Wednesday, May 27th21.3°C
Behind The Wheel

Vehicles doing the thinking?

I remember what I was a teenager (yes, that was a few years ago) working in my father's service station. The latest safety gadget in new vehicles was a buzzer that warned the driver when seatbelts were not fastened. That's a good idea, right? Apparently not, as customers were coming in to see if they could have the buzzer removed or disabled. If everyone got in, fastened their seatbelts and then the driver started the car, no one ever heard the buzzer. I suppose the trouble was that this was not the habit and it was easier to silence the buzzer than it was to change behaviour.

Fast forward to today and we are starting to see a range of new driver assistance technologies being implemented. Backup cameras, lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication are just a few examples of new conveniences and safety systems that will compensate for driver errors or omissions. It appears that the backup cameras are considered useful but I wonder if privacy concerns will lead to drivers who disconnect the vehicle to vehicle/infrastructure systems.

Is it wrong to have your vehicle do some of the thinking for you? What happens if the system makes the wrong choice? Do you owe it to fellow road users to keep all of these systems properly functional as the choice you make will affect others? How far should legislation go to require implementation and continued use of safety systems that think for or override a driver's control over their vehicle?

Will we get to the place in my lifetime where our vehicles drive for us? I'm not sure I want to climb in, tell my pickup where I want to go and then put my head in a book or do other non-driving related tasks while it takes me there. The human brain is still a better multi-purpose computer than is present in the best self driving car today, but it still makes its fair share of stupid decisions too. Where does the balance lie?


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


E-ticketing and ticket dispute

There was a brief flurry in the media a couple of weeks ago about the implementation of electronic traffic tickets and dispute adjudication replacing traffic court. I had not heard anything about this from the provincial government after the publication of the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act to allow the changes in 2012. Being curious, I traded e-mails with the Public Affairs office of the Ministry of Justice to see if I could learn more.

Implementation of the changes will be conducted in two phases, with electronic ticketing proceeding first. E-tickets and on line payment methods are currently in the planning stages and currently there is no date set for police to put away their ball point pens and paper ticket books. Once this system is functioning, phase two will continue with the change to an administrative justice model to replace our current traffic court model.

The Ministry points out that the changes are intended to create system efficiencies and make processes more accessible for citizens. It is not uncommon to have to wait as much as a year or more currently for your day in traffic court. If the resolution process is quicker RoadSafetyBC will be able to take action against high risk drivers more promptly.

The news release issued by the government in May of 2012 is still the most current information according to public affairs. Since the general tone of the media articles was resistance to the switch to dispute adjudication, if you feel it is necessary, you still have time to contact your MLA and make your views known. Of course, if you think that adjudication would be an improvement, you could state that view too.


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

ORV registration required

If you intend to operate your off road vehicle (ORV) anywhere on public lands after June 1, 2015 you have just three weeks left to register it through ICBC. When the vehicle is registered an off road vehicle license plate will be issued and must be displayed. The changes replaced outdated legislation governing British Columbia’s growing off-road sector, and helps ensure these vehicles are driven in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

An ORV includes snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles (or “quads”), off road motorcycles, side by sides (i.e. rhino, argo, razors) and dual purpose on highway vehicles such as jeeps, trucks, and SUVs.

The one time fee of $48 for the registration and number plate will be valid as long as the same person owns the vehicle. If the ORV is sold or disposed of, the owner keeps the number plate to transfer onto a replacement. Snowmobile owners who have registered their machines under the old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act will receive a refund of the amount they have already paid when they register under the new rules.

The requirement to register and license an ORV applies to out of province users who bring their machines into BC for use. That may be fulfilled if their home province has an identical program (eg: Alberta) and they are registered there. Otherwise, the ORV must be registered and licensed in BC before use. Similarly, jeeps, trucks and SUVs already licensed and insured for on highway use will be exempt.


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


Heavy truck 'no zones'

I first wrote about drivers whose behaviour in the "no zone" around heavy trucks left much to be desired back in 2004. Little seems to have changed since then as when I listen to the trucking radio channels the most common complaint involves drivers who jam themselves in front of a truck and then slow down. There are many possible outcomes to this scenario when it goes wrong; the trucker is able to swerve out of the way and nothing happens, the trucker swerves out of the way and harms themselves or perhaps the trucker chooses to maintain course and harms the foolish driver.

A heavy commercial truck may have as little as 60% of the braking capacity of a car or pickup truck. This essentially means that once the brakes are applied, the big truck takes twice as long to stop as you do. Air brake systems can take more time between pressing the brake pedal and the braking components starting to do their job than your hydraulic brakes. You can extend the stopping distance even further if all of the heavy trucks brakes are overheated, not in good condition or properly adjusted.

Do you still think that it's a good idea to get close to the front bumper of a big truck and hit your brakes? Self preservation might dictate that you slow down, lane change behind the truck and then make your right turn or use the exit. If you are continuing straight ahead check traffic conditions ahead before you change lanes and either avoid having to brake or have a light vehicle behind you instead.

While we're on the topic of the No Zone, there are many other bad places to be as you cruise alongside or behind a large commercial vehicle. If you cannot see the driver in his mirrors or through any of his windows, he cannot see you! Being invisible to a trucker is definitely not what you want to be. A fender bender for the truck could be a catastrophe for you.


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

Read more Behind the Wheel articles


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 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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