If You Were Responsible for Traffic Safety

SoapboxThe aim of traffic enforcement is not to raise revenue for the government. Too often I hear the words "cash grab" in relation to traffic tickets. Like it or not, this is our current system for attempting to dissuade drivers from practicing behaviours that put themselves or others at risk on our highways.

Money is an efficient tool to assign value to something and we have a well organized system for transferring it. The traffic laws codify how we are to behave when we drive and the ticketing system provides the deterrent by setting a value based on the risk involved in the particular bad behaviour. Penalty points are a negative reinforcement for those who fail to follow the rules more frequently.

Is this a good system? Like anything else, it depends on your point of view. If you are the recipient of a ticket I doubt that you are likely to be pleased. If you are a recipient of the effects of poor driving behaviour, pehaps you feel that it doesn't go far enough. It's not perfect, but it is what we have.

So, what would you do if you were responsible for traffic safety? Would you make small changes or institute a completely different system for encouraging safe driving? Send your thoughts to webmaster@drivesmartbc.ca and I will post them with this article on the DriveSmartBC web site.


The current system works.

The current system works. Each time you get behind the wheel, you're making a committment to not just your safety but the safety of your passengers and those around you. You also depend upon the other drivers to be competent drivers also. That they know the rules of the road and the penalties for disregarding them. I would rather someone get a ticket or even removed from the road than to have them involved in a fatal accident.

In 37 years of driving I have had 3 accidents, none my fault, and only 2 warning tickets, none moving violations. I've had 7 cars and put over 300K on each. I love driving. Lately, however, it is becoming more of a chore. Just yesterday I had a guy in a Dodge Ram tailgate me so close that I couldn't see his headlights in my readview mirror. It wasn't fun.

No one would argue that

No one would argue that overall the system of traffic enforcement is not beneficial. But you can't blame people for calling a 'cash grab' when law enforcement focuses on easy pickins instead of actual dangerous habits. The revenue created by traffic enforcement is required and hence a certain amount of revenue needs to be collected. How much revenue, for example, would the Burnaby RCMP lose if they put a sign at the bottom of Boundry hill north bound to remind people that even though this road has the look and feel of a highway, the speed limit is actually 50. I call cash grab. I won't deny that texting while driving is very dangerous but how many deaths were caused by people checking an email or directons on their phone at a red light? Ticketing drivers who check their phones at a red light (esp with law enforcement in disguise)... i call a cash grab. I'm sure we could come up with many more examples.

This is not coming from someone who gets a lot of tickets... I don't (2 in the last 20 years) but I'm making the point that in many cases we are justified in calling a cash grab.

My Traffic safety.

No involvement from Insurance providers.

Police dictate how policing is done.

No Radar devices. 

Ride and write system. Fly the flag and enforce ROTR on all road users, automobile, bicycle and pedestrian. 

More Motorcycle police.

No more ICBC funded equipment and or enforcement programs. 

No more speed and or cell phone traps. Keep officers moving and a visible presence.


Submitted by E-mail

I have urged this a number of times before. Set up a team of experienced drivers with unblemished records (let's say), 20 years to report dangerous driving; providing license number, make and type of vehicle (where possible), and the time, location and nature of the offense observed. Over a certain time period, a record of these poor driving habits would be established and the individuals in question would be brought to task, warned and possibly fined. Sound like vigilantism? Maybe, but it's what's need now. There are just too many vehicles on the road for the police to handle properly.

From Twitter to @DriveSmartBC

@NWimby: reduce speed limit in residential areas to 30km/h; Re-write the Motor Vehucle Act to address cycling in the 21st century.

@MaryAnnM_NW: Trucks would drive in R lane.

Don't fine -- make it 3-strikes, and you need to pass a TEST

Here's a proposal -- instead of the current "points" system where you build up points for each ticket, and it results in an escalating fine...  make people re-take (and PASS) their Driver's Test!!!!  There are WAY too many drivers on the road that shouldn't have passed their test in the first place.  That way people can't simply BUY themselves out of tickets.

THAT will keep the bad drivers off the road, and I think bad drivers will think harder about whether or not they drive dangerously.  Plus, it would mean less cars on the road, less congestion, and more use of transit (thus being much better for the environment!).

Also, more emphasis should be put on ticketing things OTHER than speeding! Speeding by itself isn't dangerous -- it's inconsiderate behaviours in conjunction with speeding that cause problems.  Things like not using turn signals, agressive driving, tailgating, running red lights, etc. should be the focus of enforcement.  

The only reason police focus on speeding is it's the easiest thing to catch -- not because it's the most dangerous.

Driving Culture


If you want safer roads, driving culture needs to be changed.  Imagine if you were shunned by everyone you know if you were caught going 5km/h over the speed limit.  Or if your parents would disown you if they knew you forgot to signal on a left hand turn.  Ban movies like Fast 'n Furious that glamourize using public roads as race tracks.  More ads shaming people who text or talk on their cellphones and drive and other unsafe driving practices. 
Compare different countries, some countries have extremely impatient drives, some treat road lanes as mere suggestions, others are extremely orderly and safe.  I doubt that the amount of policing varies much between these countries, it's mostly influenced by the values of the drivers and the behaviour of others drive around them.
What is Vancouver's driving culture?  10 to 20km/h is ok.  Tailgating starts at 1/2 a car length away from the car in front of you.  Stop signs are mere suggestions. 


