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Behind-the-Wheel

Do this when pulled over

It is possible that a careful driver could pass their entire driving career without being pulled over by the police.

It's a situation that is not covered in our provincial drivers manual Learn to Drive Smart and may only receive a brief mention during formal driver training.

My parents were responsible for my driver training and Dad's instructions were simply that if I was stopped by the police it was "Yes sir, no sir, what can I do for you sir?" and if he heard otherwise, he would deal with me when I got home. Having spent 25 years in policing, I can say that wasn't bad advice.

The whole process starts when you see the police vehicle's flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror. Depending on the officer and the situation, you may or may not also hear a siren.

If the officer chooses to use only the emergency lights, the Motor Vehicle Act requires:

  • the driver of a motor vehicle, when signalled or requested to stop by a peace officer who is readily identifiable as a peace officer, must immediately come to a safe stop.

The requirement to come to an immediate safe stop gives the driver a little bit of leeway to choose an appropriate place to pull over.

Turn on your right signal light to acknowledge the officer's request, find the nearest safe spot to pull out of traffic and stop.

If the officer chooses to use emergency lights and the siren, the Motor Vehicle Act requires:

  • On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle giving an audible signal by a bell, siren or exhaust whistle, and showing a visible flashing red light, except when otherwise directed by a peace officer, a driver must yield the right of way, and immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.

In this case there is no choice, brake safely, move to the side and stop right away.

Aside from domestic disputes, traffic stops are among the most dangerous situations for police. A wise driver will choose to be non-threatening:

  • Turn on your interior lights if it is dark.
  • Sit still and caution your passengers to do the same.
  • Keep your hands still and visible.
  • Follow the officer's instructions.
  • Be polite.
  • State your position but don't argue.

It's possible that the officer has a warning in mind and many people can successfully talk their way into a ticket at this point.

Conversation during the stop is up to you. All that the law requires is that you state your name and address and the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle. However, some discussion may smooth the way without being incriminating.

If you do receive a traffic ticket, I have some advice on how to handle it as well. 

Once the officer has finished, you are free to continue on your way. Make a safe start and rejoin traffic.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/how-handle-being-pulled-over



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School traffic problems

The Parent Advisory Council for Hans Helgesen Elementary School near Victoria wanted to solve pedestrian safety issues on Rocky Point Road.

The council was working with the District of Metchosin and wanted to have a marked crosswalk installed at that road's intersection with Windover Terrace. The District was reluctant to do this.

The PAC approached HASTeBC for assistance and they referred me to the school's principal to see if I could contribute to a solution. The principal was very kind and kept me up to date on the group's efforts as the collaboration progressed.

The PAC next considered the permanent installation of a solar-powered speed reader board to try to slow traffic on Rocky Point Road instead of the marked crosswalk.

District of Metchosin's planner provided guidance on how to proceed with the request in order to present it to council and satisfy them that it was an appropriate solution to the problems that the PAC had identified.

Parents at the school had participated in the CRD's Active and Safe Routes to School initiative.

At this point, School District 62 took what is probably the best approach for a situation like this. The district commissioned a traffic study, conducted by the Watt Consulting Group, to survey the situation and provide an informed solution.

While this is not the least expensive approach, it does provide a professional examination of all the issues involved along with solutions that are justifiable in the context of current traffic engineering values.

The study found problems with traffic speeds and parking as well as parents using inappropriate locations to drop their children off for school.

Solutions included reconfiguration of the school parking lot. This would improve bus movements and traffic circulation so that students could be dropped off more efficiently.

Parents would have less incentive to park and drop off children where they should not do so.

Changes to signage were recommended to increase the awareness of the school property itself for passing drivers. The thought being that if drivers knew the school was adjacent to the road they were driving on, they might choose to comply with the signs.

Implicit in the report were references to the control of parking off of school property. Installation of curbing would limit a driver's ability to park on the side of Rocky Point Road and parking on Windover Terrace was identified as presenting safety issues.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/schools-and-playgrounds/solving-school-traffic-problems



Ideas from the Twitterverse

For this column I turned to the loyal followers of @DriveSmartBC on Twitter, asking what they felt was important to review.

