Defective Vehicles - A Crash Looking for a Place to Happen?

tow awayWhat do you do with a pickup that has only one operating light, a high beam headlight, being driven at night between towns? How about another being driven in the rain with wipers being operated by the passenger who was pushing and pulling on a rope with one end tied to each wiper and run through the passenger compartment via the vent windows? One driver even put black tape over the warning light that would have led him to discover no brake fluid in one reservoir of his master cylinder if he had investigated it.

These examples are just a few of many that I ran into over the course of my career in traffic law enforcement. Apparently this is still a common problem according to an article in Burnaby Now dated November 14, 2020 and titled "Burnaby cops find whopping number of people driving ‘defective’ vehicles." It's illustrated with a picture of a high end SUV being towed away.

My father was a service station owner and he said that the advent of self serve gas stations were a boon to the auto repair business. It was part of my job as a pump jockey to check a vehicle over while filling the tank and bring any issues discovered to the driver's attention. For the most part, this service is now part of history.

Despite the lack of maintenance, I cannot point to many collisions I investigated that were directly attributed to a vehicle defect. Bald tires on a rainy day and bad brakes are the only examples that come to mind.

I suspect that many defects simply compounded driver error and made the situation unavoidable rather than causing the crash directly.

Prior to legislation ending the requirement to report a collision to the police in 2008, crashes would be investigated and reported using ICBC form MV6020. The contributing factors determined by the investigator used to be recorded there and could guide Vision Zero planning if it were available today.

Referring back to my list of defects at the beginning of this article, it's glaringly obvious that these drivers chose to put other road users at risk. What might be less obvious is the dilemma I was in. Now that I had found them I was obligated to do something about it or I would risk liability myself if I were to let them continue.

Once your vehicle is no longer properly equipped for use on the highway you are obligated to remove it immediately. In order to take it to repair you would call a tow truck or other vehicle capable of moving the vehicle safely such as a deck truck. This is the only legal way to move a defective vehicle on the highway.

If you choose not to and are a significant hazard, police will order the vehicle removed immediately, may seize the licence plates and vehicle licence document to return to ICBC. The order will also require that you repair the vehicle and pass inspection at a designated inspection facility prior to driving the vehicle on the highway again. This is commonly known as a notice and order number one.

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Interesting how your thinking changes as you get older. Never really cared about car maintenance when you were younger. Brings up the old memory from when I was 18 and had a 1962 Plymouth convertible. Out one night with my girlfriend and another couple when I gave the car some gas and the linkage broke. Of course who thought about carrying emergency equipment in the trunk. We were trying to think how to fix it when my girlfriend looked at the other girl with us and asked her if she was wearing pantyhose. The next thing I know we are standing on the side of the road and the girls are taking off their slacks and pantyhose. We tied the two pair of pantyhose together to make a rope and tied one end to the carburetor and the other end through the window. Just had to pull on it to give the car gas. Drove around like that for three days before I got it fixed.

Defective vehicles

Despite the lack of maintenance, I cannot point to many collisions I investigated that were directly attributed to a vehicle defect. Bald tires on a rainy day and bad brakes are the only examples that come to mind.

I suspect that many defects simply compounded driver error and made the situation unavoidable rather than causing the crash directly.

That's fair enough, but would I be wrong if I suggested that the police in attendance, along with crash investigators, have a tendency to blame one primary issue for a collision? And of course, so often, they simple choose 'Speed' as the major factor.

Off topic a bit here, but I see all these reports from the US of the cops pulling over some black guy for a broken tail light. Uh huh. But when I look at the cars around me with parking lights, signals, brake lights, headlights, clearly defective I don't believe that any of our police are trying to address this. At all. (No doubt James O will concur!)

Anyway, this subject reminded me of a classic Driver Education video from 1982 ... there is much to criticize, here.

It Always Depends

Yes, I would say that you are wrong to assert that, for the most part. I might have some knowledge of what happens in that regard.

I suspect that you learn most of what you know about a particular crash from the media. Generally they want a simple answer to meet a deadline and investigators are quite happy to give it to them. Seldom do I see any follow up of any consequence by the reporter and I can see the police not wanting to provide it. The cyclist hit by the shifted load of lumber on the Sea to Sky this year would likely be a good example of that.

