Ignoring Your Own Safety #DriveSmartBC

 

SeatbeltWhen I learned to drive more than 4 decades ago, seatbelts were becoming standard equipment on all vehicles. Fast forward to today and we have seatbelts, multiple airbags and a host of automatic systems designed to either avoid a crash or minimize the damage to us if we are in one. Why then do some of us ignore the systems that are there for our protection?

A decade ago seatbelt use rates were about 97% for drivers of cars or light trucks in B.C. according to Transport Canada. That said, one does not have to sit for very long today watching traffic pass in urban areas to find drivers who do not buckle up. Why ignore what is probably the simplest and most effective device in your vehicle that helps you avoid injury?

Have you read your vehicle’s owners manual to learn about airbags and how they protect you in a collision? If you have you will realize that you must wear your seatbelt to avoid injury caused by being out of place if it deploys. You must also sit upright in your seat when the vehicle is being driven.

Yesterday I was filling my fuel tank and watching the passenger in the vehicle beside me. She had her feet up on the dash and remained that way when her friend finished fueling and drove away. I shudder to think of what would happen to her if that airbag deployed.

If you buy a new vehicle today you will find that it can be equipped with many safety systems such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. Remember that owners manual? There will be some study required to learn how they work, how you should use them and when they cannot protect you.

The sensors for these systems require regular maintenance by the driver to keep them functional. Be sure to read your owners manual or at least have the dealership demonstrate what needs to be done before you drive off the lot.

Vehicle computers store data about faults. If fault codes are stored for malfunctioning safety systems it is conceivable that you could bear some responsibility for injuries sustained in a crash. Ignoring these new safety systems could also place you in a bad position post-collision.

Ignoring your own safety as a driver today may have many unintended consequences that can also extend to your passengers. RTFM (Refer to Factory Manual) might be the smartest (and safest) thing that you can do!

Because of a DUI conviction, I need to use an interlock. Am I able to rent a car?

In December 2017, I received a first-offence DUI. I’ll get my licence back next week, but I will only be able to drive a car with the interlock installed for the next year. I’m going to weddings in Halifax and Mont Tremblant this summer and I would like to rent a car, but would one with an interlock be available? I’m also wondering, could regular car insurance be lower with an interlock? – Brendan, Toronto

If you’ve had a drunk-driving conviction, you won’t be able to rent a car with an interlock, and you might not be able to rent one at all.

“Unfortunately, rental-car companies don’t put alcohol interlocks on their vehicles,” says Andrew Murie, chief executive officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. “The rental-car companies could, but they don’t want drunk drivers in their cars anyway.”

Under the Criminal Code, if you’re convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol level (BAC) above .08 for the first time, you’ll face a minimum one-year licence suspension and a minimum $1,000 fine.

To be allowed to drive again, you can only drive vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock, which is basically a breathalyzer attached to your car’s ignition. It won’t let you drive if you’ve been drinking.

Although Canada’s impaired driving law changed last year to allow you to drive with an interlock immediately after conviction, none of the provinces have changed their interlock programs to allow that, Murie says.

Most provinces also require that your driver’s licence shows that you can only drive with an interlock, and rental car companies would see that.

But Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based criminal-defence lawyer, says rental companies can access your driving records and see whether you’ve had a DUI.

“They’ll refuse to rent to anyone with a record of an impaired driving conviction or a 90-day administrative suspension,” Lee says.

If you’ve had an impaired conviction in a province with private insurance, you’ll see higher rates for six years.

You’ll likely lose your existing coverage and have to go to facility insurance – insurance for drivers deemed too high-risk to be insured anywhere else – for the next three years after the conviction.

That could mean you’re paying a minimum of $10,000 a year and more likely $20,000, according to Murie.

After three years on facility insurance, it would take three more years to gradually return to reasonable rates, he says.

“If you’re making $60,000 a year and you get whacked with a $20,000 insurance policy, you’re not going to be able to drive,” Murie says. “The government-run insurance companies do a better job.”

In B.C., for instance, if you’ve had one impaired conviction, you pay a $1,086 driver-risk premium on top of your existing rates. In Saskatchewan, you’d face a minimum $1,250 penalty and move down their rating scale. In Manitoba, you’d lose 10 points on their scale – the highest risk drivers there (-20) pay an extra $3,000 a year on top of normal rates.

