It's your problem

People like to feel safe in their neighbourhood and would like everyone to obey the driving rules when they are in it.

So, what do you do when this is not the case? The answer depends on how much you want to become involved in the solution.

Years of contact with people through my DriveSmartBC web site has taught me that most people either want a sympathetic ear to listen to their complaint or expect someone else, most often the police, to solve the problem after being notified about it.

These people do not want to become involved beyond this point, after providing the information it is now an issue for someone else to solve.

Drawing the attention of road-safety authorities to a problem is the right place to start though. You have intimate knowledge of your neighbourhood and its problems because you live there.

You know how often drivers don’t follow the speed limit, don’t stop for stop signs and where the common crash locations are.

The best way to make complaints is in writing. Although the default agency is often the police, your local MLA, the road-maintenance contractor or the district office of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure may be a better choice, depending on the problem.

Provide them with a comprehensive description of the problem as you see it including as much detail as you are able to.

I still admire the initiative one man took with speeding vehicles that passed his home. He measured the distance between two telephone poles beside the highway that were visible from his kitchen window.

When he had a few spare minutes, he’d sit at the kitchen table with a stopwatch and measure the time between poles for passing traffic. That time was easily turned into a speed that he recorded along with when it occurred.

He now had accurate information that he could present to police that backed up his opinion.

You could choose to make an appointment with the local manager of the appropriate service and present your issue personally.

The manager will then have a person to go with the complaint that could serve to make it more immediate. Discuss the problems, the possible solutions and obtain a commitment to do something.

Follow up on the commitment after a reasonable time. If some action has been taken you have started down the road to a solution.

If not, find out why, as this is important to your next step if you choose to continue to obtain a solution.

If the ministry does not have the budget for an improvement or the police don’t have the manpower for more frequent patrols, this is an issue to solve along the way, not an excuse for failing to take action.

The Internet can be a gold mine for those who want to make a difference. Chances are good that someone else has had the same problem and may already have a reasonable solution.

You could join or create a group and lobby more effectively. If you are careful of the source, it is also a great place to do research and learn more about your issue, which may provide a path to a solution.

Generally, problems do not go away by themselves. Complain constructively and be a part of the solution.

Also, make sure that you are not part of the problem, in your neighbourhood or someone else’s.

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

Send a surrogate to court

You’ve waited for your day in traffic court, and it’s drawing near.

Trouble is, you can’t be there. What to do now?

Send an agent, of course.

The Offence Act provides for appearance by an agent, who is not a lawyer, instead of the driver who was issued the traffic ticket. This is at the discretion of the justice presiding, who could choose to require the driver to appear instead of allowing the agent to conduct the defence.

In general, I have seen the justice allow the agent to enter a plea. The agent’s advice was accepted for a guilty plea, but the matter was usually adjourned if the plea was not guilty.

I have also seen the justice flatly refuse to hear from an agent and set the matter over for a new date.

The most common difficulty with having an agent represent you seems to be with assuring the justice that this person does have the authority to act on your behalf. It would be prudent to send written instructions  that can be shown to the justice.

If you chose to sign the violation ticket, the justice can compare the signature and details in your authorization with their copy and more easily satisfy themselves of your intentions.

Using an agent is not the same as appearing for the trial yourself. The agent will be able to enter your plea of not guilty, cross examine any prosecution witnesses, examine any defence witnesses, summarize the defence position and if you are found guilty, speak to the penalty.

What they cannot do is give your evidence to the court. You are the only one who can do that and must appear in person.

This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly if granted by the court. You and your agent should work together prior to the trial so he has a complete picture of the incident, your exact wishes for the conduct of the trial and have a good idea of the applicable law.

Ideally, they should also attend a traffic court session as a spectator so that they know what to expect. Proper preparation is always critical to doing anything well.

Unfortunately, there is no way to check ahead of time to see if a judicial justice will accept an agent acting in place of a defendant.

The court registries that I contacted did say that it was much more common to see an agent attend with the defendant to provide advice, but not participate otherwise in the trial.

Unless your agent is also a lawyer qualified to practise law in B.C., you cannot pay them “a fee, gain or reward, direct or indirect” for helping you. To do so would mean that they are practising law and could face consequences from the Law Society of BC.

Is it a wise decision to be represented by an agent instead of asking for an adjournment and conducting your own trial? You will have to decide that for yourself before the fact because after the verdict has been made it will be very difficult to change the outcome.

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

Fight that ticket

Dispute a traffic ticket penalty without attending court

Are you guilty of the offence on the ticket, but can't pay the amount?

In many cases, you can have the fine reviewed and set to a penalty more appropriate for your circumstances without having to set foot in traffic court.

When the penalty cannot be reduced or you need both a reduction and time to pay, that can be accomplished as well. All you need to do is to complete and submit two forms for the judicial justice to review.

