Drivers Make Two Kinds of Mistakes

stop signI watched a woman run a stop sign the other day while I was out for a walk. I knew that this was a route that she traveled often and she should be familiar with stopping there. I could see that she was checking around her as she approached the T intersection so I'm going to assume that she was in a hurry and made the conscious decision to slow down instead of stop.

She stopped at the community mailboxes just in front of me and got out of her vehicle. I briefly considered mentioning her decision not to stop and asking her to be more careful as this was the time of day when children could be present coming home from school.

I worried about the possibility of a confrontation instead of a friendly discussion of viewpoints and decided that I wasn't feeling flameproof. I walked by and kept my thoughts to myself.

The SUV driven by the lady was carrying the identification of a major Canadian corporation. Communicating with them would not be difficult and I could suggest that they should take their representative to task for her action.

Given my experiences making driving complaints, I discarded this idea and did not even briefly consider reporting to the police.

I've returned to the situation in my mind a number of times since then and conclude that drivers make two kinds of mistakes, honest ones and deliberate decisions to disregard the rules of the road.

I try my best every time that I get behind the wheel to pay attention to what I am doing, follow the rules to the letter and drive defensively. It would be mortifying to cause problems for other road users but despite my best intentions, I make mistakes. No matter how hard I try, I will never be the perfect driver that I want to be.

When I fail in my driving duties, I might feel the sting of a traffic ticket, suffer embarassment, or need the cushion of insurance to help compensate for my error.

Hmm, that's pretty much exactly what the drivers who deliberately disregard the laws face too.

Our system doesn't really differentiate between the two until that behaviour becomes chronic or another road user is physically injured or killed. Even then in most cases the cushion of insurance is still there to take hurting ourselves out of the consequences of our bad decision making. The courts and RoadSafetyBC sometimes seem ill prepared to apply what the community sees as an appropriate penalty.

Perhaps I should have stopped and politely pointed out to this lady it is not acceptable to run stop signs in our neighbourhood. If she is a reasonable person maybe that is all that is required to insure that she stops next time.

At the other end of the scale, if you deliberately decide to disobey and kill someone, that should be the end of your driving career. Period. Full Stop. No do overs.

What do you think?


Submitted On Facebook

That's a burr under my saddle. As I don't have that self-righteous mindset, "I can do what I want", I will never understand why people don't give a second thought about another persons life. However, don't ever do it to them!

I appreciate the fact that

I appreciate the fact that you want to avoid what might turn into an unpleasant confrontation. I wouldn't want that either. On the other hand, how would you feel if that person causes an accident, "as this was the time of day when children could be present coming home from school", and you didn't say anything?

As you said, "If she is a reasonable person maybe that is all that is required to insure that she stops next time." If a confrontation ensues then you will know that the driver is neither reasonable nor responsible, and I would consider notifying both the Police and the employer. The next time you are using that intersection and you happen to be the one she hits, perhaps you won't survive to say anything, and we would be deprived of your wonderful blog :-((

I have a question that might lead to further discussion.

To our site host: if you were a Traffic Engineer, would you have placed a 'Stop' sign at that intersection, or perhaps a 'Yield' sign?

Is there a sidewalk of any description, a stop line, a marked crosswalk, even? How are the sight lines?

Making no excuses for the driver's illegal behaviour, I wonder if these circumstances might have any relevance. Any chance of a Google Maps link?

Meanwhile, if I have understood things correctly, it seems probable that this driver, in her clearly marked company vehicle, follows this route at more or less the same time eac|h day; and likely then that this is a repetitive behaviour on her part; in which case it would be easy enough to park nearby with your dashcam on.

It seems probable that uploading a short video of her driving behaviour, and sending a link to her company of this video, could provide the best solution.

Companies usually take a keen interest in, and stern attitude toward, the way their vehicles are driven. Major corporations in particular! This has been made evident to me from my work, that has included conducting Driver Assessments for a number of them, including Shell Canada, UBC Lands & Buildings, City of Richmond, Accenture, Fortis BC, and various others.

So clearly presented evidence of this woman's driving - which does not need to be splashed across the internet for everyone to comment and make judgment on - could prove most effective. I would speculate that the repercussions could range from removing her corporate vehicle use privileges to a major safety promotion on the part of the company.

Location of Incident

There was a stop sign at the intersection. Without sitting and watching it, I suspect that traffic flow is about equal and is low for the most part. A yield sign is an interesting thought. I wonder why engineers almost always use a stop sign at an intersection like this?

OK, now this gets even more interesting!

