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Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

Behind the Wheel - Are You Driving a Snowdrift?

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[i]Now that the snow has arrived I've noticed so many drivers who don't clean off their vehicles. The wiper blade is the only cleaning tool used before driving and frankly that's a collision waiting to happen. Then there are the vehicles behind them who get the blowing snow off the roof and trunk of the vehicle. Oh, did I mention the back window hasn't been cleared either? Why someone would do something so stupid is beyond me.[/i]

This reader raises an issue that is often answered with the assertion that "I'm only going a couple of blocks" or "I don't have time!" Of course, neither of these answers can justify the selfish decision made by those drivers to impair either their own safety or the safety of other road users around them for the sake of staying warm and saving a few minutes of their time. If one of these drivers was struck by another who followed the same rule of thumb I suspect that this practice would not be acceptable to the driver that was hit!

There are three issues to be dealt with here. The first is that a driver must not move their vehicle unless their view to the front and sides is unimpaired. This means that the windshield and front side windows must be clear of ice and snow and defogged. Expect to be ticketed and directed to park until you comply should you choose not to do this.

Behind the Wheel - If You Can't See, You Can't Go!

A reader writes to me describing an intersection where collisions occur regularly, some resulting in fatalities. He has observed that the opposing left turn lanes in one direction don't line up directly across from each other but are offset by a few feet. The result is that through traffic in one direction is more obscured by standing vehicles than it is in the other. To complicate matters, one direction has a protected left turn signal and the other direction does not.

The reader is sure that this highway design has contributed to collisions at the intersection and he wants to do something about it. He has written to the Ministry of Transportation suggesting that the lanes be repainted so that they line up directly across from each other. The Ministry has declined to do this stating that they would rather wait for the funding to install a protected turn arrow for the other direction.

Ideally, both should be done in the reader's view and he was seeking advice on who to contact to try and effect the changes. He suggested ICBC and I would add the local MLA and city council to the list of people to try and influence. It would not be out of the question to have a service club fund an engineering report to support the request. I expect that could be accomplished without too much expense.

Behind the Wheel - Are You a Courteous Driver?

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'Tis the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward man, that is until you hit the highway. Here it seems to range anywhere from "I get mine first" to "Oh, I didn't realize that I could have done that to make it easier for someone else." If one thread runs through many of the column requests I receive it is one of courtesy and how no one seems to exercise it very often when they are behind the wheel.

It's really the little things that count, like moving over to the fast lane when there is room to allow others to enter a busy highway, slowing down to allow another to find an address without feeling pressured or for that slow driver to pull over and allow you to pass before they resume their house number search. Think how you would feel if someone did this for you, and then give that feeling back. It only costs seconds.

Behind the Wheel - What Does a Traffic Cop Do?

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that most people see a traffic cop as someone who writes speeding tickets and fills out collision reports. This is a very narrow view of the job but I did not realize just how narrow it was until I participated in a project to define my job as a front line RCMP traffic constable. Who would have thought that this would take us three days?

Six experienced traffic constables from the four western provinces met at K Division Headquarters in Edmonton and were led in a functional job analysis by Dr. James McGinnis of the Research Branch of Human Resources Directorate of the RCMP. We brainstormed together, trying to list all of the different tasks that we were expected to perform and the knowledge that we required to do them.

The meeting room walls were soon covered with sheets of paper, each listing a single task description. Writing traffic tickets was part of the description, but only after skills and knowledge were applied to determine that the tickets were being written in the right place for the right reasons in order to reduce the behaviours that led to collisions. Incidentally, familiarity with all of the federal and provincial traffic related statutes was a must as well.

Mistaking the Gas for the Brake

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How can a driver mistake the gas for the brake? I could not rationalize this explanation after reading another news story where a senior in a parking lot had driven into a building with significant force. Surely the driver must have known that this was going to happen and could have prevented it.

Making a Driving Complaint

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Do you ever find yourself wishing that the police were there when another driver does something dangerous around you in traffic? Should you just carry on or is it worth becoming involved? It is up to you to make that initial decision.

Behind the Wheel - Speed from Skidmarks

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Tire marks left on the pavement at a collision scene tell the investigator many things about the events involved in a motor vehicle collision. One of the more interesting involves the calculation of pre-collision speed. Even more interesting was the opportunity to teach it to a class of physics students at a Qualicum Beach high school.

My supervisor and I started the class by deriving the slide to stop formula from the basic equations the students were learning. Simply put, the speed of the vehicle is equal to 15.9 times the square root of the skid distance multiplied by the coefficient of friction for the road surface. This applies to a level surface and will work for both ABS and non-ABS braking systems.

Next we went to the parking lot where I readied the shot marker on my police vehicle and had one student sit in the passenger seat to verify the speed by watching the radar display. After reaching 50 km/h I braked to create the skid and the shot marker fired a piece of blackboard chalk onto the ground when the brakes were applied. By measuring the distance from the chalk mark to the shot marker at the other end, the exact skid distance was known.

Behind the Wheel - Tie a Yellow Ribbon

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When winter weather turned bad suddenly I would often find my shift was a busy one, driving from vehicle to vehicle in the ditch at the side of the road. Of course, we were obligated to check collisions and insure that no one was hurt but in this situation manpower often did not match the number of incidents reported. The situation was made worse by repeated reports of the same vehicle with a different description and location.

12 Hour Suspensions

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Last week's column looked at the 24 hour prohibition from driving for all drivers who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 50 mg% or higher and were either the driver of or who had care and control of a vehicle on a highway or industrial road. This week we'll look at a special suspension that applies to drivers who are in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP). These drivers are subject to a condition of their license that prohibits them from having alcohol in their body while they are driving or in care and control.

24 Hour Prohibitions

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24 Hour Prohibitions

Could you please explain a 24-hour suspension of driving privileges? What exactly does this mean?


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