B.C. man convicted of distracted driving despite dead iPhone battery

RICHMOND, B.C. _ A B.C. driver has been found guilty of using a cellphone while behind the wheel, even though its battery was dead.

The decision, delivered Monday by judicial justice Brent Adair in Richmond, says Patrick Grzelak was using his iPhone with earbuds in his ears.

The ruling says Grzelak was alone in his Mercedes on Oct. 12, 2018, heading home after a long day, with the dead iPhone in the centre cubby hole of his dashboard, when he was pulled over in Surrey.

Adair found Grzelak was using the device because it was “in a position in which it may be used,” as defined under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Adair ruled it didn’t matter that the battery was dead or that Grzelak was not using the phone.

With the earbuds in, Adair ruled Grzelak was essentially holding the device.

“Since the earbuds were part of the electronic device and since the earbuds were in the defendants ears, it necessarily follows that the defendant was holding the device (or part of the device) in a position in which it could be used, i.e. his ears,” Adair wrote.

Adair pointed to a previous provincial court ruling that reached a similar conclusion in 2015.

In that decision, Adair says another judge ruled a dead battery does not override wording in the Motor Vehicle Act that makes it an offence to simply hold an electronic device in a position in which it may be used.

Conviction on a charge of using an electronic device while driving carries a $368 fine, plus four penalty points, as well as an Insurance Corporation of B.C. penalty fee of $210.

Honda To Recall Almost 84,000 Vehicles In Canada With Dangerous Airbags

Tom Krisher | Associated Press via CP

DETROIT — Honda is likely to recall around 1 million older vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because the Takata driver’s air bag inflators that were installed during previous recalls could be dangerous.

Documents posted Monday by Canadian safety regulators show that Honda is recalling many of its most popular models for a second time. The models are from as far back as 2001 and as recent as 2010.

Canadian documents say about 84,000 vehicles are involved. That number is usually over 10 times higher in the United States.

Affected models include the Honda Accord from 2001 through 2007, the CR-V from 2002 through 2006, the Civic from 2001 through 2005, the Element from 2003 through 2010, the Odyssey from 2002 through 2004, the Pilot from 2003 through 2008 and the Ridgeline from 2006. Also covered are Acura luxury models including the MDX from 2003 through 2006, the EL from 2001 through 2005, the TL from 2002 and 2003 and the CL from 2003.

Transport Canada, the country’s transportation safety agency, said vehicles covered include those that were under previous recalls and others that had air bags replaced after collisions.

Takata used the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate over time due to high humidity and cycles from hot temperatures to cold. It can burn too fast and blow apart a metal canister, hurling shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

At least 23 people have died from the problem worldwide and hundreds more were injured.

The recalls are part of the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history. As many as 70 million will be recalled.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin wouldn’t give details Monday evening, but said the company is communicating with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “and plans to issue a public statement tomorrow.” Messages were left after business hours Monday seeking comment from NHTSA.

Owners will be told to take their vehicles to dealers to have the inflators replaced.

 

Speed camera ahead: Google Maps adds photo radar warnings for drivers

By Colette Derworiz

THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON _ Drivers using Google Maps are getting a last-minute warning as they approach some photo radar camera locations.

The feature, which is currently being rolled out by Google, allows users to see speed limits, speed cameras and mobile speed cameras on the map before they leave.

It also gives a verbal warning an automated voice saying “speed camera ahead” when drivers are near a fixed camera location.

Police in Alberta say the feature is helpful to them.

“The biggest thing we love … is we place those (cameras) by collision statistics,” said Sgt. Joerg Gottschling of the Calgary Police Service traffic section. “If we do a new site, if we are going to install a new camera, the next site is always selected by the next highest crash site.

“Our intersection locations are all determined where we are trying to eliminate collisions.”

Gottschling said they’ve had up to a 50 per cent reduction in collisions in some areas where those cameras are stationed.

With Google Maps, he noted, all drivers approaching the fixed camera intersection get the warning.

“That camera is only facing one way,” said Gottschling. “Let’s say it’s only facing northbound, but you can approach southbound or eastbound … you are still going to get Google telling you caution.

“So you’re going to go slowly and cautiously through there which, lo and behold, is actually what we want.”

Sgt. Kerry Bates with the Edmonton Police traffic division agrees.

“If it slows people down and they know it’s there, that’s good,” he said. “It’s fine. It does the trick.”

Bates said there are about 70 fixed camera locations in the city and they will be adding others in the near future.

Google said in an email that there will also be an ability for android users to report mobile speed cameras and stationary cameras.

The technology company said there’s no plan to merge Google Maps with Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app that allows drivers to share real-time traffic and road information.

The Alberta government is making changes to prevent photo radar from being used as a  “cash cow” by municipalities.

As part of the changes, which are expected by June, radar will be banned at spots where the speed limit changes on highways. It also won’t be allowed on high-speed, multi-lane highways unless there is documented proof of safety concerns.

Gottschling said there will still be photo radar on busy roads such as Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail in Calgary.

“We will be on those roadways because of the secondary justification of speed, collision and difficulty in traditional enforcement,” he said. “There’s no better way to enforce Deerfoot than with photos.

“We also have to take into account where can we safely position ourselves.”

Things That Go Bump in the Parking Lot – Part 2

Asking for people to send me their thoughts at the end of last week’s article resulted in one of the largest responses I’ve ever received. Ultimately, the overwhelming choice of advice was to report the offending driver to ICBC and the police. Fewer people were willing to shrug their shoulders and carry on with life while two offered emotional support.

I was also advised on how dishonest people might seek to profit from the situation by either accusing me of being the driver at fault or relying on convincing me not to report and covering the loss by reporting their half of the incident as a hit and run. This was not something that I had considered myself.

