Stop Signs & Red Lights, Honk, Honk, Honk!

“I almost lost my life at West Fourth and Blenheim in Vancouver this morning” reported a DriveSmartBC Twitter follower. “I was turning left. The traffic lights were red for the traffic on Fourth. I stopped for the stop sign on Blenheim, then moved into the intersection to make my turn. The vehicle approaching me from the opposite direction was speeding and didn’t even slow down for the stop sign. She went straight through!”

The first thought that I had was to wonder whether this woman missed seeing the stop sign or whether she was taking advantage of the red traffic light on the cross street to deliberately disobey her duty to stop.

It does not matter where you encounter a stop sign, the law requires a complete cessation of your vehicle’s (or cycle’s) movement at the proper place. Once you have stopped and yielded the right of way to other road users as the rules dictate, only then are you allowed to proceed with care.

This applies to traffic on Blenheim Street.

Don’t forget that you may have a duty to yield to the vehicle turning left, even if you are traveling straight through the intersection.

The red light is a different matter. This traffic signal is at an intersection, so drivers and riders on Fourth Street facing it are required to stop, wait for a green light, yield to traffic still lawfully in the intersection and then proceed if it is safe to do so.

The only exception to this is when making a right turn on red is not prohibited. However, you still have to come to a stop, yield as necessary and make your turn with care.

Throw a few pedestrians into the mix and the rules requiring a driver to yield become more complex.

The Twitter follower travels this route frequently and says that he is often subjected to the wrath of drivers behind him when he stops for the stop sign and the traffic light is red. Honk, honk, honk! How dare you slow me down!

This reminds me of the proverb look before you leap. This wisdom has been forgotten by many drivers as the tendency is to keep going rather than stop or slow down.

After years of observing this behaviour I often joked that I wanted to be assigned to a “bridge out” complaint. I would set up cones, park my police vehicle with the emergency lights flashing, stand beside the road holding a stop sign and watch everyone drive by and fill up the hole.

How Do We Define A Bad Driver?

Back Window Body Count GraphicHave you responded to our provincial government’s request for feedback on the setting of fair ICBC rates yet? The hope is to “introduce changes to the current system to make insurance rates more fair for British Columbians by making all drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour.” The implication here is that bad drivers don’t pay their fair share of insurance premiums.

That begs the not so simple question of just how do we define a bad driver?

Perhaps at the most basic level we have people who will never learn to be a good driver. For a multitude of reasons they will meet the basic level of obtaining a driver’s licence but never progress from there. According to one ICBC driver examiner that I know, passing the test means that you possess sufficient skill to drive without being a significant hazard to others.

The expectation is that you will improve from there.

So, what have you done to improve other than gain experience by driving on your own? Some of us take training required by our employers. Car enthusiast groups promote skill improvement among their members. The rest of us? Well, maybe we’re better than average drivers already and there is no need to improve.

I offered a free hour of driver improvement to DriveSmartBC visitors once and was not exactly inundated with people saying “Pick me!”

Again, for a variety of reasons, we may be a good driver but lose this ability, either abruptly or over time.

Maybe a good driver has a thorough understanding of the driving rules and always follows them. I’ll ask the question again, are you smarter than a learner driver? My experience in traffic enforcement has shown me that many drivers have incomplete knowledge on that subject yet possess a clean driving record.

Do you think that a good driver never drives while their ability is impaired? Drugs and alcohol immediately come to mind here, but fatigue, illness, disabilities and emotion are all factors that can impair our ability to drive well.

What about attitude? Looking at others, I see a lot of “I’m important, you are not. I’m in a hurry, get out of my way!” when I drive. There are also drivers who will readily admit to acts of civil disobedience when the traffic rules don’t suit them. Don’t like it? Don’t bother!

Do only bad drivers become involved in collisions? Hands up those of you among us who have never caused even the slightest damage let alone bumped into something that they should not have. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I lost the ability to do that while still in my teens.

Does being human automatically mean that you will always be a bad driver at some level? No matter how hard I try not to, eventually I make a driving error. Sometimes it is only luck or the skill of other drivers that prevents that error from becoming a collision.

It’s easy to point the finger at others and much more difficult to examine the same thing in ourselves. So, honestly, how do you define a bad driver?

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.

The Not-So-Professional Driver

I’m one of those odd drivers who tries their best to drive at or below the posted speed limit. I include the word below here as sometimes there is a need to slow down to less than the posted speed limit for safety reasons. This often has consequences for me when I have to share the road with other drivers who do not subscribe to my philosophy on road safety. A good example of this is looking in my rear view mirror and finding the Volvo logo on the grille of a heavy transport truck following me closely enough that I could count the bugs stuck to it.