Perhaps the only place where you might get a full picture of the circumstances would be from sitting through a trial. It was rare to find spectators in the courtroom, particularly when it is a multi-day trial following just another collision.

Oddly enough, some people have interesting ideas of what is important and what isn't. I discussed that incident with a lawyer who suggested that there was no need to investigate it with any depth. Everyone knew what had happened and ICBC would pay for it. Investigation was a waste of time when police had more urgent matters to attend to.


I know the police spend hours investigating a crash but I still feel often the leading cause gets contributed to something they know a Judge will readily accept. If your charged with speeding, using a cell phone or impaired that is basically all they want to know. Even if the actual cause of the accident was something else or even contributed to the innocent party.

If you have an accident on a industrial site or a WCB claim is filed you have to fill out an accident report, hold a safety meeting with those involved ascertain the cause, then have a safety meeting with your entire crew go over the details, submit a report to the WCB, if your a contractor a copy to who you are contracted with. It is a requirement of WCB that regular safety meetings are held and reports files. That includes accidents or incidences of importance for the entire company.

Now why isn't something like this done with road accidents? Using the case of the shifted load one should be able to pull that accident up and read the complete report. And it should be completed by now. Is there a location one can do this? Shouldn't matter if a Court Case is scheduled or not. The entire report should be available to the public and if things change they can be updated. It is a waste of time doing a report if it is not made public. People even say elections are rigged with no collaborating evidence. An unpublished report is a waste of time and can contain inaccuracies and bias.

As for vehicle maintenance I'm sure we have all driven a vehicle with some defects. I do carry spare headlight and tail light bulbs with me. With my luck if I burn out a headlight I won't make it to the next service station for a replacement before the other is gone. I do a check of all lights on a regular basis. Replace wiper blades same time I switch tires. As a kid I did all my own maintenance and just got into the habit. I learned to drive from my dad and to him there was no such thing as an accident. You just screwed up. He also said yourvehicle should always be maintained in proper condition. If an emergency happened you should be able to hop in and know it will get you where you have to go with no problem. And that meant enough fuel to get you to the next town at least.

"A Feeling?"

Is this an area of Armchair Expertise, or is there some data that you are actually basing this observation on?

I do agree with your third paragraph though. Just try and get that information. You will come up against all sorts of excuses about why public information cannot actually be public. About the only avenue you have is an FOI request.

A feeling!

Armchair expertise with little evidence.

Now I have been told when I was complaining about how few tickets are written for anything but the items listed that to charge a person with impeding traffic or inactive DRL could require hours in court with a good chance of the charges being dropped. Not so with the time honoured ones. Not sure but I think it was yourself that pointed this out.

A co-workers son was charged with impaired causing an accident the other driver had no charges. In this case at expense to the family and a couple of witnesses that had given the kid their contact information it was proven in court the other driver ran a red light.

As a underage drinker he was charged with impaired even though he blew 2 or 3 which due to his age was against the law but it definitely was not the cause of the accident. At the time of the accident I think he was only a month away from being legal but the consequences of the charge and if found guilty would have been high.

Impaired Driving

There is no charge for impaired driving causing an accident. Impaired driving, impaired driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing death are the choices.

As a driver in the Graduated Licensing Program, he was mandated to have zero blood alcohol when driving. ZERO. For some reason that just doesn't sink in with some people. Young people who are not in the GLP are treated just the same as adults are.

I may have mentioned the number of charges, but would not have said anything about hours in court and charges being dropped as they have the same chance of conviction as any other ticket.


Agree with you regarding the charges. It does illustrate how statistics can be skewed. The person that caused the accident was not charged originally. In fact, I don't even know if he ever was. Came out in the court case that he ran a red light and was responsible. Charges against the son were dropped.

This was before GLP and happened outside of B.C. Not that the area of jurisdiction is important, I just used it as a sample of what I consider bias reporting and was a case I knew about. And I believe we both will agree that for the public the only thing they heard of the accident was the newspaper report that driver charged with impaired after collision at intersection.

Is there a logical reason for the discrepancy in tickets issued for MVA regulations?

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