We are not serious about road safety

Nation of bad drivers

I learned this week that Canadians rank 42nd out of residents in 50 countries based on how well they drive.

This disappointed me, until I sat back and thought about it for a bit. Based on self-examination and what I see around me when I drive, I think I have to say we are not serious about road safety.

Financial loss, injury and death are part of the cost of allowing everyone to move when and where they want.

We follow the rules when it suits us and we can easily justify in our own minds doing what we want to when it does not.

A survey conducted by Insights West for ICBC shows we are aware of the importance of safe driving and give ourselves high marks for safety (82%), attentiveness (79%), knowledge (78%) and courteousness (76%).

Nearly nine in 10 drivers report having had a near miss, but are more likely to say another driver was responsible.

Driving on our highways requires co-operation, not competition.

When we first obtain our class 5 driver's licences, we possess the minimum skills necessary to drive safely. Few people choose to undergo further training to raise their skill level voluntarily. Our government does nothing to encourage or require it, even when we show that our skills may be lacking due to a collision or accumulation of traffic ticket convictions.

Intersection safety cameras don't carry the level of political danger photo radar did, so we have them at intersections with high crash rates. I hate the term "cash grab" but I'll allow this scheme approaches it.

Run a red light at high speed, as many times as you wish but as long as you pay the fine, you're good to go. There are no penalty points, no entry on a driving record and no way to designate the culprit if it was not you, the vehicle owner.

If you are a new driver, beware. The second traffic ticket in a year will likely mean you will be prohibited from driving for a short period to teach you to follow the rules. If you are an experienced driver, relax, it will probably take four convictions in a year to trigger a sanction for you.

Occasionally, after a conviction in traffic court where the driving involved was deemed out of the ordinary, the officer prosecuting would ask the justice for a period of prohibition as the penalty. I never saw this imposed in the 20 years I spent watching trials. Instead, I heard something along the lines of "I'll let the Superintendent (of Motor Vehicles) decide on whether the accused should be prohibited or not."

Crashes were costing ICBC too much money so our government took decisive steps to solve that problem and reduce the amount of money it cost to cover claims. That has not worked out well for some who have suffered losses, as they are no longer able to sue for damages.

There was no mention of doing something more to reduce the collision rate and the need for claims to be made.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

'The police did not take my driving complaint seriously'

Cops and complaints

“The police did not take my driving complaint seriously, what is my next step?

I know for a fact my wife and I had the offending vehicle’s B.C. license number correct and a description of the driver. After reporting the incident, I received a call from a constable telling me the plate number I gave them was registered to a Hyundai and not the Pontiac I reported. They told me there was nothing they could do.”

I can respond to this reader's question from both sides of the fence, as I have been both an investigator and a dissatisfied complainant with regard to a driving complaint.

As an investigator, I can say having the license plate number that was reported identify as being on a different vehicle than the type complained about happens fairly regularly. Most often it is a mistake in reading the plate, which can be very difficult now that some B.C. license plates are designed for decoration rather than legibility.

If it is not an error reading the licence plate of the offending vehicle, it is most likely a stolen licence plate or one recently transferred and the records have not been updated yet. In all of these cases, a telephone call or a visit to the registered owner can clear up any discrepancy.

The information gained from the follow-up investigation can either confirm it is the wrong licence plate number or that the correct plate and the wrong vehicle description.

With the former, there is nothing further to be done and with the latter, appropriate action may be taken.

In my recent experience, it is obvious to me there is a very low priority assigned to driving complaints where a collision has not occurred. The outcome of your complaint depends on whether the investigator assigned to it does a thorough job of the investigation and whether their supervisor allows it to be concluded with only superficial treatment.

If you made a detailed complaint and are willing to follow it up, there are circumstances where it is not possible for the police to do so, but these should be rare. These reasons should also make sense when the officer contacts you to update you on the outcome of your complaint.

Make sure you ask for, and record, the file number of your complaint if you wish to pursue the matter further.

You can follow up by requesting a copy of your file to see what was done about your complaint. For the RCMP, you use the federal Access to Information and for municipal police forces in B.C. you would use the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

A formal complaint may be made to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP or Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner for municipal police.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Help! My towing bill is too high

Cost of roadside towing

The following story was related to me by a DriveSmartBC site visitor from a recent incident:

“I slid into the ditch recently and an ambulance happened to be right there at the time.

It stopped and (paramedics) checked me out, insisting I wait for a tow with them as this occurred on a blind corner. Their dispatch had already called for a tow (truck) and while we were waiting, the police arrived. I waited with the officer so the ambulance could leave.

A tow truck arrived and I spoke with the driver. He said his was not the truck that was dispatched but since it was such an easy tow, he could do it with his deck truck. He contacted his dispatcher and cancelled the other truck.

I was asked how I intended to pay and I told him I had a credit card. Since I could almost have driven my car out myself, I expected the bill to be $200 or less. It took the driver about eight minutes to winch my car back onto the road.

The driver forgot to bring his credit card terminal, so we had to wait while another truck brought one. During the wait, the driver added up his bill, which came to $495. I did not have that much room on my card and told him so. His response was, if I did not pay, he would load my car onto his truck and take it to the towing company's lot to await full payment. That would add $250 and storage charges onto the bill.