This incident occurred on the Trans Canada Highway westbound between the Alberta border and Golden on a relatively long and steep downgrade while I was returning home from a family wedding in Banff. Road conditions were not the greatest as the winter damage had been done and road maintenance had not yet caught up. The shoulders were gravel covered, the lane markings were poor or non-existent and the road surface itself was uneven in places.

My preferred solution to this is to simply pull over and let the offender by. Better to inconvenience myself than to become involved in a collision. In this case, I had to wait to find a good place to do this and sweat out having that Volvo logo looming large behind me. The truck passed me before I was able to do so, but I was able to read the company name off the door of the truck cab.

If you are not content to just shrug your shoulders and mutter something about the driver’s ancestry under your breath, what can be done about incidents like this one?

Google is your friend. Most trucking firms today have a web site with contact information on it that you can use to telephone or send e-mail. A company that cares will listen to your side of the story, speak to their driver about it and take action that is fair and in their best interest. Repeated complaints about the same driver could result in dismissal.

Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) will accept complaints about commercial vehicle driving. Your complaint will be directed to the regional CVSE manager where the incident occurred. The manager has two options open to them, contacting the company and advising CVSE personnel in the region to keep the company in mind. This may have more weight than your personal complaint to the company as a clean National Safety Code record is important to a reputable trucking firm.

The police can take enforcement action based solely on your complaint if it is a credible one and likely to result in a conviction in traffic court. Take a look at the article on how to make an effective driving complaint to the police for more information. Like CVSE, the police are going to need either the licence plate information or company name on the truck itself. The licence plate information from the trailer is helpful, but much less useful for follow up.

The biggest hurdle with enforcement action is that you will be required to travel back to the jurisdiction of the incident to supply witness testimony if the ticket is disputed. The courts will not cover your travel expenses so it will be up to you to foot the bill.

Changes are on the horizon. When traffic court is replaced with adjudication by RoadSafetyBC witness information could be supplied in writing or by teleconference. Phase one of the two stage change process is currently under way and that is the implementation of electronic ticketing and fine payment. When that is completed, the shift to adjudication will occur, but there is no time line information available for that change. Enabling provisions for the system were added to the Motor Vehicle Act in 2012.

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.

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Driving penalties to go up, but at what ultimate cost?

Distracted driving penalties are increasing. Again.

And immediate roadside driving prohibitions (like those for impaired driving) might be coming.

Goodness. Much ado about distracted driving!

Would it be fair for distracted driving penalties to be as swift and severe as those for impaired driving?

Consider which behaviour is more deserving of swift and severe consequences.

Which is a clear, conscious choice?

Driving after drinking alcohol is a clear, conscious choice. Absolutely. But that’s not the offence.  The offence is doing so with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.05.

Depending on gender, weight and size, it could take as little as two or as many as five drinks over a two hour period to reach 0.05.

You might get it wrong. Adding to the problem, the consumption of any alcohol will impact on your ability to monitor that consumption!

Don’t you dare interpret me as making light of the serious problem of impaired driving, by the way.  I am simply comparing the 0.05 offence with distracted driving on the basis of conscious choice.

Neither cell phone use, nor texting can be “mistakenly” engaged in. Doing so while driving is a conscious choice.

A conscious choice to engage in an illegal driving behaviour that you know is dangerous. Doesn’t that cry out for swift and severe consequences?

Look at speeding as a comparison.

Exceeding a posted speed limit can occur absent-mindedly and results in a fine. Excessive speeding results in the immediate impoundment of your vehicle.

Do we need swift and severe consequences to curb distracted driving? Let’s look at the history of distracted driving penalties in British Columbia.

We prohibited distracted driving as of January 1, 2010, with a fine of $167.00.

A lack of effectiveness led to a change effective June 1, 2016.The fine increased from $167.00 to $368.00, along with 4 points there was a total financial hit for a first time offender of $543.00. A second offence resulted in fines and points costing up to $1,256.00.

That increase didn’t do much to change driver behaviours. According to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, the number of distracted driving tickets issued between June, 2016 and June, 2017 (44,000) was a reduction of only 13 percent from the year before.

Now we have another increase coming as of March 1, 2018. No change for first time offenders, but a second offence will come with up to a whopping $1,996.00 of fines and points.

When announcing the latest change, our Attorney General was quoted as saying: “Once implemented, this change will treat distracted driving as the serious high-risk behaviour that it is; one that is on par with impaired driving and excessive speeding”.

I agree. It is a serious high-risk behaviour on par with impaired driving and excessive speeding. But no, this change does not bring the consequences up to those levels.

A first offender will still drive way with a few hundred dollars of fines and points. We need swift and severe.

READ MORE HERE about Goodness. Much ado about distracted driving! 

