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Shadow the brake

One evening while patrolling in an unmarked police car I approached a cross street that was controlled by stop signs. I could see a car approaching from my right, going fast enough I was concerned that the driver did not intend to stop. 

I shadowed my brake pedal, and when the other vehicle was at a 45 degree angle making a right turn, I stomped and stopped. So did he. 

We sat and looked at each other for a moment, and when it was clear that he wasn’t going to go, I waved him forward.

I’m sure that you are anticipating why I wanted to have this driver in front of me. 

Yes, I turned on my emergency equipment and pulled him over to issue a traffic ticket for disobeying the stop sign. The driver was not happy with the outcome, and said so. He had come to a complete stop, he said, so why was I bothering him by writing a ticket? I explained that it was not only important to stop for stop signs, it was also important how and where you stopped.

The driver must not have believed me because I received a notice for traffic court. He was disputing the allegation.

At the trial, I explained the circumstances to the justice. This driver had started to encroach on my lane before he stopped, and I had stopped because I was concerned that we were going to collide with each other. He was facing a stop sign at the intersection, and both a crosswalk and a stop line were marked on the pavement. The stop occurred with the back bumper of this man’s vehicle over the stop line.

The driver was convicted for disobeying the stop sign, and fined.

Chances are good that this driver only intended to stop for the sign if he needed to. The speed at which he approached the intersection was much faster than most drivers who come to a proper stop.

By shadowing the brake, I mean taking your foot off of the accelerator and hovering it over the brake pedal without touching it. If you need to brake in a hurry, you are almost there already. If not, you can move your foot back to the accelerator and continue on.

Shadowing the brake when you are concerned allows you to stop faster if your suspicions are confirmed. 

The stop sign only tells you what you need to do when you face one. It is the markings, or lack of them, on the road that tell you where you must stop. If there is a marked stop line, then you must stop before you cross it. If there is a marked crosswalk and no stop line, you stop before entering the crosswalk. If there are no markings present, you stop before you encroach on the lane used by cross traffic.

Scanning both sides of the intersection as you approach allows you to gauge what other traffic might do before you enter the intersection.

Once you’ve stopped, what if you can’t see properly? Your next step is to carefully move ahead to where you can see sufficiently well, and stop again. Proceed when it is safe to do so. 

I have been advised by ICBC driving examiners that the secondary stop is not necessary if no cross traffic is present. However, if you are taking a road test, it would be wise to discuss this with your examiner before you start the exam.

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Not-so-professional driver

I'm one of those odd drivers who tries their best to drive at or below the posted speed limit. 

I include the word ‘below’ here, as sometimes there is a need, for safety reasons, to slow down to less than the posted speed limit. This often has consequences when I have to share the road with other drivers who do not subscribe to my philosophy on road safety. 

A good example of this happened recently. I looked in my rear view mirror to see the Volvo logo on the grille of a heavy transport truck that was following me closely enough that I could count the bugs stuck to it.

This incident occurred on the Trans Canada Highway westbound between the Alberta border and Golden on a relatively long and steep downgrade. I was returning home from a family wedding in Banff. Road conditions were not the greatest, as the winter damage had been done and road maintenance had not yet caught up. The shoulders were gravel covered, the lane markings were poor or non-existent, and the road surface itself was uneven in places.

My preferred solution in a situation like this is to pull over and let the offender by. Better to inconvenience myself than to become involved in a collision. In this case, I had to wait to find a good place to do so, and in the interim sweat out having that Volvo logo looming large behind me. The truck passed me before I was able to pull over, but I was able to read the company name off the door of the truck cab.

If you are not content to just shrug your shoulders and mutter something about the driver's ancestry under your breath, what can be done about incidents like this one?

Google is your friend. Most trucking firms today have a web site with contact information. A company that cares will listen to your side of the story, speak to their driver about it, and take action that is fair and in their best interest. Repeated complaints about the same driver could result in dismissal.

Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) will accept complaints about commercial vehicle driving. Your complaint will be directed to the regional CVSE manager nearest where the incident occurred. The manager has two options open to them: Contact the company, and advise CVSE personnel in the region to keep the company in mind. This may have more weight than your personal complaint directly to the company, as a clean National Safety Code record is important to a reputable trucking firm.

The police can take enforcement action based solely on your complaint if it is a credible one and likely to result in a conviction in traffic court. As with the CVSE, police are going to need either the licence plate information or company name on the truck itself. The licence plate information from the trailer is helpful, but much less useful for follow up.

The biggest hurdle with enforcement action is that you will be required to travel back to the jurisdiction of the incident to supply witness testimony if the ticket is disputed. The courts will not cover your travel expenses, so it will be up to you to foot the bill.

Changes are on the horizon. When traffic court is replaced with adjudication by RoadSafetyBC, witness information could be supplied in writing or by teleconference.

Phase one of the two stage process - the implementation of electronic ticketing and fine payment - is currently under way.

Once that is completed, phase two - the shift to adjudication - will occur. At this time, there is no timeline information available for that change.

Comments, email [email protected]

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Me? Speed? No way!