The two forms are PTR021 – Violation Ticket Notice of Dispute; and PTR022 – Violation Ticket Statement and Written Reasons. These forms are available on line or can be obtained at the nearest court registry office.

Form PTR021 is used to start the dispute process. In all cases you would complete parts A and D. For this situation you would also complete part B.

This indicates that you agree that you have committed the offence(s), do not wish to appear in court personally and require a reduction (check box C1) and/or time to pay (check box C2).

Form PTR022 explains your situation to the judicial justice and accompanies form PTR021. You must complete parts A and B and then choose part C for a reduction in penalty and/or part D for time to pay the penalty.

This is where you would explain your financial situation, highlight an otherwise spotless driving record and name a specific period of time for payment. If you cannot specify a time, you could explain what is left of your budget each month that you can afford to pay and leave the calculation to the judicial justice.

The form is specific that the written reasons must not contain a defence of the allegation. For instance, you must not ask for a reduction or time to pay because you did not know what you did was wrong, the offence was minor in nature or some reason compelled you to disobey.

Arguments that refute guilt are for disputes of the allegation, and you’ve already chosen to indicate that you are guilty of the offence.

These forms, along with a copy of the violation ticket that you were issued may be sent to the address listed on them or taken in person to the court registry.

A judicial justice will review them and may choose to ask the issuing officer about the circumstances that led to the ticket being issued.

Your driving record is not reviewed as part of the process unless you decide to provide that information yourself. In case you are tempted to shade the truth here, remember that you are working with legal documents and there are penalties for being less than forthright.

If you wish to attach a copy of your driving record, you can download and print the document free directly from ICBC.

Some driving offences, such as speeding, have specific fines set in the legislation. Others, such as driving without insurance, have minimum fines indicated. In either case, the judicial justice must follow the law and either cannot vary the specific fine or set a penalty lower than the indicated minimum.

Traffic ticket fines are meant to act as a deterrent, not a financial hardship. The ticketed amounts are determined to indicate the seriousness of the offence and balanced for an average income.

The system outlined here helps adjust the penalty to suit other than average circumstances.

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

The pedestrian scramble

How does a pedestrian scramble across the road?

I had the pleasure of visiting Banff as a tourist this spring. The downtown area of the city has been remade with pedestrians in mind.

The sidewalks are wide, speed limits are reduced and the three pedestrian scrambles move a lot of people more safely than the conventional intersection.

Clearly, pedestrians are a welcome part of traffic in the core area.

By now you are probably wondering what a pedestrian scramble is. Rather than operate the intersection signals as we have come to expect, alternating traffic (including pedestrians) through and across the intersection, Banff’s scramble stops all vehicles for one phase of the traffic lights and allows pedestrians to cross both perpendicularly and diagonally in all directions.

In effect, control of the intersection is turned over to pedestrians instead of focusing on moving motor vehicles.

This system is optimum in urban areas where pedestrian traffic is heavy and sufficient space exists on the sidewalk to accommodate large groups. This is the case in Banff, which can have 2,000 pedestrians and 200 vehicles per hour at one downtown intersection in the summer.

Probably the biggest advantage of the pedestrian scramble is the reduction of conflict. During the scramble phase, only pedestrians are moving and all vehicles must stop.

Otherwise, only vehicles move and drivers no longer have to worry about pedestrians while making turns. To me, this is a fair exchange. Having to wait a little longer for pedestrians is traded for faster and safer flow on turns.

Implementation of a diagonal crossing can reduce pedestrian casualties by 38 per cent, according to Transport for London. I liked it simply because I only had to wait to cross the street once to get to the other side of the intersection when I wasn’t staying on the same side of the street.

There appears to be an alternative system as examples of scrambles that I have found elsewhere allow pedestrians to parallel vehicle traffic for two cycles of the traffic lights.

A third cycle of four-way red lights to stop all vehicular traffic occurs and allows the scramble to take place.

Some scrambles are also controlled by traffic signals that prohibit right turns during the scramble phase.

Of course, this works well when everyone follows the rules. Pedestrian wait times tend to be longer at a scramble and impatient people could occasionally be seen disobeying the pedestrian controls and dodging vehicles.

As it is with drivers, personal convenience can trump traffic laws and consideration for others.

With Vancouver in the news last week for having a higher than normal pedestrian death rate so far in 2016, and the Vancouver Police Department announcing a cyclist and pedestrian safety campaign, one would wonder why cities in B.C. don’t adopt pedestrian scrambles.

It appears that Vancouver did consider scrambles in 2011, hoping to implement some on Robson Street, similar to one at Moncton and Number 1 Road in Richmond. The city dropped that plan in 2013.

However you choose to cross the street, use a crosswalk, follow the signals, stop, look both ways, hold hands and yield to motor vehicles.

Remember that right of way is given, not demanded.

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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