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Behind-the-Wheel

Dogs driving distraction

It looked like a drunk driver to me

I was driving home from a family event about 9:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday night using the Island Highway.

The vehicle in front of me drew my attention as it strayed to the right, half way onto the shoulder. We were travelling at about 85 km/h in the posted 90 zone. After a moment, the driver resumed the proper lane position but soon drifted off to the right.

The direction of the drift did not depend on the curvature of the roadway.

This type of driving behaviour is very familiar to me. It's typical of the alcohol-impaired driver and I've had plenty of experience investigating and prosecuting these cases as well as the collisions that have resulted from them.

I settled in to watch as there is no way that I will pass a driver like this one. Far better to keep back and know what is happening than to pass and get caught up in a collision.

It soon became apparent that other drivers did not agree with my thoughts as they passed this vehicle using the left lane, even when it was obvious as they overtook that driver was weaving into their path.

After a near miss with the concrete barrier at the right side of the road, I asked my wife to call 911. I was prepared to follow this driver until I could direct the police to pull the vehicle over and deal with the driver.

I was able to obtain the vehicle's licence number at the first red traffic signal where the driver had come to a stop a full vehicle length past the stop line.

We continued to follow and watch this driver wander in and out of the right lane for about 10 minutes. The 911 operator was able to stay with the call and we kept up a running update of our location on the highway along with a description of what we were seeing.

Given everything that I was seeing, I was fairly certain that if we watched this long enough we would be witnesses to a collision. Taking a guess, I would estimate this driver's blood alcohol content at 240 mg (0.24) or about three times the criminal limit.

Finally, a marked police vehicle overtook us and pulled the suspect vehicle over.

There was little doubt in my mind that this driver was going to be subject to an Immediate Roadside Prohibition and a hazard had been removed from the highway.

I was wrong,

The constable involved called me back to tell me what had happened. The driver was not impaired by alcohol or other drugs, he was having problems with his large dogs. They had been in the vehicle for a long time that day and would not stay in the back seat.

He was wandering all over while he tried to push them into the back seat again!

The driver was not impressed with his ticket for driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway and promised to dispute it.

Transporting animals on the exterior of a vehicle is dealt with specifically in our Motor Vehicle Act, but only with concern for their safety. They must be confined if there is any possibility if they might fall or be thrown from that vehicle.

A common complaint concerns drivers who drive with a dog on their lap. Both the pet and the owner are at risk because of the vehicle's air bags.

The best place for the dog is in the back seat wearing a harness to keep them in place.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/distracted-driving/it-looked-drunk-driver-me



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Are you a respectful driver?

What would it take to get you to drive respectfully?

News Item: Ontario introducing $50,000 fines for careless drivers causing death (Globe and Mail, Sept. 20, 2017). 

Bill 158, Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act, will implement significant consequences for drivers who break the listed rules and cause serious injury or death.

The penalties include a mandatory probation order that will require the driver to take a driving-instruction course and perform community service.

The community service must include activity related to improving driving safety and public education on driving safety. Their driver’s licence will be suspended during the probation.

The driver must also attend the sentencing hearing where victim impact statements may be presented.

Other provinces often enact similar legislation. Do you think B.C. will follow suit?

According to one person I spoke with recently at the Ministry of Justice, road safety concerns are in the top three issues reported to municipalities each year. It may have been a rhetorical question, but the person wondered why this never seems to change.

I have also been told that you run more risk of death or serious injury through the operation of a motor vehicle than you do from all other criminal acts combined

According to the Coroner's Service, collisions are the leading cause of death for B.C. youth.

So, why is it so easy to "safely" ignore the traffic rules and fail to extend common courtesy to other road users when it suits us?

Driving is something that almost all of us do every day and many of us have been doing it for a long time. We're biased to believe that we are experts and collisions are something that happen to someone else.

It's easy to let little liberties with the rules become normal behaviour.

Just for fun, hands up those of you who have not been directly affected by a collision in the past year. Everyone who raised their hand should now go out to their vehicles, open their glove boxes and get out their insurance documents.

How much did you pay ICBC last year? About 80 per cent of what ICBC collects is paid out directly to mitigate damages from collisions.

Now, try to tell me that you haven't been affected by a collision lately.

Speaking of ICBC, insurance insulates us from the damage that we cause as a driver. A relatively small sum paid every year protects us from the possibility of having to pay millions of dollars.

In fact, if we don't have a collision over a 10-year period, we don't even suffer an increase in premiums if someone makes a damage claim against us.

No one, except possibly the victim, is interested in "minor" collisions any more. You haven't been required to report a collision to the police since July 1, 2008. 

Chances are, if you are in a large community the fire department is the agency that will attend to your fender bender. Firefighters neither investigate collisions nor issue tickets for violations.

I would contend that the police are responsible for traffic safety and should be there.

If the chance of receiving a traffic ticket for a collision is small, how is RoadSafetyBC to know that remedial action is necessary for an errant driver? The Driver Improvement Program is based on the accumulation of penalty points.

Even an active police presence may not be a deterrent. I used to watch drivers who passed my lit-up police vehicle while I was busy writing a ticket. It was not uncommon to see an approaching vehicle slow to the speed limit to pass and be exceeding the limit again before they were out of sight.

