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Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

Forestry TruckSafe Takes Responsibility

Research articles : 

Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of driving is taking responsibility for your actions when you drive your vehicle or your employer's vehicle. We tend to sit anonymously in the confines of the passenger compartment and not feel obligated to exercise our social manners toward the other unfamiliar drivers around us. Imagine identifying yourself to everyone and publicly taking accountability for your actions and those of your employees.

This is exactly what the Forestry TruckSafe's Vehicle Identification Number Program does. Companies or individuals that join the program, and there were about 5000 vehicles registered as of last December, register and display identification number plates on the front bumper of their vehicles. The plate shows the company name on top and the vehicle number in large numbers underneath.

If the driver misbehaves one can call 877-324-1212 and report the vehicle to TruckSafe. They will take your complaint to the identification number holder on your behalf if you wish. If you would rather look after it yourself, there is a search form on the Forestry TruckSafe web site that will translate the identification number to a company representative's name and telephone number.

Vehicle Impound

Research articles : 

Taking your neighbour's request at face value turned out to be an expensive lesson for Jessica. She had loaned her vehicle to a neighbour and somewhere along the journey the neighbour met up with the police. The neighbour was a vehicle impound candidate because they didn't have a valid driver's license and Jessica was now faced with making an application to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to attempt to have her vehicle returned to her before the end of the impoundment period.

The neighbour was well aware that they were unlicensed because vehicle impoundment does not occur until after the person is convicted of driving without a driver's license and they don't bother to renew.

The officer who stopped the driver was left without a choice because the legislation requires that the impoundment take place.

Discretion may be exercised by the Superintendent who can decide to return the vehicle to the owner before the end of the impoundment period. Stolen vehicles, errors by police or ICBC regarding a driver's status as an impound candidate, or the exercise of due diligence by the owner in loaning the vehicle may be considered. In order to trigger a review, Jessica will be required to pay a fee and complete a document explaining her reasoning.

Trailer Light and Reflector Requirements

Research articles : 

Nine lamps and six reflectors are the minimum required by law to be installed and functional on your trailer. If that trailer is not a small one, the number grows rapidly to stay in compliance depending on its length and width. 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 requirements set out in the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations. Should you choose to build your own trailer, you will have to comply with the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Ultimately, both hold the builder to the same set of standards and the police enforce them after construction is completed and the trailers are in use 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 of 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.

What is a Traffic Control Device?

Research articles : 

Amid the chaos of a collision scene this afternoon came a call over the police radio: "grab that vehicle, it just drove around the cones and into oncoming traffic!" Not only did the emergency workers have to deal with a two vehicle collision in an intersection full of emergency vehicles, they also had to contend with drivers who were going through no matter what. The line of cones blocking the lane might not have been seen as something the driver needed to take meaning from in this situation.

A traffic control device can be many things including: a sign, signal, line, meter, marking, space, barrier or device. In this case, the cones would be considered a device and when placed across the lane are a traffic control device that bars traffic from proceeding. Failing to obey them may place yourself or others at risk and could result in the issue of a violation ticket.

This is a very narrow view of the huge number of traffic control devices that we encounter when we drive every day. Signs are self evident, but it sometimes seems that the message conveyed by the type of line painted on the roadway, arrows painted on the roadway or lights, signs and barriers in a construction zone or collision scene are either confusing for some drivers or convenient to disobey as it suits others.

Parallel Parking and the Impatient Driver

Research articles : 

I've noticed recently that often drivers are impatient of people parallel parking and pass them on the left rather than waiting in the right hand lane for the driver to finish parking before moving forward. In the event of a collision who is at fault - the person parallel parking or the person trying to go around the parallel parking car?

This question turned out to be more involved when I corresponded with the person asking it and learned about what had prompted the query. She had found a place to parallel park, stopped in position to back in, signaled, made sure that the vehicle behind had stopped and began to back in. Like most of us, she concentrated on getting into the parking space properly and did not watch to see that the vehicle behind her remained stopped.

This was an important mistake. Somewhere in the parking attempt, the driver behind decided not to wait, pulled forward to pass and a minor collision occurred. Once the reporting was completed and the decisions made, ICBC decided that the driver backing up was at fault for the collision because she lost sight of the other vehicle while she was backing up. The original query was to try and determine if there were rules about passing that the other driver should have followed.

Everyone Must Wear Seatbelts

Research articles : 

Taxi drivers in British Columbia are exempt from wearing their seatbelts if they are travelling at less than 70 km/h. I have never understood why this exemption was necessary, particularly in light of the fact that doing so actually endangers their passengers. No one in a vehicle that I drive is exempt from wearing their seatbelt and I have been able to convince my taxi driver to follow suit.

My collision reconstruction experience made me well aware of what happens to people who fail to wear their seatbelts and are involved in a motor vehicle collision. I have seen front seats torn out of the floor by unbelted rear seat passengers as they faithfully followed Newton's first law of motion during a crash. These "backseat bullets" very likely contributed to the death of the passenger in the front seat in one case I investigated.

Similarly, during collisions that are not head on, unbelted vehicle occupants in any seating position become heavy projectiles capable of doing significant damage to themselves and others.

During collisions seat belts keep the driver behind the wheel and more likely to be in control of the vehicle post crash. They may still be able to steer and brake, perhaps keeping you out of a second crash in the oncoming lane or with roadside objects or other road users.

Red Means Stop, but not Always Stay

Research articles : 

There is a mid-block pedestrian controlled light in our neighborhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the cross walk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

This is correct if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would have to be a green signal.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

BC's Slow Down Move Over Law

Emergency workers are very happy with BC's new slow down, move over law that came into effect June 1, 2009. When they are stopped at the side of the highway and displaying flashing lights, red, blue or yellow, approaching traffic is required to slow down and move over. This will provide a safe workspace for the emergency workers and hopefully also for those who are driving past.

The slow down half of the law requires overtaking motorists to slow to 70 km/h on highways posted at 80 km/h and higher and to 40 km/h in all other speed zones. My guess is that when this speed is enforced, very little, if any, wiggle room will be allowed. If you choose not to slow down to at least match the limit if not a bit less, you choose to risk a ticket.

The move over portion requires that if it is safe to do so, you will move into the unoccupied adjacent lanes. This could mean the adjacent lane in the same direction if there are multiple lanes, or the oncoming lane if there are not. Remember, if you have to use the oncoming lane, you have no lawful excuse to encroach on it when there is oncoming traffic.

Approaching Lane Closures

There is probably nowhere that the unofficial rules of the road are "enforced" by other drivers like that of the lane closure line up. You know, the long line up of traffic that forms on one side of the highway after drivers pass the lane closed ahead advisory signs. Drive by in the empty lane and I've seen people open their doors or swerve partially into that lane to let other drivers know that they are supposed to be in the line up, not using the capacity in the empty lane to get ahead.

The trouble is, this is not the best way to behave when traffic approaching the lane closure is heavier than what can be accommodated by a single lane. What everyone should do is be aware that the lane ends ahead, continue with caution using both lanes, and at the end merge like the teeth in a zipper before proceeding through the zone single file. This will move 15% more traffic than the situation where everyone moves over and lines up when they start to see the signs. If we're lucky, this method will only slow us down, but not cause us to wait in a line that is virtually stopped.

If traffic is light and no line has formed, merging early is perfectly acceptable. Due to the lower volume, a backup will not form to cause delay.

Behind the Wheel - International Driving Permits

Research articles : 

Many people mistakenly call an International Driving Permit (IDP) an International Driver's License. Their belief is that the IDP allows them to drive here at home and abroad, perhaps even when they do not hold a valid driver's license or they are prohibited from driving. Unscrupulous businesses exist that will sell what they hold out as being a valid international driver's license for significant sums of money without requiring proof that the applicant is licensed at all.

An IDP is really nothing more than a translation of your current driver's license into other languages for the convenience of the authorities in other countries when you travel. The Canadian IDP is translated into ten languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Scandinavian and Portuguese.

The IDP must be presented along with your current valid driver's license when demanded. Like a passport, IDP's are in booklet form and include a photo of the driver, their name, date of birth, along with a description of the types of vehicles they are permitted to operate.

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