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Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

A Good Idea for the On Ramp

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I've always wondered about the driver in the far left lane as I used the on ramp to enter a freeway. Would they change lanes to the right while I was trying to join the flow of fast moving traffic by moving into the same lane from the left? Not everyone bothers to signal their lane changes and having to move out of the lane before it ends adds to my complications.

A solution that I like is in use in the province of Quebec. The leftmost lane on the autoroute is marked with a combination broken and solid white line for the length of the on ramp. The solid line on the left side of the broken line prevents drivers in the fast lane from moving to the right but still allows drivers in the slow lane to move over and make room if they wish to do so.

The system works when drivers follow the rules, removing one complication from the equation of joining the traffic flow for the merging driver.

Of course, a defensive driver would consider the possibility and scan for those who don't follow the rules but the job could be made simpler through the use of a small amount of white paint. This would not be a significant expense in comparison to other highway improvements aimed at reducing conflict and collisions. It would also be simple to implement in the course of repainting the lines each year.

Watch Out For Number Two!

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I am guessing that most people see the code 3 operation of an emergency vehicle as something that would be exciting or thrilling. From my own experience I can say that this feeling quickly wears off and a sense of responsibility settles in. The lights and siren provide no protection for you or anyone else on the highways and the speeds involved expose us all to danger.

Two of my close colleagues have had serious crashes while operating police vehicles in this fashion. One was chasing a speeder and had another vehicle change lanes in front of him so closely that he could not avoid rear ending it. The other was responding  to an incident involving firearms. He was vehicle two in a convoy where a driver pulled over for the first police vehicle and then either failed to look or failed to see and moved back onto the highway at the instant he tried to pass by.

The latter was the case here on Vancouver Island this past week. The driver of the car that pulled out in front of the second police vehicle was not as fortunate as the two incidents I describe. She has since succumbed to the injuries that she suffered in the crash.

Is Hitch Hiking Illegal?

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I saw a hitch hiker this morning sitting with his back against the left turn signal post on the traffic island adjacent to a left turn lane. He was holding a destination sign and was in a perfect position to talk to drivers who were waiting for the signal to change. The duration of the signal was such that he had plenty of time to hop in if he was able to convince someone to give him a ride.

He had neatly circumvented the rule against being on the roadway to solicit a ride because the raised traffic island is not designed for or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic. I suspect that he was also attracting more attention as he was not standing on the right shoulder of the highway where most drivers would expect to see him. Do you think that he caught a ride quicker than hitch hiking using the "conventional" method?

This also brought to mind what are known as "Schedule 1 Highways" or what would be more commonly known as a freeway. Due to the risk of collision, both hitch hiking and stopping to pick up a hitch hiker is illegal here. In fact, it is illegal to be a pedestrian on this type of highway unless you are attending to a broken down vehicle or a sign permits pedestrians on the shoulder.

Farm Tractor Licensing

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Most motor vehicles need a licensed driver, a license and license plate and insurance in order to be operated on a highway. This is not always the case with a farm tractor or other motorized implement of husbandry. The driver may not need a license or license plates depending on how the vehicle is used.

Farm implements operated on a highway must be insured. Generally, an unlicenced farm tractor policy on ICBC's form APV49 is what is used. Unlike your car or truck, a copy of the certificate of insurance is not required to be carried nor produced to the police on their demand.

To operate without licences, an implement of husbandry must be operated between parts of the same farm and must be used either unladen or to carry farm related goods. The driver must not be younger than 15. Any other use requires appropriate licensing.

Regardless of the fact that a driver's license may not be required, if you are prohibited from driving under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code you are also prohibited from driving an implement of husbandry on a highway. Failure to heed this will result in the impoundment of the farm vehicle in the same manner as any other type of vehicle driven on a highway by a prohibited driver.

Producing Information After a Collision

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Are we required to carry insurance papers within the car at all times? I'm helping a friend ask this as she was involved in a slight accident and the other party didn't have the insurance papers with her.

This short question actually has a two part answer. The first deals with which documents a driver is required to carry and the second concerns the information that they are required to produce when they are involved in an accident on a highway.

The drivers of all vehicles in BC must carry three documents with them and produce them on demand of the police. They are a driver's license, the vehicle license and the vehicle insurance document. As you will see, this can be especially important if you are not the vehicle's owner and are involved in a collision.

