#DriveSmartBC: Resistance to Roundabouts

Change is good, that is unless the town wants to upgrade a busy T intersection with a roundabout rather than installing traffic lights. This is the situation in Qualicum Beach where the town has announced that it intends to rebuild the intersection of highway 19A (Island Highway West) and highway 4 (Memorial Avenue) using a roundabout. This is something that the Qualicum Beach Residents Association (QBRA) opposes.

The collision picture here is a quiet one, relatively speaking. ICBC says that between 2011 and 2015 there were 19 crashes at the intersection and only 3 of them included injuries. There is mention by both the town and the QBRA of a pedestrian fatality close by in the recent past but there is no indication of how close or if the fatality was related to the intersection itself.

The QBRA wants traffic lights installed at this intersection instead of a roundabout and wrote to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to register opposition to this portion of the project.

The number of signatures on the petition amounted to about 10% of the town’s population, but there was no indication of whether the petition was limited to residents of the town or not.

Will the desires of the QBRA prevail?

The current design guide used by the province indicates on page 139 that:

Roundabouts shall be considered as the first option for intersection designs where 4-way stop control or traffic signals are supported by traffic analysis. If an intersection treatment other than a roundabout is recommended, the project documentation should include a reason why a roundabout solution was not selected for that location. This roundabouts “first” policy supports the province’s Climate Action Program of 2007.

Why are roundabouts considered to be the best option? They have a high potential for safety:

  • Lower speeds – Situation changes slowly
  • Very forgiving environment
  • More time to make the right response
  • Judging gaps is easy and mistakes are not lethal
  • NO demand to accurately judge closing speeds of fast traffic
  • Low energy crashes: low closing speeds, low angle, low impact
  • No wide visual scans needed • Reduced need to look over one’s shoulder
  • Uncomplicated situations; simple decision- making

The most commonly raised concerns involve pedestrians and cyclists.

Of the two, the pedestrian receives more benefits. They now only have to cross one lane at a time with a refuge in the splitter island half way across. Marked crosswalks are set away from the circle. This means that pedestrians are not crossing directly in front of drivers busy looking for a gap in traffic.

Cyclists trade a slightly increased collision rate for conditions that make those collisions much less likely to result in significant injury or death.

To summarize, roundabouts have been shown to reduce total crashes by 39%. serious crashes by 76% and fatal or incapacitating injuries by 89% when compared to intersections with stop signs or traffic lights.

Does this sound like something we should oppose?

As an aside, the town’s web site mentions the yellow flashing pedestrian signals currently installed in the intersection.

The claim is made that the RCMP does not consider this to be a traffic control device.

“traffic control device” means a sign, signal, line, meter, marking, space, barrier or device, not inconsistent with this Part, placed or erected by authority of the minister responsible for the administration of the Transportation Act, the council of a municipality or the governing body of a treaty first nation or a person authorized by any of them to exercise that authority;

“traffic control signal” means a traffic control device, whether manually, electrically or mechanically operated, by which traffic is directed to stop and to proceed.

Flashing lights

131 (3) When rapid intermittent flashes of yellow light are exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle facing the flashes of yellow light may cause it to enter the intersection and proceed only with caution, but must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk,

This is not correct and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians in this situation.

Share your comments by e-mail.

Distracted Driving Statistics – What to Believe?

Stop Distracted DrivingI received an interesting fact sheet from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) this week. It looks at distracted driving related fatal collisions in Canada from 2000 to 2015. In some Canadian provinces this type of fatality has surpassed the total caused by alcohol impaired driving. However, that’s not the part of the document that made me pause.

Distracted driving to many means the manual use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. In reality, distractions include being engaged with entertainment or communication devices, engaging with passengers in the vehicle, or eating, smoking or personal grooming while driving, among other examples. Doing anything that takes the driver’s attention from the driving task could be considered as distracting.

This caveat in the preface to the report was what really captured my attention:

It should also be noted that in some collision report forms, investigating officers may code the driver condition as ‘distracted, inattentive,’ meaning there was a general lack of attention exhibited by the driver but there was no specific source of distraction identified.

To me, distracted and inattentive are two different things. Lumping them both together does not paint a true picture of the problem.

Collision data gathering can be a complicated task. In order to be reliable, it must be done promptly, carefully and thoroughly by investigators who gather as much data as possible, considered for accuracy and then reported in a consistent manner.

That was on the minds of the people who produced the TIRF report:

Fatality data from British Columbia from 2011 to 2015 were not available at the time that this fact sheet was prepared. As a result, Canadian data presented have been re-calculated to exclude this jurisdiction and make equitable comparisons.

This politely worded statement could mean many things. TIRF did not give adequate time between the request for data and the writing of the report. It takes more than 3 years for B.C. bean counters to determine a result. B.C. refused to share the data with TIRF. Worst of all, maybe B.C. really has no idea what that data is.

Our government chose to discontinue the requirement to report a collision to the police in July of 2008. Currently, ICBC claims personnel are the only ones in a position to gather the majority of collision data.

If we can’t share data with TIRF, can we be sure that what we are being told about the impact of distracted driving is true?

No doubt it is taking place as the police issued about 43,000 tickets for using electronic devices while driving last year and we know that the consequences of doing so can be terrible, but how many of the 960 collisions that happen each day in B.C. can be blamed on driver distraction?

