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Behind-the-Wheel

Ticking the boxes is costly

Commercial vehicle maintenance is carefully regulated in our province. Power units are subject to inspections at a designated inspection facility every six months and trailers once every year.

Drivers must do a pre- and post-trip safety inspection each time they drive. Defects must be noted in a written log and repairs carried out promptly, sometimes before leaving the driveway.

This isn't the case for the light vehicles that you and I drive. While most of us will repair something that needs it promptly, we seldom perform a cursory walk around check much less a more careful inspection.

Few people realize that if their vehicle is no longer equipped in compliance with the Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations, they are required to remove their vehicle from the highway forthwith and repair it.

Mandatory annual inspections are not required for either mechanical defects or exhaust emissions today.

As an aside, many countries require proof of passing a safety check before they will renew the vehicle's licence each year.

Here in British Columbia, insuring mechanical safety is left to the owner, and if they fail in their duty, the police.

In my experience as a collision investigator, I could not point to many incidents where a vehicle defect was the direct cause of a collision. Having said that, I've often wondered if deferred maintenance prevented the driver from overcoming a driving error that resulted in a crash.

The tool used by police to enforce vehicle maintenance is the Notice & Order.

For minor defects such as a burned out tail light, Box 3 is checked.

It requires that the vehicle be repaired promptly and within a certain number of days be presented at the place designated by the officer to show that repairs have been carried out. This is usually the nearest police station.

If the defects are more significant, Box 2 is checked.

This requires that the vehicle be inspected at a designated inspection station promptly and repairs confirmed by a passed inspection within 30 days.

Ignoring the order will result in denial of licence transactions by ICBC and a ticket and tow if found by police being driven on a highway.

For the most serious defects, Box 1 is checked.

The officer will also call a tow truck to take you home and very likely will also order you to surrender the vehicle licence and number plates. These will be returned to ICBC and it will be up to the owner to pass inspection and deal with ICBC to obtain a new licence and number plates.

The vehicle must not be driven or parked on a highway until a pass is obtained for it from a designated inspection facility.

The officer could choose to issue the driver with a traffic ticket for the defects in addition to the Notice & Order.

I've found some significant defects at the roadside during my career:

  •     Brake master cylinders with no brake fluid in one half
  •     A brake failure warning light taped over with black tape
  •     A car frame with a hole as big as my fist corroded out of it
  •     A pickup truck being driven at night with the right side high beam headlight being the only functioning light
  •     Windshield wipers being operated by a rope tied to them and strung through the vent windows

Failing to follow the requirements of any of these orders could result in a $598 violation ticket being issued, even in the case of a Box 3.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/problems-deferred-maintenance



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Fear of police retaliation

Last week, we looked at the story of a cyclist who was told by a constable that it was too dangerous to ride a bike on the road and he should find another hobby.

Not knowing anything more about the encounter that produced this advice, I asked the cyclist if he had done anything about questioning this attitude. No was the response, I'm afraid of retaliation.

While I won't say that this is impossible, I would certainly like to think that it is highly unlikely. Given the ubiquity of recording devices in the public today, one would have to be either foolish or very sure of their ground in subsequent encounters with a member of the public that complained about you.

In my experience, many officers I've worked with were more worried about the damage that the public could do to their career than they were about retaliation for a perceived slight.

Even the most pleasant soon become accustomed to negative feedback from the public and more often than not just shrug it off.

Back to our story.

One of all uniformed patrol duties is to conduct enforcement to insure road safety. If his attitude is as stated, then he is probably not doing what the public has a right to expect and attitude adjustment is required.

How would this gentleman go about it if he felt strongly enough to do something?

A polite conversation at the time questioning what the constable is doing to make it safer is a reasonable start. Sometimes a comparison of points of view is enough to change an outlook.

If it's not possible or successful, the officer's supervisor is the first stop. Contact the police agency, determine who it is and either call, mail or visit them.

You can expect the supervisor to listen to your side of the issue and at the very least hold an informal discussion with the officer.

Hopefully, this will accomplish a number of things. The supervisor is made aware of how the constable is perceived in the situation. If appropriate, guidance can be given. Ideally, the constable's outlook is changed and we're all better off for it.

For most instances of this type, that should be enough to be effective.

