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Behind-the-Wheel

Do you impede traffic?

Settling a debate about impeding traffic

I've probably said this before, but when I applied the same tolerance under the speed limit as I did for those driving over the speed limit and factored in the advisory signs for speed, I seldom found a driver going slower.

Having sat and considered for a minute, I cannot recall writing a ticket for slow driving during my traffic-enforcement career.

I do remember stopping the odd driver and suggested that if they felt it necessary to drive at a slower speed and they started leading a parade, they should pull over, stop and let everyone go by.

That courtesy might also be a lifesaver as the probability of an unsafe pass by an impatient follower can be quite high.

B.C.'s slow-driving law forbids driving at a speed that impedes the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless a reduced speed is necessary for safety.

What is reasonable?

Ultimately that would be decided by the justice in traffic court, but I can think of many reasons for driving at reduced speed:

  • A learner driver who is not yet confident in the situation
  • A heavy commercial vehicle travelling downgrade
  • Approaching and passing a temporary hazard
  • Driving at night
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Following an erratic driver

Now, we have to consider the variability of that decision. What I consider reasonable might differ from you, also for many reasons. It's not as simple as speeding where merely driving at a speed over the limit is an offence.

An interesting aside here is the Japanese koreisha mark that is displayed by senior drivers.

It is optional at age 70 and mandatory for those 75 and older to indicate that their age could affect their ability to drive.

I wonder if respect for seniors translates to some accommodation being granted to these people?

When there are multiple lanes of travel, slower drivers must use the right hand lanes, even if they are traveling at the speed limit.

Here's a situation where honking at another driver is part of the law.

Except when passing on the right is permitted, if an overtaking driver sounds their horn, you are required to give way to the right and allow them to pass.

What we've discussed so far applies to all highways whether they have single or multiple lanes for a direction of travel.

B.C.'s current law requires slower drivers to move out of the left lane when overtaken by faster traffic. This applies even when the slower driver is traveling at the speed limit.

That said, slower drivers are NOT totally banned from the left lanes. They may use them at lower speeds if they are:

  • Passing someone else in the right lane
  • Allowing someone to merge onto the highway
  • Preparing to turn left
  • Following the requirements of the Slow Down, Move Over rules

So, to the gentleman who asked me to settle a debate over whether a driver could receive a ticket for impeding traffic even if they were going the speed limit on a single lane highway, I would have to answer that it would be very unlikely, but possible if they failed to give way when honked at.

That happens fewer than 80 times a year in our province.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/speed/settling-debate-about-impeding-traffic



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Watch for no zones

One of the critical concepts I learned as a collision investigator was that fully loaded heavy trucks have
50-60% of the braking capability of light vehicles.

This assumes that the braking system is not overheated, has been maintained properly and is correctly adjusted.

Air-brake systems also suffer from brake lag, a short period that occurs between the driver stepping on the brake pedal and the brakes starting to apply.

These two thoughts ran through my mind when I read a Facebook post from a commercial driver.

He had used a frame from his dash-cam that showed proper following distance between his front bumper and the back bumper of the pickup truck ahead of him.

He had drawn a pink rectangle in this space and advised that he needed every inch of it to stop if something happened to require it.

If that space wasn't there, whatever was inside it was going to be crushed. Think carefully about that for a moment.

We've all been taught to leave at least a two-second following distance between us and the vehicle ahead of us when conditions are good.

When they are not, we need to leave more space, perhaps adding another second for each factor that departs from the ideal.

Remember that 50-60% braking comparison? This means that heavy commercial drivers actually need to follow a four-second rule. So do the drivers in front of them.

We should also have been taught that we don't complete our pass or change lanes unless we can see all of the front of the vehicle behind us in our inside rear view mirror.

This may not be enough space when a heavy commercial vehicle is behind you. In fact, if you are too close to the front of a heavy truck, you could become invisible to its driver.

The area in front of a commercial vehicle is not the only place that a light vehicle driver needs to worry about. There are a number of other "No Zones" beside and to the rear.

Ignoring them could involve you in a squeeze play as this driver in Port Alberni found out.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/commercial-vehicles/thinking-ahead-big-trucks



Beefs, but no bouquets

Twenty years of traffic law enforcement experience has (mis)shaped what I find entertaining, so every Thursday I find myself reading the beefs in the Nanaimo News Bulletin's Beefs and Bouquets feature.

There is almost always at least one beef about the way someone has used or misused the road over the past week.

The beefs often say as much about the complainer as it does about the driver, pedestrian or cyclist being complained about.

