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The Importance of Headlight Aim

Research articles : 

After 20 years of full time traffic policing you accumulate many memories. I was reminded of one on the weekend when a small pickup passed me by and I could see the bright patch from the right low beam headlight shining on the pavement about 3 meters in front of the vehicle. The memory concerns a driver who thought headlight aim was unimportant.

I had stopped that driver in much the same circumstances and issued a repair order for his vehicle. He did bring the order back to the detachment, but it was inside a card offering to buy me coffee so I could sit down, relax and hopefully not take the issue so seriously.

Why worry about headlight aim? If it is set too low your ability to see at a distance is reduced. Set it too high and you can see further down the road but illumination of the pavement for vehicle guidance is affected.

Oddly enough, a driver with mis-aligned headlights is more susceptible to glare from oncoming vehicles. The difference between light levels of oncoming lamps and the visual task area while driving at night is smaller when your headlights are properly aimed than when they are not. Your eyes see the latter situation as one with more glare.

Sorry sir, I still think that headlight aim is something to be taken seriously!

Wrong Way on Divided Highways

Research articles : 

It is fortunate that this type of collision is relatively rare because the consequences are severe. I am speaking of driving the wrong way on a divided highway or freeway. We received about one complaint a month when I was working on Central Island Traffic Services in Parksville.

Transporting Dangerous Goods

Research articles : 

Have you ever wondered what is going by you on the highway contained inside heavy transport vehicles? The transportation of dangerous goods rules require that the larger loads be marked with placards to identify the cargo. In the event of an emergency involving these vehicles, first responders can easily identify the cargo and decide what to do.

You can do this too. Simply note the 4 digit number shown on the placard, visit Canutec's web site and search for it in the Emergency Response Guide On Line. The guide will identify the dangerous cargo for you and tell you what to do if you are faced with an emergency. Rather than standing nearby rubbernecking, you might want to "head for the hills!"

Large commercial transport vehicles are not the only ones required to follow transportation of dangerous goods rules. You and I may have to follow simple safety rules too when it comes to moving some materials in our vehicles. The propane tank for your gas barbeque might be a good example. You must transport it properly secured to keep it upright in a well ventilated place.

Investigating Personation

Research articles : 

It was always a challenge when the violator failed to produce their driver's license. Were they being truthful when they told me that they had forgotten it at home? Did the name, address and birth date that they gave me belong to someone else? That honest face was occasionally nothing more than window dressing.

The motives were many, no valid license, prohibited from driving, wanted for a criminal offence, even people illegally in Canada. If I didn't have the grounds to arrest the driver and hold them until I was satisfied that they were properly identified I had to do my best at the roadside. If there was a passenger in the vehicle they were often part of my investigation.

When I informed the passenger that the driver was in violation of the Motor Vehicle Act and required them to identify the driver to me it was an offence for them to refuse or give false information. On rare occasions this did happen and the passengers were quite surprised to be ticketed along with the driver after I resolved the situation.

What About Zero Drugs?

Research articles : 

One of the conditions attached to the driver's license of any new driver in British Columbia's Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) is that the driver must have zero blood alcohol when they are operating a motor vehicle. Of course, the idea behind this is that the driver has enough to worry about while driving the vehicle without adding alcohol to the mix. So, what about drug use?

This question came to my mind one afternoon while I was observing a lineup of vehicles stopped for the flag person at a construction zone. I found a lone male GLP "N" driver who wasn't wearing his seatbelt and pulled him out of the line when it moved on. As soon as I walked up to the driver's door I could smell the marihuana smoke inside, and since the windows were down and he was alone, I knew who had been smoking.

His green bordered license with the zero alcohol condition printed on the back had me thinking about other reality changing drugs. Shouldn't a new driver have a zero tolerance condition for those as well? He spoke to me candidly about smoking a joint while waiting for the construction and I made careful notes and a no charge drug seizure.

What Does M+S Mean?

Research articles : 

One would expect that the markings M+S or Mud and Snow on a tire would mean that it was designed for proper winter traction in all conditions. You might be surprised to find that it only defines a tire whose treads:

  • Have multiple pockets or slots in at least one tread edge that extend toward the tread center at least 1/2 inch from the footprint edge
  • Measured perpendicularly to the tread centerline, have a mimimum cross-sectional width of 1/16 inch
  • Have edges of pockets or slots at angles between 35 and 90 degrees from the direction of travel
  • Have a contact surface void area will be a minimum of 25% based on mold dimensions

It says nothing about the tire's rubber compound and it's ability to stick to compact snow and ice. In fact, at temperatures below 7 C. it can be expected to perform just like a summer tire in these conditions.

