DriveSmartBC – The Tug Test

Trailer TowingChances are good that your trailer has been slumbering, forgotten, in the back yard over the winter. Spring is here so we’ll just hook it up and go. A quick check in the rearview mirror, yes, it’s following us. The tug test has been passed, we’re good to continue.

I say this tongue in cheek, but I often think that drivers use this method to make sure their trailers are roadworthy. It takes much more than this to be sure.

All trailers need lights and reflectors that are both installed properly and working correctly. At minimum, there must be a yellow side marker lamp and reflector at both sides of the front, a red side marker lamp and reflector on both sides at the rear, brake and tail lamps on both sides at the rear, and a licence plate lamp.

Brake and loading requirements depend on the total weight of the trailer. The only sure way to know is to go to the scale and weigh in. Once you know the empty weight of your trailer you have the necessary starting point for deciding how much you can put in it.

There are three different scenarios for brake requirements:

  • If the trailer and load weigh more than 1,400 kg brakes must be installed and operational.
  • If the trailer is properly licenced, any trailer and load weighing more than 2,800 kg must have brakes that can be applied by the driver from the cab separately from the brakes of the tow vehicle.
  • If the weight of the trailer and load is at or under 1,400 kg but more than half of the net weight of the vehicle towing it, brakes are required in this case as well.

A surge brake does not meet the needs of any trailer that weighs more than 2,800 kg.

Don’t attach your breakaway brake lanyard to the hitch or safety chain, attach it somewhere else on the vehicle. If the hitch fails entirely, there will be no force to apply the brakes unless you do this.

Putting more weight in the trailer than it is designed to carry may cause structural failure that can have serious consequences. Never exceed the carrying capacity of the trailer or it’s tires. Trailer weight capacities are shown on the capacity plate and tire capacities are shown on the sidewall.

If you have a U-bilt trailer, the total maximum licensed weight is often 700 kg. Check your registration documents if you are not sure.

Before we leave the subject of weight, remember that your trailer must weigh less than 900 kg if you are using a bumper hitch. It does not matter if the markings on your bumper specify a higher weight, the limit set by law in B.C. is 900 kg.

Safety chains, tire condition and inflation, load security and correct hitch ball size are among the other considerations that insure safe trailering.

If you have questions, please contact Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE), the nearest weigh scale or you local police.

Link:

Commentary driving is a very useful tool for teaching a new driver

New Driver SignsCommentary driving is a very useful tool for teaching a new driver. It involves narrating their observations, interpretations and intentions about the traffic situation as they drive. This narrative is expected to take place before the fact and gives the instructor or examiner insight into what the driver is seeing (or not seeing) and how they intend to proceed.

These comments do not need to be made using complete sentences as long as the thought is properly conveyed. The driver should describe everything important that he sees ahead, to the sides, and in the rear view mirrors. When there is time, he should announce the various alternatives possible and why his choice of action is best. Comments should include remarks about signs, signals, markings, hazardous situations, actions or expected actions of other road users.

From the student’s point of view commentary driving assists with:

  • Building an awareness of the amount of information that a driver must process
  • Developing resistance to distraction
  • Refining judgment about how far ahead to watch and how quickly to act or react
  • Developing selective observation strategies

Benefits for the parent or instructor include the ability to assess:

  • Is the driver scanning effectively?
  • Are hazardous situations recognized early enough?
  • Does the driver follow the traffic laws and maintain proper space margins?
  • What is the driver missing that you need to train or retrain?

The current ICBC Class 5 road test requires a demonstration of commentary driving.

If you have never done this before, it is not as simple as you might think. Remember the cognitive overload when you were first learning to drive? Introduce it after your student driver has had a chance to become somewhat familiar with operating the vehicle.

A parent should practice this before becoming the instructor as it is a valuable teaching tool. Demonstrate to the hopeful new driver how she must use her eyes, what she must see, how to interpret it, and when to act in a safe and efficient manner.

The parent will also benefit as it focuses awareness and concentration on the driving task. It may be a good personal strategy to use when you are not feeling alert or are becoming fatigued.

