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Behind-the-Wheel

Why did he just stand there?

When the drivers stop to give a pedestrian in a crosswalk the right of way, unless there is a compelling reason not to, the pedestrian should take it and proceed.

Yesterday, I stopped along with the driver to my left to enable a man standing in the middle of four lanes of traffic to cross.

He didn't. Instead he stood his ground and motioned for us both to carry on. We hesitated, but when he continued to motion us on, we continued on our way, as did the stream of traffic behind us.

Why would he choose to take the risk of remaining in the middle of the road when everyone was providing a safe path to proceed?

In this case, misguided politeness created confusion and this was not a good thing from everyone's perspective.

Perhaps the man did not realize that he was using an unmarked crosswalk and was mistakenly following what he thought was his duty to yield to traffic.

I'm sure that if you asked many drivers if there was a crosswalk present at this intersection you would receive a negative response. Unless there is paint across the roadway some drivers don't think that they have to yield to pedestrians.

Crosswalk or not, all drivers have a duty not to collide with a pedestrian wherever the pedestrian might be on the highway.

I'll pause here to remind everyone that a highway is not just a major numbered road. The legal definition includes many instances that could surprise you.

In this situation, the driver beside me and I did what the law required us to do, that is to stop and let the pedestrian cross.

Sometimes pedestrians don't feel comfortable crossing or prefer to let traffic by. That's a valid choice too, but some ways are better than others to accomplish it.

This pedestrian could have chosen to walk a couple of hundred meters along the highway to the next intersection and use the marked crosswalk there. Traffic signals at that intersection could provide a more orderly situation in which to cross.

Why does it seem that most pedestrian safety training information is aimed at children and their parents? If not, it seems to be that the message contains pedestrian crash data. While some adults may think that they know the rules a bit of a refresher could be in order.

You might not think of it, but a pedestrian that causes a crash could be sued by the others involved for damages.

Crossing the highway is all about managing risk and is not something to be undertaken lightly. Pedestrians and drivers must know their part and play it for safety.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/intersections/why-didnt-pedestrian-cross-road



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It's winter tire time again

I remember when I was a teenager working in my father's service station. On the day of the first snowfall, our customers would be lined up in the driveway to have their winter tires installed when we arrived to start the day.

We did nothing but install tires and our air compressor didn't get any rest until after we had shut the bay doors and left for home.

It seemed like no one ever put their winter tires on ahead of time.

Today, there is no guessing. On B.C. highways that are marked with signs requiring winter tires the date for having them installed is Oct. 1. Incidentally, that is also the day that studded tires become legal to use on the roads as well.

Before Oct. 1, keep an eye on your thermometer. Once the temperature dips below seven degrees Celsius when you are driving, true winter tires become the better option for traction whether there is snow on the ground or not.

Chances are good that the tires you drive on every day meet the bare minimum requirements to be considered a winter tire for the purposes of these signs.

It's rare to find a tire that is not marked M+S, but don't be lulled into a false sense of security as that M+S marking doesn't mean much when it comes to describing traction capability.

If you want the best traction in heavy snow and ice conditions a true winter tire that is marked with the mountain and snowflake symbol should be your choice.

True winter tires should be installed in sets of four, all with similar tread depth of at least 3.5 mm and correct pressure according to the vehicle's tire placard, which is usually found in the driver's door opening of your vehicle.

Beware that the traction of any tire becomes reduced as it reaches the minimum tread depth. In fact, you may want to consider if the legal minimum tread depth is enough for you.

Speaking of traction, you should also keep in mind that the true winter tire is designed for driving on ice and snow. When you are driving on pavement that is only wet or dry, you handling and braking distances may not be the same as they would be with an M+S all season tire.

Adjust your speed and following distance accordingly.

Will you be renting a car as part of your winter vacation? Beware that these vehicles often do not come with true winter tires installed. You would be wise to inquire and make arrangements with the rental company well ahead of time.

Fortunately, there was never a spring rush at the service station to have winter tires removed. Customers decided on their own when to remove them and some even had us pull the studs out so that they could continue to use their winter tires all year around.

April 1 is the first winter tire free day on posted highways. You may continue to use the winter tires from here until next Oct. 1 if you wish to, but this is not a good choice. Winter tires wear faster in non-winter conditions and should be removed when temperatures are consistently above seven degrees Celsius.

Studded winter tires must be removed by April 30 each year.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/its-winter-tire-time-again



Something to be thankful for

Traffic enforcement is a solitary effort for police outside of the province's municipalities.

