B.C. officer wins review after ticketing drivers for offences that didn’t happen

VANCOUVER _ A Delta, B.C., police officer who ticketed drivers for offences that didn’t happen has won a review of the suspension and demotion proposed by the province’s police complaint commissioner.

Const. Byron Ritchie was seeking a public hearing after a misconduct hearing upheld 11 allegations of deceit committed under the Police Act, in 2016.

Ritchie was seconded that year to the Greater Vancouver Integrated Road Safety Unit when a driver complained she had been pulled over while on her cellphone, but had instead been ticketed for not having insurance and not wearing a seatbelt.

Documents from the complaint commission investigation show the driver had proper insurance papers and was wearing a seatbelt but Ritchie told her she was “getting a break” because the combined fines for the offences were less than a ticket for distracted driving.

An investigation ordered by the complaint commission uncovered 10 similar incidents, but after learning of his demotion and other penalties, Ritchie requested a public hearing, arguing findings of fact made by the commissioner weren’t supported by the final investigation report.

Complaint commissioner Stan Lowe says a public hearing is not required to restore public confidence in the misconduct probe but retired provincial court judge James Threlfall has been appointed to review the record and make a final decision about any discipline.

If Threlfall supports Lowe’s decision, Ritchie would face demotion from first class to second class constable for 12 months and would also be suspended without pay for 22 days _ two days for each of the 11 offences _ and be required to work under close supervision for a year.

Transport Canada to make seatbelts mandatory on new highway buses by 2020

OTTAWA _ Transport Canada says it will soon require all newly built highway buses to have seatbelts.

The federal department said Wednesday it will make seatbelts mandatory on medium and large highway buses starting Sept. 1, 2020.

“We’ve all heard the message to buckle up over the years, and I think it’s time we brought this approach to highway buses too,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a release. “By having seatbelts on highway buses, we can help reduce injuries in severe collisions, such as rollovers, and improve safety for everyone.”

The department said it first proposed the change in 2017, and has consulted industry groups. It said it takes time to design and build vehicles so the date will allow enough time to make the changes.

Mandatory seatbelt use on buses has been in the spotlight since April 6 when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan. Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured.

A lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the players this week asked for a court order requiring all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan to be equipped with seatbelts.

A charter company reached by The Canadian Press said a lot of the newer buses already have seatbelts, but it’s tough for drivers to make sure people wear them for the duration of the trip.

“They get on the bus, they do up their seatbelt and the driver does the walkthrough and the seatbelts are on,” said Robbie Enns, a manager with KMJ Charters in Acheson, Alta. “Once the driver does the walkthrough, he goes and he drives and he can’t pay attention to it.”

Seatbelt use falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments, and is enforced by police in each area.

The provinces also have jurisdiction on any equipment requirements for buses that are already on the road so the new rules only apply to newly built buses.

Transport Canada said medium-sized buses are defined as having a weight over 4,536 kilograms.

It said small buses, with the exception of school buses, are already required to have lap and shoulder belts. The department said the new rules won’t apply to school buses, because they are already designed to protect children in a crash.

Operators could install them voluntarily if they meet Transport Canada’s requirements.

_ By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

ICBC & BC SPCA urge pet guardians to Drive Smart by keeping pets safe on summer road trips

According to a recent survey of ICBC’s customers*, 40 per cent of pet guardians plan to bring their pet on a road trip this summer. With only half of guardians saying they own a vehicle restraint or safety device for their pet, ICBC and the BC SPCA are urging drivers to drive smart and consider the safety of their pets when riding in a vehicle.

Of all pet guardians surveyed, only half (52 per cent) own a safety device, with cat guardians (85 per cent) more likely to own one over dog guardians (45 per cent). Cat guardians were also more likely to be consistent with its use – 87 per cent said they ‘always’ use a restraint versus dog guardians at 55 per cent. The reasons given for those that never or rarely used a restraint include that their pet is calm, that it’s safe for a pet to be loose, and that the trip is short.

ICBC and the BC SPCA recommend always using some form of safety restraint whenever travelling with a pet, even for mild-mannered pets or when running a quick errand around town. In the event of a crash, a loose animal can fly forward in your vehicle, causing further injury to themselves and to others in the vehicle. Pet harnesses/safety belts and hard-shell crates secured down are sound options.

To keep this member of the family safest, pets should never sit in the front seat, but be secured in the back seat or cargo area of an SUV or van. Most pet guardians reported that their pet rode in the back seat (50 per cent), while 18 per cent said their pet rode in the front seat, and 16 per cent rode in the cargo area.

