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Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

Left Turn Into the Wrong Lane

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I've noticed a new way to do left turns onto a busy four lane highway near my home. You stop at the stop sign on the side road, look both ways, then turn left, head on into the left turn lane on the highway. Once there, you check behind and move right into the fast lane if there is room. If not, you stop and wait until there is room to proceed.

This does make life exciting if there is oncoming traffic wanting to use their left turn lane but it helps avoid the highway traffic that rarely slows to the posted 60 km/h limit. I've often thought that selfish drivers on the highway can't see a reason to slow from 90 until they are trying to enter the highway from a side road here. The trouble is, they don't seem to remember that difficulty when the duty is to slow for other drivers.

When the driver on the side road stops and yields to traffic on the highway close enough to be a hazard, the rules then allow them to proceed with caution. Traffic on the highway must now yield and let the driver enter. Never rely on right of way in this situation as it is unlikely that traffic on the highway will yield.

Don't make a practice of this new method of turning left. It's illegal! One must always make the turn to arrive in the first available lane to the right of the center line before you leave the intersection.

Are Speed Reader Displays Effective?

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Dynamic speed display signs are popping up beside B.C.'s Highways. They display the speed of passing vehicles above a sign showing the posted speed limit. Are these signs useful in persuading drivers to keep to the limit and if so, how effective are they?

According to a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Highway Safety Engineer "These displays have shown effectiveness at reducing overall vehicle speeds shortly following installation. However, the effectiveness of speed reader boards is limited and decreases shortly after drivers pass the board. Longer term effectiveness has not yet been determined." Some studies have shown continuing effectiveness, while others show that success varies. In any case, combining the signs with law enforcement produce the best result.

An example is the sign on the Trans Canada Highway south of Nanaimo that precedes an intersection in an 80 km/h zone with a recurring collision problem. Prior to the installation of a speed reader board the 85th% speed was 96 km/h. Six months after installation, a before/after speed data comparison was carried out and indicated an 85th% speed of 90 km/h. In addition, the data showed that 53% of drivers were travelling less than the posted speed limit.

Increasing Speed While Being Passed

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Passing zones always presented interesting situations for traffic enforcement. There were many times when I would find one driver in the right lane traveling at or near the speed limit and another passing by in the left at a speed significantly in excess of the speed limit. On stopping the speeder I would often hear about how they had been forced to travel behind the slower vehicle, which had been going well under the limit, for great distances and how that slow driver sped up on reaching the passing lane.

My difficulty was that the passing lanes were good opportunities to travel at the speed limit compared to the highway leading up to them. Experience had taught me that if I applied my speed "allowance" for drivers over the limit to those under the limit and watched the advisory speed signs, speeders were a dime a dozen and truly slow drivers were like hen's teeth.

"Isn't there a law about increasing your speed while being passed?" I was often asked. Yes there is. Except where passing on the right is allowed, a driver being passed must not increase their speed until they are completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Your Driver's License Isn't Yours

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Regardless of the fact that I paid $75 to renew my driver's license, it isn't mine. In fact, it states on the back of the license that "This card remains the property of the issuing agency and must be surrendered upon request." If that request is made or the law requires its return there is no refund of fees and you must give it back.

There are three circumstances where ICBC may request that the license be returned to them. The first is where a person owes a motor vehicle related debt to ICBC, was dishonest in supplying information to obtain the license or owes certain fines or monetary penalties to the Government of B.C. This situation will result in the cancellation of the license and a demand for its return.

The second is where a person cannot find their driver's license and has obtained a duplicate copy of the original license. If the original is subsequently found, the original must be returned to ICBC immediately. Once found, it is also an offence to use the original license in place of the duplicate.

Finally, when a driver is prohibited or suspended from driving, they must immediately surrender the license when notified of the prohibition or suspension.

Eco Driving

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I almost always check the price of gasoline when I pull onto the highway headed for work each day. An increase in the numbers usually brings a groan and starts me thinking about how to use less. The way I drive my little truck can have a significant influence on how much fuel it uses.

Everyone knows that the faster you go, the more fuel your vehicle uses. In general, the sweet spot seems to end at 90 km/h and climbs rapidly from there. So, cruising at 90 if the limit allows will make more efficient use of that fuel if you keep your speed steady at that rate.

