Posts Tagged ‘Behind The Wheel’

The Dangerous Machine

Imagine if you will a machine that almost anyone can buy and operate. You read the training manual, practice it’s use under the supervision of someone who is also a user and has some proficiency of it’s operation. Finally, you take a test to see if you too have basic proficiency in it’s operation. If you pass, the supervisor lets you use the machine with minimal oversight as you see fit.

Over time, the machine is upgraded with new functions and capabilities. The circumstances that you use it in also change gradually. More machines are present in the area where you work and others use them to do more work more quickly.

Some safety rules are developed for your protection, but they are not always fully communicated to you so that you learn them. In fact, you are allowed to make mistakes or deliberately misuse the machine with only minimal consequences. If you really mess up or make a large number of mistakes you may have to quit using the machine for a while. You don’t lose your job or even have to upgrade your skills.

These machines kill one person a day and injure hundreds of others. No one gets too upset unless these people are friends or family, after all, the costs for this are spread over us all and we pay an amount for it each year regardless of whether we cause the problem or not.

If I were actually describing a machine in your workplace you might refuse to use it or go on strike until your employer made safety improvements. Why don’t we get excited when the machine is our own motor vehicle?

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Using Your Rearview Mirrors

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, change is the chant that we all know to follow for a successful lane change. We also use our rearview mirrors to give us a better view than our eyes alone when we are backing up. Is this all that mirrors are used for and are these the only times that we use them?

Most of us do not give the rear view mirrors the attention that they deserve. A defensive driver will scan ahead to see what they are approaching, to the sides to see what is around them, to the rear to see what is behind and finally check the instrument panel to monitor their speed and vehicle condition. This cycle repeats every five to eight seconds, so their mirrors do get a regular workout.

The rearview mirror must be consulted before you put your foot on the brake. This may be the only way to decide if you will be hit from the rear if you slow or stop. Being aware of vehicles following you too closely or overtaking you too quickly may make you change your mind about braking or show you that you need to take evasive action.

One last thought concerns moving back into the lane after passing an overtaken vehicle. You should not do this until you can see all of the vehicle you have passed in your rear view mirror. Failing to do this will put the overtaken driver in the position of unintentionally tailgating you.

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Overdriving Your Headlights

Have you ever given any thought to how far you can see at night as you are driving along down the highway? High beam headlights seem to overpower the dark, but there are a lot of situations where we are limited to using just the low beams. I was required to calculate the safe speed using only low beam headlights at a seminar and I was surprised at the result.

Most drivers can see a dark object at night with low beam headlamps at a distance of 24 to 25 metres. The average perception/reaction time is about a second and a half. Using these facts, the result is a speed of 38 kilometres per hour. If you travel any faster, or don’t pay full attention, you will collide with the object before stopping.

Dark objects such as pedestrians and deer are commonly found on the roads we travel at night. Granted, there is other light to see by in town, but out of town approaching and passing other vehicles we are hurtling along at 80 and 90 or more, and using only the low beams. This seems to be a compelling reason to be a little more careful with our speed at night to me.

Now consider what could happen if one of your headlights were not working, or that both were so coated with dirt from winter driving that the full light output was not available. Complaints about vehicles with only one headlight are common and one only has to observe and count to see that this is true. For your own safety it is well worth the time and money to keep your headlights clean and in proper working order.

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Trucker’s Top 5 Driving Pet Peeves

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.

The last situation is where drivers of small vehicles follow along directly beside heavy trucks. There is no law against this one, but it is not a good idea to do this with any vehicle. If either driver is required to make an emergency maneuver there is nowhere to move to. Pacing slightly ahead or behind is the preferred method.

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Merry Christmas From Behind The Wheel

If I could give all of you one gift this Christmas it would be a year’s worth of safe driving. For those of us here in British Columbia that would mean more than one driver a day would not die, 81 people would not be injured and 69 property damage collisions would not occur. Imagine that.

For those of you who think that they have not been affected by a collision in the past year, consider about 80 percent of what you paid to ICBC to insure your vehicle. This is the amount in your premium that ICBC used to pay for death, injury and damage. Wouldn’t an 80 percent reduction in vehicle insurance be a nice gift also?

If I could wish for one gift in return it would be that everyone take a moment and consider that they are not the only driver on the highway. Grant courtesy to other drivers, even when they don’t deserve it. If we were as courteous to other drivers as we are when face to face, I dare say that many of the situations that we find ourselves in while driving would not occur.

Thank you to all that publish and read this column and take the time to respond to it with comments both positive and negative. You provide the ideas and incentive that keeps me writing and learning. Please have a happy and safe holiday season.


