New Uber feature to force drivers to take a break after 12 straight hours

By Tara Deschamps

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Uber drivers in Canada trying to work for more than 12 hours straight will soon be forced to take a six-hour break before they can hit the road again.

The new policy being rolled out at the beginning of next week will be enforced through the company’s ride-hailing app, which will block drivers from accepting customers after a half a day of consecutive work.

Uber Canada’s general manager Rob Khazzam said the introduction of the feature follows similar moves made by the company in other countries, as part of an effort to curb driver drowsiness and make the platform safer.

According to research conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, 26 per cent of all fatal and injury crashes are attributed to driver fatigue, and in 2006, as many as 167,000 Ontario drivers were involved in at least one crash due to fatigue or drowsiness.

Similarly, an Insurance Corporation of British Columbia survey from 2014 found 30 per cent of respondents admitting to nodding off behind the wheel.

Khazzam called Uber’s new feature “common sense.”

“If you’re a rider, you don’t want to get into a car with a driver who has been driving more then 12 hours,” he said. “But positively on the drivers’ side, we continue to give them flexibility.”

The feature does constitute a notable shift for Uber, which has long touted a hands-off approach with its employees, leaving work hours and locations up to the drivers to choose.

But Khazzam said most Uber drivers won’t even encounter a block on accepting rides because the “vast majority” are behind the wheel for fewer than 15 hours a week.

The forthcoming feature will allow drivers to check how much time they have before a mandatory break and will notify them when they have two hours, one hour and 30 minutes before they’ll have to rest.

The app will not count periods when a driver is parked for more than one minute between trips and doesn’t account for drivers who may also be working for a competitor like Lyft.

Uber first experimented with stopping drivers from accepting fares after multiple consecutive hours in a handful of U.S. cities and Australia last fall. In January, it brought the feature to the U.K. and launched it nationally in the U.S. earlier this month.

It comes on top of a separate 2017 initiative from the company that gave drivers access to data about their speeding and braking habits, in hopes of boosting safety.

Though he couldn’t talk about any further safety features or policy changes that might be in the works, Khazzam said that “people should expect more from us on this front.”

Your auto insurance will be cheaper if you sign up in this month

Your auto insurance rate is cheaper if you sign up when the weather is warm. That’s the key takeaway from a two-year price analysis by LowestRates.ca.

The financial product comparison website found that rates quoted in Ontario were at their lowest between July and October, dipping by as much as six per cent in August 2017 from the annual average. The colder months, between January and April, saw the average rate spike by over six per cent in February. The same pattern was observed in 2016.

LowestRates.ca managing editor John Shmuel said he believes similar seasonal price swings play out in other provinces where auto insurance is not publicly managed.

“We were really surprised by the data,” he told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. “Summer, in general, is a great time to get auto insurance.”

Insurers base their pricing on a combination of you and your vehicle. Age, sex, marital status, postal code and driving history all factor in. More expensive cars that are pricier to fix and models that see a higher volume of claims are costlier for drivers to insure.

The season in which you get your quote factors in because more people buy cars in the summer. Insurance companies in Ontario’s competitive market are eager to undercut one another to capture the annual flurry of new business, Shmuel explains.

“Ontario has a lot of insurance companies. We believe that these insurance companies are artificially lowering their prices,” he said.

Canada’s 2017 new light vehicle sales did in fact peak during the summer, according to data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. But the largest monthly volume, with 200,400 vehicles sold, was April, a month when auto insurance rates were found to be 3.7 per cent above average.

Vehicle sales statistics fell more in line with the price trend for auto insurance during the winter. January was the low point for sales (108,600). That month was found to have the second highest auto insurance rates, six per cent above average, virtually the same as February’s 6.1 per cent increase.

“No one wants to test drive a car in the snow. It’s stressful. It isn’t fun. You don’t want to be driving your new car when there is all this salt on the ground,” Shmuel said. “It (sales) correlates with the seasons.”

