I’ll Drive if I Want to

Devil's HeadI watched a television news story about a traffic collision that interviewed family members exiting the courthouse. One of the people lamented that if the known bad driver had been prohibited from driving the whole incident that brought them there never would have happened. If only it were that simple, because a driver will only stop driving after being prohibited if they want to comply with the law.

My contact with a driver like this began when I stopped a business vehicle for speeding. The driver was the sole proprietor of the business and had been prohibited from driving for, you guessed it, too many speeding tickets. He explained to me that if he couldn’t drive, he couldn’t carry on his business and his family would be in trouble. I did feel sorry for his plight but dealt with him as the law required.

Fast forward a few weeks and I saw the same business vehicle in traffic again. Knowing the owner’s prohibited status I stopped it and found the same man behind the wheel. He was taking his son to the boy’s Little League baseball game. This was obviously a drive for pleasure and had nothing to do with earning money to support his family.

I’ve also had conversations with ICBC Driver Examiners in the past. Occasionally they would have a senior to re-examine and after a road test would fail the driver. Many of them would hand in their driver’s licence, return to their vehicle and drive home.

ICBC traffic ticket statistics show an average of about 2,400 driving while prohibited charges under the Motor Vehicle Act each year from 2014 to 2018. There were also about 310 criminal charges for driving while disqualified annually during that time frame.

In an attempt to make punishment immediate for drivers who drive without a licence or are prohibited from driving, the BC government created the Vehicle Impoundment Program in 2005. Police are required to impound vehicles when these drivers are found on our highways. This usually happens through Automated Licence Plate Recognition or because the driver commits a traffic rule offence.

There is a 7 day impoundment for the first infraction, a 30 day impoundment for a second infraction and a 60 day impoundment for a third or subsequent driving infraction within a two year period.

An unintended consequence of this program is the number of vehicles being abandoned in lieu of paying the accumulated towing and storage charges.

To make a long story short, this man is one of many drivers who will follow the traffic rules when they suit him and won’t when they do not. This sense of entitlement is visible on our highways every day. Unfortunately, the only way to stop some prohibited drivers from driving is to lock them up.

Reference Links:

Making a Driving Complaint to Police

 

Q&A ImageHave you ever felt upset enough about something that happened around you in traffic that you wanted to report it to the police? I’m sure that we’ve all felt that way at one time or another but haven’t followed through because we didn’t know if it was worthwhile or if anything would happen to the offending driver if we did. Here is what you need to know in order to make an effective driving complaint to police in BC.

Probably the single most important piece of information to gather is the license plate number of the offending vehicle. Write it down and keep the paper that you wrote it on to refer to later in court. At the very least, this is all that the police need to start an investigation with. Details of the who, what, where, when and why come next. The more you can recall and provide to the investigator the more likely that the investigation will result in charges against the offending driver. Like the license plate number, write these down at the first possible opportunity so that they will not be forgotten.

If the driving behaviour is serious and could result in immediate harm to others call 911 and make the report immediately. If this is not the case, a call to the police non-emergency number for the area the incident occurred in as soon as reasonably possible is sufficient. After you have provided the particulars of your case, ask for and record the file number of your complaint. All complaints are given a file number and this is what you will need if you follow up on your complaint at a later date.

There are three levels of involvement in a driving complaint. From least effective to most effective, they are:

  1. You report the incident as an anonymous complainant
  2. You report the incident, identify yourself, but decline to become involved any further.
  3. You report the incident, identify yourself and commit to attending court if necessary.

If you report as an anonymous complainant, all that the police can do is patrol the area of your complaint and react to something that they see the suspect vehicle do, if anything. This type of complaint is usually assigned a low priority.

If you identify yourself but decline a court appearance, the police can patrol for and try to intercept the vehicle as they would for an anonymous complaint. If it is found the driver can be advised of the complaint and cautioned about their driving. If the registered owner is not driving or the vehicle is not located, police may choose to send a cautionary letter to them advising how their vehicle was being used and leaving it up to them to deal with the driver.

If you identify yourself and commit to a court appearance if necessary, patrols will be made and an investigation started. You will be asked for a written statement of the details of the incident. This importance of this is twofold, the police have full details of the incident recorded and you have an accepted method of refreshing your memory for court purposes.

When I started an investigation like this, I would identify the registered owner of the offending vehicle and visit them personally. I would advise them that their vehicle had been involved in a breach of the Motor Vehicle Act and require them to identify the driver to me. Failing to do this is an offence, even if it is the registered owner who was driving at the time. I now had a driver I could deal with directly or I could charge the registered owner for the original offence and failing to identify the driver.

My next step was to speak with the driver. I would outline the complaint to them, advise them that they did not have to say anything in response, but if they chose to explain I would listen and possibly choose to use the explanation in court if it came to that point. At this point in the investigation, I now had to decide on the success of a prosecution if I charged the offending driver. If there was a substantial possibility of conviction I would charge (usually by way of a violation ticket). If not, I would caution the driver if it was appropriate.

In either case, I would then call the complainant back and tell them what had occurred.

If the offending driver was charged it did not always result in a dispute and court appearance for the complainant. These incidents usually involved driving behaviour that was significantly out of the ordinary and many of the tickets were paid or ignored and subsequently deemed convicted when 30 days had passed from the date of issue.

