New apps and the concern for accidents

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Road Safety Solutions for Your Neighbourhood

RoadSafetyThere is nothing like a near miss or collision to focus your mind on road safety. I often hear from people hoping to enlist my help in solving their issue. Requests have ranged from posting lower speed limits to constructing left turn lanes recently. Most people have already tried something on their own and are frustrated with what they see as the authorities not wanting to apply what they see as the solution.

We live in an age of access to information. In fact, there is so much of it on the internet that one has to be careful that they are reading reliable information instead of rants, rumours and opposing points of view. However, by doing some research with respected sources, you can create a logical, comprehensive identification of the problem and useful solutions to present to the authorities to deal with your issue.

ICBC maintains crash maps for the province that currently contain data from 2009 to 2014 showing casualty crashes, property damage crashes or both together. It is a bit cumbersome to locate a specific area, but you can find any place of interest with a little trial and error. This would allow you to accurately cite a collision history if there is one at your location. Causal factors for the collisions are not listed, but this information can be requested if crashes have occurred.

There are a number of Canadian organizations and universities that provide road safety audit guidelines. These PDF manuals are available for download by anyone with an interest. ICBC has applied audits as part of the Road Improvement Program. The aim is to solve both existing problems and design new roads more safely.

Traffic calming measures include more than just speed bumps. Drivers can be influenced by the environment they are in and slowed without using speed bumps or limit signs. Better Environmentally Sound Transportation is a BC non-profit that facilitates programs that includes one called Living Streets. According to their web site, it provides its participants with an opportunity to have positive and productive interactions with municipal planners and subsequently generates useful information for the future development of these neighbourhoods.

A good example of what one can do on their own is Matthew Boyd’s Feltham Village Project. Granted, he is a senior planner with BC Transit in Victoria, but the project is an objective look at issues in his neighbourhood along with suggested solutions. You could either borrow his solutions or follow his example and create a blog of your own.

To understand one Canadian road safety perspective clearly, I recommend reading No Accident – Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads by Neil Arason. Neil is also a Victoria resident who has significant experience in road safety research. He blogs about road safety problems and solutions as well.

So, if your two paragraph letter to city council requesting the installation of a stop sign at the end of your street was rejected and the safety issue is really important to you, do some research and try again. Justification may bring success or you may even be able to provide a better solution that is acceptable to everyone. Sometimes success requires learning and trying again.

Government, ICBC and police tackle distracted driving

Government, ICBC and police tackle distracted driving

With tougher penalties now in effect, ICBC, police and the B.C. government are teaming up to launch a month-long campaign to continue to combat distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for approximately one quarter of all fatal crashes in B.C.

Police across the province are still seeing drivers using their cellphones, particularly while waiting at an intersection or stuck in traffic. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions about distracted driving and a top excuse police hear. This is especially dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists at intersections.

The fact is the law applies whenever you’re in control of your vehicle – even when stopped at a light or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Studies show that drivers who are talking on a cellphone lose about 50 per cent of what is going on around them, visually.

Police are ramping up their enforcement of distracted driving across B.C. Cell Watch volunteers will also be roadside, reminding drivers to leave their phones alone. And ICBC road safety coordinators will be attending community events inviting the public to try a driving simulator to see firsthand how using a cellphone impacts your ability to drive safely.

The campaign features television and radio advertising as well as digital advertising. You can view an infographic on this month’s distracted driving campaign at


Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

“Distracted driving remains a serious concern and we’re committed to making our roads safer for everyone,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Our new stricter penalties are among the toughest in Canada and police are doing their part to change behaviours by enforcing the law across the province.”

Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

“Safety on our highways and in our communities remains our top priority,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We’re asking drivers to stay focused on the road and resist the temptation to use your phone for calls, texts, social media, maps or music. You’re five times more likely to crash if you’re using your phone while driving.”

Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee

“B.C. drivers know it’s against the law, but far too many still make excuses for their behaviour, and put themselves and others at risk by using their phone while driving,” said Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. “That’s why we’re cracking down on those who cannot police themselves. Even when you’re waiting at an intersection or stuck in traffic, the law is clear – you aren’t permitted to use your phone.”