Consensus Needed

The present top down approach to traffic safety leaves most of us unhappy with the results.  In my view, the bureaucracies that presently drive the "cash collection" approach to road safety are in a serious conflict of interest situation that is driving us all to distraction! At the end of the day I suggest it all boils down to more money for them as the increased revenues justify increased employees which means they manage a larger group... In my opinion an audit should be done to see just how much public money is being wasted in this way. Check out ICBC upper echelons, police service executives & the office of the superintendant of motor vehicles to follow the money.

Granted that these folks, no doubt at least in part well-meaning, would seem to be sincere in their own beliefs as to traffic solutions. They appear to be convinced of the correctness of their approaches to various aspects of motor vehicle operation & roadway design even as many drivers & pedestrians & cyclists are not! Sadly for most of us travelling BC's roads, they have influenced gullible politicians to accept & implement their concepts. By failing to consult the operators of motor vehicles they risk increasing the already widespread disregard for traffic laws.

Our society simply can't afford to place the number of traffic services constables on the road to enforce laws & regulations that are obviously not respected by the majority of drivers. Without such an increased police presence, I think the ineffectual method of road safety improvement by traffic ticket lottery will continue no matter if financial penalties are vastly increased. Getting rid of the top levels of public servants who are responsible for the present debacle in road safety is probably necessary housecleaning. Starting a process of grass roots consultation on road safety is the path I believe we should  follow. How about a democratic approach to solving this problem rather than elitist one? With the BC provincial election looming let's vote for real change in this crucial aspect of our lives. 

Submitted by E-mail

I must be getting old and mean as i don't think they go far enough and honestly believe that the police are giving tickets because that is their job and it one of the few tools they have to make the roads safer.

Tickets are evidently not as large a deterrent as they could be due to the fact that people continue to break the speed limits and traffic regulations even though there is the risk of being financially penalized. If ticket prices were exponential, then i believe the penalty would get to the point that it would force people to obey or not afford to drive.

If there are people that say then only the rich could afford traffic violations then perhaps if the rich drivers broke the law fragrantly it would lead to decent revenue. For everyone else, exponential would be prohibitive enough.

The first traffic violation would be $100. The second would double or $200 the third $400 the fourth $800 the fifth $1600 etc. Similar to the grains of rice on a checker board theory of doubling. The bad driver either drives within the laws or becomes unable to drive due to finances. The fact remains, good drivers that obey the law pay nothing. Repeat offenders pay hefty fines.

What ever happened to the rule of law?

We Canadians like to beleive that we uphold the rule of law, but I see little of that when people are behind the wheel. Enforcement only works when the majority of citizens submit themselves to obeying the law. We've gotten away from thinking that 'I am responsible for upholding the law' to 'what can I get away with'. Instead of 'I will travel at or below the speed limit because it is the law' the mentality is now 'I can probably get away with 10 kph above the posted limit and I won't be stopped'.

While we don't have total anarchy on the road, there are enough drivers that just don't care as long as they can get from point A to point B in as little time as possible and everyone else on the road be damned. I'm sorry, but all the attempts at enforcement are going to be a drop in the bucket until drivers choose to obey the rules of the road without enforcement. I've passed vehicles stopped by an RCMP officer and literally been passed by that same vehicle (obviously speeding) ten minutes later, on a double yellow line after tailgating me.

Perhaps the streets and highways would be a little safer if we went back to thinking the driving is a privilege, not a right.

I guess that I'm getting to be old too.

Submitted by E-mail

The current system does NOT work well at all.  It’s an embarrassment actually.

Not a day passes in this province where I don’t observe some of the worst driving behaviour in Canada, and I’ve lived from coast to coast.  North America in general produces very poor quality drivers, the proof is in our fatality rate that is 3 times higher than the rates in Germany and Japan. Why is this?  Because among other countries with far lower fatality and accident rates,  both Germany and Japan have MANDATORY drivers education programs. 

A driver’s licence in those countries is expensive, costing several thousand dollars to obtain, and their driver’s education programs are intensive, 40 hours in car (again, the courses are mandatory) and up to 80 hours for a motorcycle licence.  This is the course that Canada should be taking. It saves lives, and billions of dollars in insurance claims.  A driver’s licence there is truly a privilege.

Should you opt to take driver’s ed in Canada, even with the renowned Young Drivers of Canada, you receive a paltry 8 hours “in-car” instruction by comparison, and then must follow a very restrictive “graduated” licensing program that actually restricts young people from driving and learning! 

Having driven extensively in both overseas countries, there is very little road rage too.  Drivers signal their intentions properly, do not hang out in the passing lanes on highways, respect bicycles, other slow moving vehicles and pedestrians far more than what I see happen here on a daily basis.

