There are strict rules about replacing the lighting on your vehicle

Unsafe headlight conversion

Could you perhaps comment on poorly focused, high-intensity illegal conversions done to forward lighting on vehicles?

This person said he has had many of his friends comment on how newer vehicles with high-tech headlights have made night driving uncomfortable and unsafe for them. I've noticed some of these conversions are also difficult to look at during the day as well.

All of the components of a vehicle's external lighting system must be marked by the manufacturer to show they meet standards.

Depending on where the vehicle or lamp was made, you will find either “SAE/DOT” (North American) or “ECE” (European) compliance markings. For headlights in general, you will find a North American “SAE” code or a European “E” code on the lens that starts with an “H.”

North American codes are:

H—old style tungsten filament sealed beam

HR—replaceable halogen tungsten filament bulb

HG—xenon high intensity discharge (HID) lamp

HL—light emitting diode (LED) lamp

If you are going to upgrade your vehicle lighting system, it will mean replacing it all with something that is compliant. The entire assembly, from the wires out, will need to be replaced and be capable of being properly aimed. It is both dangerous and illegal to mix these.

The most common improper conversion is to put a gas discharge capsule, or an LED bulb, into an “H”-type housing. That results in significant glare for other road users because the housings can no longer focus the light from the lamp properly. It may also mean the loss of ability to switch between high and low beam for vehicles with only one headlight on each side.

Beware of some "good deals" on sites like eBay and through less scrupulous suppliers that are marked with “SAE,” “DOT” or “E” markings but are counterfeit and do not do the intended job properly.

Inspection facilities have reference material to help the inspector determine if a fake is being used and when they are found the vehicle must be failed. This effectively removes the vehicle from the road until satisfactory repairs are carried out.

The article “Thinking of Converting Your Halogen Headlamps to HID or LED?” on the Daniel Stern Lighting website has a detailed explanation that is worth reading if you are thinking about modifying your vehicle's lighting system.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


ICBC’s top 10 excuses for why drivers speed

Speedy excuses

I found this old article from 2009 where ICBC asked police from around the province to share the top excuses they heard from drivers who they stopped for speeding.

I don't think they are excuses as much as they are attempts by drivers to justify their behaviour. In their minds, they weren't doing anything wrong.

1. I’m late for class/work/court. This age-old excuse won’t work, especially if you’re on your way to court. “My boss will fire me” or “My teacher will fail me” are lines that won’t work either. Be more realistic, plan your route and allow yourself extra time. There are many things that cause delays, such as traffic, construction, bad weather and, unfortunately, car crashes. If you’re going to be later than expected, deal with it. Take a deep breath and accept the delay. Like they say, better late than never.

2. I didn’t know I was going that fast. Normally, your speedometer doesn’t lie. Though playing dumb with the police will definitely earn you points—that’s penalty points and a hefty fine. Remember to check your speedometer once in a while. Also, be sure to focus on the road. Unsafe speed is one of the most frequently cited contributing factors in police-reported car crashes. Slowing down reduces your risk of getting in a crash.

3. I didn’t know the speed limit. That’s like saying you didn’t know Canada was north of the U.S. border. The provincial and municipal governments ensure speed limits are clearly posted along highways and city roads. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, the basic speed limits are 80 kilometres per hour outside municipalities and 50 km/h within municipalities.

4. I was passing a dangerous/bad/slow driver. Driving like James Bond or Jason Bourne should be left to the pros in Hollywood blockbusters. Weaving in and out of traffic is one of the top five high-risk behaviours that cause car crashes. Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt and keep your distance.

5. My car doesn’t go that fast. Nice try. Unless you’re driving a low-speed vehicle like a moped or a scooter, your car can go as fast as a swift (the bird, not the Suzuki) which flies between 160 and 320 km/h. A Swedish study shows that dropping your speed by 5% reduces your crash risk by between 14% and 20%.

6. I was just keeping up with traffic. Drivers aren’t like cattle in a herd. Would you keep speeding if the cars in front were heading towards a brick wall? Sure, it’s important to keep up with the flow of traffic, but do so within the posted speed limit. If another driver is too close, safely move out of the way and let the vehicle pass. It’s better to do this than risk a crash or a speeding ticket.

7. I was only going 10 km/h over the speed limit and that’s OK. Actually, if you speed up to 20 km/h over the limit, you could get a $138 ticket. Also, the faster you go, the longer it takes to stop. At 30 km/h, it takes 18 metres to come to a full stop. At 80 km/h, it takes 76 metres. Think of what that looks like when trying to avoid a person, an animal or a large truck.