Yo mama

Arresting someone, fighting with them, throwing them in jail, and seeing them through to penalty in criminal court is generally considered by the public to be business as usual for the police.

But write someone a traffic ticket, and it's like you've called their mother a bad name. 

Very few drivers say, “Sorry, hand over my ticket, I'll do better next time.” Those people do exist, and probably receive the benefit of a doubt more often as a result, but those who don't often seek out dispute advice.

Sure it’s my fault, but. . . .

Drivers who admit to an error are usually willing to pay the price of the ticket as long as they don't get any penalty points. This idea is often heard prior to the commencement of traffic court, if the issuing officer makes inquiries among the disputants. The trouble is, if you plead not guilty but are found to be guilty, the justice presiding has no control over penalty points. They are assessed by ICBC in response to the conviction. 

The only way to avoid penalty points is to be convicted as the registered owner of the vehicle involved in the offence but not as the driver. 

Police officers write tickets to drivers rather than registered owners for a good reason: Bad driving behaviour deserves to be recorded so that the driver can be dealt with appropriately if they continue to disregard the rules. Registered owner violations are not recorded so there is no continuing accountability. Penalty points are incidental to the driving record.

The loopholes that probably won't work

Many drivers hope to successfully dispute a violation ticket for reasons such as: 

The officer did not ask them to sign the ticket.

The vehicle details were left blank or filled out incorrectly.

The radar reading was not recorded on the ticket.

A spelling error was made. 

In most cases, these things are not immediately fatal to a successful prosecution.

On the face of all violation tickets is the advice, “Shaded areas of this ticket are not part of the offence charged.” 

In other words. errors or omissions in these blanks will not invalidate the ticket outright.

Here, let me fix that ticket for you

The Offence Act allows an officer two methods for amending a ticket: One prior to trial, the other after the prosecution's evidence has been given at trial.

I have always found that the justice is reluctant to grant an officer's request for an amendment. The sentiment expressed seemed to be that if you can't write it correctly in the first place, don't try to fix it now.

The most effective method for an officer to use to overcome a mistake caught before trial is to simply issue a new ticket. This will repair errors, or even correct an improperly chosen charge. The initial ticket is cancelled through notification to ICBC, or by having the justice dismiss it on the trial date. The limitation of action in the Motor Vehicle Act allows a ticket to be served within one year of the date of the offence.

Dear Ann Landers - or maybe not

There is plenty of advice and misinformation on the internet to use in planning a ticket dispute. Consider your research source carefully before you decide to rely on it. Give preference to trusted sources such as web sites for BC law firms, and avoid information from the United States or counsel from discussion forums written by people with unstated qualifications. Better still, take advantage of the Canadian Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.

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Welcome to the Cone Zone

What is the real cost to you in a construction zone?

“What construction zone? I didn't see any signs back there!”

This irate motorist was adamant in expressing what she thought of the traffic ticket I was issuing to her for speeding in a construction zone. I suggested that once we were done, I would be happy to help her make a U-turn so that she could go back and check on the signs.

I knew there was more than one large orange warning sign with flapping red flags in addition to the temporary speed limit sign leading to where I had stopped her. 

She accepted my offer, and that was the last time I saw her. No doubt she saw the signs the second time past, and decided not to dispute the ticket.

Welcome to the Cone Zone.

The Cone Zone is a segment of highway where construction is taking place and hazards exist. It may be as obvious as people and machines on the roadway, or more subtle with uneven pavement, absence of reflective delineators, or safety barriers that have been removed. 

The need for speed reduction may be valid even outside of working hours, and it is not up to drivers to decide. When the signs are posted, you must obey.

Travelling at a reduced speed in the cone zones will reduce the chance of a mistake.

The cost of slowing down:

Like you, when I need to get to where I’m going, I don't like having to slow down. I was thinking about this one afternoon while monitoring traffic in a construction zone, and decided to find out just how much it would cost me in time to slow down. 

I measured the length of the zone and got out my calculator to calculate the difference between driving through the zone at the speed limit and at the 50 km/h reduced speed.

Result? 74 seconds. Yes, not slowing down saved 74 seconds.

How important were those 74 seconds? I considered the emergency calls I’ve responded to, and could not come up with one instance when 74 seconds made a difference. The only situations where seconds could be critical would involve ambulances and fire apparatus.

Nothing in my personal life would justify putting workers in the construction zone at risk by my failure to slow down. Refusing to slow down can only be described as selfish.

The cost of not slowing down:

Between 2005 and 2015, 223 roadside workers suffered a lost-time injury and 15 workers were killed in Cone Zone collisions. (source: Work Zone Safety Alliance)

Once again: Refusing to slow down can only be described as selfish.

It's simple really. 

Construction season will soon be underway, and we'll be called on to navigate the Cone Zone safely. 

Slow down, keep your eyes and ears on the road.

Show respect for roadside workers. 

Remember that the flag person's directions must be followed, they are not a suggestion.

Plan ahead to minimize or avoid having your trip disrupted. 

The latest information regarding construction and other delays is available at DriveBC.ca.

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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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