Insurer: Not such a Merry Christmas after more than 350 drunk driving offences

REGINA _ Saskatchewan Government Insurance says too many people are still making the poor decision to drive after drinking.

SGI says there were 343 Criminal Code charges laid in December for impaired driving, having a blood alcohol content over .08 or refusing a breath test.

It says another 10 people were charged with having a blood alcohol content between .04-.08.

They received a three-day licence suspension, but under tougher laws that came into effect Jan. 1, those drivers would have also had their vehicle seized for three days.

December marked the third consecutive month where SGI and Saskatchewan law enforcement focused on impaired driving.

A provincewide traffic safety blitz on impaired driving caught more than 330 drunk drivers in October and there were 279 drunk-driving offences in November.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” said Earl Cameron, executive vice-president of the auto fund.

“After extensive coverage in the media about safe ride options, increased enforcement and the tougher impaired driving laws that would be coming into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, people are still choosing to drive when they shouldn’t.”

Toronto’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan

The Vision Zero Road Safety Plan is a comprehensive five year (2017-2021) action plan focused on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto’s streets. With over 50 safety measures across our 6 emphasis areas, the Plan prioritizes the safety of our most vulnerable road users, through a range of initiatives.

The Vision Zero Road Safety Plan is a bold pledge to improve safety across our city using a data-driven and targeted approach, focusing on the locations where improvements are most needed. The Plan addresses safety for the most vulnerable users of our transportation system—pedestrians, school children, older adults and cyclists. Based on what we know about the factors that contribute to serious injury and fatality crashes, the plan will also focus on aggressive and distracted driving, and safety for motorcyclists.

The City of Toronto is committed to Vision Zero and accepts its fundamental message: fatalities and serious injuries on our roads are preventable, and we must strive to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries to ZERO.

New Brunswick government recommends winter tires but won’t make them mandatory

New Brunswick is resisting renewed calls to make snow tires mandatory, as provinces across the country take different legislative approaches to the annual slip and slide of winter driving.

Green Leader David Coon says, just like seatbelts, mandatory winter tires would make it safer for motorists.

“Everyone knows that if you have winter tires you have much more stopping capacity in the winter and are less likely to slide when the conditions aren’t optimal on the roads,” he said Tuesday, December13, 2016.

But New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Denis Landry said while he encourages the use of winter tires, he has no plan to make their use mandatory.

“I’m always saying, if you drive in the snow, drive slow. You have to be careful when you’re driving. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a good thing, but at the same time we’re not planning to make winter tires mandatory here in New Brunswick,” Landry said.

He said while winter tires are the law in Quebec, it didn’t stop buses, police cars and plows from sliding in videos that went viral on social media last week.

In Quebec, winter tires are mandatory between Dec. 15 and March 15, while British Columbia requires winter tires be used on certain mountain routes.

Ontario requires insurance companies to give a discount or benefit to drivers who use winter treads.

The Canadian Automobile Association recommends the use of winter tires across Canada, but won’t be calling on provincial governments to make it mandatory.

CAA spokeswoman, Kristine D’Arbelles, said it’s more important that motorists slow down and adjust their driving to weather and road conditions.

“Winter tires, on their own, are not a solution, and that’s why we’re not out there banging on every single door saying that they have to be law everywhere,” D’Arbelles said.

“We want to encourage drivers to use them as much as possible. Whether or not it needs to be law is still up for debate, and that’s why we leave that to the provincial governments. They know their territories much better than we do,” she said.

The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada says winter tires provide a better grip than other tires once it is below seven degrees Celsius.

It says winter tires should be considered as “cold weather tires” rather than just as “snow tires.”

RCMP Staff Sgt. Gilles Blinn, a Traffic Services unit veteran in New Brunswick, said his years of driving and responding to accidents tell him that using winter tires makes sense.

But like many others, Blinn said winter tires aren’t the only answer.

“If you have winter tires on your car and you exceed your driving capability and the speed you should be driving for the winter conditions, you’re going to have a crash,” he said.

Coon wants the New Brunswick government to start by requiring all rental vehicles to have winter tires. He said people who rent vehicles are too often unable to get a car with winter treads.

