Enforcement of Laws Concerning Noisy Vehicles

Noisy.thumbnailThe question this week revolves around vehicle noise in quiet neighbourhoods. Why don’t the municipalities do more about it asks my correspondent. This may be a case of the squeaky wheel not getting the grease!

We all like to enjoy the peace and quiet of our property without being disturbed by loud noise. There is good reason for that because noise that disturbs is bad for our health, both physical and mental. While we may tolerate occasional short duration noise that is not too loud, our urban environment can be continuously noisy at all times of the day.

There is ample legislation in place to control noise from vehicles. The Criminal Code, Motor Vehicle Act and municipal bylaws all provide rules and penalties for those that fail to follow them. It is up to police and bylaw enforcement to deal with those who fail to consider others and make life miserable.

No person shall start, drive, turn or stop any motor vehicle, or accelerate the vehicle engine while the vehicle is stationary, in a manner which causes any loud and unnecessary noise in or from the engine, exhaust system or the braking system, or from the contact of the tires with the roadway. This quote from the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) pretty much covers every aspect of vehicle noise, regardless of it’s source.

There is no requirement that test equipment be used to determine if a vehicle is generally too loud. The MVAR provides that the opinion of an inspector as to whether the engine and exhaust noise is greater than that made by other vehicles in good condition of comparable size, horsepower, piston displacement or compression ratio shall determine whether exhaust gases are expelled with excessive noise.

Having said that, the MVAR does provide maximum sound pressure levels for various types of motor vehicles and they may be tested using a decibel meter.

The real stumbling block here is the willingness of enforcement personnel to devote time to the issue and having the courts convict violators.

Traffic law enforcement focuses on drivers whose behaviour causes collisions. There is some time in an officer’s shift for activities that don’t directly deal with harm reduction but the current aims are to curtail impaired and distracted driving, excessive speed and insure the use of occupant restraints. Don’t expect much time to be devoted to your noise issues.

I once sat through an entire day of provincial court waiting for the dispute of a ticket that I had written to the rider of a motorcycle that did not have a muffler. The hearing was brief and the judge dismissed the ticket as the last matter on the list. I spoke to him outside the courtroom afterwards and was told that the matter really wasn’t important to him in the context of the other trials he had to hear daily.

I have not policed in a municipality where bylaw enforcement officers dealt with noise from moving vehicles. While that does not mean that this does not occur, it does show the importance that some municipalities attach to your problem. They too have more pressing issues to deal with.

While we may lose sleep over noisy vehicles around our homes, chances are the most effective way to deal with the situation is to roll over and go back to sleep.

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

Solving Your Road Safety Problem

WD-101_Const._Ahead.thumbnailEveryone would like to feel safe in their neighbourhood and that extends to having everyone else obey the driving rules when they are in it. So, what do you do when this is not the case? The answer depends on how much you want to become involved in the solution.

Years of contact with people through this site has taught me that most people either want a sympathetic ear to listen to their complaint or expect someone else, most often the police, to solve the problem after being notified about it. These people do not want to become involved beyond this point, after providing the information it is now an issue for someone else to solve.

Drawing the attention of road safety authorities to a problem is the right place to start though. You have intimate knowledge of your neighbourhood and it’s problems because you live there. You know how often drivers don’t follow the speed limit, don’t stop for stop signs and where the common crash locations are.

The best way to make general complaints is in writing. Although the default agency is often the police, your local MLA, the road maintenance contractor or the district office of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure may be a better choice, depending on the problem. Provide them with a comprehensive description of the problem as you see it including as much detail as you are able to.

I still admire the initiative one man took to measure speeding vehicles that passed his home. He measured the distance between two telephone poles beside the highway that were visible from his kitchen window. When he had a few spare minutes, he’d sit at the kitchen table with a stopwatch and measure the time between poles for passing traffic. That time was easily turned into a speed that he recorded along with when it occurred. He now had accurate information that he could present to police that backed up his opinion.

You could choose to make an appointment with the local manager of the appropriate service and present your issue personally. The manager will then have a person to go with the complaint that could serve to make it more immediate. Discuss the problems, the possible solutions and obtain a commitment to do something.

Follow up on the commitment after a reasonable time. If some action has been taken you have started down the road to a solution. If not, find out why, as this is important to your next step if you choose to continue to obtain a solution.

