We've Got a Serious Attitude Problem

Road RageSometimes when I read articles on road safety I come across one that really resonates with me. A story from 2008 written by Paul Hergott titled Drivers Need to Smarten Up When Out on the Road is one of them. Paul starts off by saying "We’ve got ourselves a serious attitude problem. We see driving as a right."

Very little has changed since then except perhaps that this attitude is becoming even more prevalent on our roads in 2017.

Paul goes on to say "We then put a whole lot of police resources into enforcing those basic rules of the road. The enforcement, though, is hardly compelling. The fines associated with blowing through red lights and speeding are nothing more than slaps on the wrist."

This is an area where I have some experience, having spent about 25 years writing traffic tickets to drivers, trying to change the attitude of the motoring public.

In order to be effective, drivers who do not follow the rules need to believe that there will be consequences for not doing so. The chance of being caught must be seen as significant and once justifiably ticketed for an offence, there should be a proportionate penalty impressed.

If you continue to ignore the rules, you should find yourself without the privilege of driving for a time.

I knew the size of my patrol area and how many of my co-workers were on the road at any one time. From that knowledge alone, I knew that there was little chance that most drivers would see me or my partner during a shift much less risk being issued a ticket.

We would often remark on traffic enforcement that we did not encounter when driving around the province while on leave, marveling at the distance we could travel and not encounter a marked police vehicle doing traffic enforcement.

Why count marked police vehicles? Probably because the majority of the traffic enforcement fleet is a fully marked car. Even the unmarked cars tended to be Fords or Chevys with black steel wheels and a forest of antennae on the roof.

The use of non-standard unmarked vehicles of many varieties that regularly move among the traffic units would go a long way toward keeping habitual offenders watching their rear view mirrors.

Unless you have a significant driving record and have committed a particularly serious offence, there is no risk in disputing the allegation in a traffic ticket. The worst that will likely happen is that you will have to pay the amount shown on the ticket.

I'll leave a driving prohibition up to the Superintendent is a common response made by the court to a request by the Crown during the penalty phase of a trial.

If you are not part of the Graduated Licencing Program you cannot complain about the Superintendent being heavy handed. Under the Driver Improvement Program a driver has to accumulate fifteen to nineteen penalty points within a 2 year period before a prohibition might occur.

Excessive speeding, driving without due care and attention, driving without reasonable consideration for others or using an electronic device while driving are the exceptions to the rule. They are classed as high risk driving offences and if you are convicted twice in a one year period a prohibition will occur.

Our current system of enforcement likely works well enough for the average citizen who generally tries to follow the rules. What Paul describes as a slap on the wrist is not much of a deterrent for those drivers who put themselves ahead of everyone else in traffic.

1- We have a driver attitude problem.

2- We have a driver skill problem as well.

3- We also have an urban planning problem.

4- We also have a public transit problem.

Governmental policies that allow the last 3 problems are a major cause of the first problem.

I think it's about time to admit that the way the various police departments have been policing traffic issues, and the way driver's licensing is administered, hasn't been working.

There's a theory in the police management world that traffic police should be highly visible.  The reasoning being that that will remind motorists not to violate the law.

Well, I have a news flash, it isn't working.  The saying attributed to Albert Einstein "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result."

My message to police management regarding the continually increasing statistic in collisions and deaths,, "So how's high visibility working so far ?,,,, So what,,, give it another couple of decades, see if it works ?"

Also pretty hard to promote "high visibility" when you have virtually nobody to put on the road at times.

But is the lack of sufficient police numbers the issue ?  If we doubled the number of police officers assigned to traffic enforcement, would that cut the accident rate in half ?

The City of Vancouver (proper) is comprised of 44 square miles.  There are three dozen police on motorcycles, plus various other members dedicated to traffic enforcement, and dozens and dozens of marked partol cars.

Are Vancouver's traffic collisions significantly less than areas with much fewer traffic members ?

There's an easy cheap (for the tax payer, and the traffic law abiding motorist) way to fix the system.

We need to create a system that actually cares.

The motorist that gets stopped for a violation, must realize that they were not just "unlucky", "everybody does it", it's "just a ticket", "road tax".

"I hate paying fines, but oh well, just pay the ticket and it's over."

No, you've received a ticket, and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and RoadSafetyBC care and will be in touch.  Provide an easy way for the traffic member who has interacted with the violator with the bad attitude to have follow-up meeting with a RoadSafetyBC investigator.

At present it's only when a motorist accumulates a huge number of violations that anything happens other than paying the prescribed fine.

