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Behind-the-Wheel

Are you a good driver?

Improving everything except drivers

I'm becoming paranoid when I drive.

I know how easy it is to make a mistake because even though I am paying attention and trying not to, I make them. Watching others while I'm driving impresses on me that I'm not alone.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide if it is a genuine error or simply a case of not being bothered to drive well, but I suspect that there is a lot of the latter taking place on our roads.

The insurance costs of collisions have become too high to bear, so our politicians have solved that problem for us by removing our ability to sue for damages in most cases.

Instead, ICBC will provide "enhanced accident benefits" and will be able to avoid the expense of trials.

There have been some reports of claims difficulties already, but it remains to be seen if they are simply the result of getting used to a new system or not.

I'm a cynic — ICBC is not there to represent your interests. Like any other insurance company, they simply want to settle your claim fairly for the least cost staying in compliance with the framework created by our government.

My local traffic enforcement unit has about half of its positions filled with effective on-road resources right now.

Ask the provincial government about available resources and they respond that they fund X resources across the province. Ask the police about traffic enforcement resources and they respond with ... nothing.

Despite the fact that you are most likely to suffer financial loss, injury or death through the use of your automobile than all other criminal offences combined, police resource priorities are on what the public often told me was "real crime." As in, "Why aren't you fighting real crime instead of wasting my time with this traffic ticket?"

Some days, I marvel that automated enforcement in the form of intersection safety cameras has gotten the foothold it has in our municipalities.

Cameras apply monetary penalties to vehicle owners, but the driver is not held to account for violations.

Many of us do not like automated enforcement of any sort and are very vocal about it. This includes some of our politicians.

We've had strategies and visions of road safety over the years. These are good things, if they work.

We seem to be adept at explaining where we want to go, but rarely do I find a document that explains the path we've taken and what the outcomes were. Especially pointing out that improvements were actually due to the change we've made rather than being a general trend.

For the most part, we still seem to be stuck with the same old drivers. Remember ICBC's online refresher test that only 40% of participants passed?

Maybe that is why I see what I do when I drive.

We're resistant to ending our driving careers, too.

This week's case law article involves an older lady who is a pillar of the community that made a serious of dangerous actions that ended with a toddler being hit.

She wanted the five-year driving prohibition she received for driving without due care and attention reduced and a higher fine instead.

The appeal justice made an oblique reference to the fact that some older drivers chose to surrender their licence before things like this happen.

It might be inconvenient or even painful, but I think that we should be doing more to improve our driving than simply renewing our licence every five years.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/viewpoint/improving-everything-except-drivers



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Cross at your own risk

I read the Victoria Times-Colonist on line each morning and a story about jaywalking caught my attention.

After reading the story, I was left with the feeling that the situation was poorly explained, and readers might decide that the police should have been doing more important things than enforcing pedestrian bylaws.

A spokesperson for the City of Victoria says that jaywalking is allowed in the area under discussion because of an exemption to the traffic bylaw used to promote a pedestrian friendly area.

Jaywalking was born from the continuing evolution of the motor vehicle and the streets that it ran on.

In the beginning when vehicle speeds were 16 km/h or slower, people simply walked across wherever they wished to.

As vehicle speeds increased, this became a dangerous thing to do if a pedestrian didn't exercise some caution. The power of shame was applied to people who had the audacity to cross anywhere other than at the intersection.

Jaywalking is something that everyone does and it isn't always a bad thing to do.

The two sections in the Motor Vehicle Act that regulate pedestrians not in a crosswalk only do so when the pedestrian has either failed to yield to vehicular traffic or stepped off the curb at a time when the driver could not yield to them even if they tried to.

Both these situations are dangerous, interrupt traffic flow and potentially result in injury or death. The adults being dealt with in this story for failing to yield that feel put upon definitely know better and have no room to complain.

Jaywalking may be prohibited on streets within municipal boundaries, but only if the municipality has created a bylaw to discourage it.

Mid-block crossings can be safer than crosswalks at intersections because drivers have fewer demands on their attention and are more likely to see and react to pedestrians.

