Are you fit to drive?

Being able to go to our vehicle, put our key in the ignition and drive off is a luxury that we seldom consider.

For many of us, the only time that we really consider our vehicle is when it fails us.

Just for fun, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a professional driver and apply the mandatory daily trip inspection to our personal vehicle.

Before we go, we must be certain that we can stop.

The service brakes are the first item on our checklist. Open the hood and make sure that the brake fluid level in the master cylinder is above the minimum.

Start your vehicle and apply firm pressure to the brake pedal for five seconds. The pedal should not move during the test.

Make sure that the brake warning light on the dash lit briefly when you started the vehicle and is now off. Roll ahead and apply the brakes. Your vehicle must stop without delay, pulling to one side or abnormal pedal feel.

The brake test is not done yet. Our final check is the parking brake.

Apply the brake and note that the pedal should not depress to the floor or pull to the end of it’s travel. Choose the lowest gear and try to move ahead.

The parking brake must hold you back.

Steering is next. The hood is still up from our brake inspection, so we can visually check all our steering components. Can’t see the tie rods or other connections?

This may mean having to do a bit of crawling under the front of the vehicle. It’s not on the list, but it would not hurt to check the power steering fluid level.

It’s time to see and be seen so it’s time to do a circle check and inspect the lights and reflectors. High beam, low beam, brake, hazard, signal, tail, marker and licence plate lights must all be functional. Lenses must be the correct colour, undamaged and clean.

While we’re moving in circles, remember the tires and wheels as they need to be checked too. Tread depth and proper inflation pressure must be insured.

Wheels must not be bent or damaged and all wheel  nuts must be present and properly tightened.

I suppose that we could have checked to make sure that the horn honked when we checked the brakes, but if we didn’t, do it now.

Being able to see properly in bad weather is important, so let’s test the windshield wipers. Does the control work properly? Do the wipers move at the correct speeds? Is the rubber undamaged?

Looking out also includes looking back. For most of us, that means three properly adjusted rear-view mirrors. One on the outside left, one in the middle and one on the outside right.

They must be clean and free of cracks.

Are you carrying any cargo? What is locked in the trunk might not need any securement, but pause to think about what you load into the passenger compartment.

These items can become deadly missiles in a collision.

Whew, almost done. The last item is our emergency equipment.

You may not choose to carry triangles, flares, a fire extinguisher or the like, but I would suggest that checking the inflation of your spare tire would be a good thought instead.

If you didn’t notice anything else during all the checking, you are probably ready to go. Complete your written pre-trip inspection report and carry on.

Oh, did I mention that when you park your vehicle for the day, you need to do all of this again?

While we are lucky to not have to do this by law, it is up to us to insure our vehicle does meet basic, mechanical fitness and that will require more than turning the key and heading out each day.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/your-vehicle-mechanically-fit

Fraud and insurance rates

Insurance fraud and insurance rates - Who to believe?

Ouch! My ICBC insurance rates are going up as much as 42 per cent over the next five years according to an article in the Province newspaper. 

I already paid $630 this year for the privilege of having my fellow British Columbians help me pay for collision liability if I make a mistake and crash my pickup. 

I’m not looking forward to paying $895 in 2021, but when you consider how much you could be on the hook for if you didn’t have insurance, even that doesn’t look too bad.

If you are a fan of B.C. politics, this is an interesting situation.

ICBC tried to have the B.C. Utilities Commission (which oversees the setting of ICBC rates on behalf of taxpayers) keep their increase forecast under wraps. 

The Commission refused to do this.

The NDP points out that this is an attempt by the Liberals to hide bad news just before an election.

The provincial government takes “dividends” out of ICBC coffers that could have remained for investment and the reduction of our insurance rates.

ICBC rightly points out that insurance rates have been impacted by the cost of bodily injury claims, insurance fraud and the cost of repairing high end vehicles. 

If I’m reading their annual report correctly, the cost of claims totalled just over $4 billion in 2015. That’s for an average (2009 to 2013) of 52,000 injury crashes (about 142 per day).

Fraud costs us all $100-$150 per year according to ICBC, which is definitely significant in my view. 

Both ICBC and the Insurance Bureau of Canada hope that we’ll all help by reporting frauds. 

In fact, ICBC has two units that work to expose fraud, the Special Investigations Unit and the Cyber Unit that uses information available on the internet and social media to catch offenders.

Examples of frauds are highlighted in ICBC’s 2015 Hall of Shame and Cyber Fraud files.

To the contrary, a pair of lawyers from the firm Murphy Battista in Vancouver think that insurance fraud is only a drop in the bucket of claims each year.

I don’t understand refusing to insure high end vehicles as a cost cutting measure though. ICBC and other insurance companies know how much these vehicles cost and how much they cost to repair. 

Setting an appropriate premium for the risk is what an insurance company is all about. If they do cost six times as much to repair, surely the rates should be six times higher.

The Fraser Institute is a Canadian think tank that, in part, communicates the effects of government policies on our well being. 