Source: Paul Hergott, Personal Injury Lawyer

Source: DriveSmartBC

Slow Down, Move Over, Not!

On June 1, 2009 the Slow Down, Move Over law came into effect in British Columbia. Just in case you’ve never heard of it, when you approach an official vehicle stopped on the side of the road that is displaying flashing red, blue, white or yellow lights you must slow down and, if possible, move over before you pass it.

An official vehicle is any vehicle authorised under division 4.28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations to use flashing lights of those colours. This includes police, fire, paramedic, towing and public utility vehicles.

Think of it as the 70/40 rule: If the speed limit is 80 km/h or more, you slow down to 70 km/h. If it is lower than 80 km/h you slow down to 40 km/h.

After you have passed by, you may resume speed.

The whole idea of this law is to give the people who work on the side of the road a relatively safe place to conduct their business.

How difficult can it be? You see the flashing lights and check around you to see if it is safe to move over. If it is, you change lanes and begin to slow down. If it isn’t, you simply begin to slow down. In either case, you need to be at the correct speed before you pass by.

Don’t confuse the rule as permission to pass by at either 70 or 40 km/h as the case may be. Circumstances may require that you slow down more than this or even stop if necessary.

I know that the message has not gotten through to some drivers. The last time I passed a tow truck picking up a broken down vehicle on the right shoulder of a divided highway I moved over to the left and slowed down. The driver behind me caught up, changed to the curb lane and blew right on through.

A genuinely stupid move like this could qualify as driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway instead of a slow down, move over violation.

The fault is not always the passing driver’s however. I have come across situations where there was insufficient time to see the stopped official vehicle and safely carry out the slow down, move over requirement.

Section 138 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires that warning signs be put in place when work is being carried out on a highway. In fact, signs with a pink background are meant to advise of a temporary emergency situation.

Further, section 139 requires that temporary signs be set up limiting speed and how vehicles are to proceed in these situations as well. It is not uncommon to find work being done at the roadside with no warning signs in place.

I have also found an official vehicle parked well off the highway with yellow lights flashing while the worker’s task was being conducted even further off the highway. There should be guidelines for when it is appropriate to use flashing lights and when it is not.

If you read case law, the justice will often mention that is your responsibility as a driver to be able to respond safely to situations that may reasonably be encountered on the highway. A slow down, move over situation is one of them.

Police department creates zone for safer online sales in Abbotsford, B.C.

By Gemma Karstens-Smith

THE CANADIAN PRESS

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. _ Meeting a stranger to complete an online deal can feel risky, even for a veteran police officer.

Sgt. Judy Bird knows first-hand about the “sketchy” feeling that can come with buying or selling items on platforms like Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook.

“Even though you’re not doing anything wrong, it feels weird. You’re sitting in your car, waiting to meet somebody that you don’t know and hoping that this transaction goes well,” said Bird, spokeswoman for the Abbotsford Police Department in B.C.

Abbotsford police are trying to make online deals less risky by turning two parking stalls in front of the department’s headquarters into a space where people can meet safely.

The area is under video surveillance and close to the station’s front doors, in case safety issues arise during a deal.

“This provides one more safe place where people can meet others to make these transactions in a safer manner,” Bird said. “Most offenders will not come to the police department.”

Online forums advertising everything from smart phones to wedding decor are popular in the Fraser Valley and the vast majority of transactions are problem free, she added.

But classified ads have led to violence in the past in B.C.

In 2004, Marc Rozen was killed in his Vancouver apartment after he placed an ad in a local paper saying he wanted to sell an engagement ring appraised at $18,000.

Police said the 38-year-old was murdered for the jewellery.

A man identified by police as a gang member was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder in Rozen’s death.

Kijiji Canada spokesman Kent Sikstrom said a number of steps are taken to protect user safety on the sales platform, including technology that detects and removes potentially unsafe or illegal posts, and a customer service team that responds to listings flagged by users.

The company also encourages people to meet in public places like coffee shops to complete transactions, Sikstrom added.

“If you’re going to somebody’s house to pick up a couch, let’s say, or something heavier that you couldn’t transport to a coffee shop, we always recommend bringing a friend with you, making sure you inspect the quality of the items … maybe even agreeing to meet at those buy and sell zones as well. These are all great options,” he said.

Sikstrom added that anyone who experiences a crime should report it to police.

Police in Abbotsford are happy to provide a safe place for exchanges and will step in if a crime is committed, but officers can’t help if an item isn’t as advertised, Bird said.

People should not bring extra cash, and remember to never share personal information like social insurance numbers or banking details, she added.

“Though we are a very trusting community with good people, it’s important for us to also look after our own safety,” Bird said.

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