Complaints Anonymous – A Traffic Violator Database Proposal

I never know what I will find when I check the DriveSmartBC e-mail in-box. Today’s gem came from someone who identifies themself as Grumpy and suggested that they were thinking that maybe I could use the web site to contain a database such that when a bad driver is witnessed, the public could enter the details of the driving offence. No personal information need be provided.

The writer went on to say that the main benefit of the database is that we could keep a count of the number of offences for a particular driver. If say, a license plate gets reported 3 or more times then the police could/should automatically investigate this person.

In a perfect world, the only entries in this database would be honest ones. No one would ever think of causing problems for another by flooding it with malicious information, misinterpretation of an event or insufficient detail.

A vehicle’s licence plate only serves to identify who owns the vehicle, not who was driving at a specific time. Yes, the owner must take reasonable steps to identify the driver when police notify them that the vehicle has been involved in a contravention but would you be able to report who was driving your vehicle at a particular time 6 months ago?

It’s the “no personal information need be provided” part that causes me the most concern. That says to me “I’m not willing to be accountable for the information that I am providing.” I think that with a little more thought, Grumpy would also not be willing to accept being the focus of an investigation under this system.

There is a database almost like this implemented in British Columbia right now. It’s called PRIME, the Police Records Information Management Environment. I’m guessing that Grumpy’s difficulty is that every time you try and add a record, you are asked for your name, address, birth date and telephone number by the complaint taker. Many people truly are reluctant to provide this information. At this point, I got the impression that many of them just wanted the police to wave their magic baton and have the problem go away.

It doesn’t work that way. If you want to solve the problem, you have to be a part of that solution.

Unfortunately, even when you are ready, willing and able to participate, the outcome could be less than what you are hoping for. Sometimes it can be much less. Perhaps this is why Grumpy is proposing an alternative system.

Having said that, I always found that the driving complaints that I chose to prosecute in traffic court resulted in a conviction. It had little to do with my skill as a prosecutor and everything to do with the citizen who reported the incident and was willing to see it through to a conclusion. That will was reinforced by what was usually significantly bad driving behaviour on the part of the accused.

Some drivers deserve to be held accountable for what they do when traffic law enforcement personnel are not around to discover and deal with them. If you are involved and feel strongly that action needs to be taken, make the report and follow up. If you don’t try, you won’t be successful.

Liberal politician wants new offence of careless driving causing death or bodily harm

A Liberal politician whose husband was killed while riding his bicycle wants to change Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act so drivers who injure or kill someone in an accident will face the real possibility of going to jail.

Police say they will charge a motorist with careless driving instead of the more serious Criminal Code offence of dangerous driving when there was no intent to cause harm, which means a maximum jail sentence of six months even if someone dies.

But Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon said a jail sentence is virtually never imposed on careless drivers because the Highway Traffic Act considers the actions of motorists, but doesn’t concern itself with victims.

“A Toronto officer with 29 years on the job, most of them in traffic, said no careless driving charge he was involved with had ever resulted in a jail sentence, despite the fact people have died,” said McMahon.

McMahon’s husband, OPP Sgt. Greg Stobbart, was killed while riding his bike in 2006 by a driver with five previous convictions for driving while suspended, two convictions for driving without insurance and $14,000 in traffic related fines.

“His sentence: his licence was suspended again and he received 100 hours of community service,” she said. “And just 62 days after this man hit Greg, he hit someone else.”

McMahon’s private member’s bill would add a new offence of careless driving causing death or bodily harm, which would carry a maximum jail sentence of two years.

It would give police a necessary option to fill what they find to be a frustrating gap in the law that doesn’t allow officers to lay a charge that recognizes the seriousness of the offence when someone is hurt or killed in an accident, added McMahon.

“Greg’s frustration with the lack of specificity inherent in Sec. 130 (of the Highway Traffic Act), his frustration at his own inability to lay a charge which fit the offence, is something I heard about all too often,” she said.

“To see it play out in a case that took his life was shattering.”

Transportation Minister Steven DelDuca said he’s always looking for ways to make highways safer, but wouldn’t commit to passing McMahon’s bill.

“We’re going to take a look at the specific legislation she’s brought forward and figure out if this is the best way to move forward,” he said. “All of our road safety partners have expressed concern to me about this.”

Toronto Police Const. Hugh Smith said it took higher fines and demerit points to change people’s behaviour about texting and driving, and he expects increased fines, demerit points and the real possibility of jail could do the same for careless driving.

“This bill provides clarity,” he said. “The deterrent will help.”

Bruce Chapman of the Police Association of Ontario also welcomed McMahon’s initiative to create the offence of careless driving causing death or bodily harm.

“Hopefully this will add as a deterrent to drivers,” said Champman. “By introducing this bill it gives some teeth to the police.”

Private member’s bills rarely become law in Ontario, but McMahon said she wanted this one to stand in her name instead of becoming a government bill.

“I asked them to carry this through as a private member’s bill because the issue is so personally important to me,” she said. “I’m confident with the support that I have that this will become law, in short order hopefully.”


