74 year old man taking driving test killed after train strikes car in Montreal

MONTREAL _ A 74-year-old man taking a driving test in Montreal was killed Tuesday when a commuter train struck the car he was driving.

The examiner, an employee of Quebec’s motor vehicle insurance agency, who was seated next to the driver, suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital.

Police say the collision occurred in the city’s north end at a level railway crossing on Gouin Boulevard, near the river that separates Montreal from its northern suburb.

Mario Vaillancourt, spokesman for the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec, said the 74-year-old was being re-evaluated for a driver’s license.

Vaillancourt said the type of exam the man was taking “is often tied to someone’s health condition,” though he declined to discuss the specifics of the collision.

“We ask that they take a road test” to evaluate whether the person can still drive safely, Vaillancourt said.

The SAAQ released a statement Tuesday afternoon offering condolences to the 74-year-old’s family. “A team has been deployed … to meet with staff members to provide them with the necessary psychological support,” the agency said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has dispatched an investigator to the railway crossing to gather information about the collision, which occurred around 9:30 a.m.

Montreal police said the driver was transported to hospital in critical condition and died there shortly after, while his 33-year-old passenger was in hospital in critical condition.

No one was injured aboard the train, which is operated by the regional transit agency Exo.

Let’s Block the Road!

When I was posted in the Okanagan in the 1990s I was answering phones in the detachment dispatch office. A caller from Summerland asked what would happen if he decided to take his protest sign down to the highway and conduct his own personal blockade. He expressed the opinion that if he did that the police would arrive quickly and if he did not move he would be removed.I couldn’t argue his point.

This past week has seen a number of blockades of B.C. highways and other places, so I thought that it would be interesting to examine why groups were permitted to disrupt our everyday travels to express a point.

My first stop was the Guide to the Law of Protest published by McGrady Law of Vancouver. This document outlines some history of civil disobedience in B.C., examines a person’s right to protest, outlines how to conduct yourself and how the law may be applied to you when you do.

Next, I contacted the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General via the media contact information. All that they would say beyond the fact that the Motor Vehicle Act did not direct police to dismantle blockades was that the Ministry did not get involved in day to day police operations. When asked about setting government policy all further e-mail was ignored.

Government policy is published in the form of the Crown Counsel Policy Manual on Civil Disobedience and Contempt of Related Court Orders. This guides Crown lawyers in deciding whether they should prosecute protesters or not. I don’t doubt that this guides police decisions as well.

Media relations with the RCMP in B.C. were helpful. They explained that each situation is evaluated separately and that a balance had to be struck between Charter rights, criminal actions, court orders and public safety. Where there is no court order, police can rely on the Criminal Code and common law powers in the event of violence or criminal actions by protesters.

Police resources to cope with the size of the protest group is without a doubt an important consideration.

Finally, the most assistance came from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA):

First of all, regarding the “free passage of traffic”, operating a motor vehicle is a privilege not a right.

Second, streets are blocked off for various reasons on a regular basis. Examples include activities related to the film industry, parades, marathons, and marches. Police are present to ensure that the scene is safe and the traffic is diverted. These events typically occur on main thoroughfares. A double standard applied in the case of lawful protest would be unreasonable.

Third, roads are public places in which political expression can take place. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are necessary in a free and democratic society. Furthermore, the police have a duty to ensure a safe environment for members of the public to express themselves through non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

Finally, during the course of their duties, police are constantly balancing interests and re-evaluating their discretion. In the event of an emergency, police have the option to use their discretion to clear the way for an emergency vehicle. A court would likely uphold the infringement of Charter-protected rights to allow for the safe passage of an emergency vehicle.

A counter-protest to a blockade on Highway 19 in Courtenay did result in an arrest and an end to the blockade. The original protesters left out of concern for their own safety.

Returning to the inquiry that I mentioned at the start of the article, the BCCLA says that there is no difference between the right of the individual and the right of the group to protest, but I do wonder what would happen.

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

SGI: Tougher distracted driving fines take effect Feb. 1

February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight is focused on distracted driving – just as fines are set to increase Feb. 1, 2020.

“Distracted driving is a serious safety concern in our province, and on roads all over the country,” said the Honourable Joe Hargave, Minister Responsible for SGI. “We hope by introducing tougher penalties – and especially strong penalties for repeat offenders – it will mean fewer people driving distracted and fewer tickets issued.”

What’s new: Here are the consequences distracted drivers can expect as of Feb. 1:

  • First offence – ticket more than doubles to $580, plus four demerits.
  • Second offence within a year of being convicted of the first – $1,400 ticket, plus an additional four demerits, plus an immediate, seven-day vehicle seizure. Vehicle owners are responsible for the towing and impound fees (cost varies according to mileage, but expect to pay approximately $400 at least).
  • Third offence within a year of conviction of the first – $2,100 ticket, plus four more demerits and another seven-day vehicle seizure.

The demerits could also cost the driver insurance discounts they had earned or – if they are on the negative side of the SGI Safe Driver Recognition (SDR) scale – additional financial penalties, at $50 for every point below zero.  If a driver started at zero, and received three distracted driving tickets in a year, they would have to pay a total of $1,200 in SDR financial penalties, on top of the other financial impacts.

What’s not changing:  While the cost of a ticket is increasing, the laws around distracted driving remain the same. Hand-held devices are prohibited for learner, novice and experienced drivers, although experienced drivers can use hands-free functions on mounted devices through voice commands or one-touch. The vast majority of distracted driving tickets that are issued by law enforcement are related to cell phone use. In addition, drivers can receive a ticket if an officer witnesses behaviour that they can prove take a driver’s attention away from the road to the point they are operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner.

