Be better than average

My name is Tim and I'm a bad driver.

I don't try to be a bad driver, quite the opposite in fact. I try to do my best when I get behind the wheel. However, being human, I occasionally fail. So do we all.

I hope that sets me apart from drivers who don't know any better, drivers who let their skills slip and drivers who really don't care.

We're about a month into ICBC's newest road safety campaign Know Your Part, Drive Smart. The idea is that everyone has a part to play in navigating traffic safely and you should know what your part is.

Central to the campaign is the Drive S.M.A.R.T. quiz

You are presented with 12 questions on road rules and driver attitude. Any experienced driver who reads carefully, considers the four possible answers and makes their choice should earn total bragging rights. That's 12 questions out of 12 correct.

Would you like to brush up? You can also take a Practice Knowledge test or a Road Sign test. These are a little more comprehensive but again, if you are an experienced driver, you should get them all right.

Since we are all better than average drivers, I'm curious about how much participation the campaign has attracted.

Perhaps the only drivers who might honestly claim that they don't know any better are those that have been driving for a long time and have never bothered to update their skills and knowledge.

This is not an excuse. You must Know Your Part in order to participate safely and correctly rather than expecting others to allow for you.

Some of us neglect our parts through sloppy application of skills or by taking short cuts that we feel are harmless. Don't let that become your default setting.

Failing to stop completely at a stop sign or taking liberties with the speed limit increases everyone's risk. You may be comfortable deciding your acceptable level of risk, but I don't appreciate you taking liberties with mine.

That leaves us with the drivers who I hope make up a small minority, those that don't care or deliberately decide to break the rules. These are the drug-and-alcohol impaired drivers, distracted drivers, prohibited drivers and any driver who decides that any driving rule doesn't apply to them if they don't want it to.

Sometimes the only way to stop them is to put them in a cage.

A related item in the news right now is our insurance rate. ICBC will be raising it 6.4 per cent in the coming year if the increase is approved in order to cope with both rising collision rates and rising claims costs.

Paul Hergott wrote an interesting article suggesting one solution to ICBC's rate hike.

He asks the question "What if an absent-minded driver who crashes into the back of a stopped vehicle had to reach into their pocket and pay the first $5,000 of their victim’s losses?"

Maybe we would pay more attention and avoid crashing into things.

It's not that simple, but it does show that we may feel that the consequences of our errors are covered by our insurance so we don't need to Drive S.M.A.R.T. all the time.

Should bad drivers be shamed publicly? With dash cameras and social media, everyone can publish examples of bad driving that might shame a driver. Shame is a powerful motivator to improve.

Perhaps the simplest way is just to decide to do it on your own.


You could even take lessons with a driving school. Lessons are not just for beginners.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/behaviour/my-name-tim-and-im-bad-driver


School year begins again

We place a high value on our children and signify that with school and playground zones.

Traffic is required to slow to the lowest speed limit that we normally post and drivers are expected to pay more attention than usual.

Students must get to and from school safely.

Having said that, sometimes the greatest danger in a school zone is presented by parents and teachers.

One sunny morning, I was conducting speed enforcement in an elementary school zone.

Shortly after 8 a.m., I caught my first offender, a teacher from that school. She was less than impressed with being ticketed and said so.

Shortly after the teacher entered the school, the principal came out and approached my police car.

He thanked me for working in the school zone and invited me to return often. By the way, the teacher you ticketed is expecting me to tell you to get lost.

She doesn't need to know what I really said, does she?

When I was the parent picking up and dropping off at the school, I often watched the confusion as the same me-first attitude that I saw on the highways played out in the school parking lot.

Waiting in line or following the lines was something for others to do. It doesn't matter if I'm in the way or the wrong place, I'll only be here for a moment.

The education that our children receive in these circumstances definitely depends on where they are viewing it from.

The lime-yellow pentagon is the standard sign used to mark school zones. What a driver must do depends on the tab, if any, placed below it

If there is no tab at all, the driver should proceed with extra caution at any time of the day or day of the week.

Black on yellow tabs are advisory. You may choose to follow their advice depending on the circumstances that you find at the time.

Black on white tabs are regulatory. You must follow their direction without fail.

Regulatory tabs are in effect on a regular school day. These are days in the school calendar set by the individual school district and include sports days and Pro D days.

The safe bet is to follow them on any day, Monday through Friday, that is not a statutory holiday.

School crosswalks, marked and unmarked are another consideration. They are often controlled by crossing guards and you must obey the guard's direction.

When a guard is not present, it's probably best to expect the unexpected. It doesn't matter if you are a driver or a pedestrian, stop, look, listen, make eye contact and proceed only when safe.

Finally, we'd better have a quick look at the school bus too. You may see flashing red lights, which we should all understand to mean stop and not pass the bus until they are turned off.

You may also see a flashing white light on the rear third of the bus roof. It's job is to help identify the school bus during bad weather or when stationary. The bus driver should use it when the flashing red lights are also turned on.

This concludes our lesson for the day class, do you have any questions? http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/contact 

Your day in traffic court

"I'll see you in court!"