Drivers looking for lower rates may not have the option to wait for summertime insurance rates. Like most financial products, auto insurance rates can be negotiated. There are several ways to lower your premium. Customers can ask for their deductible to be increased, bundle auto insurance with other insurance products, or remove some parts of comprehensive coverage, for example.

Arming yourself with relevant data can help you haggle if you are forced to buy when prices are above average.

“You can definitely speak to a representative at your insurance company if you feel like you are not getting a good quote,” Shmuel said.

What Causes Crashes and How Do We Know?

Intersection CrashIf you have been following the news this week you will know that the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission has proposed time over distance speed cameras in an attempt to reduce serious collisions on the Malahat Highway. One result of this has been a discussion on Twitter about whether this is a justifiable solution or not.

On one hand we have a group that holds the belief that the major contributing factor to those crashes is speed. They want to try the speed cameras to see if it will reduce the number of collisions. On the other hand you have a group that says before you try this, show us that speed really is a significant contributing factor before we discuss trying a solution.

The provincial government is willing to entertain the idea and has done a road safety analysis on that section of the Trans Canada Highway. The last page of that report lists the 12 most common first contributing factor reported by the police and shows that the top three are driving without due care and attention, speed and weather.

No numbers are given, just that they form about 35% of total injury and fatality crashes.

I’ve completed many MV6020 collision reports in my career. I know that the form allowed me to list up to three contributing factors for a collision in descending order of importance. The choice of these factors by police are based on investigation, experience and opinion. They can also be subjective.

From my experience investigating collisions, both driving without due care and weather most often have a speed component, whether it be speed over the limit of speed relative to conditions.

Many other factors may have a speed component as well. What is recorded primarily as following too closely could be part of an attempt by the offending driver to bulldoze the vehicle in front out of the way so that they can continue their trip at a speed in excess of the limit.

The government removed the requirement to report a collision to police from the Motor Vehicle Act in July 2008. I suspect that this has made determining the cause of minor collisions even less accurate than it was prior to that date. To some extent, knowing about minor collisions is important in predicting the potential for major collisions.

Major collisions are most often investigated by experienced traffic officers along with collision analysts and reconstructionists. These are well documented and reported. Serious injury and fatal collision data with speeding involvement numbers should be reliable.

If you want to know where the collisions are occurring, you can visit ICBC’s crash maps and select Malahat. You will find that there were 27 casualty and 52 property damage only crashes from 2011 to 2015. A small number perhaps, unless you are one of those numbers or find yourself waiting in traffic for them to be cleared.

For what it’s worth, I think that you can reasonably assume that speed is a contributor to crashes on the Malahat from this and that along with the current highway improvements point to point speed cameras could make a positive difference. We should try.

Quebec coroner’s report into ride sharing death a warning to users

By Sidhartha Banerjee

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL _ A Quebec coroner is warning ride-sharing users they don’t have any guarantees about the state of the vehicle they’re getting into.

Dr. Jean Brochu said raising awareness was his main goal in a report into the October 2016 death of Katy Torres Davila of Gatineau, Que.

Torres Davila, 30, was a University of Ottawa doctoral student who died after the AmigoExpress car-sharing vehicle in which she was a passenger slammed into a minivan in the oncoming lane on Highway 40, west of Montreal.

She was travelling to Montreal for Thanksgiving and was using the intercity carpooling service, which links drivers and potential passengers seeking rides.

Drivers post their rides and the empty seats in their vehicle, and passengers search for the match that gets them where they need to go.

“In spite of what they write on their internet sites, these groups express wishful thinking when they say that the car will be in good condition and the driver will be competent,” Brochu said in an interview Tuesday.

The coroner found that although the car was just four years old (a 2012 model), an inspection showed worn back brakes and threadbare tires. There was also heavy rain on the day of the accident.

“As soon as the pavement became wet, the driver lost control and the young lady was killed,” Brochu said.

The driver exercised her right to not take part in the coroner’s probe, the report noted.

Brochu stopped short of recommending inspections for all vehicles, a practice that exists in Japan and in several European Union countries.