In 2018, driver distraction or inattention was a factor in more than 6,000 collisions, resulting in 774 injuries and 22 deaths. In 2019, distracted driving set three monthly records for the number of tickets issued.

Have questions about distracted driving? We answered most of them on Facebook. And if you’re looking to avoid a distracted driving ticket, put the phone down behind the wheel – and check out these other tips.

 

Parental Consent and Control of New Drivers

New Driver Signs 2011A young person’s brain is not fully matured until the age of 25. The prefrontal cortex manages executive functions such as impulse control and weighing consequences but may not do a great job of it for teenagers. If you are faced with a teen driver who is consistently making bad choices, what do you do?

This is a serious consideration as the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit says that motor vehicle collisions are one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death across all ages in BC.

The stage is set by parents long before the child learns to drive. As with many things in life, our children tend to follow our example. As I discussed in Perpetuating Mediocrity, some parents are ill equipped to teach a new driver.

The Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) sets some restrictions on new drivers to limit their exposure to risk. Parents need to be supportive in ensuring that these restrictions are obeyed and by establishing reasonable expectations for driving behaviour. If these expectations are consistently not met, there need to be explicit consequences. You may even consider the use of a family contract as a pre-condition before granting permission for your child’s first licence.

In the days before the GLP parents had a strong control over their children who had not reached the age of 18. If the child was not driving properly the parent could withdraw their consent and ICBC would cancel the child’s drivers licence. This was an effective control over wayward young drivers.

The problem with this was that some parents used the system to impose their will on children for purposes not related to driving. This became apparent and the privilege was removed from the legislation. Once the child was licensed, the courts or the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles were the only entities that could cancel drivers licences.

If the child did not own their own vehicle, the only control that parents had was to restrict access to a vehicle. This is not as effective these days as many young people aged 16 and 17 do own their own vehicles.

There are still two tools of last resort that a parent can use to stop an irresponsible youth from driving before they harm themselves or others.

The first is a letter to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. If the Superintendent is satisfied that the youth presents a danger, he may prohibit the person from driving in the public interest. Police will enforce the prohibition.

The second is to withdraw consent for the registration and licensing of the youth’s vehicle by writing to ICBC. The licence plates will be cancelled, effectively ending the ability to drive that vehicle legally. The police will also enforce driving without proper vehicle licence.

This is not a step to be take lightly by parents. If the withdrawal of consent for registration and vehicle licensing is abused, no doubt it will also be removed from the legislation as well.

References:

Imposing a 30 km/h Speed Limit in Residential Areas

30 km/h speed signCurrently, the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act sets a speed limit of 50 km/h on municipal streets when a different speed limit has not been posted by signs. A recent survey by Research Co. found that 58% of British Columbians would definitely or probably like to see residential speed limits of 30 km/h. This past fall the Union of B.C. Municipalities resolved to ask the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to allow municipalities to set this blanket speed limit.

Municipalities already have the power to implement 30 km/h speed zones anywhere within their boundaries through the use of signs. The amendment would save the effort and expense of installing more signs.

There are five justifications to make the change in this resolution:

The provincial government surveyed municipalities in 2015 as part of the Road Safety Strategy. Not surprisingly, the top two issues of concern reported were vehicle speeds and pedestrian safety.

What should be surprising is that the survey also found that formal municipal road safety program components are rare. Less than one third have a formal mandate to improve road safety and few have developed visions, plans or targets.

Less than half of municipalities have committees with a road safety mandate or road safety improvement programs or projects.

Of 9 potential sources of road safety data suggested, most municipalities relied on public comments and complaints instead of something like a Sustainable Transportation Assessment for Neighbourhoods.

Residents usually request traffic calming changes on their streets to remedy safety issues. Municipalities such as Maple Ridge, North Cowichan and West Kelowna do have policies in place for this. They follow the Canadian Guide to Neighbourhood Traffic Calming produced by the Transportation Association of Canada. It’s expensive to buy and is not available to read for free on line or in my local library so we can to refer to chapter 2 of the B.C. Community Road Safety Toolkit instead.

What do you think our provincial government’s response to this request will be?

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

Cyclists not required to be insured anywhere in the world

Cyclists not required to be insured anywhere in the world

The excerpted article is from the Cowichan Valley Citizen 

Insurance is available for bicyclists including for third party injury.

Shirley Hanson’s response, today, to my letter very interesting. I’d read the letter about the cyclist hitting a pedestrian with a mixture of sadness, sympathy, and anger. It’s another illustration of the need for cyclists AND cars to obey the laws. In this case, a cyclist was either riding illegally on a sidewalk or ignoring a crosswalk….and is guilty of leaving the scene! If the cyclist was not identified, the insurance issue is rather moot. Assuming the cyclist is at fault, they are responsible for the damages and should not be allowed to escape that.

Currently, 52 years after cyclists were guaranteed the right to the road by international law (Canada being one of over 150 countries signing on to that convention) I can find no country which mandates bicycle insurance; even in the Netherlands where 36 per cent of people identify bicycle as their primary commute. Insurance is available for bicyclists including for third party injury. Some home insurance policies cover that as well under their liability clauses.

Here’s a quote from a Toronto legal blog: “There is no right answer to whether or not bikes should be licensed and insured. One thing we can all agree on is that sharing the road and safety is important.”

If you think bicycle insurance should be mandatory, maybe advocate for starting at, say age 12 or 16? I don’t think the parent of a nine-year-old should have to buy it. I’m sure that the governments would study the death and injury stats and make a decision.

The injuries sustained by the unfortunate victim were not listed or reported and I extend my deepest sympathies. I’m very glad she wasn’t hit by a motor vehicle.

On the side, many cyclists who DO ride on sidewalks, probably do it from fear of some drivers who pass too closely and fail to Share the Road which is “the law”.

Peter Lake

North Cowichan

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