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Behind-the-Wheel

The rules for tinted windows on automobiles are clear

Tinted window rules

One of my preferred enforcement practices was to use an unmarked car and drive in the right lane at, or just under, the speed limit. This gave me plenty of time to look at, and into, whatever passed by on my left.

Vehicle defects, failing to wear a seatbelt distracted driving and other things of interest to a traffic cop were often easily discovered.

I recall doing this once on a cold and rainy afternoon. A car passed me with both the front side windows rolled down completely and both front seat occupants staring resolutely ahead. Why do you think they were willing to get wet as they pretended not to see me?

As you have probably guessed by now, it was illegally tinted front side windows.

Why is clear glass important for driving?

The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual. Tint prevents other road users from making eye contact with the driver, it impairs the driver's ability to identify and react to a low contrast target, particularly among older drivers and tint remains in place at night and during times of impaired visibility

B.C.'s window tinting rules

There are two methods of tinting automotive glass, tint contained within the glass itself and tinting film applied to the inside surface.

As delivered by the vehicle manufacturer, tint inside the window glass meets Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 and each window is marked with the appropriate AS grade. It was rare to find a window that did not have the approval marking or was incorrectly tinted.

Where most vehicles failed to meet the rules is when the owner installed tinting film:

• more than 75 mm below the top of the windshield

• on a side window that was beside the driver

• on the rear window when the vehicle did not have outside mirrors on both sides

Resistance to enforcement

In my experience, virtually all Notice & Order #3's were ignored. Ditto the offer to cancel a traffic ticket if the tint was removed and the vehicle presented for inspection. Sometimes it took multiple tickets and Notice & Order #2's to correct the issue.

Tinting businesses are part of the problem

I know of one business that actually told its customers that if they were stopped by the police they could come back, have the tint removed, present the vehicle for inspection and then have the tint put back on—once, free of charge.

It is an offence under Section 222 of the Motor Vehicle Act for businesses to install tint that does not meet standards. Being prosecuted under this law would be a flea bite compared to being found liable for tint being the cause of a crash. Having business insurance does not protect you from wilfully unlawful acts.

Vehicle sales businesses are also part of the problem

You can find vehicles with illegal tint displayed for sale at businesses. In addition to Section 222 already mentioned, Division 8.01 MVAR also applies to prevent the sale of vehicles that are not roadworthy.

There are no medical exemptions for window tint

Some drivers have tried to convince me, even producing a doctor's note, that they had health or vision issues that required the tint. I could understand this for people who suffered from cutaneous porphyria, but only RoadSafetyBC can grant an exemption from these rules and they will not do so.

So, to see or not to see. Why would you limit your ability to drive safely on purpose?



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Shedding more light on the ue of fog lamps

More light on fog lamps

A previous article on driving lights led to a number of requests to write a follow up article on fog lights.

The original question involved vehicles that were driving with four lights on all the time and two of them were not being dimmed for oncoming traffic. Many readers were aware that the extra two lights were fog lights and not driving lights.

What is a fog light?

Fog lamps are identified by the SAE F marking on the lens, or a B above the circle with the E in it on European lamps.

Fog light installation

B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) allows two fog lamps that emit either white or amber light. They must be mounted on the front of the vehicle, below the headlamps, but not more than 30 cm below. When you switch them on, the parking lamps, tail lamps, licence plate lamp and, if required, clearance lamps must also illuminate.

However, the vehicle inspection manual used by designated inspection facilities to insure vehicle equipment complies with standards also mentions red rear fog lights. Two are allowed and must be mounted no further than 10 cm from the brake lights. The two sets of rules have been out of step for a long time.

When should you Use fog lights?

According to vehicle lighting expert Dan Stern, you should turn them off, leave them off and forget that they exist. Front fog lights are really only useful in a very narrow set of circumstances. Despite this, the regulations say front fog lamps may be used in place of headlamps if atmospheric conditions make the use of headlamps disadvantageous. Beyond that, front fog lamps may be used at any time of the day or night and in fact are used as the daytime running lamps on some vehicles.

The regulations don't say anything about the use of rear fog lights. Strern suggests a good metric to use in deciding when to switch your rear fog lights on or off is do you want the guy in front of you displaying a rear fog so you can see him better or do you wish the jerk in front of you would turn off that damn bright red light?

How to aim front fog Lights

As with driving lamps, fog lamps aim are measured at a distance of 7.62 m from the lamp. If the beam is symmetric, aim is measured at the centre of the top edge of the high intensity area. They must be 100 mm below horizontal with an upper error of no more than horizontal. Lateral aim is straight ahead, but must be no more than 150 mm either side of vertical.