Steve Crombie, ICBC’s vice-president responsible for road safety

“Insurance rates in B.C. are under incredible pressure from a number of external factors, primarily caused by an increasing number of crashes occurring on our roads – 300,000 crashes, or more than 800 every single day, in 2015 alone,” said Steve Crombie, ICBC’s vice-president responsible for road safety. “Many of these crashes are caused by high-risk driving behaviours, including distracted driving. It’s time we all commit to leaving our phones alone and avoiding other forms of distraction when we’re behind the wheel.”

Regional statistics*:

  • Every year, on average, 27 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in theLower Mainland.

  • Every year, on average, 10 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes onVancouver Island.

  • Every year, on average, 31 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in theSouthern Interior.

  • Every year, on average, 15 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.

*Police data from 2010 to 2014. Distraction: where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors including use of communication/video equipment, driver inattentive and driver internal/external distraction.

Media contact

Lindsay Olsen

GM Wins Ignition – Switch Trial, But Legal Woes Not Over

By Margaret Cronin Fisk and Laurel Brubaker Calkins

General Motors Co.’s victory in a Houston courtroom Thursday makes the carmaker three for three in trials related to an ignition-switch defect, but its legal entanglements may stretch on for years.

At least a dozen lawsuits are set for trial in the next year, according to court records. The next trial begins Sept. 12 in New York federal court in a lawsuit over the 2011 crash of a Chevrolet Cobalt in Virginia. The company also faces lawsuits by car owners claiming economic losses because of the reduced value of their vehicles.

In the Texas case, a jury of eight women and four men in state court took about an hour to reach its decision following a three-week trial. They determined that GM wasn’t liable for a 2011 accident that left Zach Stevens, then 19, with a brain injury after his 2007 Saturn Sky careened out of control on a rain-slick road and hit a pickup, killing the driver.

In 2014, GM recalled 2.6 million U.S. cars with ignition switches in danger of jostling off. Once the switch came off, the cars lost power and safety systems such as power steering, power brakes, air bags and seat belts were prevented from working as designed. The defect has been linked to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

Barra Testified

Jurors heard GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra testify by video that the company’s failure to properly classify the ignition flaw as a safety defect –- which would’ve triggered a mass recall –- was part of a “series of mistakes” that had “tragic consequences,” including some deaths.

But jurors weren’t convinced that Stevens’s accident was directly related to the ignition-switch defect. Plaintiffs’ credibility was questioned when they provided the wrong car key as evidence.

Flaws like that mean GM’s three wins so far won’t have much effect on the claims remaining, said plaintiff’s attorney Bob Langdon, who represents multiple accident victims suing the automaker.

Before Verdict

In one case, a federal jury in March blamed a New Orleans crash on a freak ice storm rather than a faulty ignition switch. The first trial fell apart before it went to a verdict when the plaintiffs were caught in a lie.

“People keep trying these cases where their client gets caught in a lie,’’ Langdon said. “You are not going to win those cases.’’

In addition, the two jury victories came in trials led by lawyers who aren’t experienced in auto-defect cases. Many of the remaining claims are being pursued by product-defect specialists.

“I’d like to see what happens in a very solid case with very experienced lawyers,’’ said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

GM shares rose less than 1 percent to $31.66 at 10:25 a.m. in New York on Friday.

Often with product-defect cases, the first claims are won by the defense, then the pattern flips, Tobias said. The plaintiffs’ lawyers “become more educated over time,’’ he said. “They figure out what they’re doing wrong. It turns and the defense gets serious over settlement talks.’’

The number of lawsuits claiming ignition switch failures caused deaths or injuries continues to grow. Last month, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled GM had to face even more, by reversing a decision dismissing suits over accidents before the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

‘Hate of GM’

GM may have a tougher time winning cases in the future judging by the post-trial comments of jurors in the Texas case.

“There was some hate of GM in the room,” said juror Deanna Harner, a 43-year-old corporate finance executive who said it was “pretty despicable” the carmaker knew about the defect but failed to warn customers.

Walter Kimble, a 58-year-old home inspector, said Stevens’s lawyers didn’t give him “anything I could work with.”

“I held my nose and did my job,” Kimble said. “I wanted so desperately to make that young man a millionaire.”

By Bloomberg Technology


GM recalling about 368,000 vehicles to fix windshield wipers

General Motors is recalling nearly 368,000 vehicles to fix a defective part that could prevent the windshield wipers from working.

The problem affects the 2013 models of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. GM says those vehicles were built with ball joints that could corrode and wear out to render the windshield wipers inoperable.