Guardians should also take steps to prevent their pet from becoming a distraction to drivers. Distraction is the second-leading contributing cause of fatal crashes in B.C., killing 78 people a year. While three-quarters of respondents agreed that playing with a pet while driving is distracting, some pet guardians admitted to the following actions while driving:

  • Used arms to restrain pet’s movements when putting on the brakes, 14 per cent

  • Used arms to keep pet from climbing from the back seat to the front seat, 13 per cent

  • Reached into the back seat to interact with pet, 12 per cent

  • Allowed pet to sit on their lap, or held pet while driving, five per cent

  • Gave food to pet while driving, five per cent

  • Played with pet, 2 per cent

  • Taken a photo of pet, 1 per cent

Quotes:

“Part of driving smart is making sure everyone in the vehicle – including pets, are secured before leaving home,” said Lindsay Matthews, interim vice president responsible for road safety. “In the event of a crash, this prevents passengers from incurring further injury, while keeping the pet safe, too.”

“Many drivers consider a pet as part of their family,” said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA. “And as with any loved one that rides in your vehicle, we hope drivers will take steps to keep their dog or cat seated, secure and safe during every drive.”

One customer wrote, “A far greater concern I have relates to the distraction pets cause to the driver and thus danger to pedestrians and other members of the motoring public. I have witnessed persons driving, holding the dog or cat between themselves and the steering wheel. This does not provide any safety to the animal and certainly impedes the driver’s ability to adequately react.”

Drive Smart tips for pet guardians:

Tip #1: Use a safety device to protect your pet. Loose animals in the event of crash can become a projectile, injuring themselves and others in the vehicle. Animals can also pose a safety risk for first responders, as a disoriented and injured animal may try to attack an attendant or even cause another crash by running into traffic.

Tip #2: Let your dog be the backseat driver. Pets are safest when secured in the back seat or cargo area. For the same reason ICBC discourages children under 12 from sitting in the front seat of vehicle, the same safety risks of a deployed air bag can have devastating consequences for animals as well.

Tip #3: Prevent pet distraction by packing the essentials. Keep pets content by bringing food, water, dishes, bedding and toys. For road trips, it’s best to stock your vehicle with a pet first-aid kit. And plan for a pit stop every few hours – it’s good for drivers and pets alike to stretch and get fresh air.

Tip #4: Keep pets inside the vehicle while driving. While it’s tempting to let your dog hang his head out the window for the breeze, this can lead to eye injuries due to weather, heavy wind, fly debris or objects coming close to your vehicle. Disable your power windows to prevent your dog from accidentally opening a window, causing it to escape or have the window close on its neck.

Tip #5: Do not drive with your pet on your lap. This can prevent you from having full control of your vehicle. Your pet could also be seriously injured or killed by a deployed airbag in the event of a crash. Drivers can be ticketed for driving with ‘without due care and attention’, with a fine of $368 and six penalty points which comes with a fine of $300.

Tip #6: Secure your pet if travelling in the back of a pick-up truck. It is illegal and dangerous to travel with an unsecured pet in the exterior of a truck. If you must transport your pet in the back of a truck, the safest method is in a secured crate in the centre of your truck box. Learn more on the BC SPCA’s website.

Tip #7: If you’re not in the car, your dog shouldn’t be either. Vehicles can quickly heat up in summer weather, and can endanger your pet’s health. Even a car parked in the shade with the windows cracked open can get hot enough to cause heatstroke or death of an animal.

Visit the BC SPCA’s website or ICBC’s pet travel page for more safety tips.

*ICBC Customer Advisory Panel survey, taken June 2018, 1,557 total participants, 45 per cent identified as pet owners.

Drivers pocket savings by allowing their insurer to come along for the ride

By Dan Healing

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CALGARY _ When his auto insurance company offered him the option to pay lower rates, Justin Lam leaped at the chance, even though it meant allowing his insurer to electronically tag along with him on every trip.

The 39-year-old from Toronto downloaded TD Insurance’s Myadvantage app on his cellphone and started receiving scores out of 100 based on how fast he was going, whether his turns were too sudden, how hard he was braking and even what time of day he tended to get behind the wheel.

“They said there was no downside. So even if you score terribly on the app, the worse you could do is pay the same rate, with no discount,” Lam said.

The payoff arrived last month with his insurance renewal notice. With an average score in his first year of about 85, he said he is saving around 20 per cent, dropping his $1,800 annual bill to less than $1,500.

If a person doesn’t mind the loss of privacy and their driving will stand up to intensive scrutiny, usage-based insurance may be right for them, experts say.

Driver monitoring programs are generally delivered in two ways, by a smartphone app that “sleeps” until it senses driving has started, or by a telematics device plugged into the car’s diagnostic port. Both use GPS and sensors to collect information and send it wirelessly to the insurer’s website.

Drivers usually receive an enrolment discount of five or 10 per cent and then can earn up to another 15 to 25 per cent discount that is applied when their insurance policy is renewed.

Users can go online to see how their driving stacks up and make corrections. For example, the TD Myadvantage app allows the policy holder to delete a trip if he or she was actually a passenger.

