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Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

Trade Your Ticket for Driver Training

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"You don't care about safety! All you guys want to do is suck money out of my pocket!" Here was a speeder that was very definite in his opinion and not afraid to state it. He was wrong, I did care about safety, but my traffic cop toolbox didn't contain many officially sanctioned options for dealing with it.

Knowing that I was about to retire, I thought to myself "What are they going to do, fire me?" So I wrote the ticket and after I had served it I told the driver that I had a deal for him. Spend the cost of the ticket on himself at the driving school of his choice, bring me the receipt and I would run the ticket through the shredder.

He took the deal and returned to the detachment within a couple of weeks with the receipt. He said that he had learned that he was not shoulder checking properly, failed to turn out of and into the correct lane at intersections and wasn't coming to a proper stop at stop signs. I handed him all copies of the ticket and told him that he could do what he wished with them.

The Driver Improvement Program

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The Driver Improvement Program sounds like something designed to increase a driver's skills and make them a safer, more accomplished operator of a motor vehicle. That isn't the case however, it is the Superintendent of Motor Vehicle's way of telling you that you have too many violations and that a prohibition from driving is in your future. Other than hoping you heed the message and drive properly, that is the only "improvement" on offer.

A quick scan of the Policies and Guidelines will find that a driver in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) faces a warning letter, probation and the possibility of a 1 to 9 month prohibition if they receive between 2 and 6 penalty points in a two year period.

In contrast, an "adult" experienced driver faces a warning letter if they receive between 9 and 14 points in that time period. They will face probation and prohibition once they receive between 15 and 19 points. The only exception to this is if they are convicted of any combination of two of the following offences within a one year period: excessive speed, driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable consideration for others.

Night Driving Glasses

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I've had a couple of regular correspondents ask me recently about night driving glasses. These glasses have yellow lenses and are supposed to cut glare and increase contrast allowing you to see better in the darkness. After a bit of research, it appears that using these glasses is not a good idea.

"Yellow night driving lenses have been shown to provide no benefit in seeing ability at night (Richards 1964). They are even hazardous, because they give the driver a feeling of seeing better, which no one has yet been able to explain (Septon, 1968). Studies have shown that they actually impair visual performance and retard glare recovery." This quote is taken from the book Forensic Aspects of Vision and Highway Safety by Merrill J. Allen, O.D., Ph.D. and others.

I contacted the Canadian Association of Optometrists and asked about these glasses. The response was that wearing anything that cut down on the amount entering your eyes while driving at night was a bad thing to do. These glasses do that, without causing the reduction in speed needed to compensate for reduced vision.

Finally, older drivers are at particular risk if they chose to use yellow lenses at night. Their pupils do not dilate as well under low light conditions so their eyes cannot compensate properly for the loss of light, increasing the risk.

Preparing for Trial? Request Disclosure.

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I'm always amazed at the amount of poorly qualified or outright incorrect information on the web when I search for traffic enforcement related information. One popular topic that seems especially mistreated is disclosure of the Crown's evidence prior to trial. The authors of the articles would have you believe that you should ask for everything, including the brand of ink in the officer's pen, and when any of it is refused the ticket will automatically be dismissed.

If you are considering a ticket dispute, you may choose to write to the officer who issued the ticket and request disclosure. Do this at the same time that you enter your dispute so that there is plenty of time for the officer to comply. This way if you have any questions after receiving disclosure you will have time to ask for clarification before the trial date.

If you simply request disclosure, you will receive a synopsis of the evidence that the officer will be presenting during the trial. You may request specific disclosure for information about the officer's qualifications, what kind of speed measuring instrument was used or for a copy of any evidence that will be presented, such as photos, videos or witness statements. The court will support all reasonably justified requests.

Window Tinting Films

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Window tinting looks cool, keeps your vehicle interior cool, or hides your vehicle contents from potential thieves. The drawback with tinting certain windows is that it limits the driver's ability to see and be seen. It is also illegal and may result in enforcement action in the form of either a ticket or a repair order.

One of the rules of defensive driving is to make eye contact with other drivers. A wise pedestrian will also make eye contact with a driver to insure that they have been seen before walking in front of a vehicle. This is impossible for other drivers and pedestrians if you have darkened side windows.

Studies indicate that seniors are particularly affected by window tinting. Their ability to identify and react to low contrast targets is significantly compromised by the light transmission restriction of the film. This applies to a lesser extent to all of us, regardless of age.