When the ticket is disputed, you can at the very least expect a telephone call from the investigator telling you when and where the dispute will be held if you don’t receive a paper subpoena. Take your notes with you on the court day and be a few minutes early to deal with parking, finding the courtroom and speaking with the investigator who will most likely also be the prosecutor. When the case is called, you will be asked to recount the incident to the court, and then answer any questions from the prosecutor and then the accused or their lawyer.

That’s all there is to it. Even though the formal atmosphere of the court can be intimidating, if you relax it is not an unpleasant experience. Once you have testified, you may sit in the court and watch the rest of the proceedings, including the court’s decision on the guilt of the offending driver. If they are convicted, you will know the penalty. If not, you.

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

Police focus on impaired drivers for August Traffic Safety Spotlight

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​ICBC & police warn impaired drivers ahead of long weekend

​ICBC & police warn impaired drivers ahead of long weekend

This B.C. Day long weekend, our roads will be busy with some British Columbians choosing to travel throughout the province for a getaway and others visiting local parks and restaurants. No matter what your plans are, if you plan to drink, don’t drive.

Police will be setting up CounterAttack roadchecks across the province to get impaired drivers off our roads. If you’re caught driving impaired, you could end up paying in a number of lasting ways – from increased insurance premiums to fines, car impoundment or even jail time.

On average, four people are killed and 620 people injured in 2,200 crashes across the province over the B.C. long weekend.*

5 ways to stay safe on your road trip:

  1. If you’re away from home, you may not be familiar with all of the options available to get home safely after you’ve had a few drinks. Check your options such as taxis, ride sharing, transit or shuttle services before you head out and save the information into your cell phone so you can relax knowing you have a plan to get home safely.

  2. Most crashes on B.C. Day long weekend occur on Friday so plan to leave on Thursday or Saturday morning if possible to avoid traffic congestion and possible delays. You should also make sure you get a good night’s sleep to avoid getting fatigued behind the wheel. Plan your route on drivebc.ca and include rest breaks or switch drivers every two hours.

  3. Do a pre-trip check and check your engine oil, coolant levels and lights, and inspect your vehicle tires, including the spare, to make sure they’re in good condition and properly inflated. Make sure any camping or outdoor equipment is securely tied down to your vehicle before you take off.

  4. Summer means more motorcyclists on our roads so it’s vital to scan as you approach an intersection. Be ready to yield the right-of-way when turning left and keep in mind that it can be hard to tell how fast motorcyclists are travelling.

  5. Be patient with R.V. drivers if they’re travelling below the speed limit in mountainous areas as they’re likely going uphill as fast as they can. If you’re driving your RV this weekend, be courteous and pull over when it’s safe to do so to let others by. This is much safer than a driver making an unsafe pass out of frustration.

Regional statistics*:

  • Over the B.C. day long weekend, on average, 420 people are injured in 1,400 crashes in the Lower Mainland every year.

  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, on average, 94 people are injured in 380 crashes in the Southern Interior every year.

  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, on average, 26 people are injured in 130 crashes in North Central B.C. every year.

  • Over the B.C. Day long weekend, on average, 75 people are injured in 330 crashes on Vancouver Island every year.

* Five-year annual average. Crash and injury data is ICBC data (2015 to 2019). Fatality data is police data (2014 to 2018). B.C. Day long weekend is calculated from 18:00 the Friday prior to B.C. Day to midnight on B.C. Day.

#DriveSmartBC – Stay Between the Lines

 

Traffic IslandOne sure sign of growing up when we were young was the ability to use our crayons and colour between the lines. An important skill for a “grown-up” driver is also the ability to stay between the lines. Judging by the e-mails that I continually receive from readers who state that this is their main pet peeve, there is a sizable number of drivers out there who need to do a bit more skill improvement.

Staying centered in your lane is not difficult. Here’s a beginner’s tip from the Tuning Up Guide:

The first thing you may notice as you begin driving in moderate traffic is that you have to stay in the centre of your lane. To start with, this is no easy task. The magic rule: look the way you want to go. If you keep looking 12 seconds ahead down the centre of the lane, your peripheral vision will help you centre yourself.

If you haven’t been on the inside of a curve lately and met an oncoming driver part way over the center line into your lane, a quick look at the lines painted on the road will tell you that many tires have passed over the paint and worn it away.

It shouldn’t matter if you cross over the lines when no one is coming should it? Well, it’s both illegal in that situation and will end up in a collision the first time you fail to see the oncoming vehicle. It will be really interesting if that driver is doing the same thing!

Perhaps more common still is the encroachment onto the shoulder when drivers go around a corner. This territory is the domain of pedestrians and cyclists, your vehicle does not belong there. It’s hardly likely that you would be injured or killed in a collision here but the same cannot be said for the unprotected shoulder users.

Should vehicles have to become smarter than their drivers? Your next new vehicle may have lane keeping assist to help you stay where you are supposed to be.

One side effect of this safety feature will be enforcement of signalling lane changes. If you fail to signal your lane change, the system will see this as a drift to one side and will take action to alert you.

Here in Canada, winter snow hides the lines on the road. Unless it is unsafe to do, your guide is the tire tracks left by the vehicles that have already been driven there.

So, show a little pride in your ability to be a mature, skillful driver. Keep your vehicle inside that 3.6 meter wide space between the lines. This will also show your respect for other road users and help to keep them safe. If you cannot, it’s time to put your crayons back in the box and let someone else do the driving.

References:

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

A more controlled method of managing events when claims outstrip available funds to cover them JOHN NEAL, CEO, LLOYD’S OF LONDON

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