Defective Vehicles

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What do you do with a pickup that has only one operating light, a high beam headlight, being driven at night between towns? How about another being driven in the rain with wipers being operated by the passenger who was pushing and pulling on a rope with one end tied to each wiper and run through the passenger compartment via the vent windows? One driver even put black tape over the warning light that would have led him to discover no brake fluid in one reservoir of his master cylinder if he had investigated it.

These examples are just a few of many that I ran into over the course of my career in traffic law enforcement. It's glaringly obvious that these drivers chose to put other road users at risk. What might be less obvious is the dilemma I was in. Now that I had found them I was obligated to do something about it or I would risk liability myself if I were to let them continue.

Once your vehicle is no longer properly equipped for use on the highway you are obligated to remove it immediately. In order to take it to repair you would call a tow truck or other vehicle capable of moving the vehicle safely such as a deck truck. This is the only legal way to move a defective vehicle on the highway.

Corrective Lenses

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When I worked in traffic law enforcement it was standard procedure for me to scan the rear of every driver's license that I examined. Often I would find the restriction 21, corrective lenses required printed there. If the person was not wearing glasses I would look carefully at their eyes to see if I could see contact lenses. If they were there, I could see them most of the time.

When I could not see either glasses or contact lenses it was time to ask and there were usually one of two responses. The first was that they had undergone laser eye surgery and didn't need them anymore or something along the lines of "I've forgotten them." The onus was now on me, what to do? Is this driver able to see well enough to continue or did I need to intervene. The restriction would not have been placed on the license if there wasn't a good reason for it.

If you have had corrective eye surgery, it is up to you to go to a driver service center and take the necessary steps to have the restriction removed from your license. Failing to do that means that you are leaving your fate at the roadside in the hands of the enforcement officer. You do the same thing having decided to leave your driveway without taking needed glasses or contact lenses with you.

Daylight Saving Time and Driver Fatigue

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Spring ahead this weekend as Daylight Saving Time begins for another year. However, watch out for a lack of spring in your step as you drive to work on Monday morning. The crash rate then is 23% higher than the crash rate of the preceding Monday according to the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation.

Is this due to sleep disturbance caused by the disruption of your normal sleep pattern because of the time change? Something must have happened, but a study by researchers of the RAND Corporation says that in the short run daylight saving time has no significant detrimental effect on automobile crashes. In fact, the long term effect shows a significant decrease in risk for vehicle occupants and pedestrians that coincides with the spring time change.

Fatigue, however it is caused, is a significant risk factor in BC collisions. The last report on collision statistics published by ICBC shows 395 injury and 16 fatal crashes attributed to falling asleep at the wheel. I suspect that the true numbers are probably higher than the report shows.

Revise our new Impaired Driving Program?

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Our new impaired driving penalties appear to be getting the word out: drinking and driving is not acceptable here in B.C. If you do and are caught, it will be a long road to travel in order to restore your driving privileges. So be it, you knew that there could be consequences when you turned the key.

Yes, this is hurting the alcoholic beverage industry. Restaurants and pubs are suffering from a significant loss in business as people are either staying home to do their drinking or are choosing to have only one drink with a meal or even not having an alcoholic drink at all. I'm sorry that you are hurting, but I would not for a minute lower the legislated blood alcohol or penalty levels.

The provincial government, as it should, looked at how the legislation was working and decided to review it. If I understand the news coverage correctly, the Solicitor General plans to expand the review process for drivers who made a mistake to insure that they have been dealt with fairly. Since the courts do not become involved in the first instance, this is a reasonable action to take.

Using Documents in Traffic Court

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A gentleman that I watched in traffic court was determined to present his defense as thoroughly as possible. He had a manual with him and a collection of about a dozen pictures that he wanted to use to prove his point. Supporting your testimony with illustration is often a good way to show what is difficult to describe with words.

He flipped through his manual and spoke about what it said inside, referring to diagrams that he felt were important. He also placed the photographs in front of himself and described what he wanted the court to understand from what they depicted. It was obvious that he had taken time to research and prepare.

The justice stopped the man at this point in his testimony with the observation that it was very difficult for him to see what was being illustrated. Without being able to see, he could not take the material into account as evidence. The defense came to a halt.

This gentleman should have arrived in court with three copies of the material he wanted to use to show his point. It is not mandatory, but the information could have been organized into a booklet, highlighted and labeled. Copies go to the justice, the prosecution and the man needed one for himself to refer to. Had the gentleman done this, everyone would have been able to see and refer to his information easily.


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