I often prowl through driving forums on the Internet searching for interesting topics of discussion. The following quote came from a site in Kelowna.
Sadly, not everyone knows the rules of the road and/or how to operate their motor vehicle correctly. Pressing the pedals and basic coordination is about as far as some people get.
We live in an age of readily accessible information if we have an internet connection and a bit of curiosity. The Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations are our official rule books.
TranBC is a blog that carries driving tips and news from the B.C. Government.
The YouTube channel for Smart Drive Test delivers free driving lessons tailored specifically for B.C. Drivers.
I cannot think of a recent change to our provincial driving environment that has not been reported by traditional media or social media.
While the coverage may not be detailed or in the case of some social media posts totally accurate, at least one should have an idea that there might have been a change that affects you.
Shrugging your shoulders and saying to yourself that you either already know enough or will learn about it later on if you need to can be expensive.
The instance that brought this to mind was an inquiry from an Ontario visitor to our province. She had her cell phone in her lap and looked down to study the GPS map while she was in bumper to bumper traffic on the way to the airport.
When she looked up again she noticed flashing lights in her blind spot and received a ticket for distracted driving.
Her question to me concerned how she might successfully fight this ticket.
This might be difficult to accomplish as the rules in Ontario parallel those here in B.C. was my first response.
Well, I didn't know that and it's almost impossible to know all the rules of the road she said. If the cell phone is supposed to be secured in a holder, shouldn't the car rental company provide one?
The head-in-the-sand approach to learning will probably cost this lady at least the price of the ticket, which is currently $368. If she intends to dispute the ticket, she will either have to come back to B.C. to conduct her defence or hire a lawyer to act on her behalf.
Chances are very good that retaining counsel will be at least double the cost of the ticket itself with no guarantee of having the charge dismissed.
As with many other things in our life, we need to take possession of the issue and make sure that we have the proper knowledge and skills to be successful at what we undertake to do.
Making mistakes while driving has outcomes that range from damaging our bank account to damaging ourselves, our loved ones or the lives of other road users.
Sometimes, when I read articles on road safety, I come across one that really resonates with me. A story from 2008 written by Paul Hergott titled Drivers Need to Smarten Up When Out on the Road is one of them.
Paul, whose column also runs on Castanet on Tuesday, starts off by saying, "We’ve got ourselves a serious attitude problem. We see driving as a right."
Very little has changed since then except perhaps that this attitude is becoming even more prevalent on our roads in 2017.
Paul goes on to say "We then put a whole lot of police resources into enforcing those basic rules of the road. The enforcement, though, is hardly compelling. The fines associated with blowing through red lights and speeding are nothing more than slaps on the wrist."
This is an area where I have some experience, having spent about 25 years writing traffic tickets to drivers, trying to change the attitude of the motoring public.
In order to be effective, drivers who do not follow the rules need to believe that there will be consequences for not doing so. The chance of being caught must be seen as significant and once justifiably ticketed for an offence, there should be a proportionate penalty impressed.
If you continue to ignore the rules, you should find yourself without the privilege of driving for a time.
I knew the size of my patrol area and how many of my co-workers were on the road at any one time. From that knowledge alone, I knew that there was little chance that most drivers would see me or my partner during a shift much less risk being issued a ticket.
We would often remark on traffic enforcement that we did not encounter when driving around the province while on leave, marvelling at the distance we could travel and not encounter a marked police vehicle doing traffic enforcement.
Why count marked police vehicles? Probably because the majority of the traffic-enforcement fleet is a fully marked car. Even the unmarked cars tended to be Fords or Chevys with black, steel wheels and a forest of antennae on the roof.
The use of non-standard unmarked vehicles of many varieties that regularly move among the traffic units would go a long way toward keeping habitual offenders watching their rear view mirrors.
Unless you have a significant driving record and have committed a particularly serious offence, there is no risk in disputing the allegation in a traffic ticket. The worst that will likely happen is that you will have to pay the amount shown on the ticket.
I'll leave a driving prohibition up to the Superintendent is a common response made by the court to a request by the Crown during the penalty phase of a trial.
If you are not part of the Graduated Licensing Program, you cannot complain about the Superintendent being heavy handed. Under the Driver Improvement Program, a driver has to accumulate 15-19 penalty points within a two-year period before a prohibition might occur.
Excessive speeding, driving without due care and attention, driving without reasonable consideration for others or using an electronic device while driving are the exceptions to the rule. They are classed as high risk driving offences and if you are convicted twice in a one year period a prohibition will occur.
Our current system of enforcement likely works well enough for the average citizen who generally tries to follow the rules.
What Paul describes as a slap on the wrist is not much of a deterrent for those drivers who put themselves ahead of everyone else in traffic.