The beauty of re-vamping the administration system for driver's licensing is that it can be paid for by the violators, in the form of graduated fines.  For the "slow learners", re-training.  Of course at the driver's expense.

Oh and as for "high visibility" ?

I would make it impossible to spot traffic enforcement members.  I also think a means of documenting violators with specially equipped vehicles with the capability of capturing video evidence from several angles.

Perhaps these special video vehicles could be detailed to target aggressive driving, with segments shown on the evening news showing the new resourcefulness of the police.

And the outrage !   Yes, everyone would be talking... and that's exactly what we need.

It's like the result of Bad Parenting.

If we tell a child that, if he misbehaves, there will be consequences, then he misbehaves and there are no consequences, we have simply empowered the child to continue (accelerate) the bad behaviour.

Randomly punishing just 1 out of 100 (for example) misbehavers (?) soon makes the good drives pretty pissed off as well. They see it as just an ineffective cash grab, with no real effect on the roads.

Just my usual $ 0.02.

I can't help but point out a few fallacies here:

"We see driving as a right."

There is nothing wrong with seeing driving for what it is - a right - as there is very little that makes driving not a right. In North America driving is the defacto method of transportation, and this understanding goes into everything: from road design to how far things are apart; from cup holders in cars to drive-through banking. Driving is an integral part of the North American life-style and it is effectively a right - everyone who passes a simple test and is able to afford a car is able to start driving. No authority can unreasonably withhold access to driving to any person.

"drivers who do not follow the rules need to believe that there will be consequences for not doing so."

Who are we kidding? As if the drivers who are not following the rules are regularly saying to themselves:

"I am going to break the section #N.N(n) because there is little chance that I am going to be ticketed for it, and even if I do I can afford it."

That's just wishful thinking my friends - the rules are being broken in ignorance. Very few people choose to outright blow a red light, if any; the lights are blown mostly unintentionally; and drivers who would see themselves from third person perspective would see it as wrong, but this is not an indication that they choose to skirt rules because of their entitlement or the lesser moral statue. They simply made an error of judgement in the moment, which moment came due to the lack of good habits on the roads - like looking far ahead, predicting and keeping distance.

The most massively broken rules I think are speed limits, however that is not because people have a death-wish, quite the opposite - keeping with the flow of traffic, and being on the marginally faster end of the spectrum of traffic has been statistically shown to cause the least accidents. Those who drive 15% below the traffic flow cause accidents, and those who drive above 15% also cause accidents. But those who drive 5%-10% above traffic flow statistically encounter less accidents. Maybe it's because drivers who are speeding just a little have more skills, or maybe it's because they are more engaged and attentive. I think it's a combination of factors, and in Lower Mainland the speed-limits are still under-posted. Speed limits should represent a maximum speed in best of road conditions - they should feel "too fast" for the majority of driving public - in Lower Mainland that is never true for a properly maintained vehicle  thus we're seeing the mass infringement every day.

Do you want to die? Unless you are suicidal, the majority would answer - no. This answer is seen in everything we do, some are ignorant of some dangers, but most people are prevalently safe and reasonable in their decision making and every day-actions. Enforcement is largely unnecessary. It is only effective in stopping outright dangerous drivers who are subjecting other road users to harm.

One negative aspect of rule-breaking is that it encourages others to follow the lead. The under posted limits generate disregard for speed limiting signs. If the traffic flows at 110km/h in 70km/h zones, day in - day out, FOR YEARS, what is the real message here? It encourages ignorance and creates conflicts between the drivers "who get it" and drivers who "drive safely".

Engineering, Education & Enforcement are the three components of road safety (accident prevention).

The engineering here is world class - roads are lit, lanes are marked, signs are redundant, traffic lights are reduntant, warnings are sufficient, cat eyes are everywhere. My only advice in that regard is putting in more left and right turn arrows in intersections that obviously need them but have been ignored for years.

Education seems to be lacking in major ways. Nobody is taught the rules as they are written in the law. Most drivers are taught by other drivers who themselves don't know the rules. I think every new driver should receive madatory instruction from qualified instructors who can explain what, where and WHY. Skill development is also completely under-looked, drivers are not encouraged to hone their skills. And I think that ICBC discounts are too generous to license holders because they are given for calendar years of holding a valid license, not for actually driving or improving. I think that the concept of discounts can be used better - for example the 5% discount each year can be contingent on passing an additional road test /or special handling tests - like skid control or emergency avoidance, or for taking a week of driver brush-up / instruction course.

