Joseph Eva Ltd v Reeves: CA 1938

An accident occurred when a police vehicle went through traffic lights at green, but on the wrong side of the road.
Held: A driver crossing through traffic lights at green owes no duty to traffic entering the crossing in disobedience to the lights beyond a duty that if he in fact sees such traffic he must take all reasonable steps to avoid a collision.
Scott LJ said: ‘Nothing but implicit obedience to the absolute prohibition of the red — and indeed of the amber, subject only to the momentary discretion which it grants — can ensure safety to those who are crossing on the invitation of the green. Nothing but absolute confidence, in the mind of the driver invited by the green to proceed, that he can safely go right ahead, accelerating up the full speed proper to a clear road in the particular locality, without having to think of the risk of traffic from the right crossing his path, will promote the free circulation of traffic, which, next to safety is the main purpose of all traffic-regulations. Nothing again will help more to encourage obedience to the prohibition of the lights than the knowledge that, if there is a collision on the crossroads, the trespasser will have no chance of escaping liability on a plea alleging contributory negligence against the car which has the right of way. Finally, nothing will help more to encourage compliance with the summons of the green to go straight on than the knowledge of the driver that the law will not blame him if unfortunately he does have a collision with an unexpected trespasser from the left or right.’


Scott LJ


[1938] 2 All ER 115


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedGriffin v Mersey Regional Ambulance CA 8-Oct-1997
A driver who had crossed through a green traffic light but had collided with an ambulance was 60 per cent contributorily negligent. He had failed to hear the ambulance, had failed to see it, and had ignored unusal driving of other motorists.
CitedCraggy v Chief Constable of Cleveland Police CA 6-Oct-2009
The claimant was driving his fire engine on an emergency call. The defendant’s constable was similarly engaged. It was in the early hours, and they each went through the traffic junction. They crashed and the judge held both drivers negligent to the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic, Negligence

Updated: 13 May 2022; Ref: scu.224492