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Behind-the-Wheel

Electronic monitoring

Our current system of trying to change driver behaviour largely consists of traffic tickets, vehicle impoundment and driver's licence suspensions.

They all rely on traffic policing to find and deal with those who don't follow the rules.

How efficient is that?

When I worked on South Okanagan Highway Patrol, we were responsible for:

  • Highway 3 from the Manning Park works yard to the Rock Creek Canyon Bridge
  • Highway 5A from Princeton to the Okanagan Connector
  • Highway 3A from Keremeos to Kaleden
  • Highway 97 from the border at Osoyoos to Peachland.

A typical day shift consisted of three constables when we were all working.

What were a misbehaving driver's chances of being caught?

Not that great.

ICBC has run one trial with driver telematics and are in the process of running a second.

The first consisted of volunteers from their Customer Advisory Panel and the current one will be conducted with volunteers who are in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP).

One result of the first trial was announced by Nicolas Jimenez, ICBC's president and CEO:

"From our first telematics pilot earlier this year, ICBC has developed a telematics strategy to identify how the technology can be used to improve road safety and drive behavioural change among higher-risk drivers in B.C.

"We heard from those pilot participants that most believed the use of telematics would make the roads safer for everyone. This is our next step in a thoughtful examination of telematics technology and how it might help to keep these drivers safer."

Currently, there is one form of electronic monitoring in effect for drivers who have shown that they pose a significant risk to themselves and other road users. Drivers who have received alcohol-related driving prohibitions require an ignition interlock to prove that they are sober enough to drive.

RoadSafetyBC says that the interlock program evaluations have consistently found up to a 90% reduction in repeat drinking and driving while the device is installed.

One of the more common issues on our highways is drivers who drive at excessive speeds, that is more than 40 km/h above the posted speed limit. If they are found and dealt with by the police, a heavy fine and a vehicle impound is imposed.

A GLP driver will also be subject to a driving prohibition.

Speed limit adherence is a relatively simple function for electronic monitoring. GPS provides both location and speed and the speed can be confirmed by the vehicle's own data network. There are apps available right now that will allow you to monitor your ability to drive at or below the posted speed limit.

Perhaps the requirement for a year of speed monitoring following an excessive speeding incident would result in a 90% reduction in speeding by that driver.

RoadSafetyBC also places high risk drivers on probation under the Driver Improvement Program.

In addition to speed, telematics can monitor hard braking and acceleration as well as abrupt steering. Consistently recorded, these behaviours are indicators of high risk driving practices.

Would electronic monitoring also result in a 90% reduction in high risk driving behaviour while a driver is on probation?

How long will it be before ICBC uses telematics to set insurance rates? It's probably not that far in the future.

Consistent safe driving will already save you up to 25% on the cost of optional insurance with Belairdirect here in B.C. All that you need to do is use their Automerit app to show that you deserve the rate reduction.

Whether you choose to use electronic monitoring of your driving for personal benefit or have it imposed on you by the government when you show that you don't play well with others we could all be safer because of it.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/viewpoint/electronic-monitoring



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Think ahead

The rain is pounding down outside this morning as I sit looking out my living-room window with tablet and coffee in hand.

I'm warm and dry enjoying the idea that being retired means I am no longer on the highway investigating collisions in this weather. Of course, Murphy was listening...

The tones of a radio page to the Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department warbles from the tablet courtesy of the internet.

There's a four-vehicle crash somewhere on Highway 19 between Summerset Road and Hillview Road. That's not too bad as there are only about three kilometres between those locations for emergency services to search.

Sometimes the reports are so inaccurate that multiple fire departments and paramedic stations must be called to insure that the scene is found quickly.

A little bit of thought when reporting can save time and avoid having to call volunteers away from work or family life. Smart phones today have GPS capability that will locate you precisely.

If finding and relaying co-ordinates is too difficult, there's the What3Words app.

The first fire truck to reach the highway at Northwest Bay Road reports that traffic is already backed up in the southbound lanes. What are you going to do asks the chief, go down the centre or try the shoulder?

This is where the thinking ahead comes in for all the drivers who are sitting in their vehicles wondering what is going on.

Having developed the habit of stopping far enough back from the vehicle in front that pavement can be seen between the front of the hood and the rear tires of the vehicle ahead, there is plenty of room to move left or right.

Emergency vehicles may now drive down the centre of the roadway and get to the scene with a minimum of difficulty.

If a long commercial vehicle leaves more room than normal, it's because the driver needs the space to get out of the way. Don't move over to fill that space and gain an extra couple of metres.!

Keep an eye on your rear view mirror so that you are ready to make room when it's needed. Signal your intent and stick to your decision so that emergency vehicle drivers know what you are going to do.

The radio traffic suggested that this was a chain reaction crash prompted by the first driver hydroplaning in the downpour.

Social media posts suggest that hydroplaning was the cause and that many drivers were failing to recognize the danger and slow down.

Water running across the roadway at an angle during heavy rainfall can be just as dangerous.

The water "grabs" the first front tire to hit it and can slow it enough that the vehicle starts to rotate around that tire.

Subsequent loss of control or sudden redirection of the vehicle path may cause a collision.

One last thought to finish this story involves sufficient following distance. In a case like this, two seconds is nowhere near enough.

