Drivers turning left

Alexander Zacher was walking to work early on the morning of Oct. 31, 2014 in Tsawwassen.

He followed the walk signal on 12th Avenue at the intersection of 52nd Street using the marked crosswalk. When he was about two-thirds of the way across, he was struck by a left-turning vehicle driven by Glenn Prescesky and suffered serious injuries.

Mr. Prescesky did not see Mr. Zacher as he was focused on the far side of the intersection watching for oncoming traffic. When he did become aware, it was too late to avoid the collision.

Mr. Prescesky denied liability for the injuries. It appears from the text of the judgment that his position was based on the fact that Mr. Zacher was wearing dark clothing.

During the trial in B.C. Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Affleck cited two previous cases in his reasons for finding Mr. Prescesky to be solely at fault for the collision.

The first, Miksh v Hambleton, holds that once a pedestrian has safely entered the crosswalk, unless they do something negligent such as running into the path of a vehicle, they may assume that drivers will yield the right of way and will not be liable if struck.

The second, Achilleos v Nix and Vancouver Taxi Ltd., finds that "Pedestrians in crosswalks who are proceeding when the “walk” pedestrian sign is illuminated are free to wear whatever colour clothes they feel are appropriate."

On page 83 in Chapter 6 of Learn to Drive Smart, drivers are cautioned that pedestrians are often hard to see, especially at night. Don’t enter a crosswalk without checking to see that it’s empty, even when the light is green.

Clearly, the duty of care lies most heavily on the driver.

With Vision Zero in mind, should the function of our traffic signals be revised? If turns to the left and right were not permitted at times when pedestrians are in the adjacent crosswalks, this collision would not have occurred.

The pedestrian scramble is one example of this type of solution.

Leading pedestrian intervals would not have been much help here. This scheme allows the pedestrian a 3-7 second head start to make them more visible to turning drivers. A potential crash reduction of up to 60% is possible when traffic signals are set this way.

Even though Mr. Zacher did everything required by law, he's still the biggest loser in this incident. While he was not required to, there are still precautions that he might have chosen to take in order to protect himself.

When you are a vulnerable road user, doing more than you have to could pay off.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/case-law/pedestrians-drivers-turning-left

Please! Not so close!

Last week must have been Following Too Closely Week in British Columbia.

I received the story of an incident in Sooke, an analysis of a video from Richmond and was subjected to this dangerous behaviour myself.

You might be able to get away with ignoring the Motor Vehicle Act, but the laws of physics will eventually prevail.

The story out of Sooke goes like this:

I’ve just witnessed the most inconsistent driver I've EVER SEEN in my 38 years of driving!

A black car passed me on the 4 lanes towards Sooke. He gets behind a pickup and commences to follow between 20 to 5 feet, maybe even LESS a couple times, all the way to Sooke. I was waiting for them to crash he was so close!!!

When the pickup turned off he's right on the bumper of the next driver. Now here's the crazy part: He signals properly going through the traffic circle and signals to go into Village foods. So he KNOWS how to drive properly yet tailgates like the most ignorant driver on the road...

Last Wednesday afternoon, I was travelling in the right lane northbound on the south side of the Malahat. I had just entered the 70 km/h zone on the south side when I heard a loud air horn sound behind me.

A glance in my rear view mirror showed nothing for a few moments but the shiny chrome grille of a green dump truck pulling a pup trailer.

Apparently he did not want to slow down or change lanes.

The drivers in these two stories knew they were wrong.

The one in Sooke made a deliberate choice to ignore common sense. Hopefully he has not fallen into the trap of letting this become his default setting because nothing bad has happened from it, yet.

In my case, it was either the driver not wanting to slow on the hill or he had a momentary lapse of attention and was warning me of an impending collision because of it.

The video in the Richmond article shows typical following distances on B.C.'s highways today.

ICBC no longer publishes detailed collision data by contributing factor as it did years ago. However, a document from 2007 shows following distance at No. 7 in the list of top 10 causes of collisions.

This behaviour did not make the top 10 in traffic tickets issued during 2017 though. Police wrote about 2,000 tickets for following too closely in general and 48 for commercial vehicle following too closely specifically. This is about 0.5% of the total number of tickets issued that year.

Please! not so close!