8. I have to go to the bathroom. Lame. This is something you likely learned from your mom and teachers over the years, always use a washroom before you leave. Plus, this excuse won’t hold up with the cops. There are plenty of gas stations and rest-stops along major roads and highways.

9. I was having an argument with my spouse and wasn’t paying attention. Sure, we all have arguments from time to time (Canucks game vs. Canadian Idol, playing golf vs. a visit to the in-law etc.). But these are far better resolved outside a car. If you simply must resolve the debate, pull over and park. It’s safer. Also, you’ll make it home in one piece after your mother-in-law’s sumptuous cedar plank salmon.

10. I’m sick and am going to the hospital/I’m about to give birth. Really? If you’re that sick or about to give birth in the driver’s seat, call an ambulance. You’re not trained to drive like an emergency medical technician, a police officer or a fire fighter. So, stick with what you know and drive safe. Call a professional and get there safely.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Knowing where to stop at a traffic signal

Triggering traffic signals

How about an article about the detection loops in the pavement at many traffic lights? Most drivers don't know what they are for and quite often stop too far ahead or behind them.

Once upon a time traffic signals operated on timers and would change according to the clock and not for any other reason. This could not reliably take into account the traffic flow changes that occur at different times of day and under different conditions.

Advancements in technology improved this, first with the inductive loop and now with the video camera. Each system has its use.

The inductive loop is a coil of wire embedded in the pavement at the approach to a traffic signal. An electric current is passed through it creating a magnetic field. When a large object containing iron, such as a car or truck, is near the loop, the nature of the magnetic field changes and the signal controller can take notice of it. If the vehicle stays at the loop for a set period of time the controller will cycle the signal to give the waiting traffic priority.

Problems occur when the vehicle does not stop over the loop. Too far ahead or too far back and the controller decides nothing is there and does not cycle the signals.

Unless the driver realizes and re-positions the vehicle over the loop, they may wait a long time for a green signal. So, pay attention to the stop line when you can see it, and make your best estimation when ice and snow covers it up. That will position your properly if you cannot see the tar covered loops in the pavement surface.

Some loops may not recognize motorcycles and bicycles because they don't contain enough iron to disturb the magnetic field sufficiently. Cyclists can make the traffic lights cycle by pushing the pedestrian signal button if one is present. For the motorcyclist, there are devices that attach to their vehicles that are designed to trigger the loop and cycle the signal.

Traffic signals may be controlled by video cameras instead of inductive loops. The cameras are able to accurately detect the presence of motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians and change the traffic lights appropriately.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Stiff fines for not brushing snow off your vehicle

Are you driving a snowdrift?

Now that the snow has arrived (at higher elevations), I’ve noticed many drivers who don't clean off their vehicles.

The wiper blade is the only cleaning tool used before driving and frankly that's a collision waiting to happen. Then there are the vehicles behind them that get the blowing snow off the roof and trunk of the vehicle (in front.)

Did I mention the back window hasn't been cleared either? Why someone would do something so stupid is beyond me.

This reader raises an issue that is often explained away with the assertion, "I'm only going a couple of blocks" or "I don't have time.”

Of course, neither of these answers can justify the selfish decision made by those drivers who impair either their own safety or the safety of other road users around them for the sake of staying warm and saving a few minutes of their time.

If one of these drivers was struck by another who followed the same rule of thumb, I suspect this practice would no longer be acceptable.

There are three issues to be dealt with here. The first is a driver must not move their vehicle unless their view to the front and sides is unimpaired. That means the windshield and front side windows must be clear of ice and snow and defogged. Expect to be ticketed and directed to the roadside until you have cleared your windows properly.

What about the back window? I dare say a defensive driver would not drive without clearing their back window. For those that choose not to, remember mirrors must provide you with an undistorted view to the rear. If you don't have a right outside mirror, that view must be provided by the inside mirror, so the rear window would have to be cleared. If you do, both outside mirrors must be clear as well.

Finally, snow left on your vehicle can be considered to be cargo, which means “all articles or material carried by a vehicle, including those used in the operation of the vehicle." Cargo must be secured before you drive so failing to clean off a cargo of snow and ice could result in an unsecured load ticket.

Oddly, the monetary penalty for cargo security violations is significantly more than that for driving when you cannot see properly.

• Drive with view obstructed: $109 and three penalty points

• Mirror violations: $109 and no penalty points

• Unsecured load: $173 and no penalty points

• Fail to stop and secure cargo: $598 and no penalty points

Brush, scrape and defrost before you go, or be prepared to pay the price.

Remember, that price could be a collision rather than a ticket, and thinking "I should have..." is way too late.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

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

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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