If the beam is asymmetric, aim is measured at the left of the top edge. They must be 60 mm above vertical with an error of no more than 175 mm above to 50 mm below horizontal. They must also be aimed straight ahead but must be no more than 100 mm either side of vertical.



Knowing what right of way means is important for drivers

Right of way

Right of way means the privilege of the immediate use of the highway over other users. We often speak of it, but do we really know what it means in relation to our driving? It is crucial that drivers know and follow the right of way rules to avoid conflict and collision.

It's not just you

In discussions that I have had about right of way, drivers tend to approach it from the point of view of "other road users must allow me to (insert action being discussed here)." While that is true, if taking the right of way results in a crash, the driver with the right of way can still be held accountable.

Right of Way in the Motor Vehicle Act

Part 3 of the Motor Vehicle Act, which sets out the rules for vehicle and pedestrian movement, contains 35 references to the phrase "right of way." The majority of them relate to intersections controlled by traffic signals. They specify who goes first in various situations and generally grant priority to pedestrians over all vehicles, if the pedestrian is following the pedestrian rules properly.

These rules must be learned when you start to drive and kept in mind to be followed thereafter.

B.C.'s Safe Driving Guide

If you are not a legal scholar, reading the MVA can be confusing. Our provincial driving manual Learn to Drive Smart devotes four pages to explaining right of way in chapter 4, starting on page 43. It is easier to understand.

Knowing when to go and when to yield the right of way to others will keep us all safe on the highways.

Yielding to the right

In places on the highway that are not controlled by a sign, signal or other marking, we generally must yield to the traffic on our right. In the case of an uncontrolled intersection the fact that one way is more heavily travelled or a straighter path does not grant right of way over the yield to the right concept.

Emergency vehicles and buses

There are special circumstances mentioned in this part as well. Yielding to emergency vehicles and buses displaying the yield sign in areas with speed limits of 60 km/h or less are two common situations.

Pedestrians

While there are right of way rules that govern the interaction between drivers and pedestrians there is one overriding concern for drivers: exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway.

Important thought

Remember, right of way is given, not taken.



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Consequences of driving without a licence can be harsh

Driving without a licence

A reader has asked: "What would happen to me if I was caught driving without a drivers licence?"

It is a question that will expose serious consequences for you and the owner of the vehicle you are driving if it is not your own. I will confine my answer to the situation where you don't have a driver's licence either because you did not get one, it was expired or you did not have it properly reinstated after a suspension or prohibition.

Before the first impound

Generally an unlicensed driver runs into trouble because they have done something to attract the attention of police. Most officers will write the ticket for that infraction and query ICBC records to determine the driver's status. If you are unlicensed and this is the first time you have been caught, you will also receive a ticket for driving without a valid driver's licence.

It will be the end of the trip as you will be prevented from driving further.

Police must impound the vehicle

If you have had a previous conviction for driving without a driver's licence, your ICBC licence record will be flagged for a vehicle impoundment. If the flag is present on your driving record, police are required to impound the vehicle that you are driving by the Motor Vehicle Act, regardless of the fact that it might not be your vehicle.

Imagine having to tell the boss or a rental company that their business vehicle is not going to be available for a while.

Length of the impoundment

If this is your first impoundment, the vehicle will be held for seven days. If you choose to drive without a driver's licence again within a two year period, the impoundment length increases to 30 days for the second and 60 days for subsequent offences.

In addition to the impoundment, you will probably receive another ticket for not having a valid driver's licence.

Impoundment costs

Responsibility for the payment of towing and storage fees belongs to the owner of the vehicle. If they were not the driver at the time of the impound, they may recover costs from the driver in the same manner as any other bad debt.

The cost of an impoundment varies depending on where it happens within the province due to the cost of storage. The vehicle impound refund calculator will give you an estimation of the costs involved.

Reviewing an impoundment

A seven-day impoundment is not subject to a review.

Thirty-day and sixty-day impoundments may be reviewed for the following reasons:

• You did not give consent to use the vehicle to the person that was driving
• Your vehicle was stolen
• The driver renews their driver's licence
• Compassionate grounds ie: economic hardship

Denial of insurance coverage

A condition of your insurance contract is that the vehicle driver must be properly licensed. If not, the contract can be considered void and coverage in the event of a collision may be refused. This can be a complicated situation and if you are interested, you should discuss if with your insurer to determine what the outcome would be.

Driving without a valid driver's licence has many pitfalls regardless of whether you do so accidentally by missing a renewal, or deliberately through personal choice.

Allowing others to use your vehicle

If you lend your vehicle for any reason, it is wise to be certain that the person who will be driving it has a valid driver's licence.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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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



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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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