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

Parental Consent and Control of New Drivers

New Driver Signs 2011A young person’s brain is not fully matured until the age of 25. The prefrontal cortex manages executive functions such as impulse control and weighing consequences but may not do a great job of it for teenagers. If you are faced with a teen driver who is consistently making bad choices, what do you do?

This is a serious consideration as the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit says that motor vehicle collisions are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death across all ages in BC.

The stage is set by parents long before the child learns to drive. As with many things in life, our children tend to follow our example. As I discussed in Perpetuating Mediocrity, some parents are ill equipped to teach a new driver.

The Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) sets some restrictions on new drivers to limit their exposure to risk. Parents need to be supportive in ensuring that these restrictions are obeyed and by establishing reasonable expectations for driving behaviour. If these expectations are consistently not met, there need to be explicit consequences. You may even consider the use of a family contract as a pre-condition before granting permission for your child’s first licence.

In the days before the GLP parents had a strong control over their children who had not reached the age of 18. If the child was not driving properly the parent could withdraw their consent and ICBC would cancel the child’s drivers licence. This was an effective control over wayward young drivers.

The problem with this was that some parents used the system to impose their will on children for purposes not related to driving. This became apparent and the privilege was removed from the legislation. Once the child was licensed, the courts or the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles were the only entities that could cancel drivers licences.

If the child did not own their own vehicle, the only control that parents had was to restrict access to a vehicle. This is not as effective these days as many young people aged 16 and 17 do own their own vehicles.

There are still two tools of last resort that a parent can use to stop an irresponsible youth from driving before they harm themselves or others.

The first is a letter to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. If the Superintendent is satisfied that the youth presents a danger, he may prohibit the person from driving in the public interest. Police will enforce the prohibition.

The second is to withdraw consent for the registration and licensing of the youth’s vehicle by writing to ICBC. The licence plates will be cancelled, effectively ending the ability to drive that vehicle legally. The police will also enforce driving without proper vehicle licence.

This is not a step to be take lightly by parents. If the withdrawal of consent for registration and vehicle licensing is abused, no doubt it will also be removed from the legislation as well.

References:

Imposing a 30 km/h Speed Limit in Residential Areas

30 km/h speed signCurrently, the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act sets a speed limit of 50 km/h on municipal streets when a different speed limit has not been posted by signs. A recent survey by Research Co. found that 58% of British Columbians would definitely or probably like to see residential speed limits of 30 km/h. This past fall the Union of B.C. Municipalities resolved to ask the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to allow municipalities to set this blanket speed limit.

Municipalities already have the power to implement 30 km/h speed zones anywhere within their boundaries through the use of signs. The amendment would save the effort and expense of installing more signs.

There are five justifications to make the change in this resolution:

The provincial government surveyed municipalities in 2015 as part of the Road Safety Strategy. Not surprisingly, the top two issues of concern reported were vehicle speeds and pedestrian safety.

What should be surprising is that the survey also found that formal municipal road safety program components are rare. Less than one third have a formal mandate to improve road safety and few have developed visions, plans or targets.

Less than half of municipalities have committees with a road safety mandate or road safety improvement programs or projects.

Of 9 potential sources of road safety data suggested, most municipalities relied on public comments and complaints instead of something like a Sustainable Transportation Assessment for Neighbourhoods.

Residents usually request traffic calming changes on their streets to remedy safety issues. Municipalities such as Maple Ridge, North Cowichan and West Kelowna do have policies in place for this. They follow the Canadian Guide to Neighbourhood Traffic Calming produced by the Transportation Association of Canada. It’s expensive to buy and is not available to read for free on line or in my local library so we can to refer to chapter 2 of the B.C. Community Road Safety Toolkit instead.

What do you think our provincial government’s response to this request will be?

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

Most people have health insurance coverage during their working years, but their employer picks up at least some of the cost. For retirees, the economics of buying similar coverage may not add up. Here’s why.

Read more

Is your credit card’s travel insurance enough?

The excerpted article is by MoneySense

At last, your highly anticipated vacation is around the corner. As you count off the days on your commute to work each morning, thoughts of anything going wrong while you’re away couldn’t be further from your mind. Besides, you’re pretty sure you’ve got travel health insurance through your credit card anyway, right?

Millions of Canadians have some travel health insurance coverage, either through a policy that comes with a premium credit card or an employer-sponsored health plan, says Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA). “Some of those are more than adequate for Canadians who travel this winter.”

The problem is that many of us aren’t clear on any of the policy details, which likely include restrictions based on length of stay, age, cost of treatment and any pre-existing conditions you may have. Often, those details aren’t that visible to the consumer, who may have only glanced at the marketing brochure that came with that card or workplace healthcare policy, says McAleer.

Many of these policies expire after age 64 and won’t cover you for a trip longer than 15 days. Or they can max out too soon, designed to pay for a drop-in clinic consult for a case of pink eye but not an emergency medical evacuation if you injure your spine while skiing.

In a recent survey, THIA found that only a little more than a quarter of respondents were clear about what’s covered by a travel policy they hold.

