Road Safety: Passed & Forgotten

The topic of choice in the DriveSmartBC e-mail box this past week has been about drivers who pass you in the left lane of a multiple lane highway and then immediately change lanes back in front of you. This action leaves less (sometimes much less) than optimum following distance between you and the driver who passed you. It’s as if once passed, you are completely forgotten by the other driver.

Since the driver who changed lanes doesn’t seem to care suggested one correspondent, she had to keep dropping back to re-establish a reasonable following distance. Of course, once she did that another driver would fill it in again. Travelling this way on lower mainland highways almost became an exercise in going backwards.

I’ve written about this once before in an article titled Forced Tailgating. The Inland Island Highway is often relatively quiet, yet a driver often passes me in this manner when there were literally kilometers of empty highway in front of both of us, forcing me into a tailgating situation. Out of sight, out of mind I guess.

It should not be this way though. Have you ever used the mantra mirror, signal, shoulder check, change? If you can’t see the entire front of the vehicle behind you in your center rearview mirror, you are not far enough ahead to change lanes yet. Having trouble fitting in? Perhaps an adequate signal of your intention will result in the other driver politely making room.

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Disobeying The Laws of Physics

You may be able to disregard the rules in the Motor Vehicle Act and survive, but flouting the laws of physics when you drive will eventually result in a collision. I spent a decade dealing with concepts like perception – reaction time, coefficients of friction and maximum acceleration when I did a forensic examination of a collision scene. This gave me some insight into what you can and can’t do as a driver and the need to never put yourself in a position when your vehicle tried to ask more of the laws of physics than they would allow.

The driver I watched yesterday either had no consideration for the physics involved in driving, had a very high-risk tolerance or both. He was following a larger vehicle travelling 90 km/h with what looked like enough room to comfortably parallel park between them had they been standing still. I’m always happy when these drivers roar off into the distance and are no longer near me. I guess my tolerance of risk is not a high one, particularly when the risk is imposed on me by others.

90 km/h is 25 meters per second. Accepted perception – reaction time in collision reconstruction is 1.5 seconds. That means this driver travels 75 meters between the time something happens, and he first applies the brake. No slowing has occurred yet. If the vehicle in front slows suddenly, a crash is inevitable.

Not a problem, I’ll just steer out of the way you say. Remember that perception – reaction time? It means that you will just begin to turn the steering wheel after having travelled that 75 meters. Again, a crash is inevitable.

The vehicle in front doesn’t have to slow to be a problem either. It may be blocking your view of what is ahead. If the driver waits until the last minute to move out of the way of a hazard, we’re back to that 75 meters or 1.5 seconds again. Are you feeling like a crash test dummy yet? The laws of physics are not forgiving.

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.

Drivers lack understanding of new safety features like collision warning

By Dee-Ann Durbin


DETROIT _ Adaptive cruise control has been an option on some cars for almost a decade. But in a recent national survey, 65 per cent of U.S. drivers didn’t know what it was.

The survey, by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center’s Transportation and Vehicle Safety program, suggests big gaps in the public’s knowledge about potentially life-saving features. Based on the responses, the university and the National Safety Council have developed a new Web site _ _ to teach drivers about new features, from tire-pressure monitoring systems to automatic emergency braking.

The site is one of several places that car owners and shoppers can learn about safety technology. The federal government’s auto-safety website _ _ lists crash-test results and uses icons to highlight cars with recommended safety features, including lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety _ _ also explains key collision-avoidance features like automatic braking, and lists which cars have them.

Carmakers _ prodded by government regulators and public crash-test rankings _ are rapidly adding safety features. By 2018, for example, the U.S. will require all new vehicles to have backup cameras. But at the same time, cars are getting more reliable and lasting longer, so millions of people driving older cars may not be familiar with the latest safety options. The average vehicle on U.S. roads is now 11.5 years old _ older than adaptive cruise control.

Daniel McGehee, who conducted the survey, was surprised to find that even car dealers and service department managers weren’t always familiar with new safety features.

“The technology is changing so quickly they don’t have a good understanding,” said McGehee, the director of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research program.

The survey, which questioned 2,015 people last September about nine safety features, found that 92 per cent of drivers had heard of anti-lock brakes, which have been common on cars since the 1980s. But only about half had heard of more recent options like lane-departure warning, which gives an audible warning or vibrates to warn drivers when the car leaves its lane, or forward-collision warning, which alerts drivers to an imminent crash.

Ninety-four per cent were aware of cruise control, which keeps the vehicle at a set speed on the highway. But only about one-third had heard of its more advanced sibling, adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set speed and distance from the car ahead and can accelerate or brake on its own. It used to be a feature on luxury cars, but as radar and cameras have gotten cheaper, it’s being added to mainstream vehicles like the Honda CR-V and the Mazda6.

Even features that are standard on every car caused some head-scratching. Only 55 per cent of drivers were familiar with tire-pressure monitoring systems, which have been mandated by the U.S. government since 2007. The systems alert drivers, usually with a dashboard message, when one of their tires is underinflated. McGehee said drivers may not realize they have a feature like that because their tires are properly inflated.

“A lot of technologies lie in wait, but we know they are very useful when they’re needed,” he said.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that automakers have different names for safety features. Mercedes-Benz calls its adaptive cruise-control system Distronic Plus, for example, while Subaru packages adaptive cruise control within its EyeSight suite of safety systems. Systems also work differently; some will automatically steer drivers back into their lane if they leave it, for example, while others just give them a warning.

