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Behind-the-Wheel

Making bad drivers pay

Last week, we looked at how we might define a bad driver. Views were varied, but there were two well thought out responses that did more than just express an opinion.

This week, let's look at how bad drivers pay for the risk that they present to others using our highways.

At the top of the list is the Criminal Code of Canada. Part 8 deals with offences against the person and reputation.

Here we find homicide, criminal negligence and motor vehicles, vessels and aircraft. These are reserved for the worst of the worst offenders and convictions may result in significant fines and/or time in jail.

Our Motor Vehicle Act and its associated Regulations create the framework of rules that we are supposed to follow when we drive. Disobey one of these and you might receive a violation ticket with a prescribed fine.

The fine amount should reflect the seriousness of the offence, the more dangerous the act, the higher the fine.

There are some problems with this system. First among them is that the fine may be a life-altering penalty for those with no financial means and the bite of a gnat for those with significant resources.

Yes, the court system exists to reduce the penalties to be fairer in the circumstances, but in my experience, those of limited means seldom take advantage of it. Also, there is no provision to increase the fine beyond the prescribed fine in traffic court.

Some countries use a day-fine system where the penalty is based on the offender’s daily income level to make the penalty more appropriate.

If the circumstances are out of the ordinary, but do not call for criminal sanctions, the offending driver may be served with an appearance notice instead of a violation ticket.

A provincial court judge will hear the case and may apply a variety of penalties on conviction. These may range from probation orders to fines, prohibitions from driving and jail sentences.

The second problem that comes to mind is the high threshold for sanction of experienced bad drivers in the Driver Improvement Program.

Additions to the penalty system include the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program (IRP) for alcohol and drug impaired drivers and the Vehicle Impoundment Program for the IRP, excessive speeding, driving while unlicensed, prohibited or suspended, stunting and not being seated properly on a motorcycle.

The Driver Penalty Point Premium is based on driving convictions and paid to ICBC each year. The more penalty points you are assigned, the more you pay.

This part of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is overdue for revision. A red light conviction is two points, as is parking next to a yellow curb if you are ticketed for disobeying a traffic control device.

The Driver Risk Premium is meant to penalize drivers who have shown that they present a significant danger others through a driving related Criminal Code conviction, a 10-penalty point violation, excessive speeding or a distracted driving conviction.

If you are an at fault driver in a collision, you will either lose your safe-driving insurance discount or the possibility of forgiveness should you experience another at fault collision.

Finally, the courts, RoadSafetyBC in Part 2 or the roadside prohibition requirements of Part 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act serve to remove driving privileges entirely as a penalty.

This is quite an array of possibilities, isn't it? With all of this in place, one wonders why there is still so much bad driving behaviour on our roads.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/making-bad-drivers-pay

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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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