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Behind-the-Wheel

Navigating the HOV

I am blessed with a steady stream of questions that arrive from visitors to my DriveSmartBC web site.

When I'm short ideas to base my weekly article on, I can count on someone to make a suggestion.

This week, the operative word is short, and I'm going to deal with questions that haven't developed into a full article, but deserve a response.

The question is about HOV lanes: Since there is a solid line to separate HOV traffic from regular traffic, how do we safely apply the move over for the let-faster-traffic-to-go-by problem?

There is more depth to this question than first appears. The solid line means that it is illegal to move from one lane to another.

In addition, the HOV lane is specifically exempted from the slower-traffic-keep-right rules. However, if you choose to drive at a speed that is lower than the normal speed of traffic, you must use the right hand lane available for traffic.

Does that mean if everyone else is speeding, you want to follow the speed limit and qualify to use the HOV lane, you cannot?

Ultimately, that might be the question for a traffic court justice.

I often choose to use the right hand lane even if I qualify to use the HOV lane because I am uncomfortable not following the speed limit.

When I do use the HOV lane, I generally have a bulldozer sitting on my back bumper or other drivers weave around me increasing the risk of collision for all of us.

Self preservation outweighs convenience in heavy traffic.

Q: "Whose idea was it to use stainless steel cable to trap cars with in the event you run off the road? Those things could be very dangerous to a biker if forced off the road in to the "barrier."

For the answer to this one, I turned to the Wikipedia article on cable barriers.

It says" "In many countries of the European Union these cable barriers are not allowed to be used along highways as they perceived to be especially hazardous for motorcyclists.

"However, a study of motorcyclist injury rates for several types of highway barrier did not find an appreciable difference in fatal and severe injuries between cable barrier and W-beam barrier. Both were significantly more hazardous than concrete barrier, however were less hazardous than having no barrier at all."

Q: How do we get the manhole at the turn off for main street at the north end of the Second Narrows bridge level with the rest of the pavement. Who we gonna call?

There are highway maintenance standards for British Columbia. Surface maintenance standards don't mention this specific issue, but do speak of distortions and specify time frames for repairs. Since road maintenance contractors must make regular inspections, they should be aware of the issue.

This may be somewhat different for roads that are maintained by individual municipalities instead of MOTI contractors.

In either case, one of the two is responsible and maintain contact information for the public to report problems. Check the municipal web site for city streets and the road maintenance contractors contact information for others.

If you choose incorrectly, they should be able to tell you who the correct contact would be from experience.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/ask-drivesmartbc





Is hitch-hiking Illegal?

In case you missed it, there was a publicized furore on Saltspring Island last week concerning hitch-hiking.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced the construction of a barrier at the Embe Bakery on the Fulford Ganges Road that would interfere with the use of a common spot for soliciting rides from passing vehicles.

The RCMP also advised that they would enforce the no stopping on the roadway rule. Minutes of the Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission report that this will happen because there is no safe spot to pull off of the roadway to pick up and drop off passengers at that location.

ICBC reports an average of one collision a year in this location for 2011-15. Of the five, two were casualty crashes and three were property damage only. There is no indication if any of these crashes involved pedestrians or hitchhiking.

The simple act of hitchhiking itself is not illegal in B.C. Being on the roadway to solicit a ride is however. "Roadway" means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder.

So, one may stand on the shoulder of most roads to solicit a ride.

Freeways (Schedule One Highways) are the exception. Pedestrian are prohibited here unless they are attending to a broken down vehicle.

Pedestrians who solicit captive audiences, intimidate or harass resulted in the creation of the Safe Streets Act. One cannot be on a roadway and solicit a person who is in or on a stopped, standing or parked vehicle.

In the Safe Streets Act, roadway has a different interpretation. It means a highway, road, street, lane or right of way, including the shoulder of any of them, that is improved, designed or ordinarily used by the general public for the passage of vehicles.

Before we leave pedestrians to examine the duties of drivers, remember that if you are walking alongside the road, you must walk in the direction facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. It is common, and illegal, for hitch-hikers to walk along the highway with traffic between times when vehicles are passing.

Stopping and standing to pick up hitchhikers can land a driver in trouble, too. If you are outside of a business or residential district it is forbidden to stop, stand or leave a vehicle on the roadway. In other words, unless you can get completely off of the roadway, you must not stop to pick up a hitch-hiker.

Stopping to pick up a hitch-hiker on the freeway is illegal as well when the freeway is posted with these signs: (image of sign attached)

Inside of town rules for stopping and standing are more complex, involving both the Motor Vehicle Act and bylaws. It is also common to regulate stopping, standing and parking by posting signs here as well.

