To See, or Not To See – Tinted Windows

One of my preferred enforcement practices was to use an unmarked car and drive in the right hand lane at or just under the speed limit. This gave me plenty of time to look at and into whatever passed by on my left. Vehicle defects, failing to wear a seatbelt, distracted driving and other things of interest to a traffic cop were often easily discovered.

I recall doing this once on a cold and rainy afternoon. A car passed by me with both the front side windows rolled down completely and both front seat occupants staring resolutely ahead. Why do you think they were willing to get wet as they pretended not to see me?

As you have probably guessed by now, it was illegally tinted front side windows.

Vehicle owners who do this are surprisingly resistant to following the law.

7.05 (8) No person shall drive or operate on a highway a motor vehicle which has affixed to or placed on the windshield or a window any material that reduces the light transmitted through the windshield or window unless the material is affixed to or placed on

(a) the windshield but not more than 75 mm below the top of the windshield,

(b) a side window that is behind the driver, or

(c) the rear window if the motor vehicle is equipped with outside rear view mirrors on the left and right side of the motor vehicle.

(9) If a motor vehicle contains manufactured glass, tinting contained within the glass must meet the minimum light transmittancy requirements under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

In my experience, virtually all Notice & Order #3’s were ignored. Ditto the offer to cancel a traffic ticket if the tint was removed and the vehicle presented for inspection. Sometimes it took multiple tickets and Notice & Order #2’s to correct the issue.

I know of one business that actually told their customers that if they were stopped by the police they could come back, have the tint removed, present the vehicle for inspection and then have the tint put back on. Once. Free of charge.

222   A person must not sell, offer for sale, expose or display for sale or deliver over to a purchaser for use a motor vehicle, trailer or equipment for them that is not in accordance with this Act and the regulations.

You could even find vehicles with illegal tint being displayed for sale at businesses.

8.01   No person who is engaged in the business of selling motor vehicles shall keep for sale, or sell or offer for sale, any new or used motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is equipped as required by these regulations.

Some drivers tried to convince me, even producing a doctor’s note, that they had health or vision issues that required the tint. I could understand this for people who suffered from cutaneous porphyria, but only RoadSafetyBC can grant an exemption from these rules and they will not do so.

Why bother enforcing these rules? The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual:

  • Tint prevents other road users from making eye contact with the driver
  • Impairment of the driver’s ability to identify and react to a low contrast target, particularly among older drivers
  • Tint remains in place at night and during times of impaired visibility

So, to see or not to see. Why would you limit your ability to drive safely on purpose?

#DriveSmartBC – The Lowly Licence Plate

The licence plate has one purpose: to quickly and easily identify the vehicle that it is attached to. This is important enough that a whole division of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is devoted to the subject. Fines for failing to follow these rules may be expensive as well, ranging from $109 to as much as $196.

The standard blue on white Beautiful British Columbia licence plate design does the job well. It is immediately identifiable as belonging to our province and the renewal decal system gives it a long life. Simple, inexpensive and effective. What could possibly go wrong?

Vehicles may be issued either one or two licence plates. If two are issued, one must be securely fastened to the front and one to the rear of that vehicle. In the case of a single plate, it goes on the rear of the vehicle.

The characters are required to be displayed horizontally and the plate must always be entirely unobstructed so that they can be read.

During darkness, the rear licence plate must be lit with a white light to make the characters visible from a distance of at least 15 metres.

Transfer from one vehicle to another is strictly regulated as well.

Some people are lazy. They don’t attach the front plate or just throw it on the dash. Plates are left completely covered by dirt or snow. One loosely attached fastener allowing the plate to dangle should be enough.

What seems like a good idea is not. Plastic licence plate covers, clear or tinted, can prevent a plate from being read in some circumstances and must not be installed.

Other people are dishonest. Number plates are moved to their vehicle of convenience without doing a proper transfer. Plates are covered or purposely obstructed in some manner to thwart tolls and enforcement.

Even our provincial government has lost sight of the intent. Designs such as personalized, veterans, Olympic and B.C. Parks make it more difficult to read the characters and determine where they are from.

Oddly enough, failing to display any licence plates at all is a $109 ticket while obstructing a plate that is displayed costs $196.

Yes, the lowly licence plate has an important job to do. There is not logical or legal to make that difficult.

 

352 impaired driving offences reported during December Traffic Safety Spotlight

Read more

#DriveSmartBC: Roadside Mechanical Inspections

DriveSmartBC

Many people think of traffic policing consists mostly of handing out speeding tickets. This is not the case as there are many other job functions that officers are responsible for. One that I often found to be an interesting challenge was conducting roadside mechanical inspections.

Inspections were frequently triggered by seeing something amiss after stopping a driver for a traffic rule violation, but occasionally police will set up a check stop dedicated to mechanical inspection. Triage will be conducted by a point person on the highway and suspect vehicles will be directed to the roadside for more thorough examinations.

In either case, the authority to conduct these inspections comes from the Motor Vehicle Act:

219 (2) A peace officer

(a) may require a person who carries on the business of renting vehicles or who is the owner or person in charge of a vehicle

(i) to allow the peace officer to inspect a vehicle offered by the person for rental or owned by or in charge of the person, or

(ii) to move a vehicle described in subparagraph (i) to a place designated by the peace officer and to allow the vehicle to be inspected there by the peace officer, or, at the expense of the person required, to present the vehicle for inspection by a person authorized under section 217, and

A systematic check of the vehicle is done and defects, if any, are identified.

