Tuesday, April 28th18.9°C
Behind The Wheel

Defensive drivers signal

During the question and answer portion of any group presentation that I give, someone always asks about the use of turn signals. They are either curious to know what they must do or are being sarcastic about the drivers that they see around them that never signal. It's usually the latter but when asked to articulate, most drivers don't know exactly what is required of them by law and what a defensive driver will choose to do for safety.

Regardless of the fact that you may be the only vehicle on the highway, you must always signal a start from a stopped position or when making a lane change. If you are turning, you are only required to signal if your turn will affect surrounding traffic. Oddly enough, a semaphore arm may still be a legal method of giving a signal in addition to hand and arm signals or signal lights.

In my defensive driving classes I was told that I must always signal any start, turn or lane change.  A lane change was considered to have happened if I moved more than half a vehicle width to the left or right. This meant that I had to signal left and then right if I moved partially out of my lane to drive safely around an obstruction at the side of the road.

If you always signal correctly and make a driving error you will show your intention to surrounding traffic. This may be enough to prevent a collision.

Finally, ask any emergency vehicle driver and they will tell you that when they are asking for right of way with lights and siren activated, signal your intention to get out of the way and then follow that signal without fail. They will worry about getting around you safely after that.


Cyclists not second class

I read a story in the Victoria Times Colonist this morning regarding crashes involving motor vehicles and cyclists using the Galloping Goose trail. The article was prompted by a cyclist who had ridden across Ardersier Road and was struck by a driver who had stopped for the stop sign and then failed to yield to the cyclist. There is a crosswalk painted across the Ardersier where the trail crosses.

The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) says it all in one statement: "...a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle." Strictly speaking, both Ardersier Road and the Galloping Goose Trail are highways within the meaning of the MVA. This effectively means that the cyclist on the Trail had every reason to expect the driver to remain stopped as they crossed with caution, in the same way that they would at the intersection of two "regular" streets having a two way stop.

The conversation posted by readers at the end of the article is illustrative of the confusion many people have with the basic rules of the road. Chief among them at the time I read it was that the cyclist should have dismounted and walked across the crosswalk. This is only the case where a bylaw does not permit a cyclist to ride in a crosswalk and the City of Victoria has done this in the Streets and Traffic Bylaw.

To give the driver the benefit of a doubt, this may simply have been a mistake of either not seeing the cyclist and making the connection that the driver had to wait until the cyclist had crossed safely in front of them, just like a two vehicle collision in a "regular" two way stop intersection. However, it is possible that the driver felt entitled because they considered that the cyclist was a second class road user and had to yield to motor vehicles. If that is the case, the driver needs to re-evaluate their perception of sharing the road with cyclists.

Look waaay ahead!

Imagine making a lane change and crashing into a fully marked police vehicle stopped at the side of the highway with all of its emergency lights operating. I can only guess that the driver was not properly scanning his environment and looking far enough ahead to anticipate issues before they happen. It might also be time to consider offsetting the police vehicle to the right rather than the left when working on the freeway.
Driving safely requires more than watching the vehicle ahead of you and making sure that there is more than a meter or two between vehicles in front and behind when you change into another lane as the driver in this crash found out. At freeway speeds of 120 km/h you are moving at over 33 m/s. A reasonable buffer of 4 seconds is 132 m. Add 80 m stopping distance on level dry road and you should be looking well over the length of a city block ahead at minimum.
I was trained to offset my police vehicle to the left of the violator's vehicle by about half its width to provide a pocket of protection as I approached the driver's door. This often left part of the vehicle in the highway lane. I later learned on my own to pull as far to the right as possible and do a passenger side approach to stay out of traffic. Even then I didn't feel safe, slow down, move over law or not!
Our highways can be very dangerous places as there are an average of 282 fatal crashes on them each year. Planning and scanning well ahead can give you the notice you need to avoid a crash. Staying as far out of the travelled lanes as possible when you have to stop is a must as warnings may not protect you.
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit drivesmartbc.ca.


Police don't write tickets for..

I often hear the opinion expressed that the police never write tickets for (insert your favourite violation here). While I know what I wrote tickets for when I worked, I also knew that each officer had his or her own opinion on what was important to write tickets for and what they would choose not to write. In order to make a more informed response on the DriveSmartBC website I asked ICBC for a list of the number of Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) convictions for 2014.

As I am sure you have already guessed, speeding tickets were the most frequently written. In fact, at about 176,000, they formed more than 39% of the total. 7,500 of those were for speeds of more than 40 km/h over the posted speed limit. This is not surprising as failing to obey the speed limit is common, accurately quantified and a concise case in traffic court.

Distracted driving convictions are about one third of speeding convictions, totalling about 50,300. Given the risk that this driving behaviour presents and how much of it I see around me when I drive, I hope that these type of conviction increases if the behaviour does not decrease.

Occupant restraint convictions, not including child restraints which are dealt with under the MVA Regulations, numbered about 34,000. This type of violation ticket should be difficult to issue by now one would think, especially since ICBC tells us that the current rate of use is in the high 90% range.

Other specific categories of conviction include motorcycle related offences at 235, cyclist related offences at 4887 and pedestrian related offences at 963. Is your pet peeve listed? Check out the entire list by visiting 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]

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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