Thoughts on Being a Pedestrian

Source: DriveSmartBC

I was asked two interesting questions via e-mail this week: “Is it law or simply a rule in BC that pedestrians should walk facing the traffic when there is no sidewalks along the roads? What happens when the highway maintenance company leaves no shoulder to walk on?” As I contemplate my answer, many thing run through my mind. How do we learn to be a safe pedestrian? How many people don’t know the rules for driver / pedestrian interaction? What are the risks in deciding to walk on or beside the highway?

As a good grandpa should, I take my grand daughters by the hand when we cross the street to get the mail. We stop at the edge of the pavement and carefully look both ways. If nothing is coming, we walk directly across the road without hesitation to the opposite shoulder. If something is coming, we wait until the vehicle has passed before we cross. Their mother is equally careful. She coaches them to use the left side of the road to walk on and calls them to the side to stand and wait if a vehicle should appear. This is likely the most common form of pedestrian education.

ICBC provides a wealth of material to schools, free of charge, for road safety education. A quick check with my local school district reveals that road safety is not part of the curriculum, but students may earn credit toward graduation through completion of a certified driver training program. Use of these materials at school would be discretionary.

A search for resources on the internet will find many pages with tips for being a safe pedestrian but I was unable to find a comprehensive pedestrian guide for British Columbia. Sadly, there is the Auto Accident Survivors Guide for British Columbia that was written by a pedestrian with first hand knowledge of being struck and seriously injured.

Sections 179 to 182 of the Motor Vehicle Act is the law in B.C. that regulates how drivers and pedestrians must behave. The heaviest onus is on the driver to be aware of and exercise due care to avoid a collision. The other side of the coin requires pedestrians to use a sidewalk when one is available, to walk on the left facing traffic when there isn’t and to yield to vehicles when not using a crosswalk.

If there is no sidewalk and the shoulder is either impassable or not present, pedestrians are entitled to use the left edge of the roadway. Facing oncoming traffic will allow you to see approaching vehicles and take evasive action if necessary.

We have come from a society that was pedestrian based to one that is motor vehicle based with little provision for the safety of non-vehicle road users. That is starting to change however. The Canadian Council for Motor Transport Administrators has published Countermeasures to Improve Pedestrian Safety in Canada to guide authorities in fostering highways that are meant for more than the exclusive use of drivers.

Being a pedestrian comes with significant risk that it is possible many do not stop to consider. After all, most of us can walk by the age of two and move on to worry about other things. Still, 58 people are killed and 2,400 injured each year in B.C. The major contributing factors are distracted driving and drivers failing to yield the right of way but being a savvy pedestrian can go a long way toward self preservation.

Buying and Selling Used Child Restraints

combi-kobuk-booster-seat.thumbnailMy dear wife had her tablet open the other evening and commented to me about a minor furor in a local buy and sell group on Facebook. Someone in the group was trying to sell a child safety seat and was being badgered because it was against the law to sell car seats. I wondered what law made it illegal to sell child restraints because I had not heard of one before. Do your research was her response, you’ll be able to write an article about it.

My first stop in my quest ended up being a visit to Transport Canada’s web site where it stated that if you own a car seat or booster seat made before January 1, 2012, under Health Canada’s Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, you may not be able to advertise, sell, or give it away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada. So far, so good.

Next I found and read the applicable section under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Section 6 says that no person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations. The definition of “sell” includes “distribute to one or more persons, whether or not the distribution is made for consideration” which makes giving it away illegal as well.

What requirements does a car seat or booster need to meet to make it legal for sale in Canada? For that we need to visit the Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Seats Safety Regulations made under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It directs us to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Test Method 213. This standard was issued on April 1, 1982 and the latest revision was made in May of 2012.

So, if your child restraint is manufactured on or after January 1, 2012, you could advertise and sell it legally or give it away to someone.

Should you consider a used car seat? If you are careful, it is not out of the question, but it could be risky. Restraints have have been used in a collision should be discarded and the vendor might not be truthful about the history in order to convince you to make the purchase.

Critical information about the child restraint includes the make, model and date of manufacture. This information should be attached to the seat. Use it to check for recalls and safety notices. The seller should be able to account for these.

Owner’s manuals and installation procedures for the seats should be available on line if the seller cannot furnish them. Use this information to insure that all parts are included with the seat and they are in proper working order.

The materials that the car seats are constructed from have a limited life because some parts deteriorate. This can range from 6 to 10 years depending on the model and a partial list of useful life for reference may be found on Transport Canada’s web site. If the seat’s life is 7 years and you will need it for 2 years, make sure that it is less than 5 years old.

In an ideal world, we would all buy new child restraints and not consider a used one. However, we don’t live in such a state and with a bit of care can still provide proper protection on a budget.

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.

ICBC Urging Drivers to Watch for Cyclists and Share the Roads this Summer

Source: ICBC

As Bike to Work Week kicks off next week, ICBC is urging drivers and cyclists to be aware of each other on our roads. One of the biggest risks facing cyclists today is “dooring” ― when the driver or a passenger in a parked car opens their door into a lane of traffic or a bike lane without checking if a cyclist is approaching.

