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Behind The Wheel

Post crash seatbelt investigation

Part of the investigation of any serious motor vehicle collision is an examination of the seatbelts to determine if the person in that seating position was restrained or not. The outcome could determine whether a ticket for failing to wear the restraint was issued or not but I suspect that more commonly the information was used to determine liability. If you were not wearing your seatbelt your award for injury could be reduced by the courts.

The simplest method involved fully extending the belt. Many manufacturers sew a label at the retractor end of the belt that is exposed if the belt is subjected to sufficient force. You may wish to try this if you are considering the purchase of a used vehicle because it could indicate that the vehicle was involved in a significant collision sometime in its life.

Reading the information in the vehicle's "black box" will show the status of the driver's belt switch. While this may mean that the belt was fastened and then just placed behind the driver, damage (or lack of it) to the interior of the vehicle could be used to corroborate or disprove it.

Characteristic damage occurs to the belt and fittings when an occupant is restrained in a crash caused by the tremendous forces involved. Frayed edges, melted plastic smears, D-ring impressions and belt fabric impressions are frequently found. The pawl that stops the retractor reel will dent the metal teeth it sits against.

Finally, the investigator can look to medical personnel for evidence. A properly worn seatbelt causes specific injury to the wearer. Thankfully this injury is much less significant than what would occur if the seatbelt was not used.

 

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



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Mouthwash to hide liquor breath

Before the advent of the roadside screening device the use of mouthwash to hide the odour of liquor on a driver's breath was not unheard of. Today using a mouthwash containing alcohol as you approach a road check can be a very dangerous thing to do. The alcohol present in your mouth from the mouthwash could produce a warn or fail reading on the device when your true blood alcohol level is less.

This topic was prompted by a woman who e-mailed me to present her husband's drinking history from the previous evening. After a good night's sleep, breakfast, tooth brushing and gargling with mouthwash he was checked by police on his way to work. The officer smelled liquor, tested the husband with a screening device and received a warn reading. She was concerned that having been tested within 10 minutes of gargling the warn reading was a result of mouth alcohol rather than breath alcohol from the previous evening.

There is some possibility that mouth alcohol did play a part in this situation. The exact scenario was played out when I taught other officers to use the screening device. The student partners each took turns rinsing their mouths with mouthwash and then testing to see how long it took for the mouth alcohol to dissipate. One partner was to talk after rinsing and the other was to keep their mouth closed except when providing a sample. In either case, after 10 minutes mouth alcohol no longer produced a reading.

I was somewhat suspicious of the scenario. Six drinks the evening previous, tooth brushing and mouthwash use prior to driving and the officer still smelled the odour of liquor on the driver's breath. Should this driver have consumed a significant amount of liquor during the evening it is possible that his blood alcohol level would be high enough to produce a warn the following morning without help from the mouthwash.

 

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



Don't let this become your default setting

 
Dan is a friend that I occasionally get together with to discuss road safety. He's a commercial trucker and driving instructor with a lot of experience behind the wheel. The last time that we had lunch together he made a comment that struck me and I promised to borrow for a column topic. "Don't let that become your default setting" made a lot of sense to me.
 
When we start to drive he said, we try to do everything properly all the time. As we gain experience and become more comfortable with the complex task of driving we occasionally slip away from the ideal. We may drive a little faster, stop a little further into the intersection or take other chances that we have come to think of as minor in nature. If we don't pay attention to this tendency and consciously decide to return to what is proper we run the risk of making this our "default setting."
 
In traffic law enforcement, dealing with some driver's default settings often earned an angry response. They had done whatever behaviour caught my attention so many times that it was now normal to them, carried little or no perceived risk and should have been beneath notice. From my point of view, I had seen some pretty horrendous consequences from the behaviour and knew that if I didn't try to return them to the proper settings eventually I would be investigating another serious collision.
 
No driver will ever be perfect, regardless of how much we try to do the right thing whenever we are driving. I do think that we owe it to the traffic that we share the highways with to try our best so that we can all be safe. It would be nice if we came with a reset button, but we don't. It's up to us to look at our driving in our own rear view mirror and make sure that our default settings are the correct ones.
 
 
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit drivesmartbc.ca.


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I can rationalize that behaviour

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.

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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 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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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.


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