There are four “golden rules” of travel health insurance that Canadians should understand, says McAleer.

  1. Know your policy
    “Understand what your policy covers and what it doesn’t,” he says. Whether that means digging up the information that came with your credit card or workplace insurance, or understanding a new policy you’re planning to purchase, go over the fine print very carefully. Call the insurance company and get specifics if you have any questions.
  2. Know your trip
    Are you travelling as a snowbird, or are you going to go bungee jumping or scuba diving?” asks McAleer. You need to make sure your policy matches your trip and the risks you’re taking while you’re away. You’ll need more insurance for hiking the Inca Trail in Peru or scuba diving in Belize than you would for parking yourself on a beach for a week. The costs for emergency services outside of the country can be significant, particularly when you consider that 80 to 90% of Canadians vacation in the United States—“arguably the most expensive place for medical treatment on the planet,” says McAleer. “A code blue emergency—so, a life-saving emergency—not only could it cost you $10,000 a day, it could cost you $10,000 an hour, depending on how serious the emergency is.”
  3. Know your rights and responsibilities
    McAleer says consumers have a right to contact their insurer to ask for specifics about what’s covered, as well as to appeal if coverage gets denied. “But you’ve also got responsibilities,” he says. The first of those is to make sure you’re answering any medical questions correctly and accurately, “because if you don’t, [that] could lead to disappointment when you need it the least.” Barring a catastrophic situation where it’s simply not possible to do so, you also have a responsibility to contact your insurance provider, not your credit card company, before accessing medical services—otherwise, you may not be covered.
  4. Know your health
    If you’ve been to the doctor for anything beyond a regular checkup recently, you need to learn if those issues could be considered a dreaded “pre-existing condition” that your insurer will exclude from your coverage, says McAleer. If you do have something going on with your health, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay home, says Sivan Tumarkin, an insurance and disability lawyer. The key is to get a policy that’s designed to account for whatever you’ve got going on with your health. Manulife, for example, offers travel insurance that’s tailored to whatever pre-existing conditions the customer may have, he says. Note that it’s critical not to cut corners when describing any health issues you have.

“If you make a claim, they’ll pore through your records to find any arguments you’ve breached the policy,” he says.

Tumarkin advises against getting insurance from a travel agent. Because they’re not brokers, they can’t advise you in detail on what a policy will cover. Instead, go to a reputable insurance broker. These pros sell policies from a variety of insurance companies and will help you understand the options. If your employer or credit card coverage isn’t sufficient, a broker can find you a policy that will top you up should you need anything more than the basic drop-in clinic visit.

Vacation costs add up, so it can be tempting to go for a bargain-priced policy offered by your travel agent and travel website.

“Most people will go for whatever is cheapest, but there’s a reason why it’s priced that way,” says Tumarkin.

The Difficulty With Stop Signs

Stop LineOne wouldn’t think that stopping at a stop sign would be such a problem for drivers. It seems relatively simple, come to a complete stop, look both ways and then go if it is safe to do so. With the poor compliance rate, we should ask is the stop sign the best form of traffic control for intersections that are not controlled by traffic signals?

Let’s examine what making a proper stop means and where it has to be done. You may be surprised to learn that the stop sign itself simply tells you what you must do, not where you have to do it.

The simplest case is one where there is nothing at the intersection other than the stop sign. Here one must stop before entering the intersection itself and in a position nearest to the crossroad where a driver has a clear view of traffic approaching on that crossroad.

Where there is a marked crosswalk along with the stop sign a driver must stop before entering the crosswalk. Doing so will protect against a collision if the driver has failed to notice any pedestrians present.

One failure of our current Motor Vehicle Act is not including unmarked crosswalks in this requirement. Not all unmarked crosswalks are preceeded by a marked stop line to provide some protection for pedestrians.

The stop sign with a marked stop line seems to be the most difficult. Stop lines never seem to be placed at a point where the driver has a good view to the left and right if they stop as required. Consequently, stop lines are often ignored completely. The proper thing to do here is to stop at the line, move ahead to a point where you can see properly, stop again and then proceed after looking both ways to insure it is safe to do so.

Death by Stop Sign is an article in Psychology Today authored by John Staddon. He singles out the stop sign saying:

Look at the familiar stop sign. It does two bad things: First, it makes you look at the stop sign rather than the traffic—it distracts. Second, it doesn’t tell you what you need to know. It tells you to stop even when you can see perfectly well that there is no cross traffic. It shouts “don’t trust your own judgment!”

Dr. Staddon provides Britain as an example of how it should be done. Stop signs are a rare item beside their roads he says, you will find yield signs or their equivalent road markings instead. They have a lower collision rate than North America and yielding instead of stopping saves time and reduces pollution.

He also hints that the roundabout would be preferred over both stop and yield signs. These intersections can reduce collisions by 37% and fatal collisions by 90%.

So, until roundabouts become common in British Columbia, keep in mind that more than half of all collisions happen at intersections. Following proper stop sign etiquette places you in control in a high hazard area.

Reference Links:

 

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

 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest