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Behind-the-Wheel

Who's responsible in crash?

Have you ever stopped to consider the risk involved in handing your keys over to someone else? As the owner of a vehicle, you have significant responsibility for it when someone else is using it. Even if you were not present, something nasty can still come back and bite you.

The owner of a vehicle is responsible for any contravention of:    

The only way that you can shift the responsibility for this is to show that your vehicle was stolen at the time of the violation or that you had exercised reasonable care and diligence in loaning your vehicle to another person. That other person must also have been in possession of the vehicle.

If you are prosecuted under this provision of the MVA, it is up to you to prove that you either did not own the vehicle or that the person using the vehicle at the time was not someone that you had entrusted the vehicle to.

When your vehicle is unattended or not in anyone's possession, you are still liable for it.

An owner must not be held liable when the MVA offence committed by the entrusted person involves driving without a valid driver's licence, driving while prohibited, driving while impaired or refusing to provide a breath sample. They are also not responsible when the entrusted driver is convicted an offence.

It is still worth your concern as mandatory vehicle impoundments that result from these offences must still be sorted out by applying for an early return.

The MVA also places specific responsibility on the vehicle owner for intersection safety camera violations.

What happens if the person you loan your vehicle to commits a driving offence that is reported to police by witnesses? You must provide all the information in your power to identify that driver if the police when asked. Failing to do so or giving false information is an offence.

If the vehicle is involved in a collision while being driven by someone other than the owner it raises a whole new liability situation that is beyond my scope to explain. I don't have the necessary experience with civil law and you will need to consult a lawyer for this information.

This article also appears at DriveSmartBC.



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Stay on your side of the road

I live beside a road where I can watch an 'S' curve out of my window where visibility is limited due to vegetation on both sides. I don't have to watch for long before a see a driver who straightens out the S by driving more or less in a straight line through the corners.

There was a near miss last week where a pickup driver had to slam on his brakes to avoid an oncoming minivan. By the time that driver got to the mailboxes and stopped he was fuming. Apparently this kind of behaviour in our neighbourhood is epidemic. He says it is not uncommon to meet vehicles on the wrong side of the road after they ignore the stop sign and fail to make a right turn into the correct lane too.

It doesn't matter that there are no lines painted on the pavement at this spot, a driver is still required to confine the path of their vehicle to the right hand half of the roadway.

The concept of roadway is important here. It is the part of the highway where vehicles are meant to be driven and does not include the shoulder. So, it is also possible to fail to stay on your side by being too far to the right as well.

Lines are helpful, but they too are often ignored as evidenced by the uneven wear of the center line in another nearby section of winding road near my neighbourhood. I've met drivers there who are crowding the double solid yellow or are completely onto my side of it.

Why are these drivers so poor at maintaining proper lane position? Surely everyone must realize that keeping to your lane has to be one of the most important rules of driving! Just because you don't want to slow down or are too lazy to steer properly doesn't mean that you are entitled to use some of my side of the highway.

Another common sight are neighbours who are too lazy to stop on the right side of the road and walk across to pick up their mail. They drive right up to the community mailboxes, roll down the driver's window and open their mailbox.

You must not stop, stand or park anywhere other than on the right side of the roadway. When you do, you must be parallel to and within 30 cm of the curb if there is one.

If you maintain proper lane position then you have a safety buffer around your vehicle that allows you to take avoidance action if something untoward should occur. Consider what might happen if you meet another driver that drives the same way you do.

There are no exemptions that grant a driver permission to disobey the keeping to the right rule based on convenience.

This story also appears on DriveSmartBC.



How to ticket with radar

Despite the fact that it is older technology, radar is still frequently used by police to measure vehicle speeds today. When used properly, it is an accurate method of determining how fast a vehicle is travelling. The courts also accept qualified radar evidence of speed during a trial as commonplace.

When I was trained to use radar to measure traffic speed it was a one-day-long course. We were taught the basic theory of operation including an explanation of the Doppler Effect, which is the basis for the device. A written test followed to ensure we understood what had been taught. Finally, we all went to the side of the road where we were given a chance to make some measurements under the watchful eye of an experienced officer.

I typically started my traffic enforcement shift by testing my radar and recording the results of the test in my notebook. These tests vary a little depending on the manufacturer and type of radar in use, but it usually consists of a power-on self-test or an internal test initiated by pushing a button, a phase where all indicators and display segments were lit simultaneously to show they were functioning, and a tuning fork test.