Thanks for the Giggle Earth link; checking the time-line on that intersection, it becomes apparent that it was actually uncontrolled up until September 2011. But visually, not much else seems different; maybe the tree branches have grown a bit, is all (and that's easy to fix).

So to my mind, the question becomes Why? Who? At some point in time, six and a half years ago, the decision was made to impose a right-of-way sign on Balsam Crescent, the stem of the T junction with Anchor Way.

It's not normal for a proper Traffic Engineer to do something like this arbitrarily; if an intersection has functioned perfectly well for years, they wouldn't be inclined to allocate the funds, or to mess with something that's already working quite well, thank you.

One thing that might have triggered this is a collision (or even several); another might be an increase in traffic density, perhaps from subdevelopment in the area.

Possibly, folks from the neighbourhood may have had a few 'close calls' there, and lobbied for this imposition.

And, sadly, sometimes unneccessary signs are erected because some self-important elected Local Council (who may have all the rational judgment and objectivity of a Strata Council, intent on 'controlling' all their neighbour's behaviour even if they haven't done anything yet) decide that it should be done, without objective reasoning.

Whichever, it then becomes a question of what to erect - possibly a black-on-yellow Warning sign of the intersection ahead is all that's needed. But, if something stronger, then a Regulatory Yield should be the obvious choice. So who selected a Stop sign?

It's worth keeping in mind that the folks in that neighbourhood have probably driving those streets and intersections for a number of years. Putting up some stupid sign (as they might see it) isn't going to necessarily change their driving behaviour.

So what happened, back in 2011?


Please contact the company

I suggest that you send the company a copy of your article and offer to post their response anonymously.

I will be very surprised if you do not receive a timely and grateful response that describes the action taken by the company.  Most likely, the action will include reminding all employees who drive company vehicles, whether on company time or not, of the importance of not only driving safely, and in compliance with the rules of the road, but also as being seen as driving safely and in compliance.


Stop means STOP

Yeah, my saddle is sore too.  I encouter bad drivers almost everyday.  I walk 5 miles a day, not always the same path, but mostly.  The confrontation issue isn't an issue, for the most part, most of us are not afraid of being right.  However, when you challenge these bad drivers with their errors (like cell phone using while driving) they give you one of two responses, or sometimes both, the salute or the "mind your own business" quote.  Can't fix stupid.  And I think the reservations with confronting these violaters is the arrogant response that deters us.  I do note, that the police enforcement is very invisible.  I rarely see traffic cops doing..... traffic.  Guess its boring and all the young coppers don't want to do boring duties so they all scramble to be a part of the drug squad, I guess.  I like the cop from North Van (correct me if I'm wrong) who does traffic everyday and tries, as a lone copper, to keep the traffic violators to a minimum.  Good for him amd thank you for doing your duty.  I'd like him to clone him for my community.  However, Canada's Worst Drivers comes to miind and that show never ceases to amaze me, how do these BAD drivers ever get their license?  And there's thousands of them out there!  Perhaps we need to start at issuance so we can minimize this bad driving.  Let it be known, I'm not without making a few errors myself. albeit nothing life treatening, but if I'm witnessed to my mistake, I'm the 1st one to say, sorry to the offended other.  It's amazing how owning what belongs to you will decipate the upset and anger of the other driver you've wronged.  Own it.  And apologize.  AND learn from it.  

Faulty logic

However, Canada's Worst Drivers comes to miind and that show never ceases to amaze me, how do these BAD drivers ever get their license?  And there's thousands of them out there!  Perhaps we need to start at issuance so we can minimize this bad driving.

Are you suggesting that when they originally 'earned' their driving license, they were demonstrating the same poor behaviour as you have watched on a 'reality' show about bad drivers?


Driver Examiners can only test according to set criteria, and observed behaviour, at the time of the test. What each individual does from there, how they conduct themselves when they think nobody is watching, is another matter entirely.

Fact is, many - and I dare say this includes you and I and many others reading this - actually and deliberately improve our driving skills after passing 'The Test'. They could make a show based on this, called 'Canada's Best Drivers' ... only it would be so boring nobody would watch it, just as nobody really notices the good drivers ... because uh they're good drivers.

