I glanced at the driver stopped beside me at a red light today. He was busily chatting with someone via the cell phone that he was holding to his ear with his right hand. A marked police vehicle pulled up to our right and stopped to wait for the red as well. The driver beside me noticed, put his phone on speaker, held his hand below dash level and kept on with his conversation. The police vehicle departed on the green and when it was our turn this driver was rolling into the intersection well ahead of the light changing.
Coincidentally, I also watched a YouTube video this evening created by the Abbotsford Police Department. It's two minutes of the best and worst driving excuses for the past year as heard by the officers at roadside. It is abundantly clear that some drivers do not accept any responsibility for their behaviour on our highways. I've often described this as the philosophy of "I'm important, you're not. I'm in a hurry, get out of my way!" These people really do not care about sharing the road with you and me.
Both of these incidents started me thinking about my own experiences in traffic law enforcement. It would appear that our government has introduced new legislation to control hazardous driving behaviour and there is more public advocacy for safer behaviour but there is still no shortage of drivers willing to put themselves first. It's curious that our system also allows them the opportunity to be the only instructor for a new driver, but I digress.
This article is the only action that I felt comfortable about taking to counter the driver on the cell phone. Catching his attention and showing disapproval could invite road rage. Waving like a maniac to attract attention of the officer at the intersection was not likely going to be that successful. In the end, it looks like he won. Maybe you really can't legislate against stupidity.
Have you ever pulled up to an intersection and found another driver who has the right of way waving you on? Such acts of courtesy are uncommon on our highways but thankfully are not unheard of. Who would guess that such an act of kindness could actually expose the driver extending the courtesy to risk?
During defensive driving classes in basic training we were taught never to wave another driver on. The reason behind this instruction was possible civil liability if the driver that was waved on was then involved in a collision.
It is less confusing for the driver with the right of way to take it and move out of the way. This frees up the lane for the other driver to continue in the manner that everyone expects.
Please don't forget about courtesy to others when you are driving, but choose to exercise it in a safe manner and consider not waving other drivers ahead of yourself in a situation where you have the right of way. Save the wave to say thank you instead!
Can we all agree that driving while distracted is a bad thing? Probably. Would we also consider that this would be more important for an inexperienced driver than a practiced one? Very likely. Did you know that our laws concerning the use of electronic devices while driving actually reflect this thought? Surprise!
The holder of a class 7L (learner) or class 7 (novice) driver's licence must not use an electronic device while driving, period. No telephone calls, texting, iPods, GPS maps or adjustments, mobile radio conversations, computers or televisions. The only way for a GLP driver to use one of these legally is to be parked properly or making a call to emergency services about an emergency. This does reflect more restriction than the rules that apply to holders of a full privilege class of driver's licence.
Remember that the word "use" means holding it in your hand in a position that would allow its use, actually operating one of the device's functions, watching the screen of an electronic device or communicating orally with it.
Oddly enough, the same thing does not apply to a class 8L (motorcycle learner) or class 8 (motorcycle novice) driver's licence holder. They must obey the same rules as the driver with a full privilege driver's licence. Perhaps the lawmakers felt that these GLP drivers would not use electronic devices because of the nature of the vehicle. If this is the case, they are not correct.
The left lane is so popular lately that when I use the right lane I often find myself behind far fewer vehicles at the next red traffic light. In fact, at one particular intersection on my commute many times I can be first in line. Everyone else seems stuck in the left lane trying to get ahead, fuming, following too closely, making sudden lane changes and often all for the desire to exceed the speed limit and to be faster than everyone else.
Why don't the police do anything about slower drivers who fail to give way? Most often these drivers are at or above the speed limit or preparing for a left turn, 2 out of 3 of these activities are allowed by law. Couple that with the traffic court justice who told me outright that I had better not try to prosecute a fail to keep right ticket when the driver doing this was travelling at the speed limit. There was zero chance of a conviction and I would be wasting the court's time. Oh, and if those slower drivers were below the speed limit and not turning left, I did do something about it.
Which is the most dangerous, driving in the left lane at the speed limit and not moving over or driving in the left lane and trying to exceed the speed limit when the driver in the left lane isn't? My observation is that more dangerous actions are performed by the latter than the former. While speeding in itself may not be dangerous, trying to force your way about the limit in traffic is.
To me, it all comes down to attitude. The oblivious driver needs to be more attentive. The driver failing to keep right needs to share. The driver trying to push their way to the front needs to relax, considering both themselves and others. If the attitude shown in the comments of my BC Bad Driver of the Week video on this topic is any consideration, improvement is not likely to happen soon!
Read more Behind the Wheel articles
Tim Schewe has been writing his column for most of the 20 years in his traffic enforcement service in the RCMP. It was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and now Castanet.net. Schewe retired from the Force in January of 2006, but the column became a habit and continues.
E-mail him your questions or concerns: [email protected]
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