The enforcement action taken depends on the severity of the defect. I often chose to be guided by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Out of Service Criteria set for North American commercial vehicles. If it was fair to take a commercial truck off the road, it was fair to apply the same standard to light vehicles as well.

The most severe defects are dealt with by issuing a #1 Notice & Order, seizing vehicle licence plates and registration and calling a tow truck. Examples of common problems that triggered this action include brake system failure, excessive steering linkage wear, frame corrosion or unsafe vehicle modifications.

A #2 Notice & Order was used when significant defects or a general pattern of neglect was uncovered. While concerning, the defects were not significant enough to justify the vehicle’s immediate removal from the highway. The order gives the vehicles’ owner 30 days to correct problems.

Both of these inspection orders require that the vehicle be taken to a Designated Inspection Facility, undergo a complete inspection and be repaired to the point that a pass could be issued.

Designated Inspection Facilities use the Vehicle Inspection Manual as the standard for repair. While exempt from publication, you may be able to read this manual for free at your local public library.

For minor items, a #3 Notice & Order is issued. The driver or vehicle owner is asked to make the listed repair and present the vehicle to show that the repair has been made.

Ignoring these orders could result in significant consequences that include heavy fines and tow trucks.

Reference Link:

#DriveSmartBC

 

How to Handle Being Pulled Over

It is possible that a careful driver could pass their entire driving career without being pulled over by the police. It’s a situation that is not covered in our provincial drivers manual Learn to Drive Smart and may only receive a brief mention during formal driver training.

My parents were responsible for my driver training and Dad’s instructions were simply that if I was stopped by the police it was “Yes sir, no sir, what can I do for you sir?” and if he heard otherwise he would deal with me when I got home. Having spent 25 years in policing, I can say that wasn’t bad advice.

The whole process starts when you see the police vehicle’s flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Depending on the officer and the situation, you may or may not also hear a siren.

If the officer chooses to use only the emergency lights, the Motor Vehicle Act requires:

the driver of a motor vehicle, when signalled or requested to stop by a peace officer who is readily identifiable as a peace officer, must immediately come to a safe stop.

The requirement to come to an immediate safe stop gives the driver a little bit of leeway to choose an appropriate place to pull over.

Turn on your right signal light to acknowledge the officer’s request, find the nearest safe spot to pull out of traffic and stop.

If the officer chooses to use emergency lights and the siren, the Motor Vehicle Act requires:

On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle giving an audible signal by a bell, siren or exhaust whistle, and showing a visible flashing red light, except when otherwise directed by a peace officer, a driver must yield the right of way, and immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.

In this case there is no choice, brake safely, move to the side and stop right away.

Aside from domestic disputes, traffic stops are among the most dangerous situations for police. A wise driver will choose to be non-threatening:

  • Turn on your interior lights if it is dark.
  • Sit still and caution your passengers to do the same.
  • Keep your hands still and visible.
  • Follow the officer’s instructions.
  • Be polite.
  • State your position but don’t argue.

It’s possible that the officer has a warning in mind and many people can successfully talk their way into a ticket at this point.

Conversation during the stop is up to you. All that the law requires is that you state your name and address and the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle. However, some discussion may smooth the way without being incriminating.

If you do receive a traffic ticket, I have some advice on how to handle it as well.

Once the officer has finished, you are free to continue on your way. Make a safe start and rejoin traffic.

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.


Father who lost son in Broncos crash wants graduated licensing in truck training

A father who lost his son in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash says mandatory training in Saskatchewan for commercial semi-truck drivers is a good first step, but he wants to see more.

Russ Herold, whose son Adam died in a collision between the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi last April, told CJME in Regina that he would like to see the rules adopted nationwide.

Herold is also calling for graduated licensing with limits on mileage and on what semi-trailer combinations drivers are allowed based on how much time they’ve spent behind the wheel.

Last week, the Saskatchewan government announced that, starting in March, drivers will have to take mandatory training of just over 120 hours for a Class 1 commercial licence.

Farmers driving for agricultural purposes will be exempt from the new rules, but will need to stay within the provincial boundary.

Herold, a farmer himself, doesn’t think there should be exemptions for anyone.

“There is no such thing as a border when you’re a truck driver nowadays,” he said. “Everybody sees that there’s lots of trucks. Truck traffic is just the way goods move these days and we need to ensure the roads are safe.”

He suggested experience has to be key in training.

“Experience behind the wheel is what’s going to make people better drivers. You’re not going on a thousand-mile trip your first trip out,” Herold said.

“We all share the road and an accident could happen in 50 miles as easy as it can in 500 miles.”

Sixteen people were killed and 13 players were injured as a result of the crash at a rural intersection in April as the Broncos were heading to a junior hockey playoff game.

The truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, is charged with numerous counts of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, has called mandatory training overdue and said the government had been considering the measure even before the Broncos crash.

Herold said he gets frustrated to hear that from a government that has been in power for years.

“If people talk like that, obviously they know there was a concern. There was possibly a problem,” he said. “Why weren’t things done sooner? Why did it take a tragedy like this to bring it to the forefront?”

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