Murie would like to see insurance companies offer more reasonable rates – double the existing rate, for example – for drivers who use the interlock.

But right now, no companies do that, Murie says.

“About 30 per cent of impaired drivers are repeat offenders within 10 years, so it proves that current sanctions do work, including the higher insurance premiums,” Murie says. “We’re not saying there shouldn’t be some penalty, but when it’s too high, it forces drivers to drive without insurance. And if you get hit by someone who’s uninsured, the financial consequences can be huge.”

Child’s emergency near takeoff time voids rebooking despite ‘Flex’ airfare

Family purchased Transat’s Option Flex, which allows flight changes up to 3 hours prior to departure

Kate Bueckert · CBC News ·

A family from Fergus, Ont., had a vacation dream dashed after a medical emergency and now they’re warning others to pay close attention to the differences between flexible tickets and travel insurance.

Mark and Nicole Ruzycki and their two children were at the airport early in the morning on May 22, set to celebrate their daughter’s 8th birthday in Cuba. But about an hour before boarding, 3-year-old Jake developed a rash.

Airport paramedics recommended they not fly and instead, go right to the hospital.

“This has never happened to us, it was quite the scare,” Mark Ruzycki said.

The doctor at the Toronto-area hospital where they first went said it appeared to be a virus and sent them home. On the way home, Jake’s conditioned worsened and his face swelled up. They went to the emergency facility at the Fergus hospital, where doctors determined it was an allergic reaction.

It’s unclear what Jake reacted to and he has recovered, but the family missed their flight.

When Ruzycki tried to rebook their flight, Air Transat said they couldn’t rebook without further payment.

Credit offered

Ruzycki says the family paid $5,000 for the trip, including $59 per ticket for Option Flex through Air Transat. Option Flex allows people to change their flight up to three hours before the scheduled departure.

Because Jake had to go to the hospital less than three hours before takeoff, Air Transat has said the family cannot rebook without payment and will not get a full refund.

“When you book your dream vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy the ultimate level of flexibility should something unexpected happen. Option Flex lets you,” the airline states on its web page.

Air Transat has offered the family a $2,000 travel voucher, which is equivalent to the tax and fuel surcharge from their unused tickets.

The website also notes, “Option Flex allows travellers to change their departure date, destination or hotel up to three hours before departure, or to transfer their vacation package to a family member or friend up to 30 days before departure. They can also cancel their trip and obtain a full refund.” A footnote explains that the three-hour notice period also applies to cancellations.

Not insurance

The airline declined an interview request with CBC but in a statement said it’s “important to distinguish” between travel insurance and the Option Flex service.

“Option Flex is not a travel insurance and does not replace such insurance coverage, both of which should be purchased prior to departure,” Air Transat’s marketing director of social media and public relations Debbie Cabana told CBC in an email.

“The purchase of travel insurance could have prevented these customers from losing the value of their package.”

They did not purchase travel insurance, Ruzycki said, because they didn’t expect they’d have to cancel for any reason and if something were to happen, they’d just want to rebook the trip.

‘Feels for the passengers’

Ruzycki said his wife worked part time to pay for the trip.

“My wife was in tears,” he said. “Every penny she saved for this has gone down the toilet.”

The family says it’s considering taking the $2,000 travel voucher so they don’t lose all their money.

Gábor Lukács, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passengers Rights, says he “feels for the passengers.”

But unless an illness happens while on board the flight or is caused by the airline, it’s not the airline’s responsibility. He said the airline is within its rights in this case.

Lukács also said this kind of situation would not fall under the new airline passenger bill of rights recently introduced by the federal government. Lukács has been critical of the new bill of rights, saying it favours the private interests of airlines over legitimate concerns of travellers.

‘It just breaks your heart’

The Ruzycki family took a smaller vacation to Collingwood to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.

Ruzycki says his daughter was upset about not going to Cuba, but she understood the situation.

“We keep saying, ‘Look honey, we will go another time. But right now we have to concentrate on your brother’s health,” he said.

“But even our boy, now that he’s getting better, he goes, ‘So are we going to go on a plane now?'” he said. “It’s hard. It just breaks your heart.”

Ruzycki says he hopes Air Transat will change its mind and allow them to rebook their tickets rather than giving them money back.