If the Ministry does not have the budget for an improvement or the police don’t have the manpower for more frequent patrols, this is an issue to solve along the way, not an excuse for failing to take action.

The internet can be a gold mine for those who want to make a difference. Chances are good that someone else has had the same problem and may already have a reasonable solution. You could join or create a group and lobby more effectively. If you are careful of the source, it is also a great place to do research and learn more about your issue which may provide a path to a solution.

Generally, problems do not go away by themselves. Complain constructively and be a part of the solution. Also, make sure that you are not part of the problem, in your neighbourhood or someone else’s.

BCAA urges parents to learn the game and keep their kids safe

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Sending Your Agent to Traffic Court

Violation Ticket TopYou’ve waited for your day in traffic court and it’s finally drawing near. The trouble is, something unforeseen has occurred and you can’t be there in person. What to do now? Send an agent of course.

The Offence Act provides for appearance by an agent, who is not a lawyer, instead of the driver who was issued the traffic ticket. This is at the discretion of the judicial justice presiding, who could choose to require the driver to appear instead of allowing the agent to conduct the defence. In general, I have seen the justice allow the agent to enter a plea. The agent’s advice was accepted for a guilty plea but the matter was usually adjourned if the plea was not guilty. I have also seen the justice flatly refuse to hear from an agent and set the matter over for a new date.

The most common difficulty with having an agent represent you seems to be with assuring the justice that this person does have the authority to act on your behalf. It would be prudent to send written instructions to court with the agent that can be shown to the justice. If you chose to sign the violation ticket, the justice can compare the signature and details in your authorization with their copy and more easily satisfy themselves of your intentions.

Using an agent is not the same as appearing for the trial yourself. The agent will be able to enter your plea of not guilty, cross examine any prosecution witnesses, examine any defence witnesses, summarize the defence position and if you are found guilty, speak to the penalty. What they cannot do is give your evidence to the court. You are the only one that can do that and must appear in person to do so.

This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly if granted by the court. You and your agent should work together prior to the trial so that the agent has a complete picture of the incident, your exact wishes for the conduct of the trial and have a good idea of the applicable law. Ideally, they should also attend a traffic court session as a spectator so that they know what to expect. Proper preparation is always critical to doing anything well.

Unfortunately, there is no way to check ahead of time to see if a judicial justice will accept an agent acting in place of a defendant. The court registries that I contacted did say that it was much more common to see an agent attend with the defendant to provide advice but not participate otherwise in the trial.

Unless your agent is also a lawyer qualified to practice law in B.C. you cannot pay them “a fee, gain or reward, direct or indirect” for helping you. To do so would mean that they are conducting the practice of law and could face consequences from the Law Society of BC for the unauthorized practice of law.

Is it a wise decision to be represented by an agent instead of asking for an adjournment and conducting your own trial? You will have to decide that for yourself before the fact because after the verdict has been made it will be very difficult to change the outcome.

Dispute a Traffic Ticket Penalty Without Attending Court

Violation Ticket TopAre you guilty of the offence shown on the violation ticket but unable to pay the ticketed amount? In many cases you can have the fine reviewed and set to a penalty more appropriate for your circumstances without having to set foot in traffic court. When the penalty cannot be reduced or you need both a reduction and time to pay, that can be accomplished as well. All you need to do is to complete and submit two forms for the judicial justice to review.

The two forms are PTR021 – Violation Ticket Notice of Dispute and PTR022 – Violation Ticket Statement and Written Reasons. These forms are available on line or can be obtained at the nearest Court Registry office.

Form PTR021 is used to start the dispute process. In all cases you would complete parts A and D. For this situation you would also complete part B. This indicates that you agree that you have committed the offence(s), do not wish to appear in court personally and require a reduction (check box C1) and/or time to pay (check box C2).

Form PTR022 explains your situation to the judicial justice and accompanies form PTR021. You must complete parts A and B and then choose part C for a reduction in penalty and/or part D for time to pay the penalty. This is where you would explain your financial situation, highlight an otherwise spotless driving record and name a specific period of time for payment. If you cannot specify a time, you could explain what is left of your budget each month that you can afford to pay and leave the calculation to the judicial justice.

The form is specific that the written reasons must not contain a defence of the allegation. For instance, you must not ask for a reduction or time to pay because you did not know what you did was wrong, the offence was minor in nature or some reason compelled you to disobey. Arguments that refute guilt are for disputes of the allegation, and you’ve already chosen to indicate that you are guilty of the offence.

