in essence is what the Norfolk Traffic constable said but his parting shot of ''I think'' cast some doubt on his certainty.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
So this was a vehicle emerging from a driveway onto a main road?
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Yes
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
A normal two lane B Class road
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
On the face of it she had right of way then.They may be arguing that she was nevertheless negligent because his vehicle should have been visible to the reasonably observant motorist. The fact that the tractor driver made assertions at scene doesn't mean his insurance company cannot contest this.In fairnes, the digger teeth of a tractor are large and visislble and not easily missed whatever the foliage around them. That said, it would be surprising if that fully defeated a claim rather than just reduced the award for contributory negligence.Can I clarify anything for you?Jo
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
The tractor was not visible from the road because the trees come down to within one yard of the road and his driver's cab would be about three yards back from the end of the digger. He could not see traffic approaching from the right because the trees precluded that and similarly my wife couldn't see him. In short he drove his tractor to a point where the digger was infringing the public highway having made no attempt to check that it was safe to do so and surely that is the fundamental point. I would suggest he was reckless in the way that he approached the exit given that he couldn't, as he fully admitted see any vehicles approaching from his right.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
Yes, but oncoming traffic would have seen the teeth of his digger with reasonable observation. Otherwise it would not have been possible to collide with them.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Not necessarily so; you are assuming that the tractor was stationary when the collision occurred but you don't know. It could be that the two vehicles were on a collision course if so, regardless of their different speeds, the bearing from one to the other would have remained constant to the point of impact. More important, something on a constant bearing is far less likely to be detected in the peripheral vision. In the scenario we are discussing, if my wife was concentrating on the traffic to her right, it is quite conceivable that she could have been unaware of the tractor on a collision course in her left field peripheral vision. I can prove that no more than you can prove that the tractor was stationary but it illustrates that there are more than one option to consider. However, all this waffle gets no closer to the tractor driver's responsibilities when exiting from a private driveway with a minimum visibility splay on to the public highway.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
I'm really sorry but I'm afraid I will not be able to agree that it was not possible to see such a large vehicle which the relevant issue here.His responsibilities and breaches thereof do not remove the negligence of the other driver I'm afraid. If your wife was only concentrating on traffic to her right then that is the clearest instance of negligence. A driver has a duty to examine all options including the negligence of other drivers. The fact that the tractor driver was also negligent does not mean that she was not.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
As I said from the outset, there are fir trees along the whole length of the driveway and I can confirm that the tractor driver was correct when he said that he couldn't see my wife's car and she couldn't see him. Three days after the incident, I borrowed a flat fronted truck from a local builder, that put me at the same height as the tractor driver, and drove the whole length of his driveway taking a photograph every ten feet and I had no view of traffic approaching from the right until I was about four feet from the edge of the highway. Following your comments about how easy it would have been for my wife to see the large digger, I took photographs of that as well and, because the base of the trees is about two/three feet above the level of the road and drive entrance, and that the bank is covered by grass and small shrubs the view of the digger is not as easily apparent as you might think. I suppose all I need to is: (a) is the onus on the tractor to ensure that it is safe to enter the public highway and (b) should the digger be raised so that it is more prominent to other road users.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 9 months ago.
A) Not to such an extent that it excludes all others of liability.B) No. There is no obligation to keep the digger teeth raised.

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