He said legislation is needed because too many motorists think all-season tires are enough for a Canadian winter.

“I think that all-season tires give people the sense that they’re covered, and it’s an economical way to cover both summer and winter driving, but it’s not the case. All-season tires don’t provide the kind of capacity that winter tires do,” he said.


Uber self driving cars hit the streets of San Francisco

Uber is bringing a small number of self-driving cars to its ride-hailing service in San Francisco – a move likely to excite the city’s tech-savvy population and certain to antagonize California regulators.

The Wednesday, December 14, 2016 launch in Uber’s hometown expands a public pilot program the company started in Pittsburgh in September. The testing lets everyday people experience the cars as Uber works to identify glitches before expanding the technology’s use in San Francisco and elsewhere.

California law, however, requires a test permit for “autonomous vehicles,” and Uber does not have one. The company argues that the law doesn’t apply because its cars require a human backup – so while they are self-driving, they are not autonomous.

Making that kind of distinction is in line with Uber’s history of testing legal boundaries. Although the company has been around less than a decade, it has argued with authorities around the world about how much of its drivers’ histories should be covered in background checks and whether those drivers should be treated as contractors ineligible for employee benefits.


Uber’s self-driving tests in San Francisco will begin with a “handful” of Volvo luxury SUVs _ the company wouldn’t release an exact number _ that have been tricked out with sensors so they can steer, accelerate and brake, and even decide to change lanes. The cars will have an Uber employee behind the wheel to take over should the technology fail. Users of the app may be matched with a self-driving car, but can opt out if they prefer a human driver. Self-driven rides cost the same as ordinary ones.

The cars will be put to the test in the congested streets of San Francisco. The city can be a daunting place to drive given its famously steep hills, frequent fog, street and cable cars, an active bicycle culture, and roads that are constantly being repaved, remarked and restricted for bike lanes and traffic management.

Uber believes its technology is ready to handle all this safely, though its executives concede the vehicles are nowhere near able to drive without a human ready to take control in dicey situations.

There was room for improvement during a Tuesday test drive attended by The Associated Press. The car was destined for a local pizza parlour, but didn’t pull directly in front of the restaurant, and instead stopped in the middle of the street. The cars may strike some riders as over-cautious, too. During the test drive, one idled in a traffic jam even though an adjacent lane was clear, prompting the human driver to make the move himself.

Uber’s fleet of Volvo XC90s won’t be the first self-driving cars on San Francisco streets – several other companies visit regularly with test prototypes, though none offers public rides.

Once testing is complete, the ultimate vision is to sell to the public technology which supporters argue will save thousands of lives because it doesn’t drink, text, fall asleep or take dangerous risks.


Under state law, tests of autonomous vehicles on public roads require a permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The department has issued permits to 20 companies, mostly a collection of traditional automakers and tech companies – but not Uber.

Uber argues that its cars aren’t covered by the law, which says that an “autonomous vehicle” requires a permit if it can drive itself “without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person.”

According to Anthony Levandowski, the leader of Uber’s self-driving program, Uber’s cars simply aren’t advanced enough to drive themselves without human monitoring. “We’re just not capable of doing that yet,” he said. Therefore, the Volvos are not autonomous and do not require a permit, he said.

It makes no sense to get a permit when one is not needed, Levandowski said: “This is where science and logic needs to trump blind compliance.”

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the DMV said it “encourages the responsible exploration of self-driving cars” and noted that 20 companies have permits to test hundreds of cars in California.

“Uber shall do the same,” the statement said.

Operating without a permit arguably gives Uber a competitive advantage. Companies with one must report to the state all crashes and every instance in which a person takes control during testing. All that information is public. To receive a permit, a company must show proof of insurance, pay a $150 fee and agree that a human driver can take control of the vehicle.

Uber’s stance seems likely to upset both state officials and competitors, said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who tracked California’s law as it was drafted in 2012. While an attorney could argue that Uber is reading the letter of California law correctly, Smith said, testing permits were “envisioned as a gateway, as an interim step” to launching self-driving cars on public roads.

Smith recalled discussing at the time the argument that Uber is now making: One day, a company might go public without a testing permit precisely because the law requires human oversight during testing.


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