Within a very short time, I had five suggestions to write about.

@MRTMCMLIII suggested the “Orange Options” on each corner that few know how to use to signal their intentions before they complete a manoeuvre.

This peeve is so common that Rick Mercer did a rant on the subject.

Our Motor Vehicle Act mentions signaling in at least five sections:

  • 151 - A driver must not drive from one lane to another without signalling their intention
  • 169 - You must signal before moving a vehicle that is stopped, standing or parked
  • 170 - If another driver might be affected by your turn, you must signal far enough in advance to warn traffic
  • 171 - How to signal a turn
  • 172 - How to signal if your vehicle is left hand drive

Despite section 170, I would suggest that a careful driver always signals each time they turn or change lanes, even if they think that they are the only vehicle on the road. In the worst case, you will telegraph a pending mistake to others before you make it!

@kevinsgonriding wonders why car manufacturers are allowed to make [rear] signal lights red. The simple answer is because our federal rules permit it. Apparently, this is only the case in the U.S. and Canada though. It's a good point to make as it appears that yellow signal lamps on the rear reduce crashes.

@OrcaBC101 says that another reminder about sharing roads with big commercial vehicles wouldn't hurt. Like don't cut in front of them or you might find their grill in your back seat, or worse.

There is a lot of information on the No Zone, places around a heavy commercial vehicle where you are essentially invisible to the driver. 

Couple this with the fact that a fully loaded heavy commercial vehicle with properly functioning brakes could have twice the stopping distance of your car and you can imagine how foolish it is to get in front of one and then brake suddenly.

@shoppingblonde remarked about remembering to slow down, people walking have the right away.

Yes, above all, a driver has the duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian on a highway. Pedestrians don't always have the right of way though. They must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is not practical for the driver to yield the right of way

@andydunstan probably had the best suggestion of all: Start the New Year like driving matters, that the rules of the road are there for a reason, that traffic signals should be obeyed, lane discipline adhered to and the focus is on doing what is right not what is right for you.

I can't add to that!

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/suggestions-twitterverse



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Stuck-in-traffic thoughts

Have you ever given any thought to how efficiently traffic lights control the flow of vehicles?

I found out last Friday at 5:30 p.m. as I travelled the 7.6 kilometres between Superior Road in Lantzville and Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay on Highway 19. Total elapsed time: 40 minutes for a trip Google Maps says should take five minutes.

Power was off due to storm damage and the four-way stop procedure was in effect for the dark traffic lights in Nanoose Bay.

I thought that it would be much worse as the tail end of the line was at Ware Road when I drove by it at 4:45. Thank goodness everyone leaving work in Nanaimo didn't all try to go home at the same time.

Given that this particular traffic signal had not been working since the previous day, drivers were for the most part waiting their turn and being patient in the lineup.

My first thought was to wonder why the road maintenance contractor did not have flag people at that intersection for the peak traffic volumes created by to and from work trips. It would have made the 40 minute wait a lot shorter.

It might have something to do with trees down everywhere from the storm and flaggers being busy elsewhere already.

When I learned to drive, my dad used to tell me that it cost the same amount to drive with the top half of the gas tank as it does with the bottom half. Good advice for surviving being stuck on the road.

My situation wasn't bad compared to those who were trapped by fallen trees between Port Alberni and Coombs on Highway 4.

Working in northern B.C. also taught me to dress appropriately for the weather.

Sure, you could stay warm if you were lightly dressed in the cold, but that only counts if the vehicle keeps running and the heater works. Otherwise, you'll be glad to have those emergency supplies and warm clothing.

I'm fortunate enough to own a reliable vehicle that I can afford to keep maintained properly. If you are not as fortunate, deciding not to travel could be a wise decision.

Being stuck in the "wilds" of the Regional District of Nanaimo wasn't a hardship, just an inconvenience. That can change quickly in many other areas of our province, so it is really worth preparing properly and knowing what the roads are like before you go.   

Merry Christmas everyone, safe travels!

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/random-thoughts-while-stuck-traffic



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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