Making bad drivers pay

Last week, we looked at how we might define a bad driver. Views were varied, but there were two well thought out responses that did more than just express an opinion.

This week, let's look at how bad drivers pay for the risk that they present to others using our highways.

At the top of the list is the Criminal Code of Canada. Part 8 deals with offences against the person and reputation.

Here we find homicide, criminal negligence and motor vehicles, vessels and aircraft. These are reserved for the worst of the worst offenders and convictions may result in significant fines and/or time in jail.

Our Motor Vehicle Act and its associated Regulations create the framework of rules that we are supposed to follow when we drive. Disobey one of these and you might receive a violation ticket with a prescribed fine.

The fine amount should reflect the seriousness of the offence, the more dangerous the act, the higher the fine.

There are some problems with this system. First among them is that the fine may be a life-altering penalty for those with no financial means and the bite of a gnat for those with significant resources.

Yes, the court system exists to reduce the penalties to be fairer in the circumstances, but in my experience, those of limited means seldom take advantage of it. Also, there is no provision to increase the fine beyond the prescribed fine in traffic court.

Some countries use a day-fine system where the penalty is based on the offender’s daily income level to make the penalty more appropriate.

If the circumstances are out of the ordinary, but do not call for criminal sanctions, the offending driver may be served with an appearance notice instead of a violation ticket.

A provincial court judge will hear the case and may apply a variety of penalties on conviction. These may range from probation orders to fines, prohibitions from driving and jail sentences.

The second problem that comes to mind is the high threshold for sanction of experienced bad drivers in the Driver Improvement Program.

Additions to the penalty system include the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program (IRP) for alcohol and drug impaired drivers and the Vehicle Impoundment Program for the IRP, excessive speeding, driving while unlicensed, prohibited or suspended, stunting and not being seated properly on a motorcycle.

The Driver Penalty Point Premium is based on driving convictions and paid to ICBC each year. The more penalty points you are assigned, the more you pay.

This part of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is overdue for revision. A red light conviction is two points, as is parking next to a yellow curb if you are ticketed for disobeying a traffic control device.

The Driver Risk Premium is meant to penalize drivers who have shown that they present a significant danger others through a driving related Criminal Code conviction, a 10-penalty point violation, excessive speeding or a distracted driving conviction.

If you are an at fault driver in a collision, you will either lose your safe-driving insurance discount or the possibility of forgiveness should you experience another at fault collision.

Finally, the courts, RoadSafetyBC in Part 2 or the roadside prohibition requirements of Part 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act serve to remove driving privileges entirely as a penalty.

This is quite an array of possibilities, isn't it? With all of this in place, one wonders why there is still so much bad driving behaviour on our roads.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/making-bad-drivers-pay


Are you a bad driver?

How do we define a bad driver?

Have you responded to our provincial government's request for feedback on setting fair ICBC rates yet?

The hope is to:

"introduce changes to the current system to make insurance rates more fair for British Columbians by making all drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour."

The implication here is that bad drivers don't pay their fair share of insurance premiums.

That poses the not-so-simple question of just how do we define a bad driver?

Perhaps at the most basic level, we have people who will never learn to be a good driver. For a multitude of reasons, they will meet the basic level of obtaining a driver's licence, but never progress from there.

According to one ICBC driver examiner that I know, passing the test means that you possess sufficient skill to drive without being a significant hazard to others.

The expectation is that you will improve from there.

So, what have you done to improve other than gain experience by driving on your own?

Some of us take training required by our employers. Car enthusiast groups promote skill improvement among their members.

The rest of us? Well, we're better than average drivers already and there is no need to improve.

I offered a free hour of driver improvement to DriveSmartBC visitors once and was not exactly inundated with people saying "Pick me!"

Again, for a variety of reasons, we may be a good driver, but lose this ability, either abruptly or over time.

Maybe a good driver has a thorough understanding of the driving rules and always follows them.

I'll ask the question again: 

  • are you smarter than a learner driver?

My experience in traffic enforcement has shown me that many drivers have incomplete knowledge on that subject, yet possess a clean driving record.

Do you think that a good driver never drives while their ability is impaired?

Drugs and alcohol immediately come to mind here, but fatigue, illness, disabilities and emotion are all factors that can impair our ability to drive well.

What about attitude?

Looking at others, I see a lot of "I'm important, you are not. I'm in a hurry, get out of my way!" when I drive.

There are also drivers who will readily admit to acts of civil disobedience when the traffic rules don't suit them. Don't like it? Don't bother!

Do only bad drivers become involved in collisions?

Hands up those of you among us who have never caused even the slightest damage let alone bumped into something that they should not have. I'm embarrassed to say it, but I lost the ability to do that while still in my teens.

Does being human automatically mean that you will always be a bad driver at some level? No matter how hard I try not to, eventually I make a driving error.

Sometimes it is only luck or the skill of other drivers that prevents that error from becoming a collision.