McGehee says the website doesn’t name particular automakers or systems, but simply tries to explain various technologies.

“This is a geeky area we’re getting into,” McGehee said. “We wanted to debrand the vehicles and concentrate on the concepts.”

The university is now studying what kinds of questions people have about their car’s features, with the goal of making a mobile manual that drivers could consult with voice commands. McGehee, an engineer who recently found himself fumbling around for the parking brake in a rental car, says the manual would let people ask things like, “Where is my parking brake?” or “How does my parking brake work?”

The University of Iowa received three grants totalling $17.2 million for the project and for future efforts, including the mobile manual. The money came from Toyota Motor Corp., which set aside $30 million for safety education programs in 2012 as part of a $1 billion class-action settlement over unintended acceleration claims.



It’s a Left Turn Lane, not an Acceleration Lane

Two Way Left Turn LanesA gentleman from Courtenay explained about the regular difficulty that he encountered when he used the two way left turn lanes in that city. Most recently, he was travelling northbound on Cliffe Avenue attempting a left turn into Tim Horton’s. A woman turned southbound out of the Husky just ahead of him into the two way left turn lane as well. They were now approaching each other head on.

Legally, this woman is required to leave the two way left turn lane by turning left once she has occupied it. The gentleman is entitled to expect that she will obey the law and will not interfere with his left turn. It’s a good thing that she used her right turn signal and he saw it. Waiting to turn left prevented a collision that would have occurred had he turned when she accelerated into the first through lane on her right.

Wrongly, many drivers see the relatively quiet two way left turn lane as a way to reduce the complication of crossing three lanes of traffic and occupying the first available lane for their intended direction of travel. Instead, they move into the turn lane, accelerate to the speed of surrounding traffic and then move right into the lane they should have entered in the first instance.

Turning left is one of the more dangerous moves that we make when we drive. When traffic is heavy it can be difficult to track and account for all of the drivers who are following the rules. The woman should not have left the Husky driveway if she could not comfortably reach the correct lane. Probably unwittingly, she made a left turn less safe for someone else when she did this.

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Company plans to install cameras in all 564 cabs within the next year

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Government, ICBC and police team up to get tough on distracted driving

Government, ICBC and police team up to get tough on distracted driving

While government reviews B.C.’s distracted driving penalties, ICBC, police and the B.C. government are teaming up to launch a month-long distracted driving campaign across the province.

One in four deaths on B.C. roads involves distracted driving. It’s time we all commit to leaving our phones alone and avoiding other forms of distraction when we’re behind the wheel.

This month, police are ramping up their enforcement of distracted driving across the province. Distracted driving is the second leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C. and a leading cause of crashes with pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Cell Watch volunteers will be roadside across the province reminding drivers to leave their phones alone. ICBC road safety coordinators will also be visiting community events with a driving simulator the public can try. You can take a stand against distracted driving and encourage others to do the same by picking up a free decal to display on your vehicle at ICBC driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices.

TELUS is also a supporter of this month’s campaign and has been working with ICBC to help educate drivers about the risks of using a cell phone while driving through its smartphone and Internet safety program, TELUS WISE.

The campaign features new radio advertising, digital advertising which will appear online and in restaurants and bars, and television ads. You can view an infographic on this month’s distracted driving campaign at


Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice

“The cost of a distracted driving ticket in B.C. is only $167 – the second lowest in Canada – yet the cost of a distracted driving crash can be a person’s life,” said Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “During our month-long consultation, it was clear the public firmly agrees that our fines are too low. We are going to fix this. Over the coming months, we will make our roads safer with tough, fair, and effective sanctions to curtail this alarming but preventable problem.”

Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

“We’re asking drivers to leave their phones alone and stay focused on the road,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “When you’re distracted behind the wheel, your ability to react quickly is significantly compromised. In fact, you’re four times more likely to crash if you’re using your phone while driving.”

Staff Sergeant Dale Somerville, Program Manager, B.C. RCMP Traffic Services

“If you choose to drive distracted and put others’ lives at risk, police will catch you,” said Staff Sergeant Dale Somerville, B.C. RCMP Traffic Services. “B.C. drivers know it’s against the law, but far too many still make excuses for their behaviour, then continue to put themselves and others at risk. That’s why we’re cracking down on those who cannot police themselves. Even when you’re at a red light or in slow moving traffic – you’re still in control of a vehicle – and the law still applies.”

Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s director responsible for road safety

“Anyone who drives while distracted is putting themselves and others on the road at risk,” said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s director responsible for road safety. “Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of crashes with pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. It’s time we all commit to leaving our phones alone and avoiding other forms of distraction when we’re behind the wheel.”

Juggy Sihota, TELUS vice president of customer experience strategy & operations, TELUS Health

“Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue in Canada and we need to take immediate action,” said Juggy Sihota, TELUS vice president of customer experience strategy and operations. “As a smartphone retailer and provider of the network that powers mobile devices, we have a profound responsibility to tackle distracted driving head-on and encourage Canadians to make smart and safe smartphone decisions. We want to help draw attention to this issue, spark a change in behaviour and encourage others to help put an end to distracted driving.”

Regional statistics*:


  • Every year, on average, 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in theLower Mainland.
  • Every year, on average, 12 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes onVancouver Island.
  • Every year, on average, 32 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in theSouthern Interior.
  • Every year, on average, 15 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.

*Notes: Police data from 2009 to 2013. Distraction: where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors including use of communication/video equipment, driver inattentive and driver internal/external distraction.

Media contact:
Lindsay Olsen

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