Check your owner's manual

One of the loneliest books in the world might just be your vehicle's owner's manual.

Consigned to the glove box, many never see the light of day until they find a new home in the recycle bin. That's a shame because the manufacturer of your vehicle has put a lot of thought and important safety information on those pages.

The most basic piece of safety equipment to appear in the owner's manual was likely the seatbelt.

Mine shows pictures of how to wear it properly, warns of what could happen to me if I did not and explains on how to care for it. Proper use of the seatbelt is extremely important if your vehicle is equipped with airbags.

Speaking of airbags, this was probably the next step up in occupant protection.

Knowing that you must sit at least 25 cm (10 inches) back from the airbag and that you must not put small children in a seating position protected by an airbag will prevent injury caused by these systems if you follow the advice.

Your supplemental restraint system (airbags) will even tell you that it is ready to protect you each time your start your vehicle. Do you know what to watch for on the instrument panel to insure that this is so?

if not, refer to your owner's manual.

In general, airbags are designed to last for the life of your vehicle.

However, the first generation of some airbags may not and the manufacturer recommends that they are replaced after a certain period of time. Is your vehicle one of them?

Refer to your owner's manual to find out.

As a passenger, do you ride with:

your feet on the dash

prop a pillow against the window beside you and nap on a trip?

do you use seat covers?

All of these practices are warned about in your owner's manual.

While we're on the subject, airbags now mandate that you hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 instead of the 10 and 2 that we probably all learned back in the day.

No more hand over hand steering unless we are proceeding at parking lot speeds or slower.

Moving ahead in time, let's add anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control to our vehicles.

We may have learned about stomp and steer as opposed to pumping the brake, when to disable traction control and that electronic stability control should never be shut off. Yes, it's all in your owner's manual.

A driver's life can be very complicated today depending on what comes as standard equipment on your new vehicle and what you have purchased as an option. Lane departure warning, backup cameras, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, drowsiness alert, tire pressure monitoring are just some of the advanced safety systems available now.

They are not foolproof, require maintenance to keep them working properly and you have to know how they work and what they are telling you to use them effectively.

Where do you learn about all this stuff? You guessed it, by reading the owner's manual for your vehicle.

Need a refresher?

Don't consign that manual to the recycle bin. It's a very valuable part of your vehicle's equipment!

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/refer-your-owners-manual


"N" Drivers Forever!

Does a novice driver have to take the test to become a fully licensed class 5 driver?

While there is a limited time that a novice must remain in the Graduated Licensing Program, there is currently no limit on the other end of the scale.

"N" drivers forever!

Of course, remaining a novice driver comes at a cost. You must abide by all of the restrictions listed on the back of your licence.

Being a novice means displaying an N sign prominently on the rear of any vehicle that you drive. This includes vehicles that you drive for work purposes, even if they are owned by the company you work for.

Cell phones, hands free or not, are forbidden for you to use. Ditto the GPS whether it is on your cell phone or part of the vehicle dashboard.

The rules regarding impairing substances have changed recently.

In addition to having a zero blood alcohol level when driving, a novice must not have cocaine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their body either.

The Draeger Drugtest 5000 is approved for roadside screening to determine whether the driver is under the influence of marihuana or cocaine while driving or not.

There are passenger restrictions too. Novices may only carry one passenger.

This restriction does not apply if the passengers are family members or the novice is accompanied by a properly licensed supervisor who is at least 25 years old and is not a learner or novice driver.

Novice drivers are also subject to stricter sanctions in RoadSafetyBC's Driver Improvement Program. The chances of being prohibited from driving for a period of time if you receive a traffic ticket occur much sooner than they would for a full privilege driver.

Novices are allowed to drive outside B.C. as long as they follow the restrictions on their licence just as they would have to here in B.C. Penalties for failing to do so are set by the province or state that the novice is driving in.

Instead of worrying about the driver who has chosen not to test for their full privilege licence and remain a novice, perhaps we should admire them.

They've decided to subject themselves to tighter sanctions than the rest of us when they drive. That is, until they face a driving prohibition after receiving a traffic ticket.

Now, there is incentive to test for full privilege licence and escape the sanctions of the Driver Improvement Program.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/driver-licencing/n-drivers-forever

Guard your penalty points

"I'll pay the fine, I just don't want the points."

This is not an uncommon desire expressed by drivers prior to a traffic court hearing when asked how they want to proceed.