Had this person been polite and apologetic at the outset, I would have probably shrugged my shoulders and carried on with life. A bit of scuffed paint on an older pickup really wasn’t a big deal. After all, it’s not like I haven’t backed into something in my driving history either.

However, given my experience in traffic law enforcement and the circumstances I found myself in, I was concerned that this woman may no longer be a safe driver. RoadSafetyBC says that we are currently outliving our ability to drive safely by about 10 years.

RoadSafetyBC does accept unsolicited driver fitness reports, but you must be able to identify the driver. They are unhelpful in any other circumstances and will only repeat that you must report to police instead.

After some thought, I gathered my dash cam footage along with the witness information and reported to ICBC, my own damage insurance company and the police.

You should report any collision to your insurance company, regardless of the amount of damage. Depending on the terms of your contract of insurance, you could be denied coverage at a later date if you fail to report promptly.

ICBC and my other insurance company resolved the claim quickly, finding the other driver liable for the collision. A quick trip to the recommended body shop found no hidden damage and I advised them to close the claim. No repairs would be required.

Contrary to my expectations, the police were willing to take my complaint that the other driver had refused to provide required information post collision. I was contacted by a constable who discussed the situation with me as a peer. He agreed to interview the other driver and request a driver re-exam from RoadSafetyBC if he felt that it was appropriate instead of issuing a violation ticket.

When I followed up on my complaint, he advised me that the request to RoadSafetyBC had been made.

Reporting can also help in the case of malicious and criminal intent. I received stories from people who had been convinced not to report and later on had the other driver either renege on a promise to pay or reported themselves as victims. Some of these people even paid their deductible and accepted some liability rather than argue.

Offending drivers have also been known to convince victims not to report and then made a fictitious hit and run complaint to get their vehicles repaired for the cost of the deductible.

I may not have felt entirely happy about it, but in retrospect, I think that making the reports was the wise thing to do.

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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Things That Go Bump in the Parking Lot

DriveSmartBC

This is a short story about things that go bump in the parking lot. The outcome could have been a lot simpler with a bit of courtesy and the sharing of required information but it didn’t happen that way. I wonder what the ultimate cost will be when all is said and done.

I was waiting to turn left from the main access into a parking aisle at the mall along with a car opposing me and traffic behind me. There was a vehicle further along the aisle backing out, so we all waited.

When the vehicle had backed out, we all began to enter the aisle in turn until the car in front of me stopped.

The driver began to back up and when it was clear that a collision with me was imminent I sounded my vehicle’s horn. The car stopped, pulled ahead and began to back up again. This time sounding the horn did not help and a small collision occurred.

We moved out of the way and I got out and approached the other driver, a woman that I estimate was in her early 80’s. Her first words to me were “Why didn’t you get out of my way?”

If the other traffic had not been stopped behind me, I certainly would have tried to.

Her next piece of advice was that “Trucks should not be in this parking lot anyway, they belong out there in the back 40.” and gestured to the far edge of the lot.

I asked her to exchange information with me and she refused. She refused again after I tried to explain that we were required to do this.

I was beginning to become concerned about this reluctance and while I considered what to do next three people approached me to state that they had watched the incident occur and offered to provide their contact information. This was a very personal reminder that people willing to help are all around us. Thank you very much!

At this point the woman decided that she should examine my truck for damage. As we walked to it, she remarked that I looked like a cop. I told her that I used to be one and was surprised when she responded with “It figures. You’ve got nothing better to do than cause trouble for others.”

I took my cell phone out and photographed her, then went back to her car and photographed it.

She came back, got into her car and departed.

Now what to do? The damage to my truck amounted to a scuff on the bumper and I would have been prepared to shrug it off had she identified herself and appeared apologetic.

Maybe she was embarrassed, just a miserable person or wanted to avoid losing a safe driving discount. Worse still, maybe she didn’t have a driver’s licence or had reached the end of her ability to drive safely. The decision about whether to do anything was left up to me, along with the worry that she might try to report this as my fault.

400 plus vehicles written off since acid spill on B.C. highway last year: ICBC

TRAIL, B.C. _ British Columbia’s public auto insurer says about 450 vehicles have been written off since sulphuric acid spilled along a busy commuter route near Trail, B.C., in two incidents last spring.

The Insurance Corp. of B.C. says there have been more than 4,450 claims received in the wake of the spills but the vast majority of those vehicles were not damaged.

It says it is still in the early stages of a lawsuit but no trial date has been set.

The spills happened on April 10 and May 23, 2018, when tanker trucks owned and operated by Westcan spilled sulphuric acid from Teck’s plant in Trail along a stretch of highway near the city.

ICBC filed a notice of civil claim against Teck Metals, Teck Resources, Internaitonal Raw Materials, Westcan, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, the City of Trail, two drivers and the provincial government in October.

Most defendents have filed responses denying responsibility.

The insurer alleges that it has incurred “extraordinary expenses” in investigating and addressing the “enormous volume of claims resulting form the spills, and says the defendents failed to warn the public to avoid the highway.

It also claims the acid was not properly secured and the facility and tankers weren’t properly inspected.

When the spills happened, ICBC alleges there was no prompt response, posted warnings or restriction on public access, and the defendents failed to reduce the risk of future spills.

ICBC is seeking costs and damages.

But Teck alleges that ICBC was not obligated to compensate the owners of damaged vehicles under comprehensive or collision insurance and any such payments were voluntary, while Westcan says RCMP should have diverted traffic.

The city says it has no responsibility for road maintenance, including responding to hazardous spills.

The regional district says that while it has an emergency response agreement with Teck, it doesn’t consider hazardous spills an emergency.

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