Leave at least two seconds distance between vehicles. The risk may be comfortable for you but it's not the smart choice.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/aggressive-driving/please-not-so-close

The ICBC 'dumpster fire'

ICBC premiums are rising. The corporation is losing billions; we have to get costs under control!

Let's put out the ICBC dumpster fire by reducing what we pay out in claims, but assure crash victims that they will be properly taken care of.

That's about all you can get into a 30-second sound bite, but if there are a few more available, add the fact that the court actions and legal fees are compounding the problem.

These thoughts seem to have replaced the complaints that our provincial government put ICBC in a poor financial position by raiding reserve funds to balance the provincial budget.

All of this appears to be a bit after the fact to me. Shouldn't we be looking at the root of these costs?

The average of 960 crashes a day in 2017 means that about one in 10 B.C. drivers played a part in this issue.

If we could stop having collisions, reduced costs would certainly follow.

This is simple to say, but difficult to execute.

I'm a better than average driver, so the problem does not lie with me, it's the other driver you need to deal with. Make them take a road test every five years to show that they still know how to drive properly.

Ask a driving examiner and you may hear that they think that most drivers would pass that road test. Drivers would simply drive responsibly for the test and then go back to their preferred behaviours after.

As a traffic cop, I listened to many violators rationalize their choice to disobey the rules. For many different reasons, their personal circumstances took precedence over the framework that we've established to try to keep ourselves safe.

Automated enforcement is OK for red light runners, but not for monitoring speed. Don't even think about using telematics to look over my shoulder while I drive to set my insurance rates. "Big brother" has no place in my vehicle and only limited welcome outside it.

Vision Zero changes to infrastructure designed to reduce the frequency of or minimize the effects of crashes that do occur are slowly being made as budget and planning permit.

Promoting the belief that our highways are not just for personal motor vehicles and that more lanes don't make for safer and efficient travel will be difficult.

We seem to view a certain number of casualties from crashes as "normal."

It isn't.

Let's get rid of me-first attitudes and decide that no collision is an acceptable risk for using the highway. It's something that we can do now (at no cost!) and it will surely affect our insurance rates.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/icbc-dumpster-fire

Keep right except to pass

Left-lane hogs were back in the news again this week.

The CTV Vancouver news story that I watched complained that drivers were not being held to account by police for failing to move out of the left lane and letting other drivers pass.

The report claims that based on ticket numbers reported by ICBC, the number of drivers ticketed for failing to keep right fell from 799 in 2016 to 699 in 2018.

Overhead views of traffic taken from a helicopter showed vehicles in the left lane moving at the speed of surrounding traffic being overtaken and not moving to the right.

There was no indication of how fast these vehicles were actually moving or what the speed limit was.

Special mention was made of one driver who followed along at a dangerously close position in the hope of bulldozing the vehicle in front out of the way.

Prior to the most recent changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, police relied on section 150 (2) of the Motor Vehicle Act when drivers failed to keep right for slower traffic.

According to information furnished by ICBC, drivers are very seldom charged under this section with numbers ranging from a high of 24 in 2015 to a low of 11 in 2017.

Enacted in 2015, section 151.1 clarified the use of the "leftmost lane" by slower traffic. This section also seems to be rarely used, with a high of 150 in 2016 and a low of 90 in 2017.

Depending on the situation, either section may be used to penalize a driver today.

Judging by the numbers in the news story, it appears that what was being quoted were tickets issued under section 150(1) MVA. It deals with a driver's duty to keep to the right side of the roadway in general, rather than for not moving out of the way for faster vehicles specifically.

The opinions expressed in the story and encountered over my policing experience are interesting. The one that caused me the most difficulty was that of the traffic court justice I regularly appeared in front of who told me in no uncertain terms that no conviction would ever result under section 150(2) if the driver in the left lane was travelling at the speed limit.

I never tested it as those drivers were few and far between. What I saw most often was the bulldozer trying to exceed the speed limit. I considered it to be the more dangerous behaviour and that is what I wrote.

This might be a view shared by many traffic enforcement officers as tickets for following too closely ranged from 2,500 in 2014 to 2,000 in 2017.

Odd that our legislature would enact a law that facilitates the disobedience of speed limits...

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/aggressive-driving/keep-right-except-pass

More Behind the Wheel articles

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

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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