Thursday, December 18th2.2°C
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Behind The Wheel

Blame the road maintenance

 
I exchanged Tweets last week with a commercial truck driver who was less than impressed with the winter maintenance of BC's highways. There is no doubt in my mind that when your livelihood depends on being able to keep your truck moving road maintenance is a subject near and dear to your heart. My question is, was this gentleman speaking from emotion or was he being realistic?
 
If money was no object, we could hire enough people and equipment that snow removal vehicles would pass by you on any highway in BC like transit buses in downtown Vancouver at rush hour. This is not realistic of course. Our taxes would not support it and what would you do with all that manpower and machinery when the snow wasn't falling?
 
When I travel in winter, part of the plan includes the decision on whether it is appropriate to travel at all. If it is, and I run into an unforeseen situation, it's up to me to have some stake in being able to look after myself. Good winter tires, chains, jumper cables, a shovel, some sand, breakdown warnings, you get the idea. I cannot and should not place 100% of the job on the shoulders of the road maintenance contractors.
 
Yes, sometimes road maintenance is not ideal. People get sick and can't come to work, equipment breaks down and Mother Nature just dumps more snow out of the sky than even the best can cope with. It's all a compromise and in my experience the crews seem to do quite well more often than not. Enough that I am still procrastinating about buying the set of chains for my truck that I swore I would by after getting stuck on an unploughed road a couple of years ago.
 
 
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit drivesmartbc.ca.




Mobility scooters: Use, misuse & abuse

Life must present quite a challenge when you are no longer able to walk very far under your own power. The mobility scooter is a blessing for those who can afford one. It gives much greater range than predecessors that were powered for however long your arms could push. In fact, I checked a man zooming down the side of a freeway in a shiny new one. The vendor had promised him a range of 17 kilometers and he was testing the truth of it.

Pedestrians, and the law considers the disabled person in a mobility scooter as a pedestrian, often take risks and fail to follow the rules. I've even seen scooters being driven like a car, the driver calmly sitting in the middle of the lane at a four way stop, left hand signal light on waiting his turn. Of course, this is not how it is supposed to be done and invites a collision.

When the sidewalk is present and passable, this is where the scooter operator must be. Otherwise, the left edge of the roadway facing traffic like any other pedestrian is where to "walk."

Having said that, I've noticed that many homeowners have planted trees and hedges at the edge of the sidewalk in front of their homes. If proper maintenance is not done, these plants soon encroach on the sidewalk and prevent scooter operators from using it. I'm nimble enough to walk around, but there may not be an opportunity for the scooter operator to follow suit. Take a careful look at your landscaping and trim it if needed. There's no sense causing a problem for others or having bylaw enforcement knocking on your door.

 

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



Pedestrians: vulnerable road users

 
Yesterday in a four hour period @ScanBC reported a half dozen vehicle / pedestrian collisions around the province on Twitter. Today while out walking during my lunch hour I watched a woman jogging with her back to traffic, in the lane instead of on the sidewalk, while wearing earbuds. A van squeezed between me and the curb as I crossed an intersection on the walk to my vehicle to get home. Are you surprised that these collisions are occurring?
 
 
When we walk at night I think that we tend to underestimate how vulnerable we are. We can see all of the vehicles around us because they are brightly lit. Most pedestrians are anything but. We dress in dark clothing, do not wear reflectors or carry a light. This may actually help us hide behind the brightness and go unseen by drivers until the last second or until it is too late.
 
Both drivers and pedestrians routinely ignore the traffic controls that are there to protect them by creating order and expectation. Why wait? If you think about it, walking when the signal says not to exposes you to drivers making turns who expect you to not be there. Instead, they focus more on finding a gap in traffic to make their turn than anticipating you in the crosswalk.
 
Right of way or wrong, the pedestrian has the most to lose in a collision. Obey the signals, use the crosswalk, be visible at night and look all around you before you cross the street. It's probably better to wait out the inconvenience than to walk out into traffic and pay the price for haste.
 
 
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit drivesmartbc.ca.




Give me a sign

 
During one of my Elder College presentations I work through a module on traffic signs and lane markings with the students. Driving examiners tell me that this is one area that older drivers have trouble with if they are called in for a re-examination. Based on discussions in the forum on the DriveSmartBC website I can truthfully say that older drivers are not the only ones having difficulty with signs.
 
Sure, we see stop, yield and speed signs every day and are quite confident about what they mean. If you are a middle aged driver who lives in rural BC and is visiting the lower mainland area for the first time, there may be all sorts of signs and signals that you have never seen before. Trying to decide what to do as you pass them is probably not a good method for dealing with the issue!
 
You are expected to know what the signs mean even if you rarely encounter them. Keeping up to date is something that we rarely feel the need to do because we all know how to drive, right? The only time that we may have looked at the provincial driving manual, Learn to Drive Smart, is if our teenage children are learning to drive and then it may only have been out of curiosity or to confirm something that they have told us.
 
Paper copies of the manual are still free for the asking at any Driver Service Center in British Columbia. If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet it can be downloaded in PDF format from ICBC's web site. If you're really feeling brave, you can even take the on line practice test for new drivers. It never hurts to be ahead of the game.
 
 
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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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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