“Dooring” can seriously injure or even kill a cyclist, and accounts for one-in-14 cyclist incidents throughout the province and one-in-seven incidents in Vancouver.* It’s important that both drivers and passengers shoulder check for cyclists before opening their doors. Cyclists should keep at least one metre away from parked vehicles and watch for people in vehicles.

In B.C., 670 cyclists are injured and six are killed in car crashes from June through September as ridership increases every year.**

Bike to Work Week encourages commuters to leave their cars at home and cycle instead. Whether you’re using four-wheeled transportation, or two ― use extra caution and watch out for other vulnerable road users.

“We support Bike to Work Week as an opportunity to remind everyone that cycling is a healthy, climate-friendly way to get to work,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “But we also know that crashes involving cyclists peak in summer when ridership increases. Whether you’re driving or cycling, watch for other road users and do your part to share our roads safely.”

“Our goal is to have the safest roads in North America by 2020, and with an ever-increasing population of bicycle commuters, learning to share the road is integral to that success,” said Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Road safety is not just about vehicles, it’s about cyclists and pedestrians as well. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your eyes on the road and work together to ensure everyone gets back to their families safely at the end of the day.”

ICBC also invests in road improvements across B.C. to make roads safer for cyclists. ICBC partners with municipalities and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to reduce crashes and make communities safer. Fewer crashes and injuries help reduce claims costs which continue to put substantial pressure on customers’ insurance rates.

“ICBC invested approximately $3.7 million in 153 cycling-related road improvement projects in B.C. from 2011 to 2015,” said Mark Blucher, ICBC’s president and CEO. “This includes new bike lanes, improved lane markings and lighting along bike paths. Whether you’re a cyclist or a driver, always remember to share the road.”

 Tips for drivers:

  • You’re required by law to check for traffic – including cyclists – before opening your car door. You could be fined for opening your door when it’s unsafe. Look first and open your car door slowly. Hint: Open with your hand furthest from the door – this makes you twist a little to reach the door and can remind you to do a shoulder check before proceeding.

  • Actively watch for cyclists on the road. Make eye contact with cyclists whenever possible to let them know you have seen them.

  • Shoulder check for cyclists before turning right and watch for oncoming cyclists before turning left. Before you pull away from the curb, shoulder check for cyclists.

  • If you need to cross a bike lane to turn right or to pull to the side of the road, signal well in advance and yield to cyclists.

  • If you’re entering the roadway from a laneway or parking lot, always scan for cyclists and other road users.

Tips for cyclists:

  • Always wear an approved bicycle helmet that meets safety standards — it’s the law in B.C. and you could be fined for not wearing one. Look for a helmet that’s approved by a recognized body such as Snell. More important than who made the helmet is how it fits. It should be snug, but not uncomfortable, and should not be able to roll off of your head when the chin strap is secured.

  • Keep at least one metre away from parked vehicles so you don’t get hit by an opening door. Use caution if you notice people in vehicles as well as taxis.

  • Be extra visible with reflective gear on your bicycle pedals and wheels.

  • Use designated bike routes whenever possible – they’re safer and reduce conflicts with vehicle traffic. Check your local municipality’s website for designated bike routes or go to TransLink for Metro Vancouver cycling maps.

  • If there’s no bike lane, keep to the right-hand side of the road as much as it’s safe to do so. It’s illegal to cycle on most sidewalks and in crosswalks – it puts pedestrians in danger and drivers don’t expect cyclists to enter the roadway from a sidewalk.

  • Make sure you obey all traffic signs and signals and rules of the road.

  • Shoulder check well in advance and hand signal before taking any turns. Remember, drivers sometimes fail to yield right-of-way.

    *Top contributing factors assigned to drivers in car crashes in B.C. involving cyclist injury or fatality based on 2009 to 2013 police data.

    **ICBC (injury) and police (fatality) data from 2009 to 2013.

Ford Recalls Nearly 44,000 F 150 Trucks in Canada Due to Brake Concerns

Source: Canadian Press

Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 271,000 F-150 trucks, including close to 44,000 in Canada, due to concerns about their front brakes.

The automaker says the recall, which affects 2013 and 2014 models, is being issued to replace the brake master cylinders.

The company says in some cases, the effectiveness of the brakes can be reduced due to brake fluid leaking from the brake master cylinder into the brake booster, increasing the risk of a crash.

The brake fluid leak does not affect rear-wheel braking.

Affected vehicles include those equipped with 3.5-litre GTDI engines built at Ford’s truck plant in Dearborn, Mich., from Aug. 1, 2013, until Aug. 22, 2014, and at its Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant from Aug. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2014.

Ford says it is aware of allegations of nine accidents with no injuries, and one alleged injury in another case that did not stem from an accident.

Dealers will replace the brake master cylinder at no cost to the customer and will replace the brake booster if they find leaks from the brake master cylinder.



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