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Motor vehicle

Everyone Must Wear Seatbelts

Research articles : 

Taxi drivers in British Columbia are exempt from wearing their seatbelts if they are travelling at less than 70 km/h. I have never understood why this exemption was necessary, particularly in light of the fact that doing so actually endangers their passengers. No one in a vehicle that I drive is exempt from wearing their seatbelt and I have been able to convince my taxi driver to follow suit.

My collision reconstruction experience made me well aware of what happens to people who fail to wear their seatbelts and are involved in a motor vehicle collision. I have seen front seats torn out of the floor by unbelted rear seat passengers as they faithfully followed Newton's first law of motion during a crash. These "backseat bullets" very likely contributed to the death of the passenger in the front seat in one case I investigated.

Similarly, during collisions that are not head on, unbelted vehicle occupants in any seating position become heavy projectiles capable of doing significant damage to themselves and others.

During collisions seat belts keep the driver behind the wheel and more likely to be in control of the vehicle post crash. They may still be able to steer and brake, perhaps keeping you out of a second crash in the oncoming lane or with roadside objects or other road users.

Red Means Stop, but not Always Stay

Research articles : 

There is a mid-block pedestrian controlled light in our neighborhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the cross walk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

This is correct if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would have to be a green signal.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

Behind the Wheel - International Driving Permits

Research articles : 

Many people mistakenly call an International Driving Permit (IDP) an International Driver's License. Their belief is that the IDP allows them to drive here at home and abroad, perhaps even when they do not hold a valid driver's license or they are prohibited from driving. Unscrupulous businesses exist that will sell what they hold out as being a valid international driver's license for significant sums of money without requiring proof that the applicant is licensed at all.

An IDP is really nothing more than a translation of your current driver's license into other languages for the convenience of the authorities in other countries when you travel. The Canadian IDP is translated into ten languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Scandinavian and Portuguese.

The IDP must be presented along with your current valid driver's license when demanded. Like a passport, IDP's are in booklet form and include a photo of the driver, their name, date of birth, along with a description of the types of vehicles they are permitted to operate.

Behind the Wheel - Show Me the Radar Reading

Research articles : 

"I want to see the radar reading!" This was always a signal to me that the traffic stop was going to be a difficult one. The demand for a print out of the radar reading was a similar request. Depending on the tone of voice, it was often simpler to refuse outright and explain later on in traffic court, letting the justice be the referee.

In British Columbia, the police are not required to show radar or laser readings to the alleged offender. Further, I have never used a radar or laser that created any sort of printout to hand to the person receiving the ticket.

Failing to do either one will not make any difference to the case in traffic court.

When the request was a polite one, I would show the readout of the device and explain it. Often I would also detail how the unit was tested for accuracy and then do the tests on the spot. In the case of a tripod mounted laser I would occasionally allow the driver an opportunity to use it themselves. This probably reduced the chance of a dispute because the person understood how their vehicle's speed had been measured.

Behind the Wheel - Railway Crossing Etiquette

Research articles : 

Using proper caution at railway crossings is something that all drivers must remember, because the train will not stop for you. It is easy to forget if you use a crossing regularly but don't often meet a train. The following information may help you avoid "running into" a train.

Where do you stop? Your vehicle must be stopped within 15 metres, and no less than 5 metres from the nearest rail.

When do you stop? You must stop if an electrical or mechanical signal, or a flagman is giving warning. You must also stop if a crossing gate is being lowered, or if a train is within 500 metres, or is travelling at such a speed that it is an immediate hazard. Of course, you must obey a stop sign posted at the crossing.

It is an offence to pass a barrier at a railway crossing when it is closed, or if it is being closed or opened. It is also an offence to approach a railway crossing without using caution.

Drivers of vehicles carrying poisons, explosives or flammables, and drivers of buses or school buses carrying passengers must stop at all uncontrolled railway crossings, even if a train is not approaching. The driver must look both ways and listen for an approaching train. If it is safe to proceed, the driver must cross the tracks without shifting gears, and must not stop over the tracks.

Behind the Wheel - Taking the Wrong Cue

Research articles : 

We take many of our driving cues from what is happening around us when we are in traffic. If we are paying attention and watching for the correct cues all goes well. Stop paying full attention to the driving task, accidentally take the wrong cues and you can easily cause a collision.

