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Promoting the Designated Driver

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Why doesn't this site do more to promote the use of a designated driver? This single sentence was all that was sent to me in an e-mail from a visitor to my DriveSmartBC web site. With the Christmas season upon us, it's probably a great time to revisit the subject.

A designated driver is a driver who abstains totally from the consumption of alcohol at a social event so that they may drive their friends home safely afterward. They are not the person in the group that has had the least amount of alcohol to drink. Know who is going to be your designated driver before you leave for an evening of fun and adventure.

Plan how everyone is going to get to and from the event before anyone leaves for it. This way only one vehicle makes the trip and there is no dilemma about what to do with with "extra" vehicles at the end of the night. In other words, remove the temptation for someone that just has to have their vehicle back home afterward.

What happens if you don't plan ahead or the designated driver becomes the designated drunk? Take advantage of Operation Red Nose or similar programs if they operate in your community. Phone a sober friend or family, call a taxi, take transit or even consider walking home.

45 Deaths That Didn't Occur

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I'm no stranger to death by automobile. It was never a pleasure to investigate fatalities and for me there was no satisfaction in the successful prosecution of the impaired driver that caused them. Many more people than the direct victims were hurt and I knew that the only way I could really contribute was to hunt down the impaired driver and stop them.

Today's press release in relation to the first year of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) program refers to 45 deaths that didn't happen on BC's highways during that time. However, turn it around and look at the 71 that did if we accept the average of the past five years. We've still got a long way to go.

I maintain a collision counter on my DriveSmartBC web site that ticks upward each day based on the totals for the last year's collision statistics published by ICBC. Today it shows 115 alcohol related collision deaths and 2511 alcohol related collision injuries. We are very fortunate that the totals may now be overstating the problem.

Snowmobile Licence and Registration

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Before you operate your snowmobile in British Columbia, it must the registered with ICBC. ICBC will issue an owner's certificate and two numbered owner's decals. The decals must be displayed on either side of the cowl of the snow machine or in another conspicuous place on each side. The owner's certificate must be carried when the snowmobile is being operated and produced on the demand of an enforcement officer.

If you bring your snowmobile into BC as a visitor for winter recreation, you are exempt from having to register it with ICBC if it is properly registered in your home province or state and you are not using it in BC for more than 30 days. If your home province or state does not require you to register your snowmobile, you must obtain a special permit from the director of the Fish and Wildlife Branch for a period not exceeding 30 days.

If you intend to cross a highway or operate your snowmobile in a parking lot, you must also obtain both an operation permit from the police having jurisdiction in the area of operation and licence and insurance from ICBC. A restricted licence plate will be issued to be displayed on the machine in addition to the registration decals.

Yielding to Emergency Vehicles

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“Well, I thought that you were trying to catch that car ahead of me.” This is a common reply when drivers are stopped to explain why they didn’t pull over for the police vehicle trying to catch an obvious violator. The vehicle ahead of these drivers might be the object of the pursuit, but how is that driver to know?

The driver doesn’t need to know. On the approach or an emergency vehicle, police, fire or ambulance, that is sounding a siren and showing a flashing red light a driver must yield the right of way and IMMEDIATELY drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge of the roadway clear of an intersection, STOP, and REMAIN STOPPED until the emergency vehicle has passed. A driver doesn’t have to consider who is being pulled over because EVERYONE must pull over and stop. This includes drivers on BOTH SIDES OF THE ROADWAY regardless how many lanes wide it might be.

What if you don’t hear a siren? This doesn’t mean that one is not being used as emergency vehicles approaching from the rear are seldom heard before they are seen if the driver is paying attention. Pull over and stop even if you don’t hear a siren as this will avoid possible charges if you are in error.

The Approved Screening Device

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Much has been written recently about the Approved Screening Device being used by police to test drivers under the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program. Many are curious about how it works, and those that have been tested were quite often surprised at the result. The authority for the screening comes from section 254 of the Criminal Code.

Where a peace officer reasonably suspects that a person who is operating or has care and control of a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft, or is assisting in the operation of an aircraft, whether it is in motion or not, has alcohol in his body, the peace officer may demand that the person provide a proper sample of breath to be analyzed in the roadside screening device. The peace officer may also demand that the person accompany him to enable the sample to be taken.