“We just want to go on our family vacation that our kids and my wife were just so ecstatic to go on,” he said.

Where Are the Corners of Your Vehicle?

The RCMP’s advanced driver training course was without a doubt the most fun of any course many of the participants had taken in their service. We used an inactive runway at the Boundary Bay airport in Delta and a collection of well used Crown Victoria police interceptors to polish our driving skills. Contrary to what you might think, this was not a high-speed driving situation as we never got going faster than about 65 km/h.

What the majority of the course taught us was to be aware of the location of all four corners of our vehicles in relation to everything around us on the track.

From stall parking, backing through a slalom to the collection of curves, straights and sharp angles of the circuit, the object was to never touch one of the traffic cones that marked the edges and obstacles. Knock one over and you could lose so many points that your score would not be enough to pass.

In the circuit, we were expected to drive as fast as we were able to in addition to leaving all the cones alone. We also learned that if you spun your tires after receiving the “go” signal, you lost valuable time.

The road that leads to my home is a winding one and there are two sets of reversing curves where I seem to be meeting more drivers on the wrong side of the double solid center line lately. The worn condition of the center and shoulder lines at these corners indicate that this occurs frequently.

Surprisingly, our provincial driving manuals don’t have a lot to say about maintaining your lane position. The one piece of advice that I could find says:

The first thing you may notice as you begin driving in moderate traffic is that you have to stay in the centre of your lane. To start with, this is no easy task. The magic rule: look the way you want to go. If you keep looking 12 seconds ahead down the centre of the lane, your peripheral vision will help you centre yourself.

They do have more to say about another spot where lane discipline commonly breaks down, turning at intersections. Drivers are cautioned not to cut the corner or swing wide on turns.

The last bad habit to mention is driving with the right side tires to the right of the single solid line. In other words, driving on the shoulder. Along with all of the other behaviours mentioned, this is illegal.

One might think that if there are no lines painted on the road, it is not necessary to maintain proper lane position. This is not true either. A driver in this situation must still judge where the center of the road is and travel in the right-hand half.

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.

And how does being a “medicinal” or “recreational” user affect your premiums?

Read more

#DriveSmartBC – Please, Not So Close!

This must have been Following Too Closely Week in British Columbia. I received the story of an incident in Sooke, an analysis of a video from Richmond and was subjected to this dangerous behaviour myself. You might be able to get away with ignoring the Motor Vehicle Act, but the laws of physics will eventually prevail.

The story out of Sooke goes like this:

I’ve just witnessed the most inconsistent driver I’ve EVER SEEN in my 38 years of driving!

A black car passed me on the 4 lanes towards Sooke. He gets behind a pickup and commences to follow between 20 to 5 feet, maybe even LESS a couple times, all the way to Sooke. I was waiting for them to crash he was so close!!!

When the pickup turned off he’s right on the bumper of the next driver.

Now here’s the crazy part: He signals properly going through the traffic circle and signals to go into Village foods.

So he KNOWS how to drive properly yet tailgates like the most ignorant driver on the road…

Last Wednesday afternoon I was traveling in the right hand lane northbound on the south side of the Malahat. I had just entered the 70 km/h zone on the south side when I heard a loud air horn sound behind me. A glance in my rear view mirror showed nothing for a few moments but the shiny chrome grille of a green dump truck pulling a pup trailer.

Apparently he did not want to slow down or change lanes.

The drivers in these two stories knew they were wrong.

The one in Sooke made a deliberate choice to ignore common sense. Hopefully he has not fallen into the trap of letting this become his default setting because nothing bad has happened from it, yet.

In my case it was either the driver not wanting to slow on the hill or he had a momentary lapse of attention and was warning me of an impending collision because of it.

The video in the Richmond article shows typical following distances on B.C.’s highways today.

ICBC no longer publishes detailed collision data by contributing factor as it did years ago. However, a document from 2007 shows following distance at #7 in the list of top 10 causes of collisions.

This behaviour not make the top 10 in traffic tickets issued during 2017 though. Police wrote about 2,000 tickets for following too closely in general and 48 for commercial vehicle following too closely specifically. This is about 0.5% of the total number of tickets issued that year.

Please, not so close! Leave at least 2 seconds distance between vehicles. The risk may be comfortable for you but it’s not the smart choice.

Link:

DriveSmartBC

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