#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

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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


Organization Profile

#RoadSafety: Little Things Can Make Big Differences

ExclamationI’ve been riding as a passenger in heavy traffic this past week and have had time to watch and think about what is going on around me. There are many small things that a driver should do out of habit to minimize their chances of being involved in a collision.

In no particular order of importance, here are my suggestions.

Signal! The bulbs are good for more than 3 or 4 blinks too. Nothing tells others what you would like to do better than a well used signal light lever. There are polite drivers out there who will actually see your signal and help you accomplish what you want to do.

When you stop in traffic, you should see pavement between the front edge of your hood and the bottoms of the back tires of the vehicle in front of you. If you don’t, you are too close.

The extra space may prevent you from being pushed into the vehicle in front of you if your vehicle is hit from behind. It also gives you room to move if an emergency vehicle approaches.

Stop before the sidewalk when you are entering a street, not on top of it. Pedestrians really appreciate your consideration.

Maintain an appropriate following distance for the conditions. When you do this, you control your own safety margin and to some extent that of the driver behind you. They will have more time to realize that something is happening and can then avoid colliding with you.

Leave yourself an out, especially around heavy commercial vehicles. Having a space to move into on your left or right if something happens may mean avoiding a crash.

Use some lane discipline. You are entitled to one lane and have to stay between the lines of that lane.

If you don’t know where you are going, stop and figure it out. Better still, plan before you leave. If you don’t have GPS in your vehicle, cell phone or tablet, the internet is full of useful resources.

Don’t commit random acts of driving by ignoring traffic controls when you decide you’ve chosen incorrectly.

Remember that there are drivers behind you that will become impatient and try to pass by. Pull over, stop, let them by and then continue at reduced speed as you try to locate the address you are trying to find.

Scan around and well ahead of your vehicle. Preparation is preferrable to surprise.

Early detection of obstructions ahead allow you to plan to avoid them rather than react in a place where you may not have a choice.

Anticipate the traffic lights. Braking lightly and coasting to a stop saves wear and tear on your vehicle. Aside from being safer, it also saves you money on maintenance and fuel.

Screaming up to the red light and braking heavily at the last second invites the driver behind you to join you in a collision, especially if they are not paying attention or are momentarily focused elsewhere.

If another driver insists on infringing on your right of way, let them have it. It’s better to maintain as much control of the situation as you are able to rather than insist on being part of the incident.

None of these things are difficult to do and are simple habits to develop. The choice to be safe is always yours.

Thousands of Smart cars recalled in Canada over fire risk

Mercedes-Benz points to insulation mat in engine compartment of 2008-09 vehicles

Susan Burgess · CBC News 

Mercedes-Benz is recalling tens of thousands of Smart cars because of a fire risk associated with an insulation mat in the engine compartment.

The recall comes after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating unexplained engine compartment fires in 2008 and 2009 Smart vehicles.

Several such fires have also been reported in Ontario, including Ottawa.

n October, Aurélie Rossier, a Swiss woman studying in Ottawa, was heading west on Highway 417 near Bronson Avenue when the 2008 Smart car she’d borrowed from a friend burst into flames.

CBC later learned of four other unexplained fires in Smart cars in Ontario, at least three of which happened in 2008 vehicles.

Insulation at risk of deteriorating

Documents from the NHTSA say the rear insulation mat in the engine compartment of 2008 and 2009 vehicles “may deform, deteriorate and loosen over time, allowing the mat to contact hot exhaust system components.”

The safety authority says Mercedes-Benz USA will notify car owners and dealers will replace the rear insulation mat with an improved one, free of charge.

It says the potential number of vehicles affected in the States is 42,781.

The recall also affects Smart car owners in Canada. Transport Canada has posted notice of the recall on its website, which says 7,028 cars are affected.

In an emailed statement, Mercedes-Benz Canada said it would also mail affected customers, who should contact a Mercedes-Benz service partner to make an appointment to replace the mat.

‘We’ve waited forever’

Valerie Hovinga Bisset of Elmira, Ont., received an email notice of the recall on Thursday from the NHTSA, having made a report to the U.S. authority as well as Transport Canada after her car caught fire last July.

“I thought, it’s about time,” she said. “It seems like we’ve waited forever for something to be done about this.”

Hovinga Bisset had already assumed the insulating mat in her 2008 Smart car was the culprit because staff at an auto repair shop discovered the material was smouldering.

She’s had new material installed by a mechanic unaffiliated with Mercedes-Benz and continued to drive the car without incident.

As was the experience of other Smart car owners interviewed by CBC, Mercedes-Benz denied having ever heard of such a fire when she reported her incident, Hovinga Bisset said.

“When I first called them, I was quite clear that we knew exactly why there was smoke that day coming out of my car, and it was the insulation that was burning,” she said. “I don’t know why they didn’t think that was a serious incident.”

In the course of her research, Hovinga Bisset had also discovered she wasn’t alone in her concern about that insulating fabric.

A man who identifies himself as the owner of a 2008 Smart car posted a video to Youtube in 2011, outlining his concerns and suggesting a do-it-yourself solution.

Auto safety advocate welcomes recall

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, said he was “very happy” to hear about the recall, describing it as a welcome about-face by Mercedes-Benz.

“We have received sporadic reports over the years of fires in Smart vehicles, and Mercedes Canada, who distributes the Smart vehicles here, were absolutely unheeding in the cases that came to our attention,” Iny said.

The recall could prevent future fires, Iny said, though he said his group has heard reports of suspicious fires in Smart cars beyond the 2008 and 2009 model years which were included in the U.S. investigation.

The defect identified in the recall may also not explain all the fires in 2008-2009 vehicles.

Marion Wyatt, the owner of a 2008 vehicle that burned in the middle of the night in Brockville, Ont., in 2010, said she found defective insulation an unsatisfying explanation for her case, in which the car had been parked for several hours before it exploded.

“There wouldn’t have been any hot exhaust to contact anything,” she said.

No compensation promised

As for people whose Smart cars were destroyed by fire, it’s unclear whether Mercedes-Benz will compensate those whose insurance didn’t cover the loss.

Mercedes-Benz Canada declined to address that matter in its response to CBC, even though the question had been directly asked.

The best recourse for those car owners is likely a lawsuit, Iny said, but it may be difficult for them to prove that the cause of their fire was the defect identified in the recall.

He said the carmaker could also be sued by insurance companies who have compensated people whose Smart cars caught fire.

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