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

www.drivesmartbc.ca

#DriveSmartBC: A Different Approach to School Zone Safety

Seven years ago I wrote about a safe trip to school, commenting on my experience that a significant part of the safety problem was caused by teachers and parents themselves. Their driving behaviour as they showed up to work or dropped off their children sometimes left a lot to be desired. Did they not realize that they were creating their own problem?

At that time, the only solution that I had to offer was the walking school bus. This is where parents take turns walking the neighbourhood group of children to school. Everyone benefits from the exercise, the children are safer and traffic congestion at the school is reduced.

We know that there’s a problem, but how do we deal with it? The City of Toronto is trying an Active and Safe Routes to School pilot project as a part of their Vision Zero Road Safety Plan. This will see areas around schools being designated as Community Safety Zones.

These zones will see painted crosswalks, active speed reader signs. increased enforcement and higher penalties.

Of the four, the only one that I know for sure results in a measurable effect is the speed reader sign. It’s always there and working.

Do the police have the resources to maintain an enforcement level necessary to result in a lasting level of compliance? Would we accept automated enforcement in school zones? The current political climate in B.C. seems to indicate that it is possible, but as yet nothing has been implemented.

Vienna Austria, Bolzano Italy and Haddington Scotland have taken a different approach. They have decided to exclude motor vehicle traffic around primary schools. Vienna’s closure is at the start of the school day, with Bolzano and Haddington at the beginning, lunch hour and end of the day.

These are pilot projects for Vienna and Haddington, but Bolzano has had this program in place for 21 years. Bolzano found that traffic jams are reduced and safety has increased, reducing the collision rate by half, resulting in about 45% of students walking to school.

Traffic calming measures lie somewhere in between. Here are some examples from the Netherlands. The use of signs, coloured pavement, marked crosswalks and chicanes are markedly different from what is found here in B.C.

ICBC says that every year, 380 children are injured in crashes while walking or cycling and six are killed throughout the province. In school and playground zones, 86 children are injured. Read their full press release.

September is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. #EyesForwardBC #DriveSmartBC

Read more

RoadSafety: No One Will Solve My Problem

What happened the last time that you decided to deal with a road safety problem? Were you successful in your quest? Were your views taken “for information purposes?” Did you get sucked into the whirlpool of “that’s not my job” or worse still, ignored completely?

As taxpayers, we expect the appropriate level of government or the police to solve them for us. This is one of their jobs and we pay them to do that. How would you rate their service in this regard and why do you rate it that way?

For the most part, if the situation is an emergency, it receives high priority for attention and resolution. A washed out highway or a serious collision will be dealt with immediately by the appropriate resources.

A dangerous driver or malfunctioning traffic signal may receive slightly less attention depending on the level of concern, location and resources available.

But what happens when you have a complaint about a nuisance or a potential problem? If you are lucky, it will be responded to within a reasonable amount of time. If not, your wishes could either be ignored or even actively discouraged. What to do?

DriveSmartBC is sometimes asked for help when this doesn’t happen.

Thinking that I could provide a resource, I created a Self Help topic in the discussion forum. Over the 7 years that it has existed very little has been discussed.

Perhaps an example might be useful to guide others, so I resolved to make a special effort to involve myself and document it in Self Help.

The opportunity came from Kelowna. The gentleman that contacted me lived in a gated community that was accessed from a busy road. He felt that a left turn lane was needed to allow for safe turns into the community but the City of Kelowna felt otherwise.

I began e-mail correspondence with him to define the problem, find a suitable solution and promote it for resolution.

It quickly became apparent that the perception of the problem was the speed of vehicles on the road and the only solution that he would consider was the turn lane.

After a half dozen volleys, he decided that I wasn’t on his side and that he would look elsewhere for a solution.

The other side of this coin is a community action group in the Hillside-Quadra area of Victoria. Not only do they react to problems, they actively consider pending changes to their community and provide considered feedback to city council in an effort to positively influence those changes.

This is a very good example of what a community can do, both to solve and prevent road safety problems.

Like anything else in life, you need to look at your particular road safety issue and decide whether you want to deal with it and how much time and effort you want to invest.

If the problem is not that important to you, then report and forget is probably the appropriate choice.

If you do decide to take action, there is no shortage of information to use to advantage today. A bit of time with your favourite search engine may find an issue exactly like yours, what was done to solve it and maybe even contact information for those involved. Reach out and ask for help.

Now persist in your quest. Learn about the issue. Document your observations. Enlist others. Contact authorities, write letters to the editor, blog, post on social media. Be thoughtful and reasonable. Respect others.

It may seem like water wearing away stone, but you can make a difference if you really want to.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

Affordable auto insurance can happen

ST. JOHN’SJune 11, 2018 /CNW/ – Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay too much for auto insurance. In fact, you pay the highest premiums in Atlantic Canada—on average 40% higher. It’s been 14 years since the last review—reforms must be made to bring back a sustainable system that works for drivers.

Newfoundland and Labrador needs:

  • An auto insurance system that provides quick, medically sound rehabilitative care.
  • More choices when it comes to where you buy auto insurance.
  • An auto insurance industry that makes it affordable for uninsured drivers to get insured.
  • Cost-control measures to stabilize the rising average cost of auto insurance claims.

The insurance industry can’t make these changes alone. We need to work together—industry, government, policyholders, and stakeholders—to unite and work together to do whatever is necessary to deliver the best system for our drivers.

It’s time to make the auto insurance system work for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

For further information: Steve Kee, Director, Media and Digital Communications, 416-362-2031 ext. 4387

http://www.ibc.ca

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