Every one commits an offence who, without reasonable excuse, fails or refuses to comply with the demand made to him by a peace officer. The courts have held that it is a reasonable restriction on a persons rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the sample be provided without being entitled to consult counsel. This means that it is not an excuse to refuse because you haven't talked to a lawyer first.

Wildlife Collision Risks

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November is just around the corner and along with the month of May it shares the distinction of being the most likely month for you to run into wildlife on BC's roads, literally. 80% of wildlife collisions in this province involve deer and occur between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm. However, moose, elk, bear and sheep are involved as well.

During 2007 almost six thousand animal collisions were noted in the Wildlife Accident Reporting System, which contains data provided by BC's road maintenance contractors. I suspect that this number is not the entire picture as some animals are able to struggle away from the collision scene and die unnoticed and uncounted.

The human cost is high as well. An average of 2 humans die annually and there was an estimated bill of about $24 million last year for collision claims and highway clean up expenses.

You may wish to blame the animals, after all they don't know enough to stay out of the way of traffic. However I do wonder about us when I watched a driver pass an oversized sign with flashing yellow lights warning of deer crossing. He was traveling well over the suggested speed as well as being over the posted speed when he collided with a deer that was walking across the highway.

When in Doubt, Back Out

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Twice in the past week I've watched drivers who were stopped legally in the intersection signaling a left turn back out of the intersection when the traffic light that they were facing turned red. Why would a driver do this? The action is completely out of context and unsafe.

Ramp Metering

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Some time ago I wrote about watching streams of traffic trying to enter the freeways in and around Vancouver. Platoons of vehicles would move through the acceleration lanes bumper to bumper and everyone would then try and jam themselves into the first gap in the slow lane that they encountered. Aside from being dangerous, the action contributes to the congestion that drivers are unhappy with in the first place because it causes traffic already on the freeway to slow.

Yesterday I had my first experience with ramp metering as my lane and the lane beside me joined a busy freeway. The beginning of each acceleration lane displayed a red light and stop line. Once we had stopped, the lights turned to green just long enough to allow one vehicle to proceed at a time, and the green lights for our adjacent lanes were staggered. This forced everyone to proper speed and alternating spacing  so that we joined the heavy stream of traffic just like the teeth in a zipper.

Yes, I was held up momentarily by the red light, but ultimately the average speed on the freeway I entered was higher and my total travel time was lower. I was also safer because ramp metering can be responsible for a 30% reduction in crashes compared to the same freeway without the system.

Parallel Parking Courtesy

Research articles : 

"I can't parallel park!" laments a reader. Although many of us have trouble with this aspect of driving, he didn't make this comment in the way you might think. "The other drivers won't stop to let me back in."

This gentleman went on to explain that as soon as he stopped to try and back into the space the traffic behind him continued to pass by without regard to oncoming traffic or the need for space to allow him to move into the parking space. The lack of courtesy shown by others left him with a dilemma. Do you continue to try and park and possibly hit someone, do you wait blocking traffic until it is safe to move or do you just abandon the attempt?

He is correct to be cautious as the Motor Vehicle Act forbids a driver from backing up if the movement cannot be made in safety.

However, the other drivers should have some consideration and pause briefly to let this driver park. If there is other traffic approaching, they must do so rather than encroach on the oncoming lane. The presence of a double solid line would require a wait even if the oncoming lane is empty as a driver must always remain to the right of these lines.

A little bit of courtesy goes a long way. If you don't show it to other drivers, how can you expect to have it shown to you?

Just Because You Can See....

Research articles : 

Few people leave their homes without paying some attention to how they are dressed. When we use our clothing to say "Look at me!" are we really thinking about how we will appear to other road users when we are pedestrians after dark? The right choice of dress prior to your next walk in the dark could be critical!

About two thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. This is probably because research indicates that pedestrians can be dangerously inconspicuous to drivers after dark. A pedestrian in dark clothing at night will not be seen in time to stop if the driver is using low beam headlights and traveling faster than 60 km/h.

We tend to underestimate that we are difficult to see in the dark. Visual recognition ability degrades rapidly with falling light levels and drivers need it to find and identify pedestrians. Visual guidance abilities such as walking through a darkened room remain effective, lulling us into thinking that we are more visible than we really are. Critically, we may overestimate by as much as triple the safe distance.


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