I have no problem with police enforcing road rules and handing out tickets, although compared to Germany and Japan, the fines are relatively low and should be raised here.  I do however have a problem with the selective road rule enforcement we have now.  Not once have I seen or heard of police ticketing a driver for holding up traffic in the passing lane of a highway.  Again, this leads to road rage and weaving, which in turn leads to more road rage and accidents, but the police in BC “don’t want to promote speeding” by ticketing this behaviour, despite a blitz happening right now across the US and most other Canadian provinces. 

On another note, the tolerance for drinking and driving in Japan and Germany is zero.  Zero alcohol in your blood stream. No grey areas, no wondering if you can have one more drink.  0%.  It takes all the guess work out of the equation.  Simple and easy.  If you drink, you just don’t drive.

Submitted by E-mail

This was a couple of decades ago but I remember reading an article that one of the Scandinavian countries bases your traffic fine on your income.  People with a lower income pay a moderate fine and people with a higher income pay a higher fine. Not a bad idea, especially for those people with the high end sports cars who think they are entitled to break the speed limit or that the speed limit is only a suggestion. Hit them where it hurts, the wallet.

Submitted by E-mail

They should give bonus points based on miles driven &/ or hours on the road for professional drivers.

Submitted by E-mail

As a witness to many youtube videos of the driving antics of the Russian public; it’s clear to me that dash cams are a great way to give power to motorists who find themselves victims of other people’s bad driving.

If a country like Russia (which admittedly still has a tenuous justice system) has found success with something as simple as dashboard mounted cameras, imagine how effective they could be in BC. Too many claims get dragged out by “He said, she said” scenarios, but if more people had substantial video evidence to back up their complaints a  lot of the stress following a collision could be eased.

We know that cell phones don’t cut it for providing video evidence. They’re ill equipped for capturing documented footage as they are designed for entertainment purposes. Official dash cams that run as long as the vehicle is in motion would provide much needed assurance while behind the wheel.

Even in a town the size of Kelowna, I routinely find myself witnessing abysmal driving practices on my commute. I personally would very much like to have a third eye watching the road as people cut me off, neglect to signal, run red lights, etc. Rear facing cameras would be welcome as well, as above all else I find other drivers maintain dangerously close following distance in this town. Tailgating is one of the easiest habits to get into, and one of the fastest ways to get into a fender bender.

On a final note we could also gain  perspective on how it’s not just young people driving poorly. I’m a 22 year old guy with my class 5 and I seem to be the only person who knows the correct signaling procedure while approaching roundabouts. I think with continuous, and widespread video recording tech we could gather invaluable research on what needs improvement out on the roads.

It's interesting to read

It's interesting to read comments here - as in other postings.

I think two things need to be done to help deal with driving. 

First, a holistic approach..  Much like the harm reduction approach to drugs, or the approaches to drunk driving.  We need appropriate enforcment; education and communication; laws and regulations, etc.  Multiple tactics to deal with the multiple driving issues. Not just (say) tickets for speeding (for example).

Secondly, we need it to be based on proper data.  Why are people driving worse than other places/times, etc?  What are safe practices and rules?
Why is that person I think is driving like an idiot doing so?  Are they ignorant, frustrated at the other drivers (and if so why), don't care about other people...... 
How much of the problem is just perception?
As has been mentioned - and I perceive is true - driving elsewhere in the world seems to be better - why?
There seems to be a dearth of useful research on driving issues..... And if we don't know what the real issues are, it will be harder to fix them.

I could go on and on...

Submitted by E-mail

All you have to do is drive 3 hours a day, 5 days a week as a Volunteer driver (and I'm a retired professional driver) to observe the attitude of those who don't care what the rules are. The ones that make all the noise about 'Cash Grab' are the ones that have no respect for said rules, yet they whine and complain when they get caught! Too bad! If you don't want to be fined, obey the rules and have some respect for others that drive by the rules.
People talk about re-testing 'Senior Drivers', but a lot of other drivers need re-testing first, with some re-enforcement of proper defensive driving practices.
Note: I'm a retired professional driver who has held various classes of license for almost 60 years (I currently hold classes 5 and 6, having relinquished my class 3 15 years ago, as I could no longer justify personally paying for medical exams to hold a license I didn't require).

Submitted by E-mail

Nothing like flashing red/ blue lights to get your attention. The presence of a police car is the best deterrent but they are spread thin and have many other duties.

I would employ many more speed and traffic camera's and  clearly post signage with the penalties, so that drivers know there will be a definite penalty for speeding, red lighting, texting, phoning.etc, I would have the citation delivered as immediately as possible by electronic media or hand delivered to the home address-so that the infraction and penalty are linked _"soon , certain consequences are more likely to change behaviors"

After a certain number of citations, a mandatory defensive driving course should be required and retest. Car insurance rates could be related to the driving infractions.

Sorry, no positive re-enforcement for safe drivers-just lower insurance rates.

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