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Behind-the-Wheel

Telling it like it is

Commentary driving is a useful tool for teaching a new driver.

They narrate their observations, interpretations and intentions about the traffic situation as they drive.

This narrative is expected to take place before the fact and gives the instructor or examiner insight into what the driver is seeing (or not seeing) and how they intend to proceed.

These comments do not need to be made using complete sentences as long as the thought is properly conveyed. The driver should describe everything important that he sees ahead, to the sides, and in the rear view mirrors.

When there is time, he should announce the various alternatives possible and why his choice of action is best. Comments should include remarks about signs, signals, markings, hazardous situations, actions or expected actions of other road users.

From the student's point of view commentary driving assists with:

  • Building an awareness of the amount of information that a driver must process
  • Developing resistance to distraction
  • Refining judgment about how far ahead to watch and how quickly to act or react
  • Developing selective observation strategies

Benefits for the parent or instructor include the ability to assess:

  • Is the driver scanning effectively?
  • Are hazardous situations recognized early enough?
  • Does the driver follow the traffic laws and maintain proper space margins?
  • What is the driver missing that you need to train or retrain?

The current ICBC Class 5 road test requires a demonstration of commentary driving.

If you have never done this before, it is not as simple as you might think.

Remember the cognitive overload when you were first learning to drive? Introduce it after your student driver has had a chance to become somewhat familiar with operating the vehicle.

A parent should practice this before becoming the instructor as it is a valuable teaching tool. Demonstrate to the hopeful new driver how she must use her eyes, what she must see, how to interpret it, and when to act in a safe and efficient manner.

The parent will also benefit as it focuses awareness and concentration on the driving task. It may be a good personal strategy to use when you are not feeling alert or are becoming fatigued.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/driver-training/commentary-driving



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Perpetuating mediocrity

I once stopped a vehicle being driven at 96 km/h in a posted 50 km/h construction zone.

Approaching the passenger side, I spoke with the woman in the front seat and the young lady driving.

When I explained why I stopped them, the woman suggested that she was unable to get the driver to slow down, and maybe I could do something about it.

The driver produced a learner driver's licence and no L sign was displayed on the vehicle.

To me, the solution was simple.

  • The woman should have denied her daughter access to the vehicle unless she was willing to follow the traffic rules.

The conversation told me that this was a known issue rather than a one-time lapse on the part of the driver.

After they had departed and I sat doing the notes for the violation ticket I had issued, I wondered if maybe it wasn't so simple.

Perhaps this woman should not have been given the privilege of teaching her daughter to drive. If the teacher is ill equipped to teach, the new driver will not learn what is necessary to drive correctly and safely.

Do parents read the Tuning Up for Drivers guide that their teen receives in the package with their new learner's licence?

The book contains 20 lessons to prepare for the Class 7 road test presented in order for good skill development.

We all tend to think that we are better than average drivers, but I occasionally find myself in conversations with parents who tell me that their teen taught them about things that they were doing wrong when driving.

Yes, ICBC does test new drivers to see if they meet standards as they progress through the Graduated Licensing Program. These standards are much more stringent than they were when I took my driver's test 30 years ago.

The trouble is, attitude can easily be hidden for the duration of a test, but put back on as soon as the driver hits the highway alone.

Perhaps this young lady would be better off taking the complete GLP package at a driving school. She will receive instruction in both the mechanics and the ethics of being a good driver that she might not be getting at home.

Currently Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan require a new driver to take formal training in order to get a full privilege driver's licence.

Given the level of complexity facing a learner driver today presented by both the vehicle and the driving environment, perhaps formal training should be mandatory in all provinces.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/behaviour/perpetuating-mediocrity



Which signs are which?

Regulatory and advisory signs

Drivers are often confused about the difference between a regulatory sign and an advisory sign.

A regulatory sign generally has black characters or symbols on a white background, and an advisory sign has black characters or symbols on a yellow background.

What's the difference?

The regulatory sign must be obeyed exactly as it is read.

Examples of regulatory signs include:

  • Speed limits
  • Turn restrictions
  • Parking restrictions
  • Directional instructions.

Failure to obey these signs is an offence and the driver may be charged if they choose not to follow the instruction.

If there is not a specific offence such as speeding or failing to stop for the regulatory sign, a traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device may be issued to the driver.

An advisory sign gives advance notice of conditions on or adjacent to a highway that are potentially hazardous to traffic.

A driver may choose whether 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.

A common advisory sign is 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.
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.

Why was the speed warning there?

Often it is because the driver's line of sight is restricted. This would prevent the driver from seeing and reacting to a hazard in or just beyond the corner unless the speed was at or less than that suggested.

Heavy trucks may also be required to slow for the corner to prevent tipping over.

A relatively new (since 2012) advisory sign is black on a pink background.

These signs warn of an emergency incident ahead and tell drivers to expect responders on the roadway.

Proceed with caution as full temporary traffic control may not yet have been established.

Failure to obey an advisory sign is only an offence if something happens as a result of ignoring the advice and the offence is generally for the misadventure that occurs.

Need a quick brush up on what road signs mean?

Drop by your local Driver Service Centre (where you renew your driver's licence) and ask for a free copy of Learn to Drive Smart.

The signs, signals and road markings are explained in Chapter 3.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/signs-signals/regulatory-and-advisory-signs



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Ignore them, they'll go away

Last September, a Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) asked me to help establish a crossing-guard program.

The Ecole Oceanside Elementary School PAC in Parksville wanted the program for what they considered a dangerous intersection at one corner of the school.

In past, the principal had raised the issue of liability concerns that needed to be looked into and that was the end of the conversation.

This year, with a little bit of research and advice from another school that had a crossing-guard program, this program was backed by the new principal.

The request made it as far as the school district’s Operations and Maintenance/Transportation manager according to the PAC, where it stalled yet again.

The head of the PAC has now stopped responding to requests for an update on the progress of their project.

The strategy of Ignore Them, They'll Go Away seems to have been successfully adopted by many levels of government.

From the perspective of gathering information for this site, RoadSafetyBC is the worst, TranBC along with the RCMP are somewhere in the middle and ICBC has been the best, although they are now beginning to ignore
e-mail requests as well.

In all cases, if you agenda matches theirs, information is forthcoming, often surprisingly quickly.

The people at RoadSafetyBC spent a lot of effort assisting me in creating a unit on the Enhanced Road Assessment for my ElderCollege course.

However, ask if there has been any follow up research on 2015's B.C. Communities Road Safety Survey to see if there have been improvements and the e-mail enters a black hole.

At this point, I would even be happy with an auto response telling me that my message has been received. It would be a simple matter to include information about how requests are triaged and what to do if a response is not received within a reasonable amount of time.

When I was working in traffic enforcement, I was occasionally reminded by the driver I was dealing with that they were the ones who paid my wages.

I did work for them, but sometimes that work was not what they wanted me to be doing. Still, they had a point and I had an obligation.

Government seems to forget this, too.

On the other hand, I can imagine that with the ability to e-mail some government contacts being so simple, many of us do it. There must be a huge volume of e-mail to deal with and people do make mistakes.

To come full circle to the PAC request, if they considered their crossing-guard program and decided that it was the best solution, they should be prepared to persist in the face of silence.

The group should not quit until they are either successful or are shown that there is a better way to deal with the problem.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/ignore-them-theyll-go-away



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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