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Behind-the-Wheel

Ready or not, here I come

There was an interesting post on Twitter this week showing drivers interacting with pedestrians at the intersection of Cambie Street and West Broadway in Vancouver.

The photo showed three cars facing a green light trying to turn onto Cambie from Broadway, two eastbound turning left and one westbound turning right into their respective lanes on Broadway.

There was a steady stream of pedestrians crossing Cambie against a red, don't-walk signal.

Judging from the circumstances, some of the pedestrians had started to cross against the signal.

Two cars had stopped at the edge of the marked crosswalk, but one driver was doing his best to force his way through the pedestrians and was almost completely within the crosswalk.

There is so much wrong with the situation that it is difficult to know where to start.

Perhaps the most important point to begin with is the driver's duty to not collide with pedestrians, regardless of the fact that the pedestrians may not be following the rules.

Forcing your vehicle through the flow of pedestrians in the crosswalk is a clear violation of this duty.

Next, a green light does not automatically grant a driver permission to enter the intersection. There are situations when the driver must yield to other traffic before starting to move.

While the section does say:

"...must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or in an adjacent crosswalk at the time the green light is exhibited,"

we still have to consider the duty mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Finally, drivers are not supposed to block the intersection. You should not start into the intersection unless you have a reasonable belief that you can complete your intended movement without impeding other traffic.

These pedestrians are regulated by the walk/don't walk signals at the intersection. You must not step off of the curb unless the white pedestrian signal is lit.

Both the solid and the flashing red hand signals mean that you have to wait for the next cycle.

Also, contrary to what some believe, the countdown timer (if the signals are so equipped) does not mean that you have the number of seconds shown to get across.

I'll close with the observation that courtesy doesn't seem to be a concept included in the use of our streets and highways these days. Me First! is often the attitude shown to others.

A little consideration could go a long way to reducing both our crash and insurance rates. We would also arrive at our destination in a better frame of mind.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/aggressive-driving/ready-or-not-here-i-come



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Making a difference

Am I making a difference?

This was a question I asked myself more frequently as my time in traffic enforcement with the RCMP grew longer. 

Everyone wants to do their job well, and mine was to encourage the motoring public to conform to the law in the hope that doing so would minimize the number of collisions in my patrol area.

If I was successful, no one would be hurt, our insurance rates would fall and I wouldn’t have to write so many tickets.

Is it possible for the average traffic cop to change a driver’s attitude?

The primary tools available to all traffic enforcement personnel are warnings and tickets. How does one choose which is the most appropriate for the situation?

Deciding on an appropriate balance and delivering it to the violator in the manner that does the most good was something that I always found to be difficult. 

In the face of more and more verbal abuse at the roadside, it would have been simple just to reach for the ticket book and teach that driver a lesson.

However, if a warning was what I had in mind when I stopped them, shouldn’t I carry through with that thought?

There were many times when I stuck to my original decision and wrote the warning.

Most angry drivers settled down when they realized what they were getting, but a few carried on with such venom that I would find myself sitting at the roadside after they had driven away trying to lower my own blood pressure.

Occasionally, I would even go back to the office and do paperwork for a while because I knew that if I didn’t I would probably take it out on the next violator I encountered.

Tickets are easy to write. I often thought that if I wrote one for every violation I saw, I would never travel more than a few kilometres from the office each shift.

Everyone thinks that I had a quota to fill but in reality, I was only subject to a quota once in my service.

If I wrote more than 30 per cent of my charges for speeding, I could expect to sit down for a chat with my supervisor and be reminded that there were many other types of violation out there that were just as important to deal with.

Otherwise, all that I had to show was that I was doing an honest day’s work.

Did tickets change a driver’s attitude? If they are adult in their outlook, I would say yes. The driver would realize that they were ticketed for making an error or deliberately disobeying the rules and not let it happen again.

If they were a child, the problem would be mine, not theirs.

There might be a slim possibility that they would make a connection between their behaviour and the ticket. If they didn’t care at all, my efforts would be wasted.

Many officers step beyond the basics of the job and embrace the education component of Road Safety Strategy 2025.

They take part in many different programs within their community to reach out to drivers before they make mistakes.

Some time and effort here can pay dividends later on by helping receptive drivers make the right choices during their driving careers.

As you might guess, I always enjoyed this because it gave me a chance at a positive contact with people. I can’t recall a single instance of the verbal abuse that I suffered at the roadside occurring in these venues.

Finally, how do you measure what didn’t happen? How do you know if you were able to make a difference in someone’s life?

There were few times in my service where I learned after the fact that my interventions had made a difference.

One of my co-workers was investigating a two-vehicle collision when one of the drivers involved commented to him that if I hadn’t written him a ticket for not wearing his seatbelt the previous week, he wouldn’t have been wearing it here either.

He realized that he had avoided injury by wearing the seatbelt and I’m sure that this took a lot of the sting out of my ticket.

I’m still keeping the faith by writing on road safety instead of using a ticket book.

To borrow a phrase from a friend who has suffered much and still tries to educate others about drinking and driving: “Together we can make a difference!”

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/am-i-making-difference



Shining light on speed

Measuring vehicle speeds with a laser

Have you ever wondered about the instruments the police use to measure vehicle speeds on our highways?

My favourite tool was the laser because it let me accurately measure the speeds of individual vehicles even when they were in a group on a busy highway.

Although the laser had to be used from a stationary position, either hand held or on a tripod, I was willing to trade my moving radar for it when I worked on busy, multi-lane highways.

