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Behind-the-Wheel

Backing into a parking space is often a better choice

Reverse stall parking

A number of readers contacted me after I told a story about a man walking behind me when I was preparing to back out of a parking stall. These readers all advised me that I should back into parking stalls rather than driving forward into them. The benefits of doing this outweigh the convenience of entering the stall nose first in all cases but one.

Backing in makes sense

I don't care for backing up when I don't have to but if you sit and think about the suggestion, it starts to make a lot of sense! When you are backing into a parking stall there isn't any traffic in it already. You only have to pay attention to stationary objects behind and on either side. When you are backing out, not only do you have to pay attention to traffic coming from both sides behind you, you have to make sure the front of your vehicle doesn't rub those stationary objects on either side as well. This divides your attention and is more likely to result in a problem.

Signal your intentions

Signal lights? In a parking lot? Defensive drivers signal, even when the law does not require them to do it. Is there a better way to tell other drivers what you intend to do? The blinking signal light will also attract the attention of pedestrians.

Yes, there will be inconsiderate drivers who follow you into the parking lot and won't want to give you the room to back into your chosen stall. However, you are stopped and so are they. Wait politely with your signal on and hopefully they will figure it out and go around you. Problem solved.

Do your backup lights work?

While we are discussing signals, backup lights do more than help you see where you are going at night. They tell everyone behind you of the change in the direction of your vehicle's travel.

Access to the trunk

The only question I had was what do I do when I want to put items in the trunk of my car and there isn't enough room between me and whatever I have backed up to? It turns out that this is simple to solve too. Simply drive forward a couple of feet and there you go, lot's of room to load a trunk. If you are judicious, you will not be far enough out of the space to create difficulties for the traffic that may pass in front of your vehicle.

The one exception to backing in

If you can pull through to the parking space on the other side of a double row this is a good alternative to backing in to a parking space. Beware of other drivers who might also be entering your intended space from the other side.

ICBC's Tuning Up for Drivers explains how to back up into a parking stall on your right step by step:

• Mirror check and turn on your right turn signal.

• Stop slightly past the stall. Make sure you’re in a position where other vehicles can’t move in behind you when you’re backing into the stall. Before stopping, you may want to angle your car to the left, this may make it easier to begin backing into the stall.

• Do a 360º vision check.

• Turn and look so that you get a clear view of the area you’re backing into.

• Begin to reverse slowly, keeping the wheels as straight as you can.

• When the rear bumper of your vehicle’s in line with the edge of the stall next to the one you would like to back into, begin turning your wheels to the right as you back toward your target stall.

• Continue backing up, gradually straightening the wheels, until your vehicle’s completely in the stall and out of traffic.

Why this is a necessary skill for drivers

One last thought, and that is backing into a parking stall is a necessary skill for all drivers. New drivers will be tested on it and experienced drivers will have to demonstrate the skill if they are called in for a re-examination. Practice makes perfect!





If you drive, don't drink and if you drink, don't drive

Drinking and driving

Whoosh! A car overtook my police vehicle at 144 km/h in the posted 110 km/h zone.

It's dark at 11:30 pm and at that speed, any animal or object on the road won't be identified in time and a collision is almost sure to occur.

The unsafe speed was only the beginning of the story.

"Sir, may I have your licence and registration please?" I asked.

Sniff, sniff.

"How much alcohol have you had to drink today?"

"One beer is all I had," was the reply.

The roadside screening device said otherwise though.

The driver blew a warn, meaning that his blood alcohol level was between 60 and 99 mg%. He was issued a speeding ticket, an Immediate roadside prohibition and his vehicle was impounded.

Police may now test any driver for the presence of alcohol in their body as part of Canada's mandatory screening law. It is no longer necessary to develop a reasonable suspicion in order to demand breath samples at the roadside.

"Can the passenger drive? He's sober."

"Sure, but he won't mind volunteering a sample, no strings attached, to show me that he is sober, would he?"

He did, and he blew a warn as well.

"But I haven't had anything to drink!" he said.

"Sir, the device measures alcohol. It won't read anything unless you have been drinking." I said.

"Well, I had a glass of wine with dinner, but it's not like I drank a case of beer or anything," he replied.

There are two things wrong with that statement. If the passenger was sober, he should have been driving. A sober passenger is also foolish to accept a ride from an impaired driver.

I'm a breath testing technician. I know that for these two men to register a warn, it takes more than the consumption of one beer or one glass of wine. The driver was lying to me and the passenger doesn't know the difference between impaired and drunk.

I don't want to share the highway with either one of them.

A total of 10,787 immediate roadside prohibitions, administrative driving prohibitions and 24-hour suspensions were issued to impaired drivers in B.C. between the beginning of January and the end of August this year.

Impaired drivers are responsible for an average of 65 traffic fatalities in B.C. each year.

The bottom line here is still if you drink, don't drive, and if you drive, don't drink. Simple.