I made a phone call and arranged an e-transfer for the bill:

• $165 minimum recovery charge

• $161 mileage for 46 km

• $97.80 fuel surcharge

• $71.19 GST

The towing yard is 38 km from the location, according to Google Maps.

I feel this huge bill is unreasonable for 10 minutes work, I didn't choose (the towing company) myself and I felt threatened by the driver who was going to take my car away from me. What should I do?”

The topic is related to road safety and traffic law, so I contacted a couple of towing companies I trust and asked about this to try and help.

Both companies said they charge a "gate-to-gate" fee regardless of whether they are called from their towing yard or happen by the incident. The bill would include mileage, recovery and fuel charges. Both pointed out towing companies in B.C. are free to set their own rates and drivers should be aware of the rates before they agree to the tow.

Towing Rates

ICBC sets rates for light/medium duty and heavy duty towing when they pay the bill for an incident. These rates will likely be lower than the rates you and I would pay out of our own pockets.

I contacted the Automotive Retailer's Association about rates. The first sentence in its response was the tow operator does not have the authority to impound the vehicle for failure to pay rates.

I once worked for a service station with a one-ton tow truck and that business was a member of the ARA.

We used a suggested rate card provided by the ARA to bill for our work. The ARA no longer advises its members on rates and repeated what I had already heard from the towing companies, it was up to them to set their rates.

The ARA also said the driver should have discussed rates or services up front, bearing in mind that if unforeseen difficulties were encountered during the recovery, the bill could be higher than discussed.

You may consider getting the estimate in writing before you agree to services.

Ontario is struggling with "wild west" issues involving towing. The Canadian Automobile Association in that province has published its towing “bill of rights” to show it will treat their customers fairly.

The choice of towing company is up to the driver (or owner) of the vehicle being towed.

If the driver is unable to make a choice, or makes an unreasonable choice for the circumstances, police or the road maintenance contractor may choose for them. The police often have a towing rotation they follow to apportion the work fairly among local towing companies.

Subject to doing it in a safe manner for yourself and other road users, to some extent you could do it yourself. Remember you have no authority to block the road or direct traffic in order to facilitate the recovery of your vehicle. Should a collision occur, you leave yourself open to significant legal liability for damages.

Can I leave my vehicle there? This is identical to asking “can I park there?"

If you wish to come back later to deal with the recovery of your vehicle, either by yourself or with your chosen towing company, it would be legal to park there. It’s legal to wait there as well.

Notify the police and road maintenance contractor of your intentions, as they are the agencies that would order the removal of your vehicle when you are not there with it.

Consumer Protection B.C. advised it does not regulate towing companies or their practices. Businesses in B.C. are allowed to set their own return, refund and cancellation policies and most can set their own payments terms. There is a difference between what might be considered “best practices” for businesses to follow and specific rules that are written into law.

This government agency is responsible for enforcing the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. When asked about the threat of impound for non-payment at the roadside as an unconscionable act under section 8, a representative said they could not make a determination like that without an official complaint from a consumer so it could be properly assessed.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal is an accessible, affordable way to resolve disputes without needing a lawyer or attending court that encourages a collaborative approach to resolving disputes. Their decisions are searchable on line and a number of decisions involving towing companies are reported.

Small Claims Court is also available to resolve issues. Its website suggests when the amount involved is less than $5,000, using the Civil Resolution Tribunal is a better choice.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Spring distracted driving campaign kicks into high gear

Distracted driving blitz


It's distracted driving campaign time. ICBC tells us distracted driving is responsible for about 28% of collision fatalities in B.C. each year. On average, 82 people die each year in a crash where distracted driving is a contributing factor.

Every year, on average, according to police reported data from 2017 to 2021:

• 28 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.

• 12 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island.

• 30 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.

• 12 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.

Let's not forget, distracted driving is not something that is always connected with the use of an electronic device by the driver either. There are many other sources of distraction that take a driver's attention away from the task of driving. Anything that takes your hands off the wheel or your mind off of the task can be distracting as well.

The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has a stake in this as well. It’s Traffic Safety Committee contributes the following advice: "Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue in our province – it's the number one cause of crashes. Police officers see distracted drivers on the roads in every community. We are stepping up efforts making sure people leave their phones alone while driving."

To round out the message, remember your first ticket for improper use of an electronic device while driving will cost you a $368 fine and $252 for the four penalty points. Do it again within one year (about 1,335 of us do) and you are looking at a bill for just over $2,500.

Police issued 27,113 tickets for the use of electronic devices by drivers while driving in 2021.

I often wonder whether these campaigns get through to the people who they are aimed at. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, they do make a difference. They:

• Reduced the number of road incidents by approximately 9%

• Increased seatbelt use by 25%

• Reduced speeding by 16%

• Increased yielding behaviour by 37%

• Increased risk comprehension by about 16%

However, they must be coupled with legislation, enforcement and education, which our government and ICBC tries to do.

There is also some indication that local, personally directed campaigns show, by far, the biggest effect on road accidents.

So, thank you for reading this. Hopefully you take something away from this and that results in a reduction of your crash risk.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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