The Difficulty With Stop Signs

Stop LineOne wouldn’t think that stopping at a stop sign would be such a problem for drivers. It seems relatively simple, come to a complete stop, look both ways and then go if it is safe to do so. With the poor compliance rate, we should ask is the stop sign the best form of traffic control for intersections that are not controlled by traffic signals?

Let’s examine what making a proper stop means and where it has to be done. You may be surprised to learn that the stop sign itself simply tells you what you must do, not where you have to do it.

The simplest case is one where there is nothing at the intersection other than the stop sign. Here one must stop before entering the intersection itself and in a position nearest to the crossroad where a driver has a clear view of traffic approaching on that crossroad.

Where there is a marked crosswalk along with the stop sign a driver must stop before entering the crosswalk. Doing so will protect against a collision if the driver has failed to notice any pedestrians present.

One failure of our current Motor Vehicle Act is not including unmarked crosswalks in this requirement. Not all unmarked crosswalks are preceeded by a marked stop line to provide some protection for pedestrians.

The stop sign with a marked stop line seems to be the most difficult. Stop lines never seem to be placed at a point where the driver has a good view to the left and right if they stop as required. Consequently, stop lines are often ignored completely. The proper thing to do here is to stop at the line, move ahead to a point where you can see properly, stop again and then proceed after looking both ways to insure it is safe to do so.

Death by Stop Sign is an article in Psychology Today authored by John Staddon. He singles out the stop sign saying:

Look at the familiar stop sign. It does two bad things: First, it makes you look at the stop sign rather than the traffic—it distracts. Second, it doesn’t tell you what you need to know. It tells you to stop even when you can see perfectly well that there is no cross traffic. It shouts “don’t trust your own judgment!”

Dr. Staddon provides Britain as an example of how it should be done. Stop signs are a rare item beside their roads he says, you will find yield signs or their equivalent road markings instead. They have a lower collision rate than North America and yielding instead of stopping saves time and reduces pollution.

He also hints that the roundabout would be preferred over both stop and yield signs. These intersections can reduce collisions by 37% and fatal collisions by 90%.

So, until roundabouts become common in British Columbia, keep in mind that more than half of all collisions happen at intersections. Following proper stop sign etiquette places you in control in a high hazard area.

Reference Links:

 

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

 

DriveSmartBC: An Overview of Car Insurance for BC Drivers

Chances are good that when you think about car insurance your first thought is about how much it is going to cost you rather than how well it is going to protect you if something goes wrong. You might even be tempted to shade the truth about who will be driving your vehicle or how they will be using it to reduce those costs. Be very careful how you make decisions about insurance as making poor choices can put you at huge financial risk post crash.

Insurance is a contract between you and an insurance company. Pay the premiums and the company will protect you from financial losses specified in the contract.

The risk is spread among all the policy holders in an effort to make the premiums more affordable, but you may have to pay a higher premium if you are at higher risk for making a claim. Penalty point and driver risk premiums are used by ICBC in addition to your collision history to set rates.

The surest way to keep premiums low is to keep the number of claims low. This concept appears to be lost on many drivers today. Some make no connection between the way they drive and the risk that they present.

We consider insurance so important that a policy must be in effect in order to drive. You must carry a liability card while driving and produce it to police on demand. Should you be involved in a collision, you must produce particulars of the liability card in writing to anyone suffering loss or injury or who witnessed the collision if they request it.

In British Columbia, we all have to buy our basic third party liability insurance from ICBC. This protects us from the damage that we do to others if we are at fault in a collision. Basic Autoplan covers up to $200,000.00 but a quick look at some of the case law on this site will suggest that this is nowhere near enough. An honest, careful discussion with your Autoplan Agent can help you decide what is appropriate for your circumstances.

We can buy additional third party insurance and coverage for our own damage; collision, fire, theft, vandalism and other losses from ICBC or other private insurance companies. In this case, it could pay you to compare insurance companies to see if their rates for similar or better coverage costs less than an ICBC policy.

According to Hergott Law, the best $25.00 that you will ever spend on insurance is for Underinsured Motorist Protection.

Now that you are insured, be careful not to do anything that would breach your contract. Driving while impaired, without a driver’s licence or with a suspended licence, evading police action, racing or making a misrepresentation on the application for insurance can all void your coverage.