Video Resources:

This 13 minute video by Rick August of Smart Drive Test outlines how a new driver may learn even faster by talking to themselves while they’re driving and doing the manoeuvres and skills required to pass a road test.

 

This 10 minute video by Ian Fido of Sheffield Driving School in the UK explains anticipation and planning with commentary driving:

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 for 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

Regulatory and Advisory Signs

Speed SignDrivers are often confused about the difference between a regulatory sign and an advisory sign. A regulatory sign generally has black characters or symbols on a white background and an advisory sign has black characters or symbols on a yellow background. So, what’s the difference?

The regulatory sign must be obeyed exactly as it is read. Examples of regulatory signs include speed limits, turn restrictions, parking restrictions and directional instructions. Failure to obey these signs is an offence and the driver may be charged if they choose not to follow the instruction.

If there is not a specific offence such as speeding or failing to stop for the regulatory sign, a traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device may be issued to the driver.

An advisory sign gives advance notice of conditions on or adjacent to a highway that are potentially hazardous to traffic. A driver may choose whether or not to follow the suggestion given by the sign. Ignoring the advice is not an offence in itself, but anything that happens because the signs are not given consideration may be an offence.

A common advisory sign is the large diamond shaped sign shows a black arrow on a yellow background telling drivers of a curve ahead. Underneath it is a smaller square sign with black lettering on a yellow background showing a speed of 30 km/h.

The example of the curve was chosen to illustrate a point. We have often seen these signs and then travelled around the curve comfortably at speeds higher than that suggested. In those cases the shape of the curve and the road condition could accommodate the vehicle travelling at the higher speed.

So why was the speed warning there? Often it is because the driver’s line of sight is restricted. This would prevent the driver from seeing and reacting to a hazard in or just beyond the corner unless the speed was at or less than that suggested. Heavy trucks may also be required to slow for the corner to prevent tipping over.

A relatively new (since 2012) advisory sign is black on a pink background. These signs warn of an emergency incident ahead and tell drivers to expect responders on the roadway. Proceed with caution as full temporary traffic control may not yet have been established.

Failure to obey an advisory sign is only an offence if something happens as a result of ignoring the advice and the offence is generally for the misadventure that occurs.

Need a quick brush up on what road signs mean? Drop by your local Driver Service Center (where you renew your driver’s licence) and ask for a free copy of Learn to Drive Smart. The signs, signals and road markings are explained in Chapter 3.

Reference Links:

#JustDrive – SGI: 284 impaired driving offences reported in January

Feb 25, 2020

Getting arrested for driving impaired is a terrible way to start off the new year, as 284 people found out in January.

The January spotlight found police across the province reporting 231 Criminal Code charges for impaired driving and 53 roadside administrative suspensions.

While many New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, it’s important to commit to drive sober or plan a safe ride home when you know you’ll be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Saskatchewan has tough consequences for impaired drivers, and impaired driving is the leading cause of death on Saskatchewan roads.

Distracted driving tickets decline for third consecutive month

The number of reported distracted driving offences continued to trend lower in January after seeing significant drops in both November and December. Police reported 509 tickets issued last month (including 405 for cellphone use).

Remember, distracted driving penalties increased Feb. 1, but police officers were keeping a close eye on distracted drivers long before the change, and will continue to focus on this issue.

In January, police in Saskatchewan also reported the following:

  • 428 tickets related to seatbelts and car seats and,
  • 5,563 tickets for speeding and aggressive driving.

February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight continues to be on distracted driving. Avoiding a big ticket (plus demerits, and vehicle impoundment for a repeat offence) is easy. Leave the phone alone, be wary of other behaviours that might distract you, and #JustDrive.

Driving on the Shoulder

No Driving on Shoulder SignOur highways are not for the exclusive use of motor vehicles. Bicycles, pedestrians, equestrians and others may be expected to use their fair share of the highway as well. In fact, in some ways the shoulder of the road could be considered to be their domain and not that of the driver.