Whether this extends to random crossing rather than a marked mid-block crossing depends on the level of risk that a pedestrian is willing to take.

In 2020, ICBC collision statistics report that 1,600 collisions injured 1,500 and killed (in 2019) 49 people in our province.

This is a significant decrease from previous years. About 40% of these collisions resulted from the pedestrian doing something that involved them in the collision rather than being the fault of the driver.

It's not reasonable to only deal with the drivers. Pedestrians must shoulder their share of the responsibility and perhaps need a refresher on how to cross the road safely.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/pedestrians/jaywalking-cross-your-own-risk



Wisdom of the people

Crowdsourcing neighbourhood road safety projects

One definition of crowdsourcing is where an organization obtains ideas from a large, relatively open and often rapidly evolving group of participants.

An example of how this can be applied to road safety is found in the Spring 2021 edition of Transportation Talk, a publication of the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Edmonton is asking its citizens to participate as part of its current Safe Mobility Strategy 2021-25.

During the course of my service in traffic enforcement, I was occasionally exposed to the wisdom that could be gained from the people who had connections to the roads that I was responsible for.

One of the best came from a resident who lived beside Naramata Road north of Penticton.

I was called to a single vehicle off road right crash on an icy corner. I parked my police vehicle in what I thought was a good spot to protect the scene and started to investigate.

The homeowner who lived next to the road came out and suggested I had move my police vehicle to a better spot as it was likely to be hit by the next vehicle that rounded the corner at an unsafe speed.
I'm glad I took it and moved my car.

Before I had concluded my investigation, another car had slid right through where I had parked; we were lucky no damage or injury occurred.

The homeowner explained that this happened almost every time the corner was slippery, but often did not result in damage. No damage means no crash report, something that police, ICBC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure relied on to identify problems.

Repeat these circumstances often enough and eventually damage, injury or death will find a way to occur.

To take advantage of this accumulated wisdom, Edmonton has created Vision Zero Street Labs. These labs are billed as combining the expertise and power of Edmontonians and City of Edmonton staff to quickly and creatively address neighbourhood safety and liveability concerns.

The projects developed by the street labs are meant to be temporary with a duration worked out between the community project team and the city. If they are successful, the city will explore making the permanent.

Perhaps this would be a good example to show to your municipality if you are willing to form your own street lab group and solve a road safety problem in your neighbourhood.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/crowdsourcing-neighbourhood-road-safety-projects



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Traffic cop humour

It's a beautiful spring day outside and I don't feel like writing a serious article for you this morning.

I'm going to wander off in another direction and tell you a story about a bright, sunny day beside a B.C. highway where a group of us had set up a laser-speed, monitoring operation that was keeping us busy.

A gentleman with a shiny, new combination radar-and-laser detector on his dash has just been waved over for a ticket.

He demands to know what sort of device had been used to measure his speed because his top-of-the-line, $500 device has failed to warn him about us. Not one single blink of a red light nor peep out of the speaker.

Your vehicle's speed was measured with a Kustom LTI2020 Marksman laser, he is told. The device is mounted on that tripod right over there.

The speeding ticket was written and served while the driver fumed about spending a lot of cash on a state-of-the-art detector that failed to protect him as the advertising said that it would.

Can you point that thing at my car for me, he asked.

Certainly, sir, was the response and the laser was pointed directly at the driver's detector. It was a repeat performance:

  • No lights
  • No sound.

Our colleague waited patiently, sighting through the scope of the laser while the driver tried everything to coax a response from his device.

He turned it on and off, pulled the plug and plugged it back in a number of times and even bashed it with his hand.

You guessed it, his traffic-enforcement-warning device utterly failed to warn him.

I'm taking this piece of junk back to the business that sold it to me, he said. They had better give me my money back.

We all watched him depart wondering how successful he would be.

Famous last words?

Our colleague turned to the rest of us and completely deadpan said, "He didn't ask me to push the button...."

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/humour/traffic-cop-humour



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



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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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