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It's the Highway's Fault!

I visited a Facebook page this morning that is the electronic start of a movement to improve the highway in an area of Vancouver Island that frequently sees major collisions. Dividing the highway, adding concrete barriers, prohibiting turns, reducing the speed limit, installing traffic lights and other similar suggestions make up the majority of the solutions put forward by concerned people whenever events like these occur. Is this enough to address the problem?

I once asked a Ministry of Transportation engineer if the best way to reduce collisions was to build a cattle chute that removed the need for drivers to make decisions. While I do agree that engineering improvements to our highways can result in collision reductions I know that they are not the full answer to our problems. We must also pay attention to the other two E's, enforcement and education.

Having spent 20 years in traffic enforcement full time, I know the scope of the job and have had the outlook of many drivers expressed to me, occasionally in very offensive terms. One that I still remember is that of a travelling salesperson who told me that a traffic ticket was just the cost of doing business. If he had to drive at the speed limit he wouldn't have time in his day to conduct that business. Clearly, the ticket that I was issuing to him at the time was no deterrent, but it was all I could do.

I've also wondered how difficult it would be to pass a current class 5 road test. The driver examiner I asked about it told me that few adult drivers would pass easily if they were called back for a re-examination. He also suggested that the exam was the minimum standard and that a current driver should be expected to perform at a higher level of skill than someone who was obtaining their first full privileged license. After all, look at the practice and experience they should have gained over the years.

For the most part, we are very fortunate to have the highways we do and the manner in which they are maintained. Since the majority of crashes are caused by driver error or outright disobedience, perhaps we should be calling for a little more enforcement and a lot more education. Until driver attitude improves significantly no amount of engineering improvements are likely to produce a significant reduction in B.C.'s crash statistics.

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