Some incidents encountered during a career in policing stick with you for life and sometimes resurface later on as lessons learned.
This memory involved a mother dropping her young son off for a birthday party by pulling over and stopping on the right side of the street. He exited the car and excited to join the festivities, ran to the back and darted across the street.
He was struck and killed by a passing vehicle.
I was sent to the hospital at the beginning of the investigation to check on the mother and child because we did not know of the child's condition at the time. I knew the woman because her older son was in the Cub Pack where I was a leader.
Her anguish was terrible to see and I have no doubt that she will spend the rest of her life wishing that she had taken the extra time to pull into the driveway and let her son out of the car on safe ground.
One of my co-workers dealt with the driver of the vehicle that struck the boy, so I did not get to see him.
Do you think that he will ever forget that day? How many times will he go over the incident in his mind and try to see what he could have done to produce a different outcome?
All this flashed through my mind when I followed a pickup truck one morning last week. Children wait for the school bus on the side of the street near my home. There were already children and adults waiting ahead on my right.
The pickup moved over into the oncoming lane and stopped across from the group.
Instant deja vu.
I slowed immediately and proceeded at a walking pace between the group and the pickup, watching both sides for movement across the road. No one crossed and I was able to pass safely.
What was going on in the mind of the pickup driver? Why not pull over to the right side of the street and stop? The vehicle had no business being on the wrong side of the road.
In addition, the stop must be made with the vehicle at the right-hand edge of the roadway.
All the driver had really done was add more confusion to the situation.
In retrospect, despite what I had remembered from my past, the confusion extended to me as well.
I had a duty not to collide with a pedestrian, especially a child, and in this situation had already inferred the possibility of one being present.
In general, you are required to pass an overtaken vehicle on the left. There is an exception to this rule when there is an unobstructed lane on the right, as there was here.
However, that pass on the right can only be done if it is safe to do. Both the pickup on the wrong side of the road and the possibility of a child getting out of it to wait for the school bus made the circumstances unsafe.
I should have stopped and stayed stopped until the situation resolved itself. Moving into a position of possible conflict regardless of how slow I was going was a poor choice.
Sometimes we can make all manner of errors when we drive and it still turns out all right in the end.
However, don't let those errors become the default setting.
Hey, you! Yeah, you! Put the phone down and pay attention to where you're driving.
In 2015, police wrote over 44,000 traffic tickets for distracted driving violations in B.C. ICBC tells us that about 30 per cent of crashes in B.C. involve driving while distracted.
Recent changes to the distracted driving legislation saw fines change from $196 to $348, plus $175 from four penalty points yet look around you in traffic and see how many drivers you can find with an electronic device in hand.
The last time that ICBC commissioned a poll on distracted driving almost everyone agreed that texting while driving was dangerous, but 40 per cent of drivers with cell phones had used it while driving in the preceding six months.
There is no good time to drive while using an electronic device, but this month could be even riskier for those who can't leave the phone alone.
A press release from ICBC this week advises that:
- "ICBC, police and volunteers have worked together to plan more enforcement deployments across the province with over 70 police enforcement events and over 50 Cell Watch deployments with volunteers roadside this month. The aim is to give drivers the clear message that if they drive while distracted, they're even more likely to be caught."
So, if we know that this is not a good idea, why do some of us do it? Perhaps we could ask the same question of impaired drivers, speeders or those who don't stop at stop signs.
I suspect that it's a combination of putting one's perceived needs ahead of everyone else, our rationalization that we're good drivers so we can do this safely or we don't think that there is much chance of being caught.
There is even talk of cell phone use being an addiction that creates a compulsion to use it regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in at the time.
We should be very concerned that the age group most likely to ignore the rules surrounding electronics and distraction are the younger drivers. They neither have the skills nor the experience of an accomplished driver yet they willingly take on the risk of divided attention while driving.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has published a National Action Plan on Distracted Driving for Canada. While education, enforcement and legislation are in place, co-ordination among stakeholders is missing. Hopefully the formation of the Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving will facilitate co-ordination going forward.
Ultimately, the solution to the problem comes down to the individual, that is me and you.
Together we can do things like shutting off our phone when we get into the vehicle, install an app like OneTap that silences notifications while driving, refusing to talk or text with friends and family while they drive, pull over and park to text or make a call.
Got the message?
More Behind the Wheel articles
- Tough being a pedestrian Feb 28
- Know before you go Feb 21
- Don't plow me in! Feb 14
- An agent in traffic court Feb 7
- When the light is white Jan 31
- Left-turn surprise Jan 24
- Ready or not, here I come Jan 17
- Making a difference Jan 10
- Shining light on speed Jan 3
- Fighting that ticket Dec 27
- Speeding in residential areas Dec 20
- Famous last words Dec 13