It's the Highway's Fault!

Maniac DriverI visited a Facebook page this morning that is the electronic start of a movement to improve the highway in an area of Vancouver Island that frequently sees major collisions. Dividing the highway, adding concrete barriers, prohibiting turns, reducing the speed limit, installing traffic lights and other similar suggestions make up the majority of the solutions put forward by concerned people whenever events like these occur.

Is this enough to address the problem? I once asked a Ministry of Transportation engineer if the best way to reduce collisions was to build a cattle chute that removed the need for drivers to make decisions. While I do agree that engineering improvements to our highways can result in collision reductions I know that they are not the full answer to our problems. We must also pay attention to the other two E's, enforcement and education.

Having spent 20 years in traffic enforcement full time, I know the scope of the job and have had the outlook of many drivers expressed to me, occasionally in very offensive terms. One that I still remember is that of a travelling salesperson who told me that a traffic ticket was just the cost of doing business. If he had to drive at the speed limit he wouldn't have time in his day to conduct that business. Clearly, the ticket that I was issuing to him at the time was no deterrent, but it was all I could do.

I've also wondered how difficult it would be to pass a current class 5 road test. The driver examiner I asked about it told me that few adult drivers would pass easily if they were called back for a re-examination. He also suggested that the exam was the minimum standard and that a current driver should be expected to perform at a higher level of skill than someone who was obtaining their first full privileged license. After all, look at the practice and experience they should have gained over the years.

For the most part, we are very fortunate to have the highways we do and the manner in which they are maintained. Since the majority of crashes are caused by driver error or outright disobedience, perhaps we should be calling for a little more enforcement and a lot more education. Until driver attitude improves significantly no amount of engineering improvements are likely to produce a significant reduction in B.C.'s crash statistics.

Reference Links:

BC Collision Statistics


Submitted by E-Mail

I came back from whistler a few years ago on Greyhound. I got into conversation with the driver about these bad roads that are out to kill you. On 2 or 3 of the blind curves he related to me of the times that he encountered 2 side by side cars and just narrowly averted a head on collision. Notice that i did not use the word accident. A few months back I rode my scooter to Gold River for a few days holiday. On the way back I was passed in no passing zones about 4 or 5 times, once by motorcycles and the rest by cars. Why do they build these deadly highways? I've decided that I can do without these winding roads that are meant for motorcycles. I don't care for the idea of seeing 2 cars side by side coming at me and no apparent escape route. I personally don't believe that education is the answer. It doesn't seem to have helped a great deal with reminding people of the dangers of drinking and driving. We still seem to be mopping up the blood and continuing on. Apparently in Manitoba now you have to take a safety course to get your bike license. Here in B.C. the course is so expensive that most don't bother. I would love to get involved in doing something about this. I've looked into what other places are doing about it. Any helpful ideas?

Submitted by E-Mail

How true that education and consequences in fines might help. I was the unfortunate recipient to a stupid driver during a snow storm in Parksville at a 4 way stop street. Other drivers saw me stop on my street and thought that 4 way were courtesy stops if you could be first in to the intersection no need to stop. She ran it and did $7,000.00 damage to my new station wagon. I was over half way into the intersection when she clipped me. Fortunately she t-boned me dead center to the front wheel so no personal damage. Spun us around twice. Fortunately I had my digital camera and immediately took shots of her wheel tracks showing she only applied her brake after she was into the intersection. Only 1 wheel had brakes that worked. ICBC was very interested in my photos. The photo showed her tracks over the yellow strip and no skid marks till she was into my vehicle.

Submitted by E-Mail

This was an excellent perspective. It highlights the fact that we have a large portion of existing licensed drivers whose knowledge and skills have either deteriorated over time since initial licensing or they never were at the level required of a new driver today. I have long felt that since we have to renew our licenses every 5 years we should do something besides getting a current photo of the driver. How about an automatic review of driving records (including convictions, complaints and claims) along with an eye exam (wouldn’t hurt to help people find out their vision has deteriorated) and re-do the written exam. With today’s computer systems this shouldn’t be too onerous. And if the driving record is less than appropriate, maybe they should be required to re-do the practical exam, and prove they can meet today’s standards. Charge what the license test actually costs, so it won’t be a drain on government coffers. A failure would send the driver back to the Learner’s Permit stage. Wouldn’t that be something??? Everybody thinks there an above-average driver – so we should be able to prove it!

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