The case in point occurred yesterday afternoon. A car was waiting, first in line at a red light in the left hand through lane. I pulled up to stop beside it in the right hand through lane at the same time as the left turn signal we were facing changed to green. Signals for through traffic remained red as there were vehicles using the oncoming left turn lane.

The driver of the car probably saw the green light and my movement in the intended direction of travel in their peripheral vision and decided it was time to go. Something must not have seemed quite right because the driver did not accelerate as quickly as vehicles facing a new green light usually do.

Fortunately the oncoming driver was watching the right cues. He slowed enough that the driver that had been beside me did not collide with him, although it was a near miss.

Behind the Wheel - Advisory Signs

Research articles : 

The large diamond shaped sign shows a black arrow on a yellow background telling drivers of a curve ahead. Underneath it is a smaller square sign with black lettering on a yellow background showing a speed of 30 km/h. This sign and others similar to it are classed as advisory signs by the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

The signs are advance notice of conditions on or adjacent to a highway that are potentially hazardous to traffic. A driver may choose whether or not to follow the suggestion given by the sign. Ignoring the advice is not an offence in itself, but anything that happens because the signs are not given consideration may be an offence.

Advisory signs generally have black figures on a yellow background.

The example of the curve was chosen to illustrate a point. We have often seen these signs and then travelled around the curve comfortably at speeds higher than that suggested. In those cases the shape of the curve and the road condition could accommodate the vehicle travelling at the higher speed.

Behind the Wheel - How to Identify the Driver

Research articles : 

Last week I explained to you that the police only require the license plate number of the offending vehicle in order to investigate your driving complaint. Of course, any information that you can provide in addition to this is a bonus and makes your complaint that much more credible. However, it is not necessary to be able to pick the driver out of a lineup or be able to tell the officer who they are.

The Motor Vehicle Act gives the police tools to investigate and gather information on the identity of the driver at the relevant time. Your complaint provides reason to believe that the vehicle involved was in breach of certain transportation related acts, regulations or bylaws. Registered owner information from I.C.B.C. records then gives the officer a person to inquire with.

When this is explained to the registered owner and the identity of the driver at the relevant time and place is demanded, the owner must do all in their power to identify the driver to the investigator. This holds true even when the driver is the registered owner. Failure to do this or giving false information about this is an offence.

Behind the Wheel - The Complainant is Dissatisfied

Research articles : 

If a person is not satisfied with the response of the local police to a driving complaint, what is the next step? I know for a fact my wife and I had the offending vehicle, driver's description and B.C. license number correct. After reporting this incident I received a call from a constable telling me that the plate number I gave them was registered to a Hyundai and not the Pontiac I reported. They told me there was nothing else they could do.

I can respond to this reader's question from both sides of the fence as I have been both an investigator and a dissatisfied complainant with regard to a driving complaint.

As an investigator, I can say that having the license plate number reported identify a different vehicle than the type complained about happens fairly regularly. Most often it is a mistake in reading the plate which can be very difficult now that some B.C. license plates are designed for decoration rather than legibility. Occasionally it is a stolen plate or one that has recently been transferred. In all of these cases, a telephone call or a visit to the registered owner can clear up any discrepancy.

Behind the Wheel - Seller Beware!

Research articles : 

Would you write about selling a vehicle? I have friends who sold a car and months later they received information that the car was in an impound lot. The purchaser had failed to register the car in his name and since the car was still registered to them they were legally liable. How does one insure that the new owner re-registers the vehicle?

This is an area of civil law that I am not familiar with, so I asked for legal advice. This is what was related to me:

"In my opinion the registered owner would bear responsibility to the towing/storage company. The seller would then have to chase after the buyer for indemnification. This may seem harsh, but the reason that we have a system of registration is to ensure that liabilities and responsibilities are clearly designated. It is the vendor's responsibility to ensure that registration is changed as much as it is the buyer's.

If I was giving advice to the seller I'd be telling them not to pay the account and have the matter addressed in court, so that the purchaser could be brought in by 3rd party proceedings to place responsibility where it ought lie."

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