If the violation ticket was issued with the accused identified as the driver, penalty points follow the conviction as night follows day.

There is no escaping them.

Penalty points are meant to express the relative risk of the traffic violation and are listed in Division 28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

ICBC and RoadSafetyBC use point penalties to take action against drivers convicted for not following the traffic rules.

ICBC applies Driver Penalty Point Premiums and RoadSafety BC prohibits drivers based on the Driver Improvement Program.

ICBC looks at your driving record in 12 month periods and assigns penalty points according to Division 28 for each hazardous moving violation conviction reported there.

If this adds up to more than three points, you are assessed a premium based on an increasing scale. The premium is billed on your birthday and payment is due within 30 days.

Non payment of the premium will result in interest charges and refusal of driver and vehicle licence transactions.

You can have your Driver Penalty Point Premium reduced or eliminated by surrendering your driver's licence.

Being prohibited from driving for 60 days or more within the one year billing period may also reduce the premium. The driver must contact ICBC at the end of the prohibition, apply for licence reinstatement and pay outstanding debts.

RoadSafetyBC uses penalty points as one trigger for driving prohibitions.

If you are a new driver still in the Graduated Licensing Program accumulating two to six points (essentially any hazardous moving violation ticket conviction) will mean a prohibition.

Being convicted of another hazardous moving violation within a two-year period following a prohibition will result in the imposition of a more lengthly one.

Experienced drivers face prohibition after accumulating 15-19 penalty points within a two year period.

Application of the Driver Improvement Program may vary depending on the driver and the offence convictions. What is described above is not a complete picture of actions taken under the program.

Like the Motor Vehicle Act itself, Division 28 is in need of an overhaul to bring it up to date.

Currently, disobeying a stop sign under section 186 MVA carries three points and failing to stop for a red light under section 129 MVA carries only two points.

These actions probably involve at least the same risk while the red light violation in general could be considered to be more risky.

Traffic tickets issued to the registered owner of a vehicle instead of to the driver do not result in penalty points on conviction.

Registered owners are liable for the use of their vehicle by others and can shift that liability by identifying the driver or showing that the vehicle was stolen.

Changing the rules to remove this exemption may result in more care being exercised in who people loan their vehicles to. It would also lay proper responsibility at the feet of those who commit violations.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/driver-licencing/penalty-points


A must-not-stop philosophy

I had an interesting conversation with @itsjim84 on Twitter this morning about the case law article I posted this week on driving over painted traffic islands.

He observed that in the case of a left turn queue that had extended past the left turn bay due to insufficient length, it was better to be stopped on the painted island instead of in the through lane.

Stopping on the island would preclude being hit from behind by through traffic and allow traffic to flow.

It would also cut down on the number of drivers who would drive over the cycle lane on the right in order to get by stopped traffic.

@itsjim84's example was the intersection of the Fraser Highway and Lefeuver Road in Abbotsford.

From the look of the worn painted diagonals in the island, many drivers share his concern.

This intersection has seen 101 collisions between 2011 and 2015 according to ICBC. 53 of those crashes involved casualties.

Unfortunately, we are not able to see the contributing factors for these incidents to determine if the left turn bay is a major contributor or not.

I suggested that we tend to think of our own convenience instead of the convenience of others. Since it is improper to drive on or over the island (see page 40 of Learn to Drive Smart) one might choose to continue on to the next opportunity to turn left when the turn bay was full instead of fouling the through lane.

@itsjim84 responded that not blocking a single lane highway during rush hour because the municipality hasn't provided a sufficient turn queue is about not being inconvenient to others. The only other streets to turn on are residential streets, not arterials.

Perhaps it all comes down to expectations.

Many drivers feel that nothing should get in the way of arriving at their destination in the shortest possible time with the least amount of inconvenience. Must Not Stop.

Faced with inconvenience, some of these drivers will do whatever it takes to keep going whether it is legal or not. Sadly, part of this group have no idea that things they do are illegal.

Worse still, those that do know will disobey though choice. I'm important, you are not.

Throw in a driver or two who want to follow the rules as they are currently written and where do we end up? Confused, and confusion causes problems. Reference the numbers above for this intersection and our provincial crash rates.

We'll never reach the utopia of having as much pavement and as little other traffic as we want. Laws will lag behind current realities, but unless there is a legal justification for disobeying, we must follow them or face consequences.

Even though we don't like to, sometimes we must expect to stop.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/behaviour/must-not-stop

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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