Requesting Disclosure

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.

Photocopies of copyrighted material such as the radar operation manual will be refused, although you could expect to attend to the detachment and view a copy to make notes from. Copies of all tickets the officer issued that day and the outcome of any trials related to them, servicing records for the police vehicle, reports of all disciplinary actions against the officer or other such requests will not be upheld by the court.

Would you like reliable advice on the preparation of your dispute? Consider the Lawyer Referral Service operated by the Canadian Bar Association. The $25.00 fee may save you frustration and allow you to concentrate on what is pertinent to your defence.

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Use Winter Tires or Carry Chains

The province of British Columbia has not yet mandated that true winter tread tires be used during the winter months on all highways. However, one can only legally operate in the ice and snow using all season or summer tires if they are not traveling on posted highways or are carrying tire chains that are the appropriate size and type for the vehicle. This does restrict the use of all season tires in most areas of the province.

A posted highway is one that is marked with a sign advising motorists that they must use winter tread tires or carry chains once they have passed the sign.

For the purposes of the sign, a winter tire is one that is advertised or represented by its manufacturer or a person in the business of selling tires to be a tire intended principally for winter use. An all season tire is designed to be a compromise and operate in both summer and winter. It is not designed principally for winter use. Only those tires displaying the mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall are winter tires that fit this definition.

Should you choose not to follow the advice on the sign, police may prevent you from traveling further until you are in compliance. They may also choose to issue a traffic ticket that carries a penalty of $121 and 2 points, or about the price of a good winter tire or set of chains.

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The Brake Check

The sign says “Trucks, Stop Here, Check Brakes, Steep Hill Ahead.” Ask almost anyone and they would likely tell you that this sign only applies to heavy commercial trucks equipped with air brakes. This is not the case however, the sign applies to all trucks with a licensed Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 5,500 kg. regardless of brake system type. It could include everything from a truck tractor to a pickup pulling an RV.

Advisory signs posted at the brake check site tell drivers of vehicles equipped with hydraulic brake systems that they must check pedal pressure, brake assist, that there are no fluid leaks and that the brake drums are not overheated. Pedal pressure is tested by applying the brakes and holding them applied. The pedal must not be spongy or slowly depress. Turn the engine off, pump the brake pedal to deplete the assist, hold the pedal down and start the engine again. If assist is working properly you will feel the pedal rise slightly.

Are you towing a trailer equipped with brakes? Disconnect the vacuum lines, pull the pin on the electric switch or the lever on the surge brake to activate the breakaway brake. Try to drive ahead and the trailer wheels should lock.

In addition to checking for hydraulic fluid leaks, it would be wise to check fluid levels in the master cylinder as well. Some master cylinder leaks are hidden when the brake fluid leaks into the vacuum assist chamber and is pulled into the engine and burned rather than appearing as a visible leak.

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Double Solid Yellow Lines

Could you talk about the rule about not crossing a double line when driving? A friend and I were talking about this and she thought there had been an update on this rule, that you were allowed to cross a double line under certain circumstances, though she could not remember what the circumstances were.

The rules regarding double solid yellow lines on British Columbia highways have not changed. They require that a driver remain to the right of them at all times. Technically, this means that as soon as your left side tires stray onto the lines themselves, you have broken those rules. You are not even allowed to cross them in order to avoid an obstruction on the highway as you may with single lines or a combination of single and broken lines.

I have seen many ticket disputes for crossing a double solid line ranging from “I wasn’t passing anyone” to “my car wasn’t completely over the line.” One gentleman even tried to explain that he was avoiding an article on the road by going around it to the left. Had he slowed down and gone around it on the right where there was room to pass by safely, he would have avoided joining all these people who were convicted by the traffic court justice.

There is only one exemption to the requirement to keep right and that is when a driver is entering or leaving the highway. Given the extremely broad definition of the word highway in the Motor Vehicle Act, this is not an easy thing to do. For instance, turning over a double solid line to enter the driveway of a service station or a store parking lot is not leaving the highway, as these places are considered to be part of the highway. In fact, the only example that easily comes to my mind is when I enter or exit a residential driveway although there may be other examples.

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Everyone Must Wear Seatbelts

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.

When I entered the cab, I simply told the driver that I would appreciate it if he wore his seatbelt. His response was that he was exempt and he made no move to put it on as he pulled away from the curb. My next step was to ask him politely to pull over and let me out. I would find a cab driver willing to wear his seatbelt while he drove me to my destination. My driver was not happy, but put on his seatbelt. I felt safer for both of us.

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