Drivesmart column: The registered owner is responsible

Have you ever stopped to consider the risk involved in handing your keys over to someone else?

By Tim Schewe

Have you ever stopped to consider the risk involved in handing your keys over to someone else? As the owner of a vehicle, you have significant responsibility for it when someone else is using it. Even if you were not present, something nasty can still come back and bite you.

The owner of a vehicle is responsible for any contravention of:

• the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) and Regulations

• the Transportation Act

• the Firearm Act when it involves the transport or use of firearms in your vehicle

• the traffic bylaws of a municipality

• the traffic laws of a treaty First Nation

• prescribed parking laws

The only way that you can shift the responsibility for this is to show that your vehicle was stolen at the time of the violation or that you had exercised reasonable care and diligence in loaning your vehicle to another person. That other person must also have been in possession of the vehicle.

If you are prosecuted under this provision of the MVA, it is up to you to prove that you either did not own the vehicle or that the person using the vehicle at the time was not someone that you had entrusted the vehicle to.

When your vehicle is unattended or not in anyone’s possession, you are still liable for it.

An owner must not be held liable when the MVA offence committed by the entrusted person involves driving without a valid driver’s licence, driving while prohibited, driving while impaired or refusing to provide a breath sample. They are also not responsible when the entrusted driver is convicted an offence.

It is still worth your concern as mandatory vehicle impoundments that result from these offences must still be sorted out by applying for an early return.

The MVA also places specific responsibility on the vehicle owner for intersection safety camera violations.

What happens if the person you loan your vehicle to commits a driving offence that is reported to police by witnesses? You must provide all the information in your power to identify that driver to the police when asked. Failing to do so or giving false information is an offence.

If the vehicle is involved in a collision while being driven by someone other than the owner it raises a whole new liability situation that is beyond my scope to explain. I don’t have the necessary experience with civil law and you will need to consult a lawyer for this information.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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