Their last report claims that B.C. drivers are paying rates that are too high due to a lack of competition.

So, how do we as drivers decide what is reasonable and what is not for our mandatory vehicle insurance purchase?

The true answer probably lies somewhere in the middle of all of this.

I’d be willing to bet that if we quit crashing into things our rates would be much lower. That may seem trite, but we do it about 700 times a day in this province.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/insurance-fraud-insurance-rates-who-believe

What are a driver's duties?

Do you remember what your duties are when you slip behind the wheel of your car?

Last week, we looked at what you should be entitled to expect as a driver on B.C.’s highways. It only seems fair that we should examine what your duties as a driver are this week.

As before, if I miss or misstate any of them, you are welcome to e-mail [email protected] and express your opinion.

It’s probably not something that you would consider first, but you have a general duty of care to all other road users.

You must not collide with them or do something that causes them to have a collision or otherwise put them in danger.

Supplementing common law, the Motor Vehicle Act makes it an offence to drive without due care and attention or to drive without reasonable consideration for others.

If you are involved in a crash, whether as the driver, operator or person in charge of a vehicle, you must stop, render assistance and provide information about yourself, the owner of the vehicle and it’s licence and insurance particulars to anyone suffering a loss. 

You must also provide this information to a witness if they request it.

Before you drive, you must be licensed for the vehicle you intend to use. It is also up to you to make sure that the vehicle has a valid licence, insurance and is mechanically fit.

If required to, you must be able to demonstrate all of these things to the police.

If you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, physical or mental infirmity, fatigue or anything else that would prevent you from driving safely, you must not drive.

If you become this way while driving, you are expected to stop until you can become safe again or turn the duty over to someone qualified to assume it.

If your health or driving skills deteriorate, you must take steps to compensate for or regain them. Minimum standards must be met throughout your driving career.

When you drive, you must obey all of the rules of the road. All the time. Not just when it is convenient for you to do so.

It is also your responsibility to know what these rules are. If you ever face the courts to be called to account for your actions as a driver excuses such as “I didn’t know” or “Someone should have told me” will not be accepted.

Responsible drivers will choose to do something to maintain or improve their skills and knowledge over time. If you find it difficult to do this on your own, taking instruction from a driving school is probably your best choice.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, don’t bring a bad attitude to the driver’s seat. Driving is not all about me, it’s all about us.

Sharing and co-operation are concepts that should be foremost in our minds when we are behind the wheel.

Oh, and if you are a cyclist or pedestrian, most of this applies to you too. All road users have a duty to share, co-operate and be safe.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/what-are-my-duties-driver

What should drivers expect?

The headline read “Malahat crash sees angry motorists verbally abuse first responders.”

One person died in a T-bone collision on Highway 1 north of Victoria requiring a highway closure from the Summit to the Bamberton exit while emergency responders provided life saving assistance, investigation and cleanup.

Closures such as this one are done with the permission of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

This closure lasted from about 4:45-9:30 p.m. and since there was no alternate route around the scene, drivers were forced to wait until the closure was lifted.

I can understand the drivers being unhappy with the wait and I’m sure that if I were stuck in the lineup, I would likely not have been happy either.

However, understanding the nature of what occurred, I can appreciate the need to wait where others could not.

This poses the question “What am I entitled to expect as a driver?”

Since we all pay for the construction and maintenance of highways through taxation the first thing that comes to mind is that we should all have reasonable access to use them when we want to.

The mode of travel should be irrelevant as well, with drivers, cyclists and pedestrians having equal access.

Our highways should be maintained in usable condition for all modes of travel. This is not always possible due to wear and tear, weather, disaster and yes, blockages caused by collisions.

When these situations occur, reasonable efforts to mitigate them must be undertaken.

Depending on need, new highways might be constructed, existing highways modified and unused highways decommissioned.

We should expect road users to follow the laws, drive with skill, constant consideration and behave in a courteous manner to each other at all times.

Sharing is the ideal.

If we are involved in a collision or other incident, we must accept responsibility for our actions if we are at fault.

Maintaining proper insurance coverage where required is paramount so that those harmed by our mistakes or deliberate bad behaviour may be properly compensated.

There must be consequences for those who cannot or choose not to be responsible when they are on the road.

Generally, these are legal via policing, financial through insurance or social as we decide what is acceptable to society. Those consequences can be expected to evolve as we learn and adapt.

If we are becoming unsafe drivers, regardless of the reason, we must take steps to either regain our skills or to stop driving.

It is not acceptable to wait until the regulating authorities find out and take steps to stop us. Knowing that we are a risk to others should be enough to decide to stop on our own.

Finally, I cannot always expect unfettered use of the highway on my own terms whenever and where ever I want it.

No doubt you have additional ideas or may wish to expand on those that I have already listed here.

If you would like to comment, send an e-mail [email protected] and I’ll post them with this article on the DriveSmartBC web site.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/viewpoint/what-am-i-entitled-expect-driver

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.

Previous Stories