According to Hitchwiki, travel by thumb in Canada is mostly safe. There have been instances such as the Highway of Tears that show the opposite. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety.

If you are uncomfortable, don't hitch-hike alone or refuse the ride.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/pedestrians/hitchhiking-illegal-bc



Ultimate selfish driving act

While out for a walk the other afternoon, I approached a driver who had stopped in his lane, in a corner, to talk to a couple of pedestrians on the other side of the road.

Normally, this is a relatively quiet street, but the driver is still making a poor choice. His action was unsafe due to poor sight lines for approaching drivers.

Sure enough, another vehicle approached from behind and was prevented from passing because the pedestrians had moved into the other lane to conduct their conversation more comfortably.

At this point, most drivers would conclude the conversation and move on, or at least move to the right side of the road.

Not this driver. He pulled into the oncoming lane at a 45 degree angle and continued with the chat.

As it happened, I was also walking by a driver waiting beside his parked dump truck and watching this situation too. I shook my head and mentioned to him that there were sure a lot of inconsiderate drivers to be found on our highways these days.

I had definitely touched a raw nerve here as the driver began to tell me all about the dangerous driving situations that he is put into by the drivers of light vehicles every day.

Chief among his worries were those who changed lanes in front of his truck and failed to leave a safe margin for following distance. Worse still, some of these drivers will apply their brakes and slow down for a right turn immediately after moving over.

No sense anticipating that turn and falling in behind the truck to safely prepare for it, is there?

Remember the two-second rule? It not only applies to vehicles that you are following, it applies to vehicles that are behind you as well. Always leave yourself an out.

Why might this be important? A loaded heavy truck with a properly functioning braking system may have as little as half of the braking capacity of a car or light truck. These drivers may have put our trucker into a situation where he cannot slow or stop in time to avoid a collision.

I suggested that if there was nowhere safe to steer around the offending vehicle the truck driver might be faced with the decision to not to avoid the collision. No, he said, you would likely brake and finding that you could not stop in time automatically steer to avoid the crash.

Now there is little or no risk for our unthinking motorist and most or all of the risk settling onto the shoulders of our truck driver. This could be the ultimate selfish driving act performed by the driver of the light vehicle.

Before you start to complain about commercial drivers, think about the fact that in a collision between a heavy commercial vehicle and a light vehicle it is most likely that the fault lies with the light vehicle driver.

One parting piece of advice: remember the No Zone. This is the space around a heavy commercial vehicle where light vehicles are essentially invisible to the truck driver.

Occupy them at your own risk.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/commercial-vehicles/ultimate-selfish-driving-act



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Few exceptions to this rule

Operation of unlicensed motor vehicles

If it has a motor, gasoline or electric, and you operate it on a highway, chances are you need a driver's licence and the vehicle will need licence and insurance.

There are few exceptions to this rule.

While it may be convenient to take your quad to the community mailboxes instead of walking or driving your lawn tractor around the block because you cannot easily drive between the upper and lower parts of your yard, it could be an expensive trip in the wrong circumstances.

The same applies to your favourite off-road vehicle. It may be convenient to ride to the nearest off-road area rather than loading it onto a trailer or into the back of a pickup truck for the trip, but again, no licence and insurance probably means trouble eventually.

Turning a blind eye while you child does this will not help you escape liability either.

You may think that because police vehicles cannot easily go off road, the smart thing to do is to put the pedal to the metal and disappear.

If you can't be caught, you can't be charged, right? Perhaps, but if you are eventually tracked down, you add more serious Criminal Code or Motor Vehicle Act charges to the mix and significantly reduce the chances of being dealt with lightly.

Do you have a healthy bank account? What are your financial plans for your future? Cause a collision without insurance coverage and you may be paying that price for the rest of your life. Empty that bank account and scrap those future plans as the bills can be big ones.

Can't or won't pay? ICBC may refuse to issue or renew a driver's licence or licence plates. You may also be prohibited from driving until the judgment is satisfied.

What happens if you do the right thing and pull over after being caught in these circumstances? There are a variety of offences that an officer may choose to write a ticket for.

These are the most likely to be chosen:

  • No vehicle licence
  • No driver's licence
  • No insurance 

Currently, the ticketed amounts are $109, $276 and $598 respectively.

There is a small risk of being arrested on the spot for operating an uninsured vehicle.

Unattended, unlicensed vehicles on a highway are also subject to being towed away.

However, if there is no other reason to tow your vehicle and you are willing to wait with it until family or friends show up with a pickup or suitable trailer, you can use that to move the vehicle off the highway instead of being towed.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/off-road-vehicles/operation-unlicensed-motor-vehicles



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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