Other avenues of complaint do exist, both informal by moving up the supervision chain or formal by making a written complaint to the appropriate oversight body.

The decision on whether they are necessary or not is generally decided by the seriousness of the complaint and satisfaction with the investigation and correction taken.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/fear-police-retaliation



Taking cyclists seriously

I found this tweet from a cyclist on southern Vancouver Island yesterday:

A #RCMP told me today it was too dangerous to ride a bike on the roads and I should find another hobby. In their view, going to the grocery store on a #bike is a hobby. #Police and the public need to wake up #bikes are a serious mode of transport.

Wow! This officer must have missed some important reading in their copy of the Motor Vehicle Act.

Rights and duties of operator of cycle

"183 (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle."

Turnabout is fair play however, as I have also prosecuted a traffic ticket I issued to a cyclist who ran a red light. His defence in traffic court was that he was not a driver and that same Motor Vehicle Act only spoke of vehicles and drivers when imposing the duty to stop.

Let's pause here for a moment and get right back to the basics of a highway.

Many of us tend to think of this as a stretch of pavement posted with speeds of 80 km/h or more and designated by a number. Highway 1, Highway 97, or Highway 3 come to mind as they are major provincial routes.

These are very specific instances and the reality is much broader. The definition of a highway in section 1 of the Transportation Act says:

  • "highway" means a public street, road, trail, lane, bridge, trestle, tunnel, ferry landing, ferry approach, any other public way or any other land or improvement that becomes or has become a highway by any of the following:.....

There are many public ways where most motorized vehicles cannot go, yet they are in fact highways that are open to many other modes of use.

My point here is that in law, highways are intended for use by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

In short, everyone.

While there are rules for how that traffic is meant to interact, all of the three are equally important and equally entitled to use the highway within those rules.

Ignorance of these rules and a false sense of entitlement on the part of all types of road user get in the way of the system functioning as intended.

When this misunderstanding is present in our traffic enforcement authorities, people who really should know, it must be addressed.

After inquiring, I learned that the cyclist had noted the officer's name from their name tag. However, he headed off my impending suggestion of communicating the situation to that officer's manager by stating that he was afraid of retaliation if he did.

I'll try to deal with this in next week's article...

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/cycling/taking-cyclists-seriously





Do you have vision zero?

ICBC's current corporate slogan is Building Trust, Driving Confidence.

Pair that with last week's announcement of a $582 million loss for the first six months of the corporation's fiscal year and one begins to wonder about the confidence part.

That loss is being blamed on the rising number and cost of claims.

Laying the blame there is probably the easiest thing to do and the least likely to require a lot of explanation.

ICBC rates are set by the BC Utilities Commission, which is ultimately controlled by the provincial government.

That's the same government that took dividends out of ICBC coffers that could have been invested by the corporation and the profits used to pay insurance claims.

Our provincial government also controls many other facets of this issue. Driver licensing, policing, traffic laws, highway design and maintenance to name a few.

So, who's in the driver's seat and where are they taking us? Are we happy with the direction of travel?

There are three ways to reduce this deficit:

  • take in more money
  • reduce costs
  • quit running into each other or other things.

No one wants to pay more for their vehicle insurance. This is a relatively immediate consequence and one that we feel acutely. It's easy to complain about as it's visible to us all regularly.

Let's make the high-risk driver pay a high-risk premium. Ditto for those who actually cause a crash. They should pay more too.

Good drivers should pay the smallest premium.

Recently, reducing costs has come in the form of paying less for claims. This is a little more palatable because we're all better than average drivers and perhaps this isn't seen as something that will directly affect us.

Someone else will pay the price regardless of whether they are the culprit or the victim.

Finally, we come to a very complicated problem, how to reduce or eliminate collisions. Vision Zero. The most certain way to reduce insurance rates.

People make mistakes. Despite our best intentions bad things can happen and this is why we buy insurance.

The reduction of these mistakes and the minimization of the consequences of those that do happen will be a long process. Safe highways, safe vehicles, safe speeds and safe users all combine to produce the safe systems of Vision Zero.

I can make a difference immediately, if I try. I realize that driving is a team effort, not an individual one. I won't be selfish and I'll share the road.

I will even try to put others first if there is a need to.

Will you?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/building-trust-driving-confidence



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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