Sunday, July 5th12.9°C
Behind The Wheel

Distracted driving

British Columbians are very concerned about the threat posed by distracted driving according to those leaving feedback on the government website created to solicit public input on the subject. Our province has the second lowest penalties for those caught handling a cellular phone when they should be paying attention to the road. Should those penalties be higher and if so, how much higher?

Setting penalties is a delicate balance I'm sure. Set them too high and the police won't apply them, the courts are taxed and the justices will not convict. Set them too low and it becomes just the cost of doing business. I can hear the comment "it's nothing but a cash grab" echoing in the background right now. Your input may make the level selected "just right."

I would lean toward something like the old 24 hour prohibition. Get caught and lose your driving privileges for a day. Accumulate too many and RoadSafetyBC can step in and take a driver's licence away for a longer period. Sadly, some drivers will continue driving anyway, but more severe sanctions await them if they do.

You now have about two weeks left to take part in the survey which closes on July 16, 2015. You can Tweet using the hash tag #distractedBC, e-mail your thoughts to [email protected] or Join the Discussion at You are also welcome to leave your comments with this article on the DriveSmartBC website.


The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit


Traffic stop questioning

What do you have to tell police when you are the subject of a traffic stop? I've often been asked about whether you have to answer the casual conversation at a road check that might include questions like, "Where are you coming from?"  "Where are you going to?"  "How much have you had to drink tonight?" The answer is no, you don't.
Occasionally I would stop a driver who had committed a traffic violation that would roll down their driver's window half an inch, poke their driver's licence out and roll the window back up to await service of a ticket. There are a multitude of reasons for doing this, most innocent, but the first thing that had to come to my mind was that they were trying to hide something and it was my job to find out. It was usually the odour of liquor that the driver did not want wafted in my direction.
I did have one tool at my disposal to force a short conversation. A driver must state his name and address and the name and address of the vehicle's registered owner when requested to do so by police. This is also useful for what is known as the Shriver's Test. Case law has established that these answers, when compared to what is shown on the driver's licence, strengthens the identification of the driver if they match.
Answers to other questions are optional and it is up to you to decide whether you want to provide the information or not. If you choose not to, state your position politely and request that any documents be returned to you so that you may proceed once the officer has completed his or her inquiries.
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

Reflectors are important

An important piece of safety equipment that is often overlooked on all variety of vehicles is the humble reflector. Why do I need reflectors? I've got lights! I heard this many times at the roadside after pointing out a lack of reflectors to a driver. True, but what happens if you park, break down or have to leave a disabled trailer at the roadside? What protects you and other road users at night? The reflectors.
Sad to say, but I can point to a fatal collision that I helped investigate where a lack of reflectors might have played a part. Maybe, just maybe the person hit would still be alive if the reflectors on his vehicle had been in good condition.
Generally, all vehicles require amber reflectors at the sides on the front and red reflectors on the sides and the rear. They are identified by the letter A in the collection of identifiers on the lens after DOT or SAE. Reflective markings, the long strips often seen on heavy commercial vehicles are acceptable reflectors when they are marked SAE-C, SAE-C2, 3 or 4.
The front of a vehicle is the only side where reflectors are not required. I can see a concern when someone decides not to follow the rules and parks on the wrong side of the road, especially when visibility is poor at night or when oncoming vehicle headlights reduce your ability to see ahead.
Who knew that an inexpensive piece of plastic could be so important?
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit


Bike lanes confusing?

I hate to admit it, but bicycle lanes confuse me. The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) defines them as a designated use lane that is part of the highway, but not part of the roadway. Both the province and municipalities are able to create designated use lanes and restrict who may use them through legislation. You might be surprised about what this might mean for both cyclists and drivers.

For the driver, the concept of roadway suddenly becomes very important. Roadway includes the lanes motor vehicles drive in and the area where they park at the side of the highway that is not the shoulder. So, if you approach an intersection intending to make a right turn, your pre-turn position is dependent on whether there is a curb or parking is available to the right of the bicycle lane or not. If not, you must remain to the left of the bicycle lane. If so, and it is practical to do so, you must move onto the parking area or next to the curb before you turn.

For the cyclist, it is forbidden to ride other than single file when using the roadway. If the shoulder of the highway or the cycle lane is wide enough, there is no rule that prohibits riding side by side there unless a bylaw directs otherwise.

If the highway shoulder is paved and passable, a cyclist must ride on it. If not, they are allowed to use the right hand edge of the roadway. The MVA does not require the use of cycle lanes if present and I have not found a municipal bylaw that requires their use either.

The bottom line? It's probably best that cyclists use bicycle lanes if they are present and drivers should exercise extra caution, especially when turning. The cyclist may see their bicycle lane as being clear and pass you on the right.

Read more Behind the Wheel articles

About the author...

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 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]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories

RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)

Crime Stoppers