Failing to remain at scene of an accident could cost you a lot

Don't leave accident scene

Failing to remain at the scene of an accident, or a hit and run as it is more commonly known, is without a doubt a daily occurrence in British Columbia.

We all know we are doing something seriously wrong when we hit a cyclist, pedestrian or other vehicle on the highway and leave the scene to escape civil and criminal liability. However, we're not quite so worried when the collision is a scrape or a dent in a parking lot or something else we can convince ourselves is of a minor nature.

Ask anyone who has had to deal with their insurance company after they have suffered a hit and run collision and they will tell you how much it cost them in time and money to make a claim and have their vehicle repaired. In some cases the frustration is so high that maybe it is a good thing the offending driver was never found.

The victim's lot is always easier if the offending driver remains and takes responsibility for their actions. Many victims are unaware they must exercise due diligence to locate and identify the offending driver or vehicle or they could be denied insurance coverage.

Any collision that causes damage, injury or death to others resulting from the operation of your vehicle requires you to immediately return to the scene, provide all reasonable assistance and produce, in writing, the identity of the owner of the offending vehicle, the license plate number and insurance particulars of that vehicle.

That a requirement, even in the face of personal risk, as the court case R. v Griffith shows.

In the case of a collision with an unattended vehicle, the driver must take reasonable steps to locate the owner, driver or person in charge and notify them. If that person cannot be located, it is sufficient to leave this information outlined above in writing in or on the vehicle.

It is required you take reasonable steps to locate and notify, in writing, either the owner or the person in charge of the property. Failing to do that within 14 days of the collision may result in denial of any coverage. It may not be necessary to make a claim, but the notification will avoid problems if that changes later on.

The offending driver could be charged under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act for their actions.

Criminal Code charges are usually used for collisions where serious harm results and convictions may include a prison term. Convictions under the Criminal Code for driving offences all result in the assessment of 10 penalty points.

The middle ground would be a mandatory appearance in provincial court for the Motor Vehicle Act offence.

A traffic ticket could be issued with a monetary penalty of $368 when the crash does not involve an unattended vehicle or property only. Otherwise, the ticketed amount is $196.

These offences carry three penalty points.

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


A yellow traffic light means stop

Obeying traffic signal lights

Believe it or not, in British Columbia a yellow traffic light tells you that you must stop before you enter the intersection.

Yes, I know there is one caveat to that statement, and it is "unless the stop cannot be made in safety." The onus is on the driver who does not stop for the yellow light to show that it was unsafe if they are involved in court proceedings because of their decision.

Is anyone able to tell me what a “stale” green light is? That's right, it's a traffic signal that will soon be turning from green to yellow. An example of a stale green light would be one that you have not seen turn green, so you don't know how long it has been that way, one that has a solid red hand "don't walk" signal facing the same direction of travel or perhaps the cross street has many vehicles waiting for the red.

The proper response when approaching a stale green light is to shadow the brake pedal. This means lifting your foot off of the accelerator and hovering it over the the brake. If a stop is needed, you are already almost there as you are beginning to slow and ready to brake.

A defensive driver knows about the traffic behind them when they drive. They actively adjust their position and speed to take into account poor driving behaviours shown by those around them. These actions minimize the hazard of being rear ended when stopping for a traffic signal.

A bad habit exhibited by many drivers that increases risk is the race to the traffic light. Speed is maintained until the last moment and then the brakes are applied. If the driver behind is not paying attention a collision may result. Beginning to slow in anticipation of the change is a safer choice to make.

Advance warning lights preceding some intersections are timed to allow a driver facing them to come to a safe stop for the pending signal change.

A traffic ticket for failing to stop for a yellow light will cost $167 and two penalty points.

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

Lights and reflectors required to trailers can be seen

The right trailer lights

Nine lamps and six reflectors are the minimum required by law to be installed and functional on your trailer.

If the trailer is not a small one, the number grows rapidly to stay in compliance depending on its length and width. And not just any lamp or reflector will do either, they all must be the right device for the right place and comply with standards.

Manufacturers of trailers must comply with the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations. Transport Canada publishes a guide to light and reflector requirements for trailers that shows where these items must be located and which compliance markings they are required to show.

Should you choose to build your own trailer, you will have to comply with Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Those regulations hold you to the same set of standards as the commercial manufacturers.

The police and designated inspection facilities enforce the rules after construction is completed and the trailers are used on our highways.

The minimum consists of yellow side marker lights and reflectors at each side of the front, red side marker lamps and reflectors at each side of the rear, red stop lamps, tail lamps and reflectors at both sides facing the rear and finally a white license plate lamp.

All these devices are marked according to standards identifying them as acceptable for their purpose and may or may not be combined in the same unit.

If your trailer is more than 2.05 metres (80 inches) in width or 9.1 metres (30 feet) in length, additional lamps will be required. These generally consist of intermediate side marker lamps, clearance lamps and identification lamps, depending on which dimensions are exceeded.

Conspicuous markings, in the form of reflective tape, will be required for trailers over 2.05 meters in width and having a GVWR more than 4,356 kilograms (10,000 pounds).

When I started policing in the 1980s, trailers that were narrow enough to not obscure the lights on the vehicle pulling it were not required to have brake lights. This has not been the case for many years and all lights and reflectors are required, even for narrow trailers.

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

What is a 'regular' school day when driving in a school zone?

Driving in school zones

A reader remarked that the term "school days," in relation to school zone signs, is becoming more and more ambiguous.

The Motor Vehicle Act merely refers to “a person driving a vehicle on a regular school day" and I no longer know what a regular school day is, particularly since I don't have kids in school and when I am in an unfamiliar area of the province.

For example, some school districts take a two-week spring break, others only one. Some schools are going with shorter summer vacations and what about ProD days? Some private schools have different schedules. It used to be much more uniform date-wise.

Perhaps a change to school zone signs to display flashing lights on school days and reading 30 km/hr when lights flashing.

These could be programmable so human error in forgetting to turn on the sign could be reduced.

According to the Motor Vehicle Act, under schools and playgrounds:

147 (1) A person driving a vehicle on a regular school day and on a highway where signs are displayed stating a speed limit of 30 km/h, or on which the numerals "30" are prominently shown, must drive at a rate of speed not exceeding 30 km/h while approaching or passing the school building and school grounds to which the signs relate, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or subject to subsection

(1.1), between any extended times that are stated on the signs. (1.1) Extended times under subsection (1) may not begin later than 8 a.m. or end earlier than 5 p.m.

The courts have decided a regular school day is any day the school calendar says school is in session. Those include Pro D days. That used to be relatively simple as the province set the school calendar. It was available online and it applied to all schools in BC. Some time ago, that authority was delegated to individual school districts and can now vary across the province.

School districts publish their calendars on line. To find one, simply search the school district number and the words school calendar.

It is safe to say, if you drive through a school zone between the beginning of September and the end of June—not on a Saturday, Sunday or statutory holiday—it would be best to follow the instructions on the school zone sign unless you are certain of the school calendar for that area.

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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