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Behind-the-Wheel

The difficulty with stop signs

One wouldn't think that stopping at a stop sign would be such a problem for drivers. It seems relatively simple, come to a complete stop, look both ways and then go if it is safe to do so. With the poor compliance rate, we should ask is the stop sign the best form of traffic control for intersections that are not controlled by traffic signals?

Let's examine what making a proper stop means and where it has to be done. You may be surprised to learn that the stop sign itself simply tells you what you must do, not where you have to do it.

The simplest case is one where there is nothing at the intersection other than the stop sign. Here one must stop before entering the intersection itself and in a position nearest to the crossroad where a driver has a clear view of traffic approaching on that crossroad.

Where there is a marked crosswalk along with the stop sign a driver must stop before entering the crosswalk. Doing so will protect against a collision if the driver has failed to notice any pedestrians present.

One failure of our current Motor Vehicle Act is not including unmarked crosswalks in this requirement. Not all unmarked crosswalks are preceeded by a marked stop line to provide some protection for pedestrians.

The stop sign with a marked stop line seems to be the most difficult. Stop lines never seem to be placed at a point where the driver has a good view to the left and right if they stop as required. Consequently, stop lines are often ignored completely. The proper thing to do here is to stop at the line, move ahead to a point where you can see properly, stop again and then proceed after looking both ways to insure it is safe to do so.

Death by Stop Sign is an article in Psychology Today authored by John Staddon. He singles out the stop sign saying:

Look at the familiar stop sign. It does two bad things: First, it makes you look at the stop sign rather than the traffic—it distracts. Second, it doesn’t tell you what you need to know. It tells you to stop even when you can see perfectly well that there is no cross traffic. It shouts “don’t trust your own judgment!”

Dr. Staddon provides Britain as an example of how it should be done. Stop signs are a rare item beside their roads he says, you will find yield signs or their equivalent road markings instead. They have a lower collision rate than North America and yielding instead of stopping saves time and reduces pollution.

He also hints that the roundabout would be preferred over both stop and yield signs. These intersections can reduce collisions by 37% and fatal collisions by 90%.

So, until roundabouts become common in British Columbia, keep in mind that more than half of all collisions happen at intersections. Following proper stop sign etiquette places you in control in a high hazard area.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/intersections/difficulty-stop-signs



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How not to get hit by a car

I read an article recently about conspicuity for police officers working on the highway. It suggested that the reflective vests and jackets that we use to stand out and be identified by drivers at night were not very effective. A driver had to approach closely when using low beam headlights to see a reflection, and the reflections that were seen did not immediately suggest that what the driver was looking at was a pedestrian.

The problem with low-beam headlights is that they initially illuminate the area of a pedestrians feet and by the time they reach the mid and upper body, it is too late for the driver to react to what they are seeing.

Tests in a driving simulator produced an even more surprising result. Sixty percent of drivers who were warned that a pedestrian would appear during the simulation failed to see them on the roadway in time to avoid colliding with them. Often drivers report that the first indication that they had of a pedestrian being present on the highway is when they heard the sound of the collision with them.

Looking at the view from the pedestrian's perspective, researchers found that pedestrians all felt that they were more visible to drivers than they actually were.

From Neil Arason's book No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads:

An Australian study found that drivers noticed only five percent of plain-clothed pedestrians in the most challenging conditions (low beams, black clothing, glare), whereas they recognized 100 percent of pedestrians who wore reflective clothing in areas where their body moved.

The bottom line? If you are a pedestrian on the highway at night, wear something light coloured with reflective markings in the places that your body moves such as wrists and ankles. Biological motion is very effective protection.

Use the sidewalk, or if a sidewalk is not present, stay as far to the left of the roadway as possible. These rules cover all pedestrians in British Columbia.

Never cross the highway unless you can clear the travelled portion well before the approching vehicle nears you unless you are certain that the driver will stop. Better still, wait until the driver sees you and has stopped.

If you are a driver that is purchasing a new vehicle, consider one with forward collision warning or automatic emergency braking. These systems, properly used and maintained will help you avoid crashes.

Walk to stay alive. Regardless of being right or wrong in terms of right of way, the pedestrian is always the loser in a collision.