This hollow threat often ended conversations at the roadside after a driver was issued a traffic ticket for a violation. I knew that few of them would carry out their intention and if they did, there would probably be no coherent defence made.

Like many things in life, success often depends on preparation as much as it does on the delivery. Traffic court is one of those occasions.

I wrote the Q&A: How to Deal With a Traffic Ticket to assist in the process starting with being pulled over and ending with the conclusion of the court case. Links at the bottom of the article refer you to other reliable sources of information appropriate for courts in British Columbia.

If you are really serious about defending yourself well, probably the best $25 (plus tax, of course!) and 30 minutes you can spend is by taking advantage of the Canadian Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.

This will help you decide if you want to represent yourself or hire the lawyer to defend you. Should you decide to manage your own defence you will very likely receive valuable advice.

The officer is required to disclose information on the case against you if you request it. Disclosure is essentially a summary of the evidence that the officer intends to present to the court. Should you require specific information, ask for it.

Do this well in advance of the trial and I would suggest that you do so in writing and either mail or deliver it to the officer's workplace.

This step is where people often take advice from the internet to make outlandish requests and become upset when it is refused. The case of R v Wong comes out of a B.C. traffic court and may be considered as a guide to reasonable requests that the presiding judicial justice will support.

Speaking of case law, there is a fairly extensive collection on the DriveSmartBC web site. Searching "case law" and the offence you are interested in may turn up relevant examples of how the courts view a particular situation.

You can also do your own research on the Canadian Legal Information Institute's web site.

The DriveSmartBC Forum contains two sections, Traffic Court and Traffic Tickets that may be of some assistance.

If you feel that your Charter Rights have been violated, most commonly your right to a trial within a reasonable length of time, you cannot do this in traffic court. You must notify the court registry and arrange for a hearing in provincial court instead.

 The judicial justice does not have the authority to preside over these cases.

You can learn a lot through the experience of others. Contact your local court registry and find out when traffic court is being held. It may even be possible to find out if the officer that issued your ticket will testify. Sit in on a morning or afternoon session as a spectator.

On the day of your trial, you will already know what to expect.

This advice is valid until our provincial government replaces the traffic court system with an adjudication process. The progress of that began in 2012 with amendments to legislation and as far as I am aware, we are only now preparing to test e-ticketing in some areas of B.C.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/traffic-tickets/your-day-traffic-court


Get 'em off the road

Problems with vehicles can range from overdue maintenance to modifications that may be described as fashion over function.

Responsibility for their correction rests principally with the owner and driver.

When that fails, it now falls to the police and designated inspection facilities to either nudge or force correction.

Depending on the severity of the defects, remedies can range from a simple reminder to a tow truck and seizure of the vehicle license and number plates.

Even with limited use, our vehicles eventually wear out and break down. Our legislators have established rules that must be met in order to rent or legally operate a vehicle on the highway.

In general, they are contained in the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations and the Vehicle Inspection Regulation.

Unfortunately, the Vehicle Inspection Regulation is exempt from publication and is not freely available to access. You can buy a copy of it, purchase online access or possibly read it at your local library.

The first onus is on the driver or renter of a vehicle to insure that it is roadworthy before the key is turned. I've examined a daily pre-trip inspection required of commercial vehicle drivers in the article Is your vehicle mechanically fit?

We're not required to periodically examine our personal passenger vehicles in this fashion and many of us lack the necessary skills and knowledge to do so, but it is still a good idea for someone to do it.

Repair businesses often offer "free" vehicle inspections in spring and fall or will do it as part of minor paid maintenance such as oil changes. If you don't do your own maintenance, this may be worthwhile to consider.

The owner may not be driving, but they are still required to exercise reasonable care and due diligence before they allow someone else to use their vehicle.

There is even greater responsibility when it is driven by an employee.

If a vehicle is roadworthy at the beginning of a trip but becomes defective along the way, the rules require that it be removed from the highway without delay. If the vehicle can be safely driven, the removal and trip to the repair shop is not subject to the equipment regulations.

So, what happens when all of these responsibilities are ignored? Enforcement of vehicle repairs falls to the police.

The first tool available to law enforcement is the Notice & Order.

Depending on the urgency of the required repair, box 1, 2 or 3 may be checked by the officer. Each places different requirements on the vehicle and recipient.

The least critical situation will result in a Notice & Order #3.

It simply asks that the identified repairs be made immediately and that the vehicle be presented as indicated to insure that this had been done.

For more serious defects, a Notice & Order #2 will be issued. The vehicle must be promptly taken to a designated inspection facility for examination by an authorized inspector and all problems identified repaired within 30 days.

Notice & Order #1 is reserved for vehicles that are dangerous to operate. A tow truck will be called to remove the vehicle and it must not be parked or operated on a highway until it has undergone inspection, repairs have been made and a pass has been obtained.

ICBC flags the vehicle licence records for all vehicles subject to a Notice & Order #1 or #2. Autoplan Agents will refuse transactions related to the vehicle until the order has been complied with.

In addition, these flagged records are available to the police at roadside. Officers will follow up with further actions and charges, which could include towing and a $575 fine.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/improperly-modified-and-defective-vehicles

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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