It's easy to point the finger at others and much more difficult to examine the same thing in ourselves.

So, honestly, how do you define a bad driver?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/behaviour/how-do-we-define-bad-driver

Close call at crosswalk


A pedestrian pushing a child in a stroller and the driver of a van approach an intersection controlled by a traffic light with a pedestrian signal. Both the traffic light and the pedestrian signal are red.

The driver is in the lane next to the pedestrian who arrives at the cross street and stops seconds before the driver arrives at the stop line.

The traffic signal turns green and the pedestrian signal turns white. No longer needing to stop, the driver turns right as the pedestrian starts to move ahead.

Were it not for the crosswalk obstruction caused by incomplete snow removal making it difficult to push the stroller ahead, it's entirely possible that I would have watched a collision occur.

Section 132 of the Motor Vehicle Act sets out the rules for pedestrian signals. It says in part that:

  • "When the word "walk" or an outline of a walking person is exhibited at an intersection by a pedestrian traffic control signal, a pedestrian may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal in a marked or unmarked crosswalk and has the right of way over all vehicles in the intersection or any adjacent crosswalk."

It looks fairly promising for the pedestrian at first glance, doesn't it? Right of way over all vehicles in the intersection should mean pedestrians first, shouldn't it?

The driver was not in the intersection yet, but section 127 covers this situation:

  • "A pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles."

Finally, section 181 puts a further onus on the driver:

  • "A driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway."

The sidewalk is part of the highway.

Clearly, this driver was required to yield to the pedestrian, but should she have moved to cross? Having the right of way is not a physical protection from harm.

The painted lines of the crosswalk don't help either as they are not a barrier.

She has a duty of care to both herself and the child to insure that it is safe before she proceeds. Had a collision occurred and a hearing to decide liability held, the justice would have reminded her of this and apportioned some of the blame to her for relying solely on right of way rules.

Let's take a look at crosswalks that don't involve any traffic lights while we're on the subject.

If you take ICBC's online practice test for drivers, one of the questions shows two pedestrians standing on the sidewalk, mid block, each facing the other across a marked crosswalk and asks what the driver must do. According to the test, the driver must stop and let the pedestrians proceed.

Our rulebook takes a slightly different view in section 179:

  •  "The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger."

As I learned to my chagrin in court one day, the driver does not have to yield unless the pedestrian is actually in the crosswalk.

Standing on the sidewalk looking across does not qualify.

A pedestrian must carefully step into the crosswalk and wait for a driver to yield before crossing in this instance.

Keep section 179 in mind though, as you must wait until it is safe to do so:

A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/intersections/close-call-crosswalk


Slow down, move over, not!

On June 1, 2009, the Slow Down, Move Over law came into effect in British Columbia.

Just in case you've never heard of it, when you approach an official vehicle stopped on the side of the road that is displaying flashing red, blue, white or yellow lights you must slow down and, if possible, move over before you pass it.

An official vehicle is any vehicle authorized under division 4.28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations to use flashing lights of those colours.

This includes:

  • police,
  • fire
  • paramedic
  • towing and public utility vehicles.

Think of it as the 70/40 rule: If the speed limit is 80 km/h or more, you slow down to 70 km/h. If it is lower than 80 km/h you slow down to 40 km/h.

After you have passed, you may resume speed.

The whole idea of this law is to give the people who work on the side of the road a relatively safe place to conduct their business.

How difficult can it be?

You see the flashing lights and check around you to see if it is safe to move over. If it is, you change lanes and begin to slow down. If it isn't, you simply begin to slow down.

In either case, you need to be at the correct speed before you pass by.

Don't confuse the rule as permission to pass at either 70 or 40 km/h as the case may be. Circumstances may require that you slow down more than this or even stop if necessary.

I know that the message has not gotten through to some drivers. The last time I passed a tow truck picking up a broken down vehicle on the right shoulder of a divided highway ,I moved over to the left and slowed down.

The driver behind me caught up, changed to the curb lane and blew right on through.

A genuinely stupid move like this could qualify as driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway instead of a slow down, move over violation.

The fault is not always the passing driver's. I have come across situations where there was insufficient time to see the stopped official vehicle and safely carry out the slow down, move over requirement.

Section 138 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires that warning signs be put in place when work is being carried out on a highway. In fact, signs with a pink background are meant to advise of a temporary emergency situation.

Further, section 139 requires that temporary signs be set up limiting speed and how vehicles are to proceed in these situations as well. It is not uncommon to find work being done at the roadside with no warning signs in place.

I have also found an official vehicle parked well off the highway with yellow lights flashing while the worker's task was being conducted even further off the highway.

There should be guidelines for when it is appropriate to use flashing lights and when it is not.

If you read case law, the justice will often mention that is your responsibility as a driver to be able to respond safely to situations that may reasonably be encountered on the highway. A slow down, move over situation is one of them.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/unsafe-driving-practices/slow-down-move-over-not

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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