When I pulled the trigger on the laser, it sent a train of infrared laser pulses toward the vehicle I had aimed it at. These pulses reflected off of the vehicle back to the laser device.

It had to see 80 per cent of these pulses returned in recognizable form or it wouldn't display a reading.

The time for a single pulse to return allowed the laser to calculate how far away the vehicle being measured was.

The speed of light in air is a constant, and the time base in the laser knew when the pulse was sent and how long it took to return.

The train of pulses allowed a series of distance measurements to be made and the change in those distances calculated. Of course, the change in distance over time is the speed of the vehicle being measured.

All of this was accomplished in a fraction of a second and a speed displayed on the readout. The only decision required at this point was whether I wanted to deal with the vehicle I had measured or continue to measure more vehicles in the hope of hooking a faster fish.

The beauty of the laser is the accuracy with which it can be aimed. My radar was much like using a flashlight — you were lighting up the whole world  50 metres away and it was up to you to identify what you were seeing in the beam.

In contrast, the laser emits a very tight beam. So tight in fact that it would cover a spot about the diameter of an orange at a distance of 250 metres. If you worked at a slight angle to the highway, it was possible to measure all the vehicles individually.

Whoops, at an angle to the highway? Won’t that affect the speed that the laser measures? Yes, both the laser and radar are subject to what is known as “cosine error.”

Simply put, the speed varies according to the cosine of the angle away from straight toward the unit. Fortunately for violators, the cosine error reduces the measured speed giving them a small break.

Some lasers can measure the distance between vehicles. One measured the first vehicle and then immediately measured the vehicle following directly behind it.

The laser would display both vehicle’s speeds and the distance between the two measuring points used. It was a very accurate way to issue following-too-closely violations.

The laser was simple to test as well as to use. When it was turned on, it did a self test just like your computer does.

If I did not see the readings designated by the manufacturer, it was not working properly and needed to be repaired before I could use it.

Next, I needed to measure three set distances and receive zero speed. If these measured correctly, I knew that the time base in the laser was accurate. Again, if not, the laser was not suitable to measure speed and needed to be repaired.

Finally, I needed to test the aim point of the scope. A telephone pole about 100 metres distant with only sky behind was ideal.

In this test mode the laser emitted a tone based on the distance of the reflecting object.

I would pan the aim dot across the pole and cross arm, horizontally and vertically. If the tone changed at exactly the point where the dot in the scope crossed the edge of the pole, it was aimed correctly.

If it wasn’t, I was able to adjust it and test again.

Now, I only needed a safe spot to operate that was not obstructed and the ability to hold the device very steady if it was not mounted on a tripod.

The laser was smart enough that if I was not steady or a waving bunch of grass or branches was in the way I would receive an error message instead of a speed reading.

Laser detectors find it very difficult to “see” the laser, especially when it was aimed low to catch the front licence plate.

Typically, they are not nearly as useful for early warning as a radar detector is, simply because of the beam width.

Article URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/measuring-vehicle-speeds-laser



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Fighting that ticket

One of the first responses people have after receiving a traffic ticket is to find a defect, real or imagined, as a justification for not having to pay or to justify a dispute in traffic court.

At least judging by the traffic-ticket section of the DriveSmartBC forum.

Contrary to what you might think, an officer may make a number of errors or omissions without causing the ticket to be null and void.

Right above the officer’s signature blank on a violation ticket is the advice “Shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.”

These shaded areas contain information such as your driver’s licence number, address, birth date, vehicle licence number, vehicle type and the name of the registered owner.

There are only two critical shaded boxes on the ticket and they are the dispute address and provincial court hearing location. As long as they are completed correctly the ticket could be held to be valid.

The location of the offence specified on the ticket is prefaced with the words “at or near.”

If one end of the block is Burnaby and the other is Vancouver, it is possible that either one could be used successfully if the offence occurred slightly to one side or the other of the city boundaries.

Getting out your tape measure to prove that you were a few metres into Burnaby and the ticket says Vancouver probably won’t get you off the hook.

Traffic tickets do have to give you sufficient information to understand the offence that you are being charged with. The act or regulation, section number and ticketed amount must be exact or it will be cancelled by the ICBC Ticket Unit.

The description of the offence is a bit more flexible. There are wordings provided in the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation but it is not mandatory that they be used precisely.

Speed Against Highway Sign could be replaced by Speeding Contrary to Sign and still be acceptable.

If the officer fails to sign the violation ticket, that will be the end of it. Should you decline to sign, the officer simply completes the Certificate of Service on the back of the original copy.

Before we get to traffic court, the final opportunity for the officer to correct a problem with the ticket is to track you down and issue you an amended copy. They have up to one year from the date of the alleged offence to do this.

The Offence Act allows for amendments to the ticket in court.

  • The first method is for the officer to ask the court to amend the ticket prior to accepting a plea from the accused.
  • The second is for the officer to ask that the ticket be amended to conform to the evidence at the conclusion of the Crown’s evidence.

In either case it is up to the presiding justice do decide whether to allow this or not. In my experience, I’ve found that they are generally reluctant to do this.

Even clerical and spelling errors may be excused. Unless you can convince the justice that the ticket does not sufficiently identify you, a transposition or mistake in the spelling of your name could be overlooked.

Article URL: http://drivesmartbc.ca/traffic-tickets/violation-ticket-defects



More Behind the Wheel articles

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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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