The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations are very specific about any film that reduces the light transmitted by a window. You will note that there is no mention of how light or dark the film is. If it reduces the light transmitted in any way, it may only be applied on certain windows of the vehicle.

Should I Use Studded Winter Tires?

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When I was posted to Fort St. John detachment, the decision was easy, our family car had four studded winter tires. Once I was transferred to Penticton, these tires went with the car when we traded it in and we used all season tires throughout the year. Now that we live on Vancouver Island, we've come full circle and just purchased a set of four studded winter tires.

Compared to the rest of the province, much of the lower mainland and Vancouver Island might be considered almost tropical in the winter months. Why would one even consider using winter tires instead of all season tires, much less invest in tire studs for them? It turns out that studded tires can be very useful.

Tests conducted in Finland in 2003 on a variety of winter road surfaces using a number of major tire brands found that studded winter tires were superior to studless winter tires or all season tires in all conditions including, ice, snow, slush and wet pavement. They failed in only one area, running quietly on dry pavement.

Use Winter Tread Tires or Carry Chains

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The province of British Columbia has not yet mandated that true winter tread tires be used during the winter months on all highways. However, one can only legally operate in the ice and snow using all season or summer tires if they are not traveling on posted highways or are carrying tire chains that are the appropriate size and type for the vehicle. This does restrict the use of all season tires in most areas of the province.

A posted highway is one that is marked with a sign advising motorists that they must use winter tread tires or carry chains once they have passed the sign.

For the purposes of the sign, a winter tire is one that is advertised or represented by its manufacturer or a person in the business of selling tires to be a tire intended principally for winter use. An all season tire is designed to be a compromise and operate in both summer and winter. It is not designed principally for winter use. Only those tires displaying the mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall are winter tires that fit this definition.

Should you choose not to follow the advice on the sign, police may prevent you from traveling further until you are in compliance. They may also choose to issue a traffic ticket that carries a penalty of $121 and 2 points, or about the price of a good winter tire or set of chains.

In Car Television

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Is it legal to install a television set in a vehicle? There are two answers to this question, one simple and the other complicated. Driver distraction and the possibility of a collision resulting from it is a very real concern.

A television may be installed in a vehicle in view of the driver only when the information displayed on it is required for the operation of the vehicle or safety of the passengers. When installed it must be safely and securely mounted in a position that does not obstruct the view of the driver.

Televisions installed to provide entertainment for the passengers are not regulated when they are mounted out of the driver's view.

A quick search on the word "telematics" on the world wide web resulted in thousands of hits describing how manufacturers and content suppliers are attempting to turn your vehicle into a mobile multimedia system. They offer entertainment, navigation, roadside assistance and telephone service to mention only a few.

The drawback of this is that drivers will use these conveniences while they are driving.

2 or 4 Winter Tires?

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I began driving my own car in the mid-fifties and I always used winter tires on the rear only during the winter months. Based on about thirty years of experience, I feel that I am quite capable of managing winter driving with the traction arrangement I had for rear drive in the past. However, I am not interested in contravening any law or regulation. Is there a law that requires me to have winter tires on all 4 wheels of my new rear wheel drive only pickup?

Based on my experience as a collision analyst, I can tell you that any vehicle will steer more predictably if the traction at each wheel is the same. Whether you choose to use four all season tires or four winter tires is up to you, but operating with two all season tires on one end and two winter tires on the other is an invitation to problems. Mixing tire types will affect both steering and braking.

Having different sets of tires on front and rear axles may cause one end of the vehicle to lose traction before the other in a turn. Depending on the conditions, this could include having four winter tires or four all season tires where the pairs have different tread patterns or traction characteristics.

Proper Display of License Plates

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I was wondering if it was the law in B.C. to display both license plates on a vehicle? I see a lot of vehicles with only the rear license plate.

The humble licence plate has but one job, positively identifying the vehicle it is attached to. Without license plates, how would we know who owned the vehicle? How would you complain about an erratic driver or report your stolen vehicle? Photo enforcement would be stymied and even the lowly parking ticket would have difficulty.

Vehicle owners seem to find every excuse to do what they please, particularly with regard to the front licence plate. It looks ugly, I don't have a mounting bracket, the bolts are too rusted. Throw it on the dash, wire it onto the bumper, who cares? Hang bicycles in front of it, don't keep it clean, slap decorations over top, the list is endless. Even the provincial government has gotten into the act with an olympic license plate that is difficult to read at half the distance you could read a standard plate at.


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