Faulty Logic

I'm not suggesting anything, except to own your mistakes. I have been driving since 1975 (you can do math?) and never.... repeat, never had an accident, made a claim or had any tickets.  As I said, I'm not without errors but few & far between & I own the ones I make that offended another driver and learnt from my mistakes.  I don't violate the rules of the road and I don't tell others off when they may have pointed out something of dispute.  I have also taken up motorcycle riding just 7 years ago and the skills I've learnt in that department have been applied to driving also.  What I would like to see is a stricter, longer process to receiving full license privileges..... operative word here, is, privilege.  Too much emphasis on "rights" to drive.  I dont believe 16 year olds are responsible OR mature to be driving.  I can say that as I was 16 once, thought I knew everything but clearly realized I did not. Drivers are too busy defending/excusing their violations (court/lawyers) just OWN it.  Suck it up and learn! 

Thank you. Or is it 'I' ?

Either way, you have made a lot clear, young lady.

Drivers make two kind of mistakes

When did that area go to community mail boxes? Could it be the stop sign was installed with the mail boxes to prevent accidents from people pulling in and out?

To say something to a driver is a difficult decision and one that I would base on the seriousness of the infraction. If you are walking down the street you saw the amount of traffic, how fast it was going and if kids were on the street. Use this as a criteria. If you feel strongly enough I would report it to the company with just the vague fact that you observed one of their vehicles failing to stop and that they may want to have a safe driving course for all personnel.

I once stopped a loaded semi for blowing a stop light I was waiting for. The driver offered a feeble excuse that it was a lot harder for him to start from a stop than it was for me to let him go through on a red light. I took down the unit number, licence plate, trailer info and reported it to the company. Never even received an acknowledgement.

As one who deliberately ignore the rules of the road in the form of normally driving above the speed limit I am not in favour of immediately taking a persons licence for an infraction. I still say the speed limits on most highways outside of the greater Vancouver/Victoria area are set below what they should be. This was confirmed when the government raised some of the roads. Now if you were to have taken my licence away for life for speeding and then the speed limit was raised could I have it back? I may have broken the law of the day but I was only doing the speed it should have been all the time.

On the other hand I saw the complete waste of thousands of dollars yesterday in our varying speed limit signs. There was rain, snow, fog, pooling of water and still the sign said 100. Some people were doing the speed limit most of us were down to 75+/-. Talking to a local she described it as regular government incompetence. By time they get around to changing the signs road conditions have changed. In other words these variable signs our a history lesson of what the speed should have been. Saw no SUV's or cars in the ditch but did see a semi resulting in one lane traffic. So much for the ability of Class 1 drivers in B.C.

In GB and Europe there have been some intersections where the stop signs were removed and traffic flow has improved, fewer accidents and less problems for pedestrians. Could it be that most of our traffic laws should be removed and use common sense? It has worked at intersections, and most countries which have lower accident rates than Canada have higher speed limits. Stop wasting Officers time enforcing laws that only make people that obey that law happy and have them watching for dangerous habits instead?





Good point - well observed, eh?

When did that area go to community mail boxes? Could it be the stop sign was installed with the mail boxes to prevent accidents from people pulling in and out?

When I looked at the Google Maps chronology, I noted the 'constant' presence of the mailboxes, etc. But, it should have occurred to me that they're in a really dumb location, with the potential for a driver turning left from Balsam into Anchor remaining that whole time in the left blind spot of the driver on the shoulder beside the mailboxes, about to pull out.

It's the wrong reason to erect a right-of-way sign - be it a Yield, Stop, Do-Not-Enter or Railroad sign - as their purpose and application is to establish right of way and responsibility at a particular location; but the primary right-of-way rule and responsibility remains with the driver moving a stationary vehicle under Section 169, beyond the intersection.

Section 169 is what makes 4-Way Stops work. It's what makes intersections where the Traffic Lights fail completely work. It's why, most of the time, we don't have to worry that some fool doesn't pull into our path from a parked position at the curb without checking first.

So my recommendation (whether anybody cares or not) would be to replace the Stop sign with a Yield sign - more efficient, establishes the same onus of responsibility on the vehicles at or approaching the intersection - and move the damn mailboxes.





The sight line to the left is

The sight line to the left is excellent; the one to the right is not as good, but still quite clear.

We should consider what the Europeans do - only use stop signs when sight lines are compromised.  In fact, it would be typical in a low volume traffic situation such as this to use no signage at all, simply applying right of way/priority rules.

There are traffic engineering warrants for these things.  I think that stop signs are the default because they are easy, with no need to document traffic volumes or monitor over time.  I would submit that stop signs are very over-used in Canada, and upwards of 90% of them could be safely and reasonably replaced with yield signs.  In fact, "rolling stops" (an oxymoron?) are rarely unsafe, provided they are done by a careful, attentive motorist. 

Perhaps our system of traffic regulation encourages us not to think for ourselves.

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