These forms, along with a copy of the violation ticket that you were issued may be sent to the address listed on them or taken in person to the Court Registry.

A judicial justice will review them and may choose to ask the issuing officer about the circumstances that led to the ticket being issued. Your driving record is not reviewed as part of the process unless you decide to provide that information yourself. In case you are tempted to shade the truth here, remember that you are working with legal documents and there are penalties for being less than forthright.

If you wish to attach a copy of your driving record, you can download and print the document free of charge directly from ICBC.

Some driving offences such as speeding have specific fines set in the legislation. Others such as driving without insurance have minimum fines indicated. In either case, the judicial justice must follow the law and either cannot vary the specific fine or set a penalty lower than the indicated minimum.

Traffic ticket fines are meant to act as a deterrent, not a financial hardship. The ticketed amounts are determined to indicate the seriousness of the offence and balanced for an average income. The system outlined here helps adjust the penalty to suit other than average circumstances.

Reference Links:

ICBC and police team up for annual summer campaign

ICBC and police team up for annual summer campaign

Summer can be a deadly time on B.C. roads, with 46 per cent of impaired driving-related deaths occurring between June and September. That’s why ICBC and police are stepping up awareness activities and CounterAttack roadchecks across the province starting this long weekend.

With increased traffic and vacation plans that could involve alcohol, ICBC is urging everyone to plan ahead to travel safely. Police will be looking for impaired drivers at CounterAttack roadchecks throughout B.C.

While much progress has been made, impaired driving remains the leading cause of criminal death in Canada and in the top three contributing factors for fatal crashes in B.C. With so many options to get home safely, there’s no excuse to drive impaired – arrange a designated driver, call a taxi or take transit.

ICBC supports CounterAttack with funding for enhanced police enforcement and two education campaigns each year. Learn interesting facts about impaired driving in ICBC’s infographic and get more info on icbc.com.

Quotes:

“We have seen significant reductions in alcohol-related fatalities on our roads, however, there are still some people who don’t take this issue seriously,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “CounterAttack is a vital part of our provincial enforcement strategy and British Columbians can expect enforcement to continue until every driver hears the message loud and clear – impaired driving will not be tolerated in B.C. We will continue to work together to change attitudes to keep B.C. roads safe for everyone.”

“Impaired driving is the third-leading cause of road deaths during the summer, after speeding and distracted driving,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “So it’s important to have a plan for a safe ride to and from your summer activities.”

“Driving while impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is never worth the risk,” said Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. “Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or arrest are significant and can last a lifetime. Police across B.C. will be looking for impaired drivers at CounterAttack roadchecks this summer.”

“Whether you’re on a busy highway filled with summer road trip travellers or just driving your regular route across town to a game at your local ball diamond, it’s important to stay focused and alert,” said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s director responsible for road safety. “And if your activities involve alcohol, make sure you have a designated driver or a plan to take transit or a taxi.”

Editor’s note: B-roll footage of CounterAttack roadcheck is available for download.

Regional statistics*:

  • In the Lower Mainland, an average of 21 people are killed in impaired-related crashes every year.
  • On Vancouver Island, an average of 11 people are killed in impaired-related crashes every year.
  • In the Southern Interior, an average of 25 people are killed in impaired-related crashes every year.
  • In North Central B.C., an average of 21 people are killed in impaired-related crashes every year.

Canada Day statistics**:

  • On Canada Day, one person is killed and 230 are injured in 750 crashes in B.C.
  • Last year, 180 people were injured in 460 crashes in the Lower Mainland on Canada Day.
  • Last year, 21 people were injured in 120 crashes on Vancouver Island on Canada Day.
  • Last year, 24 people were injured in 120 crashes in the Southern Interior on Canada Day.
  • Last year, 5 people were injured in 56 crashes in the North Central region on Canada Day.

Notes:

*Fatal victim counts are from police data (2010 to 2014). Impaired is defined to include alcohol, illicit drugs and medicines.

**Canada Day is calculated from 00:00 to midnight and includes incidents where the time was not reported. Injured victim and crash data from 2015 ICBC data and fatal victims from police data five-year average (2010 to 2014).

Media contact:
Sam Corea
604-982-2480

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