Enforcement is largely unnecessary - road blitzes of squads of officers hiding in bushes, around corners of building or with binoculars are generating more disdain for their purpose and in some ways the enforcers themselves do not believe that they are making the roads safer, just maintaining the charade. Fines should be replaced with offense specific instruction - run a red light - take a week of instruction where they take you through intersections and make you "look up" and tell you to keep your distance. Same for blowing stop signs - tell drivers in examples what the consequences of their choices are - roll a stop sign 10,000 times = 1 dead pedestrian. Drivers should look to STOP when approaching the stop sign/line, not ride right over it to the closest point of visibility (or even beyond).

If we're talking attitudes - I think the driving attitude of today perfectly reflects the attitude of enforcers, ICBC, driving instructors, and the Ministry of Transportation. If anything the pompous charade of "driving is not a right" and "slower is safer" and "undercover enforcement" is creating a negative emotional noise on the roads, and that is counter-productive to actual safety.

Over-all the roads are safer than they have ever been, and tomorrow they will be even better. I think that automated vehicles will bring in a new era of safety by removing the "chore" of driving for those drivers that are disinterested and see driving as A to B, and who do not enjoy the process of driving. Meanwhile the road authorities can keep pushing manufacturers to include safety-tech and warnings in all vehicles, not just the luxury expensive ones. Most new drivers end up cruising in the most basic vehicles, the fact which is constantly under-looked in the "new drivers are bad drivers" mantra.

I'd like to see an officer confiscate a cell phone as part of the penalty for distracted driving. The offender would have to recover it at the officer's home station, and that could potentially be a fair number of hours. Repeat offenders would have to do without for longer and longer periods. The confiscation alone might even carry a greater inconvenience than a financial penalty.

I suspect however, that there are other laws or rights that prevent this action. Too bad. The "invonvenience" caused by the temporary loss of this ubiquitous tool might just be shocking enough to give pause to some of the worst offenders.

I await the test case in court. This problem might just be serious enough to permit an amendment somewhere in law. 

The problem isn't talking on a cell phone, or texting on a cell phone, it's doing it while driving.  Take the car !  They can use the cell to call a taxi.

Police officers are not your parents and the state is not intended to be the guardian of your possessions.

People are fed propaganda about mayhem on the roads (fears), without a mention that every new day brings less and less actual road toll, to the point where people are begging the state to regulate even their bodily functions for them. Cars, homes and savings are already being taken from people on the most whimsical of the allegations. Without the state having to prove the offense or with-out an actual criminal conviction.

I'd like to see your car get taken away on a wrongful allegation. I'd like to see your house get taken away because your kid sold a $5 joint off its porch. I'd like to see your life savings get taken away because the cops didn't believe that you earned it righteously when you were driving your cash to a dentist or to purchase a car. Maybe then you would understand that the cops are not omniscient, all seeing, infallible angels but are simply people like you or me. They have emotions, make mistakes, jump to conclusions - just like you or me.

You could be out thousands of dollars without doing anything illegal due to the currently effective powers of the state and police, and you could be out ten times more to fight to prove your innocence. It is simply impossible to put effective checks and balances on the kind of powers you "want to see". But despite that, the powers have expanded dramatically in the last 2-3 decades. All the while statistical crime rates, violent offenses, traffic carnage are at the all time low. Be careful of what you wish for, before we start seeing pensioners dousing themselves in gas and making camp fires in-front of the legislation.

This is a completely lopsided picture - you may beat your kid when he does bad, but you surely don't beat him harder when he does good. We are collectively in the A+++ territory at this point, but we are still getting beat upside the head on all fronts as if we have all rolled down to the juvenile delinquent levels.

As a result we have all become some really confused puppies, thinking that getting beat is a good thing so we are collectively begging for more beatings, because its the only way we can get any attention from our deranged daddy-state. Soviet Union failed for these exact reasons. There is no freedom for people to choose to do good, right, proper - only a bundle of sticks that the state uses to pummel the populace at their own request, picking up the geld shillings that fall out in the process.

Quit arguing against your own interests you fools!

I find the police/parent metaphor entirely appropriate.

Although Outrageous's comments on the whole make sense, I find his/her thinking too extreme. I don't disbelieve the referred examples of wrongful allegations and their consequences, but am certain that in the great scheme of things, their percentage is low and to be expected, based on a simple Bell curve. Unfortunate, but an unavoidable consequence.

In the past day or so, in a six hour period on a major two-lane thoroughfare in Kelowna, a distracted driver was ticketed every 3.5 minutes on average. The message is not getting across obviously. Therefore, I am still in favour of the temporary confiscation of a distracted driver's cell phone.