In some contract breaches, ICBC will pay for damages done to others and then expect you to reimburse the cost. The corporation may also cancel or refuse to issue a driver’s licence or vehicle licence and number plates for outstanding motor vehicle-related debts.

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.

www.drivesmartbc.ca

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Distracted driving is a trend on the rise

Canada Safety Council

It’s a scene that is far too familiar on roads across Canada: a cell phone sounds an alert, the driver reaches for the phone, and in the short time it takes to read the screen, a collision has occurred.

Distracted driving is a trend on the rise, a dangerous and life-threatening behaviour that must be stopped. To mark this year’s National Safe Driving Week, the Canada Safety Council and the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) share a crucial message: distraction behind the wheel is entirely preventable. Just don’t do it.

The Statistics

Distracted driving statistics are understated because distraction isn’t always easy to prove. In fatal accidents where distraction was a possible factor, there may not be evidence of phone usage or, sadly, a living witness to tell the story. This has resulted in a significant underreporting of the issue – still, the data currently available reveals staggering numbers.

According to Transport Canada, distraction was a contributing factor in 21 per cent of fatal collisions and 27 per cent of collisions resulting in serious injury in 2016. Comparatively, those numbers were reported at 16 and 22 per cent, respectively, in 2006.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators (CCMTA) provides further context to these numbers: 1.7 per cent of fatal collisions and 1.9 per cent of collisions resulting in serious injury involved electronic communication devices between 2010–14. While more recent statistics are not available, the prevalence of mobile devices in today’s society makes it a reasonable assumption that these numbers, too, are on the rise.

And if you’re fortunate enough to avoid injury or fatality, you’ll still be subject to fines and potentially demerit points depending on your province. Refer to this chart by the Canadian Automobile Association for a detailed breakdown.

To further compound the financial costs, your auto insurance premiums could sharply increase if you’re found to have been operating a vehicle while distracted.

“Insurance is all about risk, and distracted driving is an extremely risky behavior,” said Peter Braid, Chief Executive Officer of IBAC. “That’s why insurance brokers are partnering with the Canada Safety Council to raise awareness of the danger and encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road. The stakes are high – death, injury, property damage, fines and rising insurance premiums. Whatever the distraction, it’s not worth the risk.”

 

text notification bubble with ellipsis looking like traffic light

The challenge

The challenge in addressing this issue is cognitive dissonance and, where distracted driving is concerned, willingly engaging in behaviours that are known to contribute to the likelihood of collisions. Studies in provinces across Canada have borne out the same result: a majority of drivers understand that distracted driving is dangerous and illegal; yet, the same respondents report using their devices behind the wheel anyway.

“Personal accountability is a major component of society’s role in reducing distracted driving deaths,” said Gareth Jones, president of the Canada Safety Council. “If you’re in the majority of road users who understand the risks, you owe it to your family and to fellow road users to put the phone away and otherwise minimize distractions.  It’s a choice that each of us has completely within our control.  Building a culture of safe driving happens one person and one decision at a time, so let’s choose well.”

 

Other types of distraction

While the topic of distracted driving is often discussed in the context of texting and calling behind the wheel, other forms of distraction exist and can also be harmful. Distracted driving is characterized as any action that removes your focus from the road. This can include eating, adjusting music, heat or GPS, applying makeup and interacting with passengers in the vehicle.

 

Tips to avoid distraction behind the wheel

  • Put your phone on silent or on Do Not Disturb mode. You won’t be tempted by an alert you don’t hear.
  • Even better, use an app or a built-in function that activates a Do Not Disturb feature automatically when connected to your vehicle’s Bluetooth or when increased speed is detected. See the enclosed tip sheet for examples.
  • Out of sight, out of mind – put your phone in a glove compartment, a zipped purse or knapsack, or even the back seat.
  • Make sure to leave enough time in your schedule to eat and groom before getting in the car.
  • Ensure that your temperature, music and GPS are set before you leave.
  • If it’s really that important, pull over.

Above all else, remember that driving is a potentially deadly task that requires your full attention. You wouldn’t take a call while operating a bulldozer; why do the same with a vehicle capable of going at much higher speeds?

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ICBC: a crash occurs every three minutes over the holidays

ICBC: a crash occurs every three minutes over the holidays

The holidays are here and many drivers will be traveling to visit family and friends to celebrate. With increased traffic and unpredictable road conditions, it’s important for everyone to be prepared and drive smart.

Over the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, 530 people are injured and two people are killed in 2,000 crashes every year in B.C.* That’s one crash every three minutes.

