We Don't Have a Very Good Opinion of Ourselves

ExclamationA recent poll by Insights West found that 50% of Canadians feel that drivers in their city or town are worse than they were five years ago. The two top groups of bad drivers identified by three of every five of us were youth and seniors. To top it off, most of us have witnessed dangerous and illegal behaviour on our roads in the past month. Wow! Time to have a look at ourselves in the rear view mirror.

British Columbians rated the worst in the country for three of five common driving errors: not stopping at an intersection when required, turning from an incorrect lane and having to brake suddenly or steer out of the way to avoid a collision. Those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba don't signal turns and Albertans tend to take more than one parking space for a single vehicle. It's sad that we come out on top of the most dangerous errors in the list.

We're pretty much the same across the age and gender spectrum when it comes to pointing the finger at other drivers too. 48% of women and 52% of men divided across the age groups of 18 to 34 (46%), 35 to 54 (48%) and 55 plus (56%)  think that driving behaviour is worse today.

The survey does not say, but I would be willing to bet that the young and middle aged identify their elders as a problem while the middle aged and older worry about the quality of young drivers. ICBC collision statistics do not report primary collision responsibility by driver age group but a 2003 study by Sarah Laing at Simon Fraser University confirms that the young and the old are most likely to cause collisions at intersections. Intersections have the highest risk of being involved in a collision on our highways.

Two themes were common in the data according to the poll. Distracted drivers were seen as being responsible for problems on the road. Given the media focus and the fact that distracted drivers are simple to identify with accuracy I would agree with this. What I do not agree with is blaming of specific ethnic groups. Unless you are from a specific reciprocal jurisdiction with a minimum of two years driving experience you have to pass the same tests that new BC drivers do to be licenced here. In addition, you cannot tell who was born Canadian and who wasn't simply by looking at them.

It would be very interesting to see a follow up poll asking what we would be willing to do to take personal ownership of the issue and contribute to the solution. BC's road safety strategy of Moving to Vision Zero is now encouraging a safe systems model. Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-being in BC is a report released by our Provincial Health Officer. One facet of the suggested solution is a speed limit of 30 km/h in residential areas and the implementation of automated enforcement to hold drivers accountable to all speed limits. Our Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure was immediate, no photo radar and speed limit changes would not occur without significant public consultation.

It's a bitter pill to swallow! Why should I slow down where it is shown to be of measurable benefit? Automated speed enforcement? You must be kidding! I would not vote for any government that brought that system back to BC. I'd rather risk being one of the 280 people who lost their lives or be among the 79,000 injured each year than I would be held accountable for my driving behaviour.


We Don't Have a Very Good Opinion of Ourselves

Consider the woman in Red Deer AB who thought she should have more room in the parking spot for her Toyota and so purposely and forcefully smashed her driver door into the right door of my newly-painted pickup three times before leaving.

We don't have a very good opinion of ourselves

I don't fit the standard senior citizen as I feel that the majority of our younger drivers are very good. I would far rather ride with a younger person whose reactions, eyesight etc. are at the peak than some of my older friends.

I blame a lot of the problems on the people doing the road testing. Far too many people are getting past that should never be on the road. I know it is the extreme but watch a few episodes of Canadas Worst Driver and they are scary.

I also feel that the cops spend far too much time looking for speeders. In fact in my opinion that is all they care about. I know when you go through the stats they do ticket for other infractions but the main priority is speed, seatbelts and now distracted driving. Lets spend a little time actually looking for poor drivers.

The next long weekend instead of setting up speed traps how about having one officer parked at the start of a passing lane. Check the speed of the lead car then check the same car half way down the passing lane. If he has increased his speed pull that car over and charge them with impeding traffic. Forget about the rest that are trying to get by this vehicle that we all know as soon as the passing lane ends will be back down to 60K in a 100K zone. These are the people that are causing the accidents when people get frustrated and take chances on trying to get by.

There also should be more emphasis that when one catches up to a vehicle that you pass as soon as you can. Why do we see K of car lined up behind a couple of slow drivers? Yet the cops can be sitting on the side of the road and do nothing about it, but that is not the case if you happen to be speeding.