While Ontario's new law may make the victims feel as if more attention is being paid to their loss, I doubt that it will make a significant change to driving behaviour.

We need to want to follow the law, maintain or improve our driving skills and fear the possibility of an appropriate penalty when we deliberately choose to be disrespectful of fellow road users.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/what-would-it-take-get-you-drive-respectfully



It's winter tire season

Is summer over already? It seems that the lawn is just coming out of dormancy in my yard but night time temperatures have dipped below seven degrees.

That and the fact that it is October means that it's time to get winter tires installed. Winter tire and chain up routes are now in effect.

I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford a set of four winter tires, wheels and tire pressure sensors for both of our vehicles.

I feel strongly enough about the effectiveness of using true winter tires instead of all season tires that I consider the cost money well spent.I have a set of chains for my two-wheel drive pickup truck in addition to the four winter tires.

I've been stuck with it before trying to drive on the greasy wet snow that quickly packs and polishes to ice here on the Island and that's not going to happen again.

Studded winter tires are also a good choice, especially on black ice, but remember that if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle you must purchase a set of four studded winter tires.

Having said that, I've also spent a few winters here with only all season tires on the vehicle and even with four wheel drive did occasionally have trouble. The all season tires did meet the definition of winter tires for the purposes of the signs posted on our highways by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure each year.

However, they are a trade off, both in terms of cost and performance. No one tire can handle all road conditions equally well, and this is true of winter tires being used in the summer.

The M+S marking on an all season tire tells us about the tread design. It has no connection with the rubber compound used to make the tread and it's ability to stick to snow and ice.

Speaking of tread, winter tires are considered to be worn out when their minimum tread depth is twice that of summer or all season tires. Even then, the minimum tread depth may not be enough to keep you safe.

Most people think of winter tires in terms of traction to move the vehicle ahead. This is only part of the equation as true winter tires also help you turn and brake.

Michelin has produced a video titled Winter Driving Tips on Braking that illustrates steering control difficulties created by mis-matched tires and how winter tires work with current vehicle safety systems.

You've probably heard it many times before, but adequate tires are not the only thing that you should consider having for winter driving. Being prepared for trouble with a shovel, tow rope, washer fluid, extra winter clothing, tools and a collection of small spare parts is never a bad idea.

You can't always blame the road maintenance. There are some situations that even the best winter tires and chains cannot conquer. Know before you go is always good advice because sometimes the best choice is not to travel at all.

Few of us must make trips in bad weather conditions that are more important than our health and well being.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/safety-equipment/winter-tire-season-begins



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View from the police car

Traffic enforcement Supervisor for a day

I had stopped a speeding driver and was serving a copy of the violation ticket to her when I noticed a pickup truck pull in behind my police vehicle.

When the ticket recipient pulled away, the male driver exited his pickup and approached me. "You can't write speeding tickets here," he stated.

I didn't recognize him as a ranking member of the RCMP who had the authority to give me such an order, so I suggested that he may have been confused by photo radar policy.

He responded that he wasn't and repeated his opening statement.

Yes, this is an old story, but I think it's a good one that is still valid today.

I asked him to put himself in my place and tell me what speed a driver would have to be traveling before he would write a speeding ticket in this location. It was a fairly steep downhill leading into a set of sharp, winding corners with an advisory speed of 30 km/h.

He suggested that 95 km/h in the 80 zone would be his trigger. The vehicle I had just finished up with was doing 103 km/h.

"Oh," he said.

I asked if he browsed the web and when he said that he did, I gave him a handout on our unit's web site.

I explained that this was a high-collision area and that he could satisfy himself of that by checking data on the web site.

"Oh," he said.

"How would you like to spend a day with me and see how traffic enforcement is done?" I asked him.

He lit up. "Can I?"

When I told him yes, he ran to his truck and retrieved a business card to give me. I promised to call the next day.

When I arrived in town the next morning, I checked with the detachment commander. The man that I had met was a local businessman with a good reputation.

I called him and said that I was waiting at the detachment. Within five minutes he was seated in the right front seat of my police car, ready to go.

"There's nothing secret," I said, "if you have a question, ask it."

We spent about five hours together doing what I did on an average day's traffic enforcement. I stopped a variety of vehicles, had conversations with drivers and wrote tickets and warnings.

In each case, I explained why I had handled the situation the way I did.

He commented on what he was seeing and how he felt some of the issues we faced could have been dealt with. I had the chance to learn, too.

From my perspective, it was a routine shift as we were not called on to handle a crash, deal with an impaired driver or find something else criminal that would tie us up for a long period of time.

At the end of the tour, I mentioned that I had stopped a lot of speeding drivers, but had done a lot more than just write speeding tickets.

He agreed, thanked me for the opportunity to ride along and headed for home.

The following day, I checked my e-mail and found a message from this gentleman. It never hurts to eat some crow, he wrote. I thought that all you guys did was write speeding tickets and now understand more about what you really do. Thanks for allowing me to spend the day learning about it.

By the end of my policing service, this was no longer possible. A policy change had forbidden taking citizens out on an operational patrol.

I understand why the change was made in the face of increasing risk to uniformed officers doing routine duties but it's also an opportunity missed for a sharing of viewpoints.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/traffic-enforcement-supervisor-day



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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