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Making a Left Turn at an Intersection

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This column is dedicated to the middle aged male driver who turned left in the intersection and completed the turn half way into my lane as I approached him and half way into the lane that he was supposed to be using. Was he being inattentive, careless or did he not know any better?

Unless you are using an intersection that allows a left turn from multiple lanes, you approach the intersection in the lane closest to the center line. Enter the intersection itself with your vehicle still positioned to the right of the center line. If it is possible, turn your vehicle in an arc with an apex to the right of the center of the intersection. Enter the first available lane for your direction of traffic, with your vehicle positioned to the right of the center line of that road before you leave the intersection.

If multiple lanes are allowed to turn left, exit from and enter into the corresponding lanes on either side of the intersection in the manner outlined already. Of course, it may not be possible to remain to the left of the center of the intersection depending on the lane that you are in. Also, while it may not be illegal to change lanes in an intersection, a defensive driver will not do so.

Over Wattage Headlight Bulbs

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Last week's column on overdriving low beam headlights resulted in some interesting comments. Chief among them was the thought that this wasn't a problem because the driver had installed high wattage bulbs and now had more light to see with. Do you suppose that these drivers don't know this is a bad practice or just don't care about themselves and others who use the highway?

In general, low beam headlight bulbs use in the neighbourhood of 50 watts of electrical power. The lens assemblies, switches and wiring are designed with this in mind. If you purchase and install "off highway" higher wattage bulbs you are not doing yourself or others a favour.

Glare is the main worry when this has been done. The lenses will tend to scatter some of the extra light which bothers oncoming drivers. If it is foggy, snowing or raining, the light will backscatter from these conditions and interfere with the driver's ability to see as well.

The extra current demanded by these lamps will result in heat generation within the electrical components and the headlight lens assemblies. Premature wear, melting of plastic parts and the possibly an electrical fire could be the result. Do you still think that this is an acceptable solution to the possibility of over-driving your low beam headlights?

Hit & Run

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Failing to remain at the scene of an accident, or hit and run as it is more commonly known is without a doubt a daily occurrence in British Columbia. We all know that we are doing something seriously wrong when we hit a cyclist, pedestrian or other vehicle on the highway and leave the scene to escape civil and criminal liability. However, we're not quite so worried when the collision is a scrape or a dent in a parking lot or something else that we can convince ourselves is of a minor nature.

Ask anyone who has had to deal with their insurance company after they have suffered a hit and run collision and they will tell you how much it has cost them in time and money to make a claim and have their vehicle repaired. In some cases the frustration is so high that maybe it is a good thing the offending driver was never found! However, the victim's lot is always easier if the offending driver remains and takes responsibility for their actions.

Don't Drive Over a Fire Hose

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Imagine that you are a firefighter, hose in hand, approaching the flames inside a burning building. You open the nozzle on your attack line and...nothing. Someone has driven over the hose outside in the street and ruptured it causing a loss of pressure. Not only are you unable to fight the fire, you are at risk now too.

This imaginary driver is guilty of two traffic offences. The obvious one is driving over an unprotected fire hose without the permission of the fire department official in command. What you may not be aware of is that you are prohibited from driving or parking within 150 meters of fire apparatus that has stopped in answer to a fire alarm. This is also the minimum mandatory following distance that you must maintain from a fire vehicle answering an alarm.

During the initial attack at a fire scene, firefighters are focused on saving life and property. They do not have the time or the manpower to guide drivers over the fire hoses nor to watch out for you as you drive through their scene. The law makes it simple for drivers in these cases, don't go there, period.

These rules are aimed at insuring the safety of emergency crews and require you to either wait until police arrive for traffic direction or to find another way around the scene of the fire or fire alarm.

The Trucker's Top Five Concerns

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I asked a couple of transport truck drivers what bothered them about the drivers of small vehicles. We had a lively half hour discussion from which I gathered their top five concerns. Each of them could have serious consequences for everyone on the highway.

The first two concern sudden reductions in speed. The small vehicle driver will either pass the transport truck, pull in suddenly, and then slow down, or just slow suddenly without taking note of the truck behind. When you consider that a fully loaded truck with all the air brakes properly adjusted has only 50 to 65% of a small vehicles braking efficiency, you can guess how dangerous this move could be.

Passing over a double solid line when drivers are impatient with trucks forced to travel slowly is next. Often there is oncoming traffic and nowhere to go for all vehicles involved. The truckers would travel the speed limit on hills if they could, but they can’t so it would be best to wait for the proper place to pass.

On multi-laned roadway slow drivers that won’t keep to the right are frustrating. This situation isn’t limited to truck drivers either. People need to realize that even if they are traveling at the speed limit in the inside lane if someone faster approaches they must move to the outside lane.

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.

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