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Right hand drive in a left hand drive world

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Would you kindly comment on the spate of right-hand-drive (RHD) vehicles that have appeared in B.C. recently? I have always been under the impression that imported vehicles had either to meet, or be modified to meet, Canadian standards before being licensed in Canada. As far as I know this requirement applies to such relatively inconsequential matters as metric instrumentation, running lights and high central rear brake light. Surely the fact that a vehicle has its controls on the side opposite what is standard in Canada cannot be considered less consequential than these other matters.
 
This reader is correct. A 2007 study by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia found that drivers of RHD vehicles used here in B.C. are more than 40% more likely to be involved in a crash than those using "normal" left hand drive (LHD) vehicles. The risk appears to extend for the long term rather than being reduced by the driver becoming more familiar with using a right hand drive vehicle in a left hand drive environment.
 
Similar studies conducted in Britain where LHD vehicles regularly mix with RHD vehicles from the continent showed the same indications. Collisions appeared to be most common in turning, passing and lane changing situations. It is surmised that the increased risk of collision is a consequence of the reduced direct field of view for drivers to the side and rear that is more easily viewed by the majority.
 
Fortunately, the crash protection properties of RHD vehicles is the same as their LHD counterparts.
 
The federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act exempts imported vehicles more than 15 years old from the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. In view of the fact that about 200 of these RHD vehicles are imported into B.C. each month there is increased risk for all road users. Transport Canada has been requested by the provinces and territories to review this exemption although it does not seem that a decision in either favour is being made. If you wish to comment, you may send an email to Transport Canada; see http://www.tc.gc.ca/roadsafety/importation/15yearrule.htm
 
 
Tim Schewe is a retired RCMP constable with 25 years of service in traffic and as a collision analyst. To see more of Tim’s writing on traffic law see http://www.drivesmartbc.ca