The TD program is offered only in Ontario and Quebec, said Francois Langevin, assistant vice-president of product innovation, but the company is looking to expand it into other provinces.

He estimated that about 40 per cent of new auto insurance clients sign up, adding that’s similar to the industry average for these programs in Canada.

“If you’re a driver who drives low kilometres, doesn’t speed, and doesn’t have jerky driving, that kind of thing, then you have a lower likelihood of making a claim so you get a discount based on that driving behaviour,” said Kaitlynn Furse, spokeswoman for CAA South Central Ontario, which offers a service called CAA Connect that uses a telematics device plugged into the car.

Auto insurance falls under provincial regulation and so the rules vary across Canada.

Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Alberta, for instance, allow some but not all forms of usage-based insurance programs.

The other provinces and territories are considering allowing the programs but haven’t done so yet.

Provincial regulation has fallen behind the pace of technology, preventing insurers and clients from being able to harness the full potential of such programs, said senior policy adviser Rana Shamoon at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Canadians have far fewer choices than in the United States, where 49 jurisdictions have 10 or more insurers offering user-based programs, she said.

Fear that their information may be misused to raise their premiums or provide evidence against them in the event of a claim has hampered enrolment growth in telematics programs, said Andrew Lo, CEO of Kanetix Ltd., a company that helps consumers compare insurance products and rates.

According to a recent Kanetix survey, only 27.7 per cent of respondents in Ontario said they are interested in allowing their insurer to monitor their driving in return for discounted rates.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has identified potential issues with transparency and use of telematics data about driving habits, said Anne-Marie Cenaiko, manager of public education and outreach.

Federal and provincial privacy laws generally require data only be collected with informed consent and be used or disclosed only for the purpose for which it was collected, she said.

Living up to the expectations of his monitoring app is difficult at times, Lam said _ staying below the speed limit when all the traffic around is going faster can seem more hazardous than just keeping up.

He said he also found he was getting a few odd scores.

“It takes the app a while to realize you’ve stopped driving,” he said.

“One time, I dropped my phone on the ground as I was getting out of the car and I got a mark of, like, five for braking too hard.”

Ontario’s Doug Ford to make case for NAFTA deal to U.S. counterparts

By Shawn Jeffords

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Vowing to stand with the federal Liberals, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier-designate said he will travel widely in the United States in a bid to help bolster continuing and complex NAFTA talks.

Doug Ford emerged from a nearly hour-long meeting Thursday afternoon with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s ambassador to the United States, pledging his help in trade dispute. The businessman and owner of a label-making business with a branch in the U.S., leaned on his background in sales to tell reporters that he will help federal efforts by travelling to the U.S. to discuss trade with U.S. politicians.

“It’s going to be a full court press,” Ford said. “I’m going to be travelling to every single state because nothing is better than meeting someone eye-to-eye. I can get on the phone, but nothing is better than visiting someone eye-to-eye.”

Ford, whose Conservatives won a majority last week, will be continuing work begun by outgoing Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who spent months meeting with American governors stressing the importance of reaching a new NAFTA agreement. Ontario will not sit on the sidelines, he said.

“My friends, we must stand together during these critical negotiations because there’s so much at stake,” he said. “Jobs across our economy, workers and their families, entire communities are all counting on us to defend Ontario’s interests and Canada’s interest.”

Freeland said the trade discussions are a non-partisan issue and praised Ford and all of Canada’s premiers for presenting a united front to the U.S.

“We’ve been very effective as a country in playing as Team Canada in this very critical negotiation,” she said. “I’m really grateful for all the work that premier’s across the country have been doing in being part of the Team Canada effort. As premier-designate Ford has said, it really has been a non-partisan effort.”

Freeland, who had been Washington earlier Thursday meeting U.S. Ambassador Richard Lighthizer, said she told the trade czar she would be would be meeting with Ontario’s premier-designate this afternoon.

“I think he was a little bit surprised,” she said during brief introductory remarks before her meeting with Ford. “I think that was a very important signal and message of Canada being absolutely unified when it comes to this very important issue.”

Freeland said she also consulted Ford on retaliatory tariffs that will be imposed on the U.S. in response to “illegal” tariffs Donald Trump slapped on Canadian steel and aluminium imports.

`”On July 1, Canada’s retaliation list will come into effect,” she said. “I want to be clear with Canadians, this is a perfectly reciprocal, measured response.”

Earlier this week, Ford met with auto and steel industry representatives affected by the trade talks and said recent American tariffs on aluminium and steel would hurt jobs on both sides of the border.

Ford’s remarks Thursday echoed his support for the federal government during the tough trade talks. Ford said that while he understands Trump was sticking up for his country in recent remarks criticizing Canada and the prime minister, “name-calling” won’t help resolve disagreements on trade between the two countries.

His comments come after Trump called Trudeau  “weak” and “dishonest” in a Twitter tirade the weekend after the prime minister spoke against American tariffs on steel and aluminium.

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