The shoulder of the highway is the area to the right of the solid white line at the right side of the roadway, or the part of the highway to the right of the pavement if that solid white line is not present. The roadway is between the center of the highway and the shoulder.

Drivers must drive on the roadway, not the shoulder. Passing on the right off of the roadway and driving on the shoulder to allow others to pass are common violations of this rule.

Many drivers regularly fail to confine the path of their vehicle to the roadway, particularly in curves, putting both themselves and those on the shoulder at risk. This can be easy to identify when the inside of a corner is kept free of gravel or the shoulder line is worn away in comparison to nearby straight roadway.

Bicycle riders are required to ride as near as is practical to the right side of the highway, but not on the sidewalk or off of the pavement. This most often means that cyclists will be found on the paved shoulder of the road.

Pedestrians must not walk on the roadway if there is a sidewalk present. If they choose not to use the sidewalk when only one side of the road has one, walking on the shoulder opposite is acceptable.

Horses and horse drawn vehicles are required to use the roadway just like the drivers of cars and trucks. Riders may choose to use the shoulder to yield the right of way to faster motor vehicles in the same fashion that a slow driver would.

Just as a child learns to colour properly by staying within the lines, so must the driver. Staying between the lines is a required skill that will serve you and other highway users well during your driving career. It will also save wear and tear on the lines themselves, leaving them easy to see as a guide for others.

Reference Links:

Let’s Block the Road!

When I was posted in the Okanagan in the 1990s I was answering phones in the detachment dispatch office. A caller from Summerland asked what would happen if he decided to take his protest sign down to the highway and conduct his own personal blockade. He expressed the opinion that if he did that the police would arrive quickly and if he did not move he would be removed.I couldn’t argue his point.

This past week has seen a number of blockades of B.C. highways and other places, so I thought that it would be interesting to examine why groups were permitted to disrupt our everyday travels to express a point.

My first stop was the Guide to the Law of Protest published by McGrady Law of Vancouver. This document outlines some history of civil disobedience in B.C., examines a person’s right to protest, outlines how to conduct yourself and how the law may be applied to you when you do.

Next, I contacted the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General via the media contact information. All that they would say beyond the fact that the Motor Vehicle Act did not direct police to dismantle blockades was that the Ministry did not get involved in day to day police operations. When asked about setting government policy all further e-mail was ignored.

Government policy is published in the form of the Crown Counsel Policy Manual on Civil Disobedience and Contempt of Related Court Orders. This guides Crown lawyers in deciding whether they should prosecute protesters or not. I don’t doubt that this guides police decisions as well.

Media relations with the RCMP in B.C. were helpful. They explained that each situation is evaluated separately and that a balance had to be struck between Charter rights, criminal actions, court orders and public safety. Where there is no court order, police can rely on the Criminal Code and common law powers in the event of violence or criminal actions by protesters.

Police resources to cope with the size of the protest group is without a doubt an important consideration.

Finally, the most assistance came from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA):

First of all, regarding the “free passage of traffic”, operating a motor vehicle is a privilege not a right.

Second, streets are blocked off for various reasons on a regular basis. Examples include activities related to the film industry, parades, marathons, and marches. Police are present to ensure that the scene is safe and the traffic is diverted. These events typically occur on main thoroughfares. A double standard applied in the case of lawful protest would be unreasonable.

Third, roads are public places in which political expression can take place. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are necessary in a free and democratic society. Furthermore, the police have a duty to ensure a safe environment for members of the public to express themselves through non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

Finally, during the course of their duties, police are constantly balancing interests and re-evaluating their discretion. In the event of an emergency, police have the option to use their discretion to clear the way for an emergency vehicle. A court would likely uphold the infringement of Charter-protected rights to allow for the safe passage of an emergency vehicle.

A counter-protest to a blockade on Highway 19 in Courtenay did result in an arrest and an end to the blockade. The original protesters left out of concern for their own safety.

Returning to the inquiry that I mentioned at the start of the article, the BCCLA says that there is no difference between the right of the individual and the right of the group to protest, but I do wonder what would happen.

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 for 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

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