We Don't Have a Very Good Opinion of Ourselves

You are not alone!  These feelings are bolstered by such occasions as the Ottawa police stating that it was not a big deal that they didn't get their budget requests because they could make their own money.  Needless to say, the only thought that came to mind was the money made for the city by giving out speeding tickets.  And also that police will respond to crime sprees by saying that they need more resources and, upon getting them, we hear that there will be many more police on the higheways catching speeders, none of which deals with the poor drivers or the crime sprees.  This is because it is much easier to catch a speeder than it is to catch a poor driver, and strictness in driving ruke enforcement is not a best seller to the public.  Being able to operate a vehicle does not mean you're a good driver.  Passing a driver's exam means you have attained minimum requirements only and should stay in the right lane until you have expanded your evelope and developed those new skills so that you can keep up with the majority of traffic.  In my time as a police officer and driver examiner who refused a high percentage of applicants, the best driver I tested was a young person who had no control of their legs and had to use all hand controls to drive the car but was able to maintain the speed limit, successfully parallel-parked the first try both times, and was able to be aware of what was happening within their field of concern and was not afraid of the existing traffic conditions.  This person had a lot of practice to augment their training and it showed.  When I did not see close enough to that level of competence, I refused the applicant and sent them back for more practice.

"Most of us have witnessed ellegal behaviour in the past month"?

The past month !! ?  I can't drive in the vicinity of 3 or 4 vehicles for more that a few minutes before at least one of them commits a violation.  Maybe not something that police would take action on (maybe that's the problem, too much leniency)

Why ?

  • Our lack of attention to driving ?
  • Ignorance ?
  • Bad attitude ?

It's not one segment (young, old) violators come in all ages and likely for different reasons.

We have the speeder who weaves in and around vehicles working their way through the pack of (semi) speed limit obeyers.  Tailgating to "enforce" their dominance when necessary.

Assuming every driver knows the rules (which sadly is not likely the case), it seems each decides which laws they feel they need to obey and which they don't.

The "law abiding" non-speeder, who doesn't use signals.  The timid little old lady, never speeds, always signals, but comes up on a line of three vehicles stopped at a red light, will pass on the right (no marked lane) and turn right at the intersection without hesitation.

But, this is Canada.  We just had a drunk driver kill three children and their grandfather.  Get sentenced to 10 years, but with our lenient "justice" system, the driver will be out on parole within three years.  Not even one year for each life he took.

So how can we take violations seriously when our system doesn't give that much concern over taking lives ?

Submitted by E-Mail

I’m not sure the focus on speed and age groups is of any real relevance with regards to safe driving (though to safer driving, yes).

The fact is, it’s far too easy to get a license in Canada and almost impossible to lose it. That needs to change. With better training as mandatory (as is common in many other countries with a car obsessed culture), something as basic as an appropriate choice of speed wouldn’t be a problem because drivers would actually know how to drive. 

Vehicle awareness, courtesy, respect, both of other drivers and the laws, would be something of which to be proud as a good driver. (It’s not just perception that Albertan drivers simply can’t drive well. The rules for getting a license are almost non-existent, and in BC, there have been proven cases of some licensing departments being corrupt and selling licenses, even to commercial drivers).

Driving exams need to become a yearly event, randomly tested and mandatory. Failure would mean a return to a probationary license and a higher insurance bracket. A psychological exam should be included (I know, it barely counts as a science but it’s the best we’ve got…) to gauge aggressiveness, distractibility and perception of competence. A driver’s license should cost a lot of money (I believe in Japan it can run up to $5000) so it’s taken seriously.

Finally, I think Kelowna and West Kelowna should cooperate (now there’s a concept….) to form a traffic – only division of police, highly trained (because the RCMP in this town are very poor drivers. Cell phone use, illegal U-turns, no signal use when changing lanes or streets are all common) and zero tolerance.  The salaries of those officers would be paid before lunch on any given day, and just maybe (faint hope…) drivers would learn that every rule matters (yup, even to those giant poser trucks) and that this attitude of selfishness and entitlement just can’t be tolerated anymore. And when enough offenses, or a few very serious offenses, are recorded, a driver loses their license. Period. Their names are registered with a database that doesn’t even allow them to own or insure a vehicle.

It sounds perhaps harsh, but it’s quite easy to avoid. Just be a good driver. Something needs to change, and modifying speed limits, or putting flashing lights at a stop sign, are just treating a symptom, not dealing with the problem.

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