If another driver involved or a witness to the crash requests it, you must produce in writing the following particulars: your name and address, the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle, the licence number of the vehicle, and particulars of the motor vehicle liability insurance card or financial responsibility card for that vehicle or such of that information as is requested.

Modulating Motorcycle Headlights

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Conspicuity is an important word in any motorcycle rider's vocabulary. Being seen by other road users is a must to avoid being involved in a collision. One method of increasing a motorcycle's conspicuity is through the use of a modulating headlamp.

In British Columbia either the low beam or the high beam headlight may be modulated, but not both. Since the modulator may only be in operation during daylight hours and high beams must be dimmed when approaching or overtaking other traffic in daytime as well as nighttime, choosing to modulate the low beam headlamps may be the better choice.

Headlamp modulators must comply with section 5.6 of the Technical Standards Document No. 108, Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Canada). This permits a modulation frequency of 240 +/- 40 cycles per minute, requires full filament brightness for at least 50 to 70% of the cycle and a minimum brightness of at least 17% of the maximum brightness at any test point during the cycle. The modulator must include a sensor perpendicular to the highway that shuts off the system during darkness and the headlights must function normally if the modulator fails.

Too Much Exhaust Smoke

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Do all the bugs fall out of the sky, overcome by smoke, after your vehicle goes by? Being caught in traffic behind a vehicle belching clouds of foul smelling smoke is not a pleasant experience. Clean air should be everyone's worry, will your vehicle make the grade?

Police inspecting vehicle exhaust are guided by the standards for the approval of a motor vehicle contained in division 7 and division 29 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

Division 7 says that the engine and exhaust system of every vehicle shall be equipped and adjusted to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke as compared to other motor vehicles of the same or similar types and sizes.

Division 29 sets standards for manufacturers of vehicles with respect to exhaust emissions and requires that any vehicle (other than a motorcycle and certain other vehicles) produced on or after January 1, 1971 must have a system or device installed that complies with the requirements of the division. In particular, 29.02 and 29.03 create an offence if the required system is not properly functional or has been removed.

Yield Signs

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Some drivers don't seem to realize that a yield sign requires them to do something laments a reader. They zoom right by and force their way into traffic as if the sign wasn't even there. Don't they realize that they can't do this?

The Motor Vehicle Act is very definite about what a driver must do. It says that if two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there is a yield sign, the driver of a vehicle facing the sign must yield the right of way to all other traffic.

Your Ability to Drive is Affected Before Your BAC Reaches .08

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There is a lot of rhetoric attached to recent articles on the proposed changes to BC's Motor Vehicle Act to more heavily penalize those of us who choose to drink and drive. Browse to any major BC media internet site and read some of the comments left by those who have failed to educate themselves before publicly expressing their opinion. They run the gamut from business failure in the alcohol retail sector to the lament that one would no longer be able to enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner taken outside the home.

I'm sorry people, but your ignorance is showing. Before you do run afoul of the new rules, should they pass into law this autumn, maybe you should do some learning. If you cannot or will not, then perhaps the best answer for you is that if you drink, don't drive and if you drive, don't drink.

80 mg% (.08) is the criminal limit in Canada. If you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over this level you are impaired and subject to criminal charge.

50 mg% (.05) is the Motor Vehicle Act limit in British Columbia. If you drive with a BAC over this level you present a significant risk to yourself and other road users. These laws will be used to remove you and your vehicle from the highway as a safeguard and apply a penalty to discourage you from doing it again.

Operating a Dangerous Machine

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Imagine if you will a machine that almost anyone can buy and operate. You read the training manual, practice it's use under the supervision of someone who is also a user and has some proficiency of it's operation. Finally, you take a test to see if you too have basic proficiency in it's operation. If you pass, the supervisor lets you use the machine with minimal oversight as you see fit.

Over time, the machine is upgraded with new functions and capabilities. The circumstances that you use it in also change gradually. More machines are present in the area where you work and others use them to do more work more quickly.

Some safety rules are developed for your protection, but they are not always fully communicated to you so that you learn them. In fact, you are allowed to make mistakes or deliberately misuse the machine with only minimal consequences. If you really mess up or make a large number of mistakes you may have to quit using the machine for a while. You don't lose your job or even have to upgrade your skills.

These machines kill one person a day and injure hundreds of others. No one gets too upset unless these people are friends or family, after all, the costs for this are spread over us all and we pay an amount for it each year regardless of whether we cause the problem or not.


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