Bright ideas for fall driving

It was easy to tell that the first day of fall came on Thursday.

All I had to do was check my e-mail inbox and count the bright ideas to remind everyone to remember to turn on their lights when driving in the darkness and poor weather conditions.

It’s an important thought because your vehicle’s lights not only help you see, they help other road users to see you.

Bob tells me that he used to be a safety committee member in industry. His favourite mnemonic was KBL: Keys in the ignition seat Belt on, Lights on.

Having accomplished that, you were now ready to consider putting your vehicle in motion.

KBL was always the routine, regardless of whether it was day or night.

My Twitter account was well populated with messages about lights last year at this time.

The reminders were for those of us whose vehicles did not have daytime running lights that turned on all the lights.

Some drivers would see the headlight illumination and not remember that the back of their vehicle remained dark until they turned on all the lights themselves.

A nice convenience in some newer vehicles are lighting systems that turn all the lights on automatically when it is appropriate.

Drivers no longer have to do it themselves, unless the light switch is turned to Off instead of Auto.

The KBL routine would have you check to make sure the switch is set to Auto rather than turning the lights on.

I’ve already mentioned daytime running lights, so let’s revisit them while we’re speaking of lights.

Is your vehicle model year 1990 or newer and equipped with licence plates from any province in Canada?

If so, you are required to have daytime running lights that function correctly. Disconnecting the system should result in enforcement action.

Now, that we have the lamps lit, there are other considerations for proper night vision.

Are all the lenses clear, undamaged, not full of condensation and aimed properly?

Opaque or yellowed headlight lenses or lenses coated with condensation don’t transmit the light that you need to see with properly and blind other drivers with glare.

Future vehicle safety ratings will begin to measure headlight effectiveness. Until then, beware what you spend your money on if you are considering a lighting upgrade on your own.

Illegal products abound on store shelves or sold over the internet. Some of the legal choices are not what they seem either.

Osram Sylvania was the subject of a class action lawsuit in the U.S. over their Silver Star headlight bulbs. 

The suit alleged that the company rigged the comparison with standard bulbs to influence consumers.

If you do choose to equip your vehicle with extra lights that are not street legal, remember that they fall into the category of off-road lights as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

All off-road lights must be covered with opaque covers whenever the vehicle is being used on the highway.

Let’s wind up with cleanliness. Dirty lights, front or rear, can’t do their job properly.

Some paper towel and a spray bottle containing windshield washer fluid could be a wise addition to your winter driving kit along with a spare bulb or two.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.

Yellow means stop

Prepare to stop when yellow lights are flashing

When my father-in-law from Quebec visited us years ago, he was impressed with the overhead sign with flashing amber lights marked Prepare to Stop prior to signalized intersections.

He thought these signs made it much easier for the driver to prepare for a safe stop in advance of the signal changing to red. At that time this type of signal was not used where he lived.

Fast forward to today and Kate, a reader, asks, “When your light is green on the highway, but above you the overhead warning lights have just begun should you be braking on a green light?”

The Learn to Drive Smart manual deals with this by presenting a picture of the signal and identifying it with “Signal lights ahead – prepare to stop when lights are flashing” on page 33.

There is no indication given about the state of the traffic lights at the intersection ahead.

A yellow light tends to be perceived by drivers as a cautionary indication that they may either pay attention to or ignore depending on their experience and the road conditions at the time.

This is generally true when the yellow light is flashing.

The Motor Vehicle Act tells us that the driver of a vehicle facing the flashes of yellow light may cause it to enter the intersection and proceed only with caution, but must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

However, a solid yellow light at an intersection tells a driver to stop. There is one exception to this rule and that is when stopping for the yellow light cannot be done safely.

Examples of unsafe situations would include being too close to the intersection when the yellow light illuminates or when you are being followed too closely by another vehicle.

Kate’s question really has two parts, the flashing yellow lights and the green light at the intersection. As you approach the intersection, you face the overhead warning light first and the intersection signal second.

You are required to take each signal into account as you approach it, so the green light doesn’t play any part in the equation until after you have passed the yellow flashing lights.

The overhead warning lights are timed such that a driver approaching them may see them illuminate and know that the green light ahead will be yellow when they get to the intersection.

The driver will be required to stop and have the time to realize it, prepare and come to a comfortable stop before the crosswalk.

The system is a good one if you are not the first driver in line when the flashing yellow lights come on. You know that the driver in front of you should stop, so you prepare to stop too.

Follow the routine and you will be at a reduced risk for collision because the first driver is less likely to brake suddenly as they might be with a yellow or red light alone.

When I used an unmarked car for traffic enforcement, I would watch the overhead lights come on, slow to a stop and fairly often ticket the driver behind me in the other lane who blew through without stopping.