Tuning forks substituted for the moving vehicle. The fork was struck to make it vibrate and then held in front of the radar antenna. This would produce a specific reading on the radar display.

If (and only if) all of these tests were passed, the radar was considered ready for use. If there was a failure, the unit was taken out of service and sent for repair.

During some 28 years of operating traffic radar I can only recall one instance when the radar failed to operate correctly and it was immediately apparent to me.

A typical investigation involving radar to measure vehicle speed begins not with the instrument, but with the officer's eyes. A visual observation of the target is made and a speed estimation developed. Some officers become quite accurate in making this estimation after years of practice with the instrument.

Following the estimate, a measurement of the vehicle speed is made with the radar. The officer compares the estimate with the measurement to ensure that the two reasonably coincide. If they do, the offending driver is stopped and ticketed. If they don't, further observation and measurement is required.

Should the visual estimate and radar measurement never reasonably compare, a ticket based on the radar evidence cannot be written.

A radar beam is similar to a flashlight beam. It begins relatively narrow but widens as you move away from the antenna. Ideally, only the target vehicle should be in the radar beam at the time of the speed measurement, but this is not always possible. In this case, careful observation and measurement may still result in an accurate measurement and confidence in which vehicle is producing the speed reading.

Radar measurements also suffer from what is known as cosine error. If the vehicle being measured is moving directly toward the antenna, a true speed will be detected. If the vehicle is moving at an angle to the beam, a lower than true speed will be read depending on the cosine of the angle.

The benefit goes to the driver with stationary radar operations.

The cosine error is critical with moving radar, as it affects the patrol vehicle speed reading which is used to calculate the violator's speed from the closing rate of speed. The officer must compare the patrol vehicle speed to the speedometer when making a measurement. If the two are not the same, a higher than true speed will be displayed.

If all of this adds up, the speed investigation is complete and the officer can decide on what, if any, action to take.

The final step in my daily patrol after parking in the detachment lot was to test the radar again and record the results in my notebook.

This story is also posted on DriveSmartBC.





The two-way left-turn lane

A two-way left-turn lane is often found in larger towns and cities running down the centre of a multi-lane highway. 

It is easily identified by the combination solid and broken yellow line at both sides, as well as the pair of opposing left pointing arrows painted on the road surface and displayed on black and white regulatory signs overhead.

This lane may be a blessing for those who are turning left in heavy traffic, but it can make life difficult for those who wish to turn left and are entering the highway.

Two-way left-turn lanes can be handy for turning in the middle of the block. They provide a refuge outside of the usual traffic flow to wait patiently for a gap between oncoming vehicles and turn safely. It also acts to reduce the congestion caused by making left turns by moving turning vehicles out of through traffic.

Learn to Drive Smart mentions these lanes on page 38 and 51. This guide reminds us that when you use one of these lanes, vehicles coming from the other direction also use this lane to turn left. It is wise to spend the shortest time and distance in them as is practical to accomplish your turn.

Some jurisdictions limit the distance that you are allowed to drive in a two-way left-turn lane.

You cannot enter and travel along the two-way left-turn lane unless you intend to turn left to leave it. Obviously, this means that these lanes must not be used to pass overtaken traffic.

It also means that if you are trying to enter a highway with a two-way left-turn lane by turning left onto it, you have an extra 3.5 meters or so to go, putting you at risk for a longer distance. You must travel completely across the through lanes that are coming from your left as well as the two-way left-turn lane before turning left to enter the first lane available for through traffic.

You may choose to enter the centre two-way left-turn lane and wait there, perpendicular to it, until there is an appropriate gap in traffic to safely allow you to enter the first available through lane. If you choose to do this, make sure that you do not block any lane other than the two-way left-turn lane.

Personally, I'm uncomfortable with doing this. If I cannot make the turn without having to stop, I won't make it. If traffic backs up behind me or the flow of cross-traffic makes the turn difficult, it may be a better decision to turn right and go around the block rather than trying to cross all of those lanes to turn left.

It is farther to go, but if you are able to use a cross street with a traffic light, this will safely extend your decision time and may remove a number of lanes of cross-traffic from your decision-making process.

One last thought: the use of signal lights in this situation is mandatory. Tell everyone what your intention is before you do it.

This article is also on DriveSmartBC



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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