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Behind-the-Wheel

We are not serious about road safety

Nation of bad drivers

I learned this week that Canadians rank 42nd out of residents in 50 countries based on how well they drive.

This disappointed me, until I sat back and thought about it for a bit. Based on self-examination and what I see around me when I drive, I think I have to say we are not serious about road safety.

Financial loss, injury and death are part of the cost of allowing everyone to move when and where they want.

We follow the rules when it suits us and we can easily justify in our own minds doing what we want to when it does not.

A survey conducted by Insights West for ICBC shows we are aware of the importance of safe driving and give ourselves high marks for safety (82%), attentiveness (79%), knowledge (78%) and courteousness (76%).

Nearly nine in 10 drivers report having had a near miss, but are more likely to say another driver was responsible.

Driving on our highways requires co-operation, not competition.

When we first obtain our class 5 driver's licences, we possess the minimum skills necessary to drive safely. Few people choose to undergo further training to raise their skill level voluntarily. Our government does nothing to encourage or require it, even when we show that our skills may be lacking due to a collision or accumulation of traffic ticket convictions.

Intersection safety cameras don't carry the level of political danger photo radar did, so we have them at intersections with high crash rates. I hate the term "cash grab" but I'll allow this scheme approaches it.

Run a red light at high speed, as many times as you wish but as long as you pay the fine, you're good to go. There are no penalty points, no entry on a driving record and no way to designate the culprit if it was not you, the vehicle owner.

If you are a new driver, beware. The second traffic ticket in a year will likely mean you will be prohibited from driving for a short period to teach you to follow the rules. If you are an experienced driver, relax, it will probably take four convictions in a year to trigger a sanction for you.

Occasionally, after a conviction in traffic court where the driving involved was deemed out of the ordinary, the officer prosecuting would ask the justice for a period of prohibition as the penalty. I never saw this imposed in the 20 years I spent watching trials. Instead, I heard something along the lines of "I'll let the Superintendent (of Motor Vehicles) decide on whether the accused should be prohibited or not."

Crashes were costing ICBC too much money so our government took decisive steps to solve that problem and reduce the amount of money it cost to cover claims. That has not worked out well for some who have suffered losses, as they are no longer able to sue for damages.

There was no mention of doing something more to reduce the collision rate and the need for claims to be made.

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

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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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