I've often wondered just how close I have come to something bad happening in a traffic stop while I was a long way away from the nearest backup. Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I want to tell a story where something bad did almost happen and I'm very thankful for the "almost."

One sunny afternoon, I was patrolling northbound on highway 97 between Penticton and Summerland. A car with out-of-province licence plates approached me at a speed that was high enough to catch my attention and warrant dealing with the driver.

I turned on my emergency lights, made a U turn and pulled the offender over.

The sole occupant of  the car was a woman who was crying. She told me a long story about being here to look after her mother during the nurses strike and was upset that she was the only source of care currently available.

I told her that we were in somewhat the same situation as my grandmother relied on the same care and my wife was helping her in the meantime.

As the conversation progressed, the lady became calm again and I finally sent her on her way with a warning in hand.

Unless there is a ticket dispute or the driver is stopped again for another violation, this is usually where most traffic stops end for an officer.

A couple of weeks later, I found an envelope in my drawer at work. Inside was a nice thank you card and a small gift. The card referred to my relationship with my grandmother, but contained no other information. I did not connect it to the speeding incident.

The envelope did have a name and return address on it that turned out to belong to a care facility in Summerland. I telephoned, explained about receiving the card and asked if it would be possible to come and thank the woman for sending it to me.

The person on the other end said that I could come any time, but this woman suffered from dementia and would not know what I was talking about.

Clearly, she did not send the card and I asked if she had family locally. Yes, there was a daughter who lived in Summerland.

I contacted the daughter and explained my quest. Oh, she said, you're the one who stopped my sister. She had been feeling suicidal over the situation with her mother and when I stopped her, she was just speeding up to drive out into the lake.

The conversation had changed her mind and she had driven home instead.

The card was from her. Wow!

Every now and again, this memory comes back and I marvel at how sometimes things work out for the best instead of for the worst.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/thanksgiving



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Resistance to roundabouts

Change is good, that is unless the town wants to upgrade a busy T intersection with a roundabout rather than installing traffic lights.

This is the situation in Qualicum Beach where the town has announced that it intends to rebuild the intersection of highway 19A (Island Highway West) and Highway 4 (Memorial Avenue) using a roundabout.

This is something that the Qualicum Beach Residents Association (QBRA) opposes.

The collision picture here is a quiet one, relatively speaking. ICBC says that between 2011 and 2015, there were 19 crashes at the intersection and only three of them included injuries.

There is mention by both the town and the QBRA of a pedestrian fatality close by in the recent past, but there is no indication of how close or if the fatality was related to the intersection itself.

The QBRA wants traffic lights installed at this intersection instead of a roundabout and wrote to the ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to register opposition to this portion of the project.

The number of signatures on the petition amounted to about 10 per cent of the town's population, but there was no indication of whether the petition was limited to residents of the town or not.

Will the desires of the QBRA prevail?

The current design guide used by the province indicates on page 139 that:

Roundabouts shall be considered as the first option for intersection designs where four-way stop control or traffic signals are supported by traffic analysis.

If an intersection treatment other than a roundabout is recommended, the project documentation should include a reason why a roundabout solution was not selected for that location. This roundabouts “first” policy supports the province’s Climate Action Program of 2007.

Why are roundabouts considered to be the best option? They have a high potential for safety:

  • Lower speeds - Situation changes slowly
  • Very forgiving environment
  • More time to make the right response
  • Judging gaps is easy and mistakes are not lethal
  • No demand to accurately judge closing speeds of fast traffic
  • Low energy crashes: low closing speeds, low angle, low impact
  • No wide visual scans needed
  • Reduced need to look over one’s shoulder
  • Uncomplicated situations; simple decision-making

The most commonly raised concerns involve pedestrians and cyclists.

Of the two, the pedestrian receives more benefits. They now only have to cross one lane at a time with a refuge in the splitter island half way across. Marked crosswalks are set away from the circle. This means that pedestrians are not crossing directly in front of drivers busy looking for a gap in traffic.

Cyclists trade a slightly increased collision rate for conditions that make those collisions much less likely to result in significant injury or death.

To summarize, roundabouts have been shown to reduce total crashes by 39 per cent. serious crashes by 76 per cent and fatal or incapacitating injuries by 89 per cent when compared to intersections with stop signs or traffic lights.

Does this sound like something we should oppose?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/intersections/resistance-roundabouts



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



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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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