Your seatbelt can hurt you

Two women once appeared for trial on one of my traffic court dates.

Both were disputing a ticket for failing to wear a seat belt under section 220(4) of the Motor Vehicle Act. They each testified that they were wearing their seat belt, but had placed the shoulder belt under their arms.

This is a common occurrence for women and is more rare for men in my experience.

My understanding of the situation is that women tend to do this as they are shorter and the position of the shoulder belt cannot be adjusted.

It's uncomfortable for them.

Both women were not successful with their dispute as the law requires that the seat belt be worn "in a properly adjusted and securely fastened manner."

Yes, the ticket said "fail to wear seat belt" instead of "failing to wear seat belt properly."

This wording is dictated by law and the officer issuing the ticket has no alternative but to write that in the blank if they want the ticket to be valid.

Both circumstances are covered by the ticket, but people get the wrong idea when they feel that they had at least part of the belt on properly and they read these words on the form.

To return to the "properly adjusted and securely fastened manner."

Please, take out the owner's manual for your vehicle and read the section on seat belts and airbags.

It will specifically warn you not to wear the shoulder belt under your arm along with other common mistakes like wearing them while twisted, too loose, damaged or connected to the wrong buckle.

The belt must be worn snugly over the pelvis and collarbone, not the neck. To be fully protected, you must also be seated upright with your back against the seat.

Don't recline or you could "submarine" under the belt during a crash.

It is critical to wear the seat belt properly when your vehicle has an airbag as it holds you in the proper place for the bag to do its job as well as restraining you during a crash. Being out of position during deployment invites injury from the airbag.

Don't be tempted to buy aftermarket gizmos to help you position your shoulderbelt. They are commonly available and some even imply that they meet safety standards.

One standard that I could track down dealt with flammability and did not inspire my confidence in their truthfulness.

The only positioning device that I might have some confidence in is a belt positioning booster seat.

Booster seats are not just for children.

If you do need help, see your vehicle's local dealer or an occupational therapist.

What the owner's manual will not tell you is what happens when you wear the shoulder belt under your arm and are involved in a collision.

  • torn aorta
  • lacerated liver
  • ruptured spleen
  • broken ribs.

This is from the shoulder belt.

The large bones of the shoulder will withstand the collision forces much better than the weaker ribs and these internal injuries are much less likely to occur.

Without the shoulder belt to hold your upper body back properly, you will likely to contact the steering wheel or dashboard with your face.

That's not a pretty picture, is it?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/safety-equipment/armpit-belt

School's in: watch for kids

Today, at 8:07 a.m. marks the opening of the elementary school nearest to where I live.

It’s time to think about school zones and school bus safety for another year. It will be easy to obey the flashing red lights on the school bus, but I might have grown accustomed to not slowing down for the school zone after a summer of travel at 60 km/h instead of 30 km/h.

I am a creature of habit. One year the school zone in front of my house was changed from an advisory to a regulatory one when a 30 tab was applied to the sign.

I honestly have no idea whether I saw the change the day it was made or some time after. So, I know that I have to pay particular attention until I am used to the lower speed required of me again.

ICBC media relations supplied a broadcast e-mail reminder a couple of days ago. It tells me that:
"Every year, 380 children are injured in crashes while walking or cycling and five are killed throughout the province."

It is definitely a sobering thought and I was thinking about that more than a week ago when I e-mailed media relations to ask for statistics regarding collisions in school zones.

What was supplied in the broadcast is a statistic that very likely contains incidents that have no connection to school related trips at all.

What is the extent of the problem that actually occurs in relation to school zones or travel to and from school that takes place outside the zones but are still part of a trip to school?

I don't know. Despite the request and a follow up e-mail last Friday, I am still waiting for a response.

Granted, it is difficult to capture incidents that are part of a school trip, but occur outside a school zone. The MV6020 collision reporting form does provide for a description of school/playground to identify land usage in the collision area, but collisions have not been reportable to police for a long time now.

I trust that ICBC is collecting some accurate data when an insurance claim is made. The corporation does release an overview on the statistics page of their web site, but it is not nearly as detailed as what was shared in the past.

I suppose that it goes without saying that all road users need to exercise care in school zones. However, if we don't know about the scope of the problem, how do we fix it if there is one?

If you are interested, I have written a number of articles on school zones and school buses in the past.

There is also an excellent current article by Steve Wallace of Wallace Driving School.

I'll finish up by providing ICBC's school zone tips for drivers:

  • If you drop off your child in a school zone, allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.
  • If a vehicle's stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding to a pedestrian, so proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.
  • Watch for school buses and when their lights are flashing, vehicles approaching from both directions must stop.
  • Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it to make sure no small children are hidden from your view. Always look for pedestrians when you're backing up.
  • In residential areas, a hockey net or ball can mean that kids are playing nearby. Watch for children as they could dash into the street at any moment.
  • Remember that every school day, unless otherwise posted, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In playground zones, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect every day from dawn to dusk.

There is also a Tip Sheet to download that assists parents in developing their child's road safety smarts to make that trip back and forth to school a bit safer.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/schools-and-playgrounds/back-school-2019

Tip Sheet URL: https://www.icbc.com/road-safety/teaching/Documents/teach-your-child-to-be-a-safe-pedestrian.pdf

The police and you

Stopped by the police - What do I do now?

We live in a wonderful country where violence is still something relatively rare.

If we are stopped by the police, we tend not to worry and dig out our driver's licence and vehicle registration wherever it might be in the vehicle. Some people even get out and walk back to the police car to see what is going on.

These actions are meant to be polite and save time but today are not the right thing to do.