The rules for tinted windows on automobiles are clear

Tinted window rules

One of my preferred enforcement practices was to use an unmarked car and drive in the right lane at, or just under, the speed limit. This gave me plenty of time to look at, and into, whatever passed by on my left.

Vehicle defects, failing to wear a seatbelt distracted driving and other things of interest to a traffic cop were often easily discovered.

I recall doing this once on a cold and rainy afternoon. A car passed me with both the front side windows rolled down completely and both front seat occupants staring resolutely ahead. Why do you think they were willing to get wet as they pretended not to see me?

As you have probably guessed by now, it was illegally tinted front side windows.

Why is clear glass important for driving?

The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual. Tint prevents other road users from making eye contact with the driver, it impairs the driver's ability to identify and react to a low contrast target, particularly among older drivers and tint remains in place at night and during times of impaired visibility

B.C.'s window tinting rules

There are two methods of tinting automotive glass, tint contained within the glass itself and tinting film applied to the inside surface.

As delivered by the vehicle manufacturer, tint inside the window glass meets Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 and each window is marked with the appropriate AS grade. It was rare to find a window that did not have the approval marking or was incorrectly tinted.

Where most vehicles failed to meet the rules is when the owner installed tinting film:

• more than 75 mm below the top of the windshield

• on a side window that was beside the driver

• on the rear window when the vehicle did not have outside mirrors on both sides

Resistance to enforcement

In my experience, virtually all Notice & Order #3's were ignored. Ditto the offer to cancel a traffic ticket if the tint was removed and the vehicle presented for inspection. Sometimes it took multiple tickets and Notice & Order #2's to correct the issue.

Tinting businesses are part of the problem

I know of one business that actually told its customers that if they were stopped by the police they could come back, have the tint removed, present the vehicle for inspection and then have the tint put back on—once, free of charge.

It is an offence under Section 222 of the Motor Vehicle Act for businesses to install tint that does not meet standards. Being prosecuted under this law would be a flea bite compared to being found liable for tint being the cause of a crash. Having business insurance does not protect you from wilfully unlawful acts.

Vehicle sales businesses are also part of the problem

You can find vehicles with illegal tint displayed for sale at businesses. In addition to Section 222 already mentioned, Division 8.01 MVAR also applies to prevent the sale of vehicles that are not roadworthy.

There are no medical exemptions for window tint

Some drivers have tried to convince me, even producing a doctor's note, that they had health or vision issues that required the tint. I could understand this for people who suffered from cutaneous porphyria, but only RoadSafetyBC can grant an exemption from these rules and they will not do so.

So, to see or not to see. Why would you limit your ability to drive safely on purpose?



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Shedding more light on the ue of fog lamps

More light on fog lamps

A previous article on driving lights led to a number of requests to write a follow up article on fog lights.

The original question involved vehicles that were driving with four lights on all the time and two of them were not being dimmed for oncoming traffic. Many readers were aware that the extra two lights were fog lights and not driving lights.

What is a fog light?

Fog lamps are identified by the SAE F marking on the lens, or a B above the circle with the E in it on European lamps.

Fog light installation

B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) allows two fog lamps that emit either white or amber light. They must be mounted on the front of the vehicle, below the headlamps, but not more than 30 cm below. When you switch them on, the parking lamps, tail lamps, licence plate lamp and, if required, clearance lamps must also illuminate.

However, the vehicle inspection manual used by designated inspection facilities to insure vehicle equipment complies with standards also mentions red rear fog lights. Two are allowed and must be mounted no further than 10 cm from the brake lights. The two sets of rules have been out of step for a long time.

When should you Use fog lights?

According to vehicle lighting expert Dan Stern, you should turn them off, leave them off and forget that they exist. Front fog lights are really only useful in a very narrow set of circumstances. Despite this, the regulations say front fog lamps may be used in place of headlamps if atmospheric conditions make the use of headlamps disadvantageous. Beyond that, front fog lamps may be used at any time of the day or night and in fact are used as the daytime running lamps on some vehicles.

The regulations don't say anything about the use of rear fog lights. Strern suggests a good metric to use in deciding when to switch your rear fog lights on or off is do you want the guy in front of you displaying a rear fog so you can see him better or do you wish the jerk in front of you would turn off that damn bright red light?

How to aim front fog Lights

As with driving lamps, fog lamps aim are measured at a distance of 7.62 m from the lamp. If the beam is symmetric, aim is measured at the centre of the top edge of the high intensity area. They must be 100 mm below horizontal with an upper error of no more than horizontal. Lateral aim is straight ahead, but must be no more than 150 mm either side of vertical.

If the beam is asymmetric, aim is measured at the left of the top edge. They must be 60 mm above vertical with an error of no more than 175 mm above to 50 mm below horizontal. They must also be aimed straight ahead but must be no more than 100 mm either side of vertical.



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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