A report filed with government regulators says a GM manager in Canada spotted the potential safety hazard last December. The auto manufacturer opened an investigation in March and decided to issue a recall earlier this month.

GM says it will cover the repair costs once it determines when it will be able to fix the problem.

Chevrolet Equinox owners can call 1-800-222-1020 and GMC Terrain can call 1-800-462-8782 for further information.


Auto, technology industries clash over talking cars

By Joan Lowy


WASHINGTON _ Cars that wirelessly talk to each other are finally ready for the road, creating the potential to dramatically reduce traffic deaths, improve the safety of self-driving cars and someday maybe even help solve traffic jams, automakers and government officials say.

But there’s a big catch. The cable television and high-tech industries want to take away a large share of the radio airwaves the government dedicated for transportation in 1999, and use it instead for superfast Wi-Fi service. Auto industry officials are fighting to hang on to as much of the spectrum as they can, saying they expect they will ultimately need all of it for the new vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V.

The government and the auto industry have spent more than a decade and more than $1 billion researching and testing V2V technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to propose as early as next month that new cars and trucks come equipped with it. General Motors isn’t waiting for the proposal, saying it will include V2V in Cadillac CTS sedans before the end of the year.

“We’re losing 35,000 people every year (to traffic crashes),” said Harry Lightsey, a General Motors lobbyist. “This technology has the power to dramatically reduce that. To me, the ability of somebody to download movies or search the internet or whatever should be secondary to that.”

The fight pits two government agencies against each other: the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates spectrum and sympathizes with wireless proponents, and NHTSA, which regulates auto safety and has long made V2V a top priority. The White House, which is currently reviewing NHTSA’s proposal to require the technology in new cars, is caught between two of its goals: greater auto safety and faster wireless service.

With V2V, cars and trucks wirelessly transmit their locations, speed, direction and other information ten times per second. That lets cars detect when another vehicle is about to run a red light, is braking hard or is coming around a blind turn in time for the driver or, in the case of self-driving cars, for the vehicle itself to take action to prevent a crash.

V2V’s range is up to about 1,000 yards in all directions, even when sight is blocked by buildings or other obstacles. That gives the technology the advantage of being able to detect a potential collision before the driver can see the threat, unlike the sensors and cameras of self-driving cars that sense what’s immediately around the vehicle.

In May, a Tesla Model S sedan in “autopilot” mode crashed into the side of a tractor-trailer that was making a left turn, killing the Tesla driver and drawing attention to the limitations of self-driving technology. The accident is still under investigation, but auto industry experts say that if the two vehicles had been equipped with V2V, the crash likely would have been avoided.

The government estimates that V2V could eventually prevent or mitigate more than 80 per cent of collisions that don’t involve a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Ultimately, self-driving cars also equipped with V2V may be the answer to traffic congestion because they’ll be able to synchronize their movements, industry officials say, so that they can merge seamlessly and travel in long, closely packed caravans at higher speeds. That would improve traffic flow and increase highway capacity. Cars will also communicate with traffic signals to make intersections more efficient.

“It’s these two technologies converging together that get you to the self-driving utopia that we’re all shooting for,” said Hilary Cain, Toyota Motor’s technology and innovation policy director.

Those who want more of the airwaves for Wi-Fi say that with self-driving cars on the horizon to eliminate human errors, the safety benefits of V2V are less important. They point out that it could be more than 20 years before the full benefits of V2V are realized, because it takes decades for the automotive fleet to be completely replaced.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel derided V2V as a turn-of-the-century technology at a forum on the matter earlier this year. “For 15 years we haven’t substantially deployed a thing in this band with respect to auto safety,” she said, calling for more “efficient” use of the spectrum.

As the airwaves grow more congested with traffic such as video chat and streaming, new, unreserved swaths of spectrum are seen as key to creating the “wider pipe” needed to meet demand.

Automakers say they’re willing to share the spectrum, but only if it won’t cause V2V signals to be dropped or slowed. The safety signals need to transmit 10 times faster than a typical cellphone call and be 100 per cent reliable. The FCC plans to test proposals to share the airwaves.

Meanwhile, wireless supporters have petitioned the FCC for an emergency order to put off using V2V in the contested spectrum until cybersecurity standards are developed. Automakers contend that such safeguards already are built in.


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