Perhaps if the three drivers following had left four to six seconds there would have been only one vehicle involved in the collision.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/think-ahead



Ghost memories on the road

Reflections on Holiday Weekend Traffic

This is a short trip down memory lane with a retired traffic cop: me.

I've just recently completed a round trip from Vancouver Island to the West Kootenays and back and had plenty of time to think along the way.

There were ghosts along Highway 3 from the Manning Park works yard to Rock Creek, one of my old patrol areas.

I found myself recalling the sites of serious collisions that I had investigated and areas that I knew I could always find frequent violations of the traffic rules.

I was transferred away from there in 1997, but some incidents that took place before then are still not far enough in the past. If they resurface for me, I wonder how they still affect the people involved along with their families and friends today.

I was only passed over a double solid line three times on the trip and had to prepare for evasive action in one of them. In each of the three cases, the speed limit was not fast enough for the drivers who passed me.

I wish that I still had my ticket book and flashing red and blue lights when these things happen.

Highway 3A and Green Mountain Road near Yellow Lake was the spot for this. On a holiday Monday, I would have the laser and a stack of pre-written tickets ready, stop sign in hand.

Traffic returning to the Lower Mainland would round the corner with the lead vehicle at or just above the 80 km/h limit.

One of the vehicles in the group behind it would sail out over the double solid line and the driver would put their foot to the floor.

Vehicle impoundment for driving at excessive speed was not part of my enforcement toolkit back then, but if it had been there is no doubt that the tow trucks available would not have been able to keep up with the demand.

Before you point out that this long straight stretch was an unfair invitation to westbound traffic, I'll remind you that eastbound drivers using the passing lane don't always check for illegal oncoming traffic and the intersection is there to complicate the situation.

Drivers who pass in this scenario may be adjusting their default setting to one that will eventually have significant consequences.

My shift mates and I didn't always get to write until our fingers fell off on holiday long weekends. Unfortunately, someone usually dies in a crash somewhere in our province and that ends all the fun.

It's bad enough when only the offender suffers the consequences, but more often than not, their actions involve others.

Christmas is no longer the season where you have the highest chance of running into an impaired driver. The summer holidays are now the time of top risk for everyone.

According to ICBC, 40% of impaired driving deaths occur during the summer.

I still remember an August long weekend in Penticton. An impaired driver had crashed his car into a tree in the front yard of a home near the Skaha Lake beach. He exited the vehicle and ran off.

The homeowner and his neighbours were fed up with stupid tourist tricks by then and I arrived to find them frog marching the driver back to the scene for me to deal with.

Being retired, I can now choose to avoid driving during the holiday long weekends or I can travel early and leave late.

To those of you who don't have that choice, I hope you had a safe and happy Canada Day long weekend and didn’t add to someone else's collection of ghost memories.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/reflections-holiday-weekend-traffic





It's only 74 seconds

Flag Person: A High Risk Occupation

If I were to ask you what a flag person's job was, what would you reply? Assure orderly movement of traffic through a highway obstruction of some sort?

Help everyone involved to be safe as they work on the highway?

Why then do some drivers treat flag persons so badly?

Our provincial government sets the standards for traffic management in highway work sites, including the rules that flag persons must follow when they are working.

WorkSafeBC mandates that all flag persons must be trained to those standards before they can be employed. Currently, only training offered by the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance meets acceptable standards and requirements.

The Motor Vehicle Act sets out requirements too. Signs must be set up warning traffic that work is in progress. There must also be signs setting reduced speed limits and if necessary, traffic controls to guide the paths vehicles must travel.

Drivers must obey the directions of a flagger and a traffic control person.

There is also authority in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation giving workers authority to protect themselves by controlling traffic when they are working on a highway.

Even our Slow Down, Move Over laws dictate how drivers are to behave around stopped vehicles displaying flashing lights.

There is an interesting introduction document on WorkSafeBC's site for potential flag persons. It's titled Working in Traffic Control Zones - Be Prepared for High Risk!

In the face of all these rules, regulations and controls, why would the job of flag person be a high risk occupation? Probably because there are people driving the vehicles that present a threat to them.

People do not always behave as they should.

Ask any flag person about their job and they will roll their eyes and start telling stories about bad and even dangerous drivers in highway work zones.

  • No one wants to wait their turn.
  • No one wants to slow down.

Everyone gets upset with them and some have even experienced narrow misses or even been struck by drivers through inattention or even deliberately.

They are not inventing stories. One sunny July afternoon, I was on foot doing enforcement in a construction zone. The approaches were marked with three large signs displaying two flapping flags on each sign, followed by a construction speed sign.

I wrote a speeding ticket to a woman who protested loudly all the time that I was writing that there was nothing at the roadside to tell her about the zone.

After I had issued her the ticket I helped her make a U-turn to go back and look for the signs. I told her that if they were not there, she should return and tell me. I would cancel the ticket.

She never returned and that ticket was not disputed.

I measured a construction zone one year and calculated that it cost drivers a total of 74 seconds to slow to the construction zone speed limit as opposed to what was posted before construction started.

The only drivers who come to mind for me where 74 seconds are critical are those who drive an ambulance or fire vehicles.

I would like to hope that we can all spare 74 seconds of our day to make it safer for everyone we share the highway with.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/road-maintenance/flag-person-high-risk-occupation



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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