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Motor vehicle

Vehicle Impounds as a Penalty

Research articles : 

The use of vehicle impoundment as part of an array of penalties to discourage improper driving behaviour will expand significantly when amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act become law on September 20, 2010. In every case the cost of the impoundment will be the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle. If the owner was not the driver at the time, they may recover costs from the driver as a debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

In the case of an impaired driver with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) over 80 mg% or who refuses to provide a breath sample, there will be a 24 hour vehicle impound if the driver is proceeded against under the Criminal Code. The impoundment period rises to 30 days if the officer decides to proceed using the Immediate Roadside Prohibition provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act instead. This new process will be the subject of future columns.

Drivers whose BAC falls between 50 and 80 mg% currently receive a 24 hour impoundment with their 24 hour prohibition. This will become a 3 day impoundment for a first instance, a 7 day impoundment for a second instance, and a 30 day impoundment for any subsequent instance that occurs within a 5 year period.

Careless Smokers

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It's that time of year again, sunny and dry with a chance of mindless smokers. I watched another one take the last puff and then toss the smouldering butt out the window onto the highway while he waited in front of me at a red light. All it needed was the breezy nudge of another passing vehicle to find it's way into the dormant grass on the shoulder to really get things started.

One could call the police and report this person. It's an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act to discard things on a highway. When an unthinking driver tossed his cigarette as I walked up to the vehicle during a traffic stop I used to offer them the opportunity of picking it up themselves or I would do it for them at a cost of $109.

You might also consider notifying the Ministry of Forests and Range. They are interested in hearing from you about incidents like this. Call *5555 on your cell phone or (800)663-5555 from a land line. Their enforcement officers may choose to use the provisions of the Wildfire Act to penalize careless individuals.

Cyclists Passing on the Right

Research articles : 

Something must have struck a nerve lately as I have received a number of requests to deal with cyclists passing other traffic on the right hand side. One near miss on a right turn even had the cyclist shaking their fist and cursing the driver. No doubt cyclists have their issues with the behaviour of motor vehicle drivers but passing on the right is something cyclists do when in most cases they should not.

In British Columbia, cyclists have the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle. That means they must obey the same traffic rules and must be treated as if they were another car or truck on the highway. It also means that cyclists may receive a traffic ticket for traffic rule violations as well.

Our traffic rules generally forbid passing on the right. It may only be done if there is an available lane on the right, when a one way street is of sufficient width or when overtaking a vehicle signaling a left turn. However, one must do so safely and must not travel off the roadway. Roadway means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder.

What's Behind Me?

Research articles : 

What's behind me and why should I care? I'm driving down the highway and I'm certainly not going to back into something! There are at least two common hazards that occur regularly behind every driver and looking out for them is just good sense.

Cyclists Must Yield Too

Research articles : 

Here's an new angle on a continual problem, that of other road users failing to yield to emergency vehicles. Most of the time this question is asked about cars and trucks, but this fire department official asks the question about a different subset of traffic, cyclists:

Our trucks were recently responding code three to a call when we came upon a group of approximately fifteen cyclists. Traffic was very heavy due to the holiday weekend and, despite lights flashing and sirens wailing, the cyclists did not stop. Consequently, motorists were prevented from pulling over as the cyclists were in the way. Must cyclists abide by the same road rules as motorists when it comes to being approached by emergency vehicles?

A person operating a cycle on the highway has the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle. This means that when approached by an emergency vehicle displaying a flashing red light and sounding a siren, they must move to the nearest edge of the roadway clear of an intersection, and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed by.

Despite the fact that a cyclist is not licensed, they may still be issued a traffic ticket for violations of the rules. The fines are the same as those applied to a motor vehicle driver but cyclists are not assessed penalty points by ICBC.

Limited Speed Motorcycles on the Highway Shoulder

Research articles : 

I applaud the green attitude of those people who ride a limited speed motorcycle (LSM) for their trips on BC highways. Surely their carbon footprint is a lot lighter than my own. That and their wallet will be heavier as these motorcycles are economical to buy, license and operate.

I also cringe when I see them on higher speed highways traveling at 70 km/h or less. Will they be at significant risk riding among other traffic moving at 90 km/h and faster? Drivers today seldom have patience for anyone driving at the speed limit much less those driving more slowly.

Self Preservation

Research articles : 

Twenty years of traffic policing has left me wondering if today is the day that another driver will involve me in a crash. I seem to be asking myself this more and more often as I observe the behaviour of other drivers around me. Driving is probably the largest risk that I take in my life right now.

It occurred to me today that I have spent much of my time teaching others about the traffic rules here in my column. This is good knowledge to have as it will allow you to predict what other drivers will do as long as they follow these rules. However, what protection does knowing the rules provide when the other driver doesn't follow them?

I've probably mentioned defensive driving from time to time, but I don't think that I have written about it in any depth. I should have, because this provides the skills and knowledge necessary for your own self preservation when you travel the highways of our province. A little time invested learning here may pay big personal dividends one day.

It seems appropriate to finish by mentioning one of the five keys from the Smith System of defensive driving taught to me during basic training in Depot: Get the Big Picture! Fewer mistakes are made when you have the complete traffic picture around your vehicle.

Surge Brakes

Research articles : 

"Oh yeah, I know the trailer brakes are working, I could feel them grabbing on the hill!" To me, this was almost as reliable as "The cheque's in the mail!" when it came to testing trailers with surge brakes at the roadside. This driver used the wrench I offered him to show me that there was no brake fluid in the master cylinder of the surge brake. Surprise!

As far as the brakes were concerned, this driver should have hooked up the trailer, checked the brake fluid level and condition and then conducted a tug test to ensure that the brakes were working before he left the driveway. It's simple, as aside from the wrench, all you have to do is set the breakaway brake and try to pull ahead. If the wheels don't lock, that's the end of the trip until they are repaired.

Brake fluid does not evaporate. If it is low, it is because there is a leak. It is definitely not good practice to top up the master cylinder and carry on.

Brake fluid is also hydrophilic, meaning that it will absorb water from the air. If the seal on the master cylinder is broken, the water that will accumulate in the fluid will rust the inside of the braking system rendering it useless. Keep seals in good shape and follow your trailer manufacturer's recommendations for replacing the brake fluid.

Driving Attitude

Research articles : 

"Haven't you got anything better to do?" This was a common response from drivers after being told that they had been stopped for a traffic rule infraction. "Why aren't you out catching real criminals?"

A Good Idea for the On Ramp

Research articles : 

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.

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