This story originally appeared on DriveSmartBC



Car insurance crash course

Chances are good that when you think about car insurance, your first thought is about how much it is going to cost you rather than how well it is going to protect you if something goes wrong. You might even be tempted to shade the truth about who will be driving your vehicle or how they will be using it to reduce those costs. 

Be very careful how you make decisions about insurance as making poor choices can put you at huge financial risk post-crash.

Insurance is a contract between you and an insurance company. Pay the premiums and the company will protect you from financial losses specified in the contract.

The risk is spread among all the policy holders in an effort to make the premiums more affordable, but you may have to pay a higher premium if you are at higher risk for making a claim. Penalty-point and driver-risk premiums are used by ICBC in addition to your collision history to set rates.

The surest way to keep premiums low is to keep the number of claims low. This concept appears to be lost on many drivers today. Some make no connection between the way they drive and the risk that they present.

We consider insurance so important that a policy must be in effect in order to drive. You must carry a liability card while driving and produce it to police on demand. Should you be involved in a collision, you must produce particulars of the liability card in writing to anyone suffering loss or injury or who witnessed the collision if they request it.

In British Columbia, we all have to buy our third-party liability insurance from ICBC. This protects us from the damage that we do to others if we are at fault in a collision. Basic Autoplan covers up to $200,000, but a quick look at some of the case law will suggest that this is nowhere near enough. An honest, careful discussion with your Autoplan Agent can help you decide what is appropriate for your circumstances.

We can buy insurance for our own damage; collision, fire, theft, vandalism and other losses from ICBC or other private insurance companies. In this case, it could pay you to compare the best car insurance companies to see if their rates for similar or better coverage costs less than an ICBC policy.

According to Hergott Law, the best $25 that you will ever spend on insurance is for Underinsured Motorist Protection.

Now that you are insured, be careful not to do anything that would breach your contract. Driving while impaired, without a driver's licence or with a suspended licence, evading police action, racing or making a misrepresentation on the application for insurance can all void your coverage.

In some contract breaches, ICBC will pay for damages done to others and then expect you to reimburse the cost. The corporation may also cancel or refuse to issue a driver's licence or vehicle licence and number plates for outstanding motor vehicle related debts.

This column originally appeared on DriveSmartBC.



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Driving the line

We Need Better Lines and More Reflectors

Here's another complaint from the DriveSmartBC Inbox: "Please speak to the situation that I call the "Invisible White Lines" on our highways as soon as we get some rain and whilst driving in the dark. Night visibility in winter is terrible.

“There are no reflectors on the highway edge like in Washington State. And don't let Highways tell you the lines are worn off by plowing as in the Okanagan we have had hardly any snow and there is no sand on the roads yet you can't see either the centre line or the right side lines of the highways.”

“I have driven in B.C. for 50 years without an accident and the road visibility is terrible every year. I speak to many other people who have the same observation and complaint."

This driver has about five more years experience driving on B.C. highways than I do, but if I sit and consider the changes that I have seen over the years I can only agree with part of what has been expressed.

The addition of solid white lines at the shoulder became widespread after I started driving. Ditto with the installation of more reflectors on the sides of the road and reflectors set into the center of the highway.

What I have noticed is a change in the durability of the painted lines. If I go for a walk near my home I can see flecks of yellow paint in the gravel of the road shoulder. Whether this is due to poor adhesion, temperature cycles or ploughing and sanding abrasion I can't say for sure, but it is probably all three.

As you can imagine, keeping our highways properly marked or adding improvements must be a very large job.

The TranBC blog contains an article on the MOTI's quest for durable paint. Apparently, environmental rules for volatile organic compound pollution ended the use of oil based paints in 2010 and the replacements were not as hardy.

They followed up with another article on a promising find in April 2017.

If you are interested in the standards for paint required for highway marking, they are found in section 321 of the Standard Specifications for Highway Construction.

Highway delineation requirements start at page 7.21 of the Manual of Standard Traffic Signs & Pavement Markings.

I have always found it difficult to drive in the rain after dark. Where the lines and delineations do not help, the only option that I have is to adjust my expectations to suit the conditions. For me, this means slowing down to a speed that I am comfortable with and making room for others that don't hold the same view.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/lanes/we-need-better-lines-more-reflectors



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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