If you are like most tire buyers, my guess is that you choose an all season tire based on the manufacturer's mileage durability claims. This means a rubber compound that stays hard and does a poorer job of sticking to compact snow and ice.

Yielding to a Bus

Research articles : 

The other day I was following a bus. He put on his four way flashers and pulled completely off the road into a bus stop, so I proceeded to pass. When I was beside the bus, he pulled out and I had to swerve to avoid a collision. They do have a yield sign on the back of the bus, but don't they have to re-enter traffic just like anyone else on the road?

On any road in British Columbia where the speed limit is 60 km/h or slower, you must yield to a bus that is displaying the prescribed yield sign and is signalling that it wants to move out of the curb lane or bus stop.

That said, the driver of the bus must not move onto the travelled portion of the roadway unless that movement can be made in safety. There are two rules in the Motor Vehicle Act requiring this, one specifically for a bus such as this one and one for all traffic in general. The bus must be granted right of way and the driver was wrong to force it.

It is also possible that the driver failed to identify you as a hazard, either because he did not look or looked but did not see. In your case this was a single laned roadway and you had no option but to pass by carefully. Had it have been a multiple laned roadway, you might consider that something like this could occur and move to the left lane before passing the bus.

Not Allowed to Take a Road Test

Research articles : 

I received an e-mail last week from an older woman whose husband had been tested with a computer and then had his license revoked by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. The husband had not even been allowed to do a road test before he was told that he could no longer drive. Was this action allowed and had I heard about DriveABLE?

I can also add a bit of background from some time ago when the man had been asked to perform a memory test at the doctor's office as part of the medical exam required to keep his license. He found this test to be stressful, difficult to perform and again, she wondered what this had to do with driving.

Reading between the lines, the gentleman very likely suffered from a cognitive difficulty. The tests had identified this and the examiners at DriveABLE, who were testing on behalf of the Superintendent, found that the impairment was significant enough that an on road test was not required to find out he was no longer capable of driving safely. Physically, he could handle the vehicle, but mentally he was not capable of gathering and properly processing the information needed to drive safely.

Building in a Safety Margin

Research articles : 

Most of us expect a reasonable margin of safety in our lives, especially if what we are involved in is only partially under or is beyond our control. Woe to anyone who would presume to reduce this margin without our knowledge and consent! Why then is it acceptable to minimize or disregard this for both ourselves and others when we get behind the wheel?

In my view, reasonable speed is the first casualty when it comes to safety margins. Most drivers on the roads today seem to be quite content to drive nearer to the edge of control rather than choose a more moderate speed for the conditions we drive in. Darkness or poor weather seldom seems to bring about a speed reduction unless we are forced to slow by congestion or near loss of control.

Failing to leave a space cushion around our vehicle, front, rear and sides, is probably almost as common. This dynamic task is never ending, especially when traffic is congested. Managing this space wisely gives you both the time and place to react if you or someone else makes a mistake or willfully disobeys safe driving practices.

Don't Block the Intersection

Research articles : 

This reader's suggestion came in the form of a rant. He was upset at drivers who were stuck in the intersection when the light turns red because traffic on the other side of the intersection was already stopped, leaving no room to exit. Blocking traffic on the cross street was ignorant and those drivers needed to take a look at how they disregard the rules of the road.

He's correct, you should not enter an intersection on the green light unless you can clear it if the light turns red. It is illegal to stop, stand or park in an intersection in British Columbia unless you are avoiding conflict with traffic, complying with the law or obeying the directions of a peace officer.

We were taught the Smith System of driving during recruit training in Regina. One of the rules, aim high in steering, taught that the farther down the road you see while driving (and it's talking about seeing, not just looking), the less likely you are to have a collision. Or, in a case like this, the less likely you are to be caught blocking an intersection when the lights change.

Yes, if you do this, you probably save a few seconds at the expense of everyone else but how do you feel when you are in a hurry and someone does it to you? What if an ambulance or fire truck need to get through? Your convenience should not override everyone else's.


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