“The recommendation has been made before to the (Quebec automobile insurance board) and it was not well received,” Brochu said. “I’m not sure either that the public would be very happy about a recommendation making vehicle inspections compulsory.”

But the coroner says he wants the public to know that unlike buses, taxis, or heavy vehicles, private vehicles used in increasingly popular carpooling or ride-sharing services are not subject to compulsory inspections.

That said, Brochu noted the companies probably have very good cars and drivers. But he added that, given the voluntary nature of the business model, there’s no way for the firms to check or control the compulsory inspections of the cars.

He said most drivers take good care of their vehicles.

“I think it’s a matter of common sense,” Brochu said. “No one wants to ride around in a vehicle that puts you at risk of ending up in a ditch at any moment.”

AmigoExpress, which has 480,000 members, said in a statement it is in favour of stricter rules governing cars on the road and would welcome the possibility of imposing periodic mechanical inspection.

Is It Legal For The Police To Drive Like That?

The C.F.S.E.U. was in the news this week, probably not in the way they would have liked. You may have seen the dash cam videos from Richmond showing a number of vehicles apparently brazenly running red lights. The story hit the news amid amazed comments about how bad drivers were becoming in the Lower Mainland. In later days it was revealed that these were unmarked police vehicles doing surveillance on gang targets.

Is it legal for the police to drive like this? The answer is a qualified yes.

When I started policing in 1981, section 122 of the Motor Vehicle Act gave the operators of emergency vehicles the authority to disregard the rules in Part 3. This part contains the rules on speed, stopping and lane use to mention a few examples.

Fire apparatus and ambulances were required to use flashing lights and a siren in all circumstances and the police could use lights and siren, lights alone or no emergency equipment at all depending on the circumstances. In all cases, due regard for the situation must be continuously considered.

In early 1998, section 122 was amended to require adherence to the Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation (EVDR) when disregarding Part 3 requirements. With that change came mandatory training for emergency vehicle drivers before they could exercise these privileges.

The regulation defined in much more detail what could and could not be done along with justification needed to do so. It particularly restricted pursuit by police and loosened response requirements for fire and ambulance.

In all cases, the risk to the public using the highway must be outweighed by the risk of not making an emergency response.

Returning to the story from Richmond, this was not a pursuit as defined in the EVDR. It was a situation covered by section 4(2)(b) instead and is permitted as long as the public was not subject to unwarranted risk.

In the limited view provided by the dash cam videos that were shared, I did not see more than what would cause some surprise and consternation for surrounding traffic. There were no instances shown were civilian drivers had to slam on the brakes or make abrupt moves to avoid a collision.

I am not going to say that there was not a higher than normal risk present for everyone involved. There was, but it appeared to me that care was exercised to minimize it.

In order not to jeopardize the investigation, it may be some time before the reasons for this incident can be shared with the public.

Also, considering the wide publicity given to this incident, I don’t doubt that police are actively trying to find a better way to follow their criminal targets. I can’t think of a better way to confirm to the bad guys that they are under investigation than incidents like this.

Slick roads lead to multiple crashes, including a 50 car pileup, on Calgary roads

By The Canadian Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CALGARY _ Roads in and around Calgary are slick, leading to more than 100 crashes _ including a 50-car pileup _ since a snowstorm went through Thursday.

Emergency crews responded around 9 a.m. Friday to a multi-vehicle crash on Stoney Trail between Chaparral Boulevard and Cranston Boulevard in the southern edge of the city.

It took five hours for crews to reopen the roadway Friday afternoon after more than 50 vehicles were involved in the pileup.

At least eight people were transported to hospital in stable condition.

Several drivers involved in the crash told CTV Calgary that a wall of thick fog made it difficult to see what was in front of their vehicle.

Roads are also extremely slippery, particularly on bridge decks, hills, intersections and exit ramps.

Officials are advising people to avoid driving, if possible, but say those who must travel should plan ahead, drive to the conditions and give crews room to work.

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