  • BEEF to whoever put a left turn signal on Hwy. 19 south at Lantzville Road. Before we would wait for the big breaks in northbound traffic and easily turn left, now we watch as the traffic passes and there are no cars approaching, still we wait, then the next batch of traffic approaches and is stopped by the light. Why fix what wasn’t broken?

Between 2013 and 2017, ICBC reports 12 crashes at this intersection involving the turn lane, six of which produced casualties. The signal was installed at the same time that a new service station was constructed that would significantly change the traffic flows.

Steve Wallace does raise an interesting point about a flashing yellow arrow he saw controlling left turn lanes in Las Vegas. Drivers did not have to sit and watch appropriate gaps in traffic pass as they waited for a green arrow.

  • BEEF To tailgaters. To victims of these irresponsible road bullies, drive safely and ignore them. Worst is that they’ll hit you and face big trouble and an expensive lawsuit.

No, worst is that they'll hit you and someone will be hurt or killed. An insurance settlement will not erase the problem completely post-crash either.

You should always leave yourself an out to avoid potential problems and this is one of them.

  • BEEF To the increasing numbers of cyclists, of all ages, riding on the sidewalks. It is bad enough for pedestrians to safely get across crosswalks and intersections, now we have to dodge cyclists on the sidewalks.

Ask the cyclist and they'll tell you they use the sidewalk to avoid being run down by drivers. As this beef-er observes, it creates a new risk for the pedestrian.

Cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk or in crosswalks when permitted by a sign.

  • BEEF To all drivers who still don’t understand school zone speeds of 30 kilometres per hour apply from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days. Far too many speeders by Cilaire Elementary and no police to ticket them.

Does this person know that school zones may start before 8 a.m. or end after 5?

I often wonder if these zones should apply only during the times that children are actually going to and from the school. Some jurisdictions use flashing lights with school zone signs to do this.

  • BEEF To drivers who turn at intersections and believe they have the right to turn into the closest lane or the far lane, whichever lane suits their purpose. Drivers must stay in their own lane and use their indicators once they are in their lane and if clear, can to move over the next lane.

Yes, drivers actually argue about this. Unless the intersection has more than one turn lane, you must enter the first available lane for your direction of travel.

  • BEEF When driving, merge does not mean to bully or nearly cause an accident because you think you are more important than anyone else. You are a menace.

Merging is a team sport. The onus is on the person changing lanes to do so safely without influencing other traffic, but a driver can also facilitate a safe merge.

The driver described here needs a more positive outlook if this was done intentionally.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/beefs-and-bouquets





Marking the lines

Line-marking crews have begun the annual task of refreshing markings on highways across British Columbia to help provide a safer drive for motorists.

More than 30,000 kilometres of lines are marked every year throughout the province to guide drivers.

Lines are painted by independent contractors under pavement marking agreements with the provincial government. These contracts specify what lines must be repainted each year and which lines can be renewed on a lower priority basis depending on wear, location and traffic volumes.

Most lines are marked using quick-drying, water-based paints that are environmentally friendly.

Glass beads are suspended in the paint to create reflectivity for better visibility at night. The thickness of the paint and the application of beads are based on provincial standards consistent with industry best practices.

Line markings are exposed to extreme weather, winter aggregates and heavy traffic, which wears away the paint over time. The harsher the winter and the more traffic that drives over the lines, the faster the lines wear.

Line markings tend to wear off faster on new pavement because often it takes a season for the surface of new pavement to settle.

For this reason, the ministry specifies that new paving projects must have two coats of paint applied in the first year. The paint industry is constantly researching technologies that will increase durability while ensuring the paint is environmentally friendly.

New agreements were up for negotiation in 2019. The following 35-minute video was made of the contractor information session and explains the  expectations of our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Pavement-marking crews often work outside of normal working hours and can be encountered at all times of the day or night and on any day of the week.

Signs may advise of “line markings in progress for next 8 km” or so because work is done at less than 20 k/hr and large areas can be covered in a day. Most crews also use message boards to provide information on the fresh lines and help direct traffic when it is safe to pass.

Some drivers show little patience for line marking crews or poor ability to stay between the lines. In addition to the usual rules that apply to careless drivers, there is a specific rule in the Motor Vehicle Act that prohibits driving over a newly painted line.

Newly painted lines

143 A person must not drive on or over a newly painted line or marking on a highway when the line is indicated by a traffic control device.

Penalty: $109 and 2 penalty points

When you encounter line marking crews in your travels, remember the Cone Zone and our Slow Down, Move Over rules.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/road-maintenance/pavement-marking-progress



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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