Here are ICBC’s tips to get home safe this holiday season:

  • Check your vehicle. Many B.C. highways require winter tires, labelled with either the mountain/snowflake symbol or the mud and snow (M+S) designation. Top up wiper fluid for clearer visibility and pack an emergency kit including blanket, food and water.

  • Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal conditions only. It takes more time and distance to come to a complete stop on wet, icy or snowy roads. Adjust your speed to the conditions and always maintain a safe travelling distance between vehicles.

  • Avoid distraction. Make important calls and program your GPS before you begin driving and let your family and friends know you’re not available while driving. If you’re on a longer drive, use highway rest stops to take a break and check your messages.

  • Take a break. Pull over as soon as you start to feel drowsy. Get out and walk around to get some fresh air. If that’s not enough, pull over to a safe area, turn off your car and take a nap.

  • Plan for a safe ride home. If your holiday festivities involve alcohol, plan ahead for a safe ride home: arrange a designated driver, call a taxi, take transit or use Operation Red Nose where available. There’s no excuse to drink and drive.

Christmas holiday statistics:*

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, one person is killed and 350 people are injured in 1,300 crashes in B.C. every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 260 people are injured in 810 crashes in the Lower Mainland every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 69 people are injured in 340 crashes on Vancouver Island every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 45 people are injured in 180 crashes in the Southern Interior every year.

  • During the Christmas holidays, on average, 15 people are injured in 87 crashes in the North Central region every year.

New Year’s statistics:*

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, one person is killed and 180 people are injured in 700 crashes in B.C.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 130 people are injured in 470 crashes in the Lower Mainland.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 17 people are injured in 78 crashes on Vancouver Island.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, 15 people are injured in 95 crashes in the Southern Interior.

  • Every year during New Year’s, on average, nine people are injured in 48 crashes in the North Central region.

*Christmas is defined as 18:00 hours December 24 to midnight December 26. New Year’s is defined as 18:00 hours December 31st of the previous year to midnight January 1 of the New Year. ICBC data for injury and crashes based on five year average (2014 to 2018); police data for fatalities based on five year average (2013 to 2017).

What I’ve Learned from a Year of Driver Monitoring

I’ve been driving with eDriving’s Mentor app for about a year now and know that it has made improvements in my skills. I haven’t cracked the top 10% barrier yet, but I’m still trying! The secret to having a high score appears to be trying to anticipate and plan for what is happening around you as you drive.

Speed is the simplest of the driving tasks to follow but does present its challenges. The riskiest of them is the tendency for other drivers to crowd your back bumper. Why some drivers feel the need to do this on multi laned highways is a bit of a mystery to me.

I wonder if telematics can use the automatic emergency braking system on newer cars to monitor this?

Sudden braking incidents can be prevented by maintaining an appropriate following distance and watching the status of traffic lights as you approach the intersection.

Is it a stale green light? Preparing for the stop doesn’t cost you anything as you are going to have to stop anyway. In fact, it can save you money in the long run by reducing wear on the brakes.

Drivers who fill in your front safety margin and then brake to get ready for a turn or make another lane change mean keeping an eye out behind and beside you as you drive. It would be helpful if they thought about signaling their intentions but the majority seem to signal as they move.

Heavy acceleration has not caused any black marks for me since the first one. I’m never in a hurry to be the first vehicle into an intersection after the lights change and I have not had to take evasive action to prevent a collision, yet.

Smooth lane changes are an easy score. Plan ahead, mirror, signal, shoulder check and change. Simple. Again, I’ve never had to make a sudden move because of the actions of another driver, yet.

The last behaviour that the app watches for are sharp turns. Experience, advisory signs and familiarity with your vehicle are a great help with this. When in doubt, too slow is better than too fast.

I’ve mentioned a potential reduction in vehicle maintenance already but there is another way the app helps pay it’s way. Driving for a good score is also driving for economy. Fewer dollars spent on fuel are healthy for both your wallet and the environment.

There is no doubt in my mind that ICBC will eventually be using driver telematics to set insurance rates. Practice now will make it easier to save money on my insurance bill in the future.

Mentor also supplies me with video training tailored to my driving habits. I’m a bit behind in watching the videos, but I’ve both learned something new and reinforced prior knowledge with them.

Overall, I’m pleased that I have taken the time to use the app. I think that it has made me a better and hopefully safer driver.

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