The judicial justice in traffic court was comfortable convicting that driver with only these circumstances.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.

Get out of the way

This is another instance of where most drivers would shake their heads and ask themselves, “Just what were they thinking?”

I’m speaking of a video of two drivers on a freeway using the left lane during an instance of congestion. The pickup noses up the the rear end of the car and the car driver spikes the brakes resulting in a minor collision.

I’ll venture to suggest that in this case, neither driver was thinking at all.

I did investigate an instance of this during my policing career. It happened on Highway 97 south of Penticton one summer.

After the collision, the driver who had braked exited his vehicle and pointed out his bumper sticker to the other driver. The bumper sticker said “I Brake for Tailgaters!”

After interviewing both drivers and completing the collision report, it was then time to get out the ticket book.

Each driver was issued a violation ticket for their contribution to the collision, the obvious one was following too closely and the other for driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway.

Ultimately, neither ticket was disputed.

It may be a coincidence as the video is only 38 seconds long, but I wonder if this incident had been building for some time.

The traffic in the right lane is moving faster than the traffic in the left lane until after the collision occurs. At that point, traffic in both lanes appears to be moving with the same speed.

The driver who caused the collision may also be a left-lane blocker. Here in B.C. if you are slower traffic in the left lane, you are obligated to move to the right lane, regardless of the fact that you may be driving at or over the speed limit.

Tailgating or following too closely is epidemic on our highways. Some drivers do it because they are poor judges of visual distance, some are careless and others use it as a method of intimidating slower drivers to move them out of the way.

Solutions range from teaching drivers the two-second rule (which has recently started to become the three-second rule) to painting dots on the highway to show drivers how much space should be kept between vehicles at minimum. 

B.C. has begun to post two new road signs, one advising drivers to keep right and let others pass, and the other suggesting one should be courteous and keep right to let others pass.

Comments on the TranBC blog seem to indicate that drivers are ignoring the signs and that without significant enforcement by police nothing will change.

It’s a pity that courtesy is not a consideration to extend to others when it comes to using the highway.

I’ll conclude with something to think about. Following distance at two to three seconds is merely a buffer to give you time to think and react to a change in traffic ahead.

It does not include braking distance considerations and may have to be significantly extended in times of poor traction.

Self preservation may mean slowing down further or even stopping off the roadway to encourage that tailgater to move on by.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.

Finding solutions

There is nothing like a near miss or collision to focus your mind on road safety.

I often hear from people hoping to enlist my help in solving their problem. Recently, requests have ranged from posting lower speed limits to constructing left-turn lanes.

Most people have already tried something on their own and are frustrated with what they see as the authorities not wanting to apply what they see as the solution.

We live in an age of access to information. In fact, there is so much of it on the Internet that people have to be careful that they are reading reliable information instead of rants, rumours and opposing points of view.

However, by doing some research with respected sources, you can create a logical, comprehensive identification of the problem and useful solutions to present to the authorities to deal with your issue.

ICBC maintains crash maps for the province that contain data from 2009 to 2014 showing casualty crashes, property damage crashes or both together.

It is a bit cumbersome to locate a specific area, but you can find any place of interest with a little trial and error. This would allow you to accurately cite a collision history if there is one at your location.

Causal factors for the collisions are not listed, but this information can be requested if crashes have occurred.

There are a number of Canadian organizations and universities that provide road safety audit guidelines. These PDF manuals are available for download by anyone with an interest.

ICBC has applied audits as part of the Road Improvement Program. The aim is to solve both existing problems and design new roads more safely.

Traffic calming measures include more than just speed bumps. Drivers can be influenced by the environment and slowed without using speed bumps or limit signs.

Better Environmentally Sound Transportation is a BC non-profit that facilitates programs that includes one called Living Streets.

According to their web site, it provides its participants with an opportunity to have positive and productive interactions with municipal planners and subsequently generates useful information for the future development of these neighbourhoods.

A good example of what people can do is check Matthew Boyd’s Feltham Village Project.

Granted, he is a senior planner with BC Transit in Victoria, but the project is an objective look at issues in his neighbourhood along with suggested solutions.

You could either borrow his solutions or follow his example and create a blog of your own.

To understand one Canadian road safety perspective clearly, I recommend reading No Accident – Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads, by Neil Arason.

Neil is also a Victoria resident who has significant experience in road-safety research. He blogs about road safety problems and solutions as well.

So, if your two-paragraph letter to city council requesting the installation of a stop sign at the end of your street was rejected and the safety issue is really important to you, do some research and try again.

Justification may bring success or you may even be able to provide a better solution that is acceptable to everyone.

Sometimes success requires learning and trying again.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.

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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