The police perspective is a difficult one. Officers realize that people mean well, and that almost always these actions are not threatening.

On the other hand, police stop people every day in British Columbia who have significant criminal records and may present a very real threat.

These circumstances are not known in advance and each vehicle stop must be approached with care to avoid violence, but not upset those who are honest, well-meaning people.

You can play a big part in making every vehicle stop a safe experience. Here are some suggestions:

  • Stop promptly and instruct everyone in your vehicle to sit still and be quiet.
  • Keep your hands in clear view.
  • If it is dark, turn on your interior light.
  • Wait for the officer to approach and explain why you have been stopped, then follow his requests.
  • Stay in your vehicle and continue to be still and quiet until the stop is concluded.
  • Don't do anything that might be mistaken as a possible threat.

In general, you can expect the officer to approach carefully, possibly pausing to examine the interior of the vehicle from the area of the rear bumper.

Once comfortable that there is no threat, they will approach the driver's window, explain why you have been stopped and ask for your driver's licence and vehicle documents.

Some officers may choose to make a right side approach instead. It is dangerous to stand on the traffic side of your vehicle even when the police vehicle is offset to the left behind.

You may be asked to move your vehicle to a place off of the highway to safely conclude the interaction.

If the officer asks, the driver is required to correctly state their name and address. A passenger must also correctly identify the driver if the officer requests it.

The officer will return to their patrol vehicle and run a check on your and your license. If they have decided to write a written warning or traffic ticket it will be completed now.

This may take a few minutes, so please be patient.

Don't be tempted to walk back and ask what is taking so long if you are in a hurry. This will likely extend the length of the stop as the officer will stop what they are doing, exit the vehicle and meet you face to face.

I stopped a vehicle in a rural area one night and as soon as it had pulled over, both front doors opened, two males stepped out and began to approach.

They ignored my commands to stop and a pistol pointed at them. Thank goodness the incident ended happily for all of us but this is an invitation to be shot, good intentions or not.

If you receive a traffic ticket, I've written a Q&A article on How to Deal With a Traffic Ticket to help you decide what to do.

This is not the time and place to argue your point, after all, being stopped at the roadside can be dangerous for you, too.

Be careful pulling back into traffic. Many drivers still don't properly slow down and move over.

If your first reaction is that this column sounds ridiculous, I would like to agree with you, but times are changing.

The problem today is that officers cannot immediately determine who is and isn't a threat, and for their own safety must consider all the potentials and be prepared to deal with them.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/police/stopped-police-what-do-i-do-now

How to Deal with a Ticket URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/qa/qa-how-deal-traffic-ticket


Psychology of speeding

This must be speed week as I have heard from two drivers who are having difficulty following the speed limits and one who knew that he was speeding and wanted advice to plan his ticket dispute. The three situations give some insight into how the pressures of everyday driving encourage us to disobey.

Of the two who want to follow the speed limit, one is a commercial driver whose boss is directing him to speed. The other feels that if he doesn't speed in his daily commute he's going to be driven over by others that do.

Here are their stories:

What is the purpose of a speed limit? I am asking because I recently began a new career driving semi truck long haul and I am not sure if speed limits are for safety. I say that because not many people actually do the speed limit and I am getting tired of being in trouble with my boss when I don't speed, for example doing 110 km/h in a 100 zone.

I have many reasons for driving slower then posted speed: A heavy commercial vehicle traveling downgrade, Approaching and passing a temporary hazard, Driving at night, Poor weather conditions, Following an erratic driver or poor road conditions.

I value my driver's licence because it cost me a lot of money to earn.

I would like to have a reasonable response next time my boss gets mad when I am doing 105 km/h in a 110 zone because he does not accept any of the reasons I have given here. I have tried using then as an answer when he wants me to drive faster and I want to drive a little slower.

My goal is to arrive at my destination alive and to drive safely.

The second situation:

I travel through a school zone on Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo each day before 5 p.m. Nobody slows down.

Last week a pickup truck roared by me at about 80 km/h in that school zone.

I really want to slow down and obey the law, but even if I'm traveling 45 in a 30 zone, the drivers behind me get all antsy. I'm not suggesting I would get a ticket for driving safely in a school zone, but what if I get ticketed for speeding?

If I obey the zone, I impede traffic, if I go with the flow, I'm speeding. Seems to be a lose-lose situation.

The driver planning his dispute raised many of the points that I used to hear regularly at the roadside: I'm late and I have to pick up my family at the airport. It was down hill. I'm sorry. It's a regular speed trap. I've only received one other ticket in my life. I always follow the rules. I'd pay the ticket if I didn't get the points.

I'll add one of my favourites: I set my cruise control for 10 over because the cops never write tickets for that.

Even our provincial government delivers mixed messages by strengthening the "even if you are doing the speed limit, get out of the left lane" rules.

For our truck driver, the situation that he finds himself in may be bullying in the workplace. WorksafeBC has a resource kit for that and it would be worthwhile for both him and the supervisor to do some reading. Careful documentation of each instance may be required to defend your position if you follow the speed laws and the company fires you because of it.

For our driver in the school zone, you control your speed, not the other driver. Travel through the zone at the appropriate speed and ignore them, unless doing so becomes dangerous. Then you can choose to pull over, stop and let them find someone else to endanger. Take the time to report them to police.

For our ticket disputant, well, good luck. You made the choice to speed and now you've been given the opportunity to pay the price. There's lots of information here on this site to help you decide what to do, just use search. This is the most commonly disputed offence in traffic court and one that is difficult to beat.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/speed/psychology-speeding

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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