Improving Everything Except Drivers

SoapboxI'm becoming paranoid when I drive. I know how easy it is to make a mistake because even though I am paying attention and trying not to, I make them. Watching others while I'm driving impresses on me that I'm not alone. Sometimes it is difficult to decide if it is a genuine error or simply a case of not being bothered to drive well, but I suspect that there is a lot of the latter taking place on our roads.

The insurance costs of collisions have become too high to bear, so our politicians have solved that problem for us by removing our ability to sue for damages in most cases. Instead, ICBC will provide "enhanced accident benefits" and will be able to avoid the expense of trials. There have been some reports of claims difficulties already, but it remains to be seen if they are simply the result of getting used to a new system or not.

I'm a cynic, ICBC is not there to represent your interests, like any other insurance company they simply want to settle your claim fairly for the least cost staying in compliance with the framework created by our government.

My local traffic enforcement unit has about half of it's positions filled with effective on road resources right now. Ask the provincial government about available resources and they respond that they fund X resources across the province. Ask the police about traffic enforcement resources and they respond with...nothing.

Despite the fact that you are most likely to suffer financial loss, injury or death through the use of your automobile than all other criminal offences combined, police resource priorities are on what the public often told me was "real crime." As in "Why aren't you fighting real crime instead of wasting my time with this traffic ticket?"

Some days I marvel that automated enforcement in the form of intersection safety cameras has gotten the foothold it has in our municipalities. Cameras apply monetary penalties to vehicle owners, but the driver is not held to account for violations.

Many of us do not like automated enforcement of any sort and are very vocal about it. This includes some of our politicians.

We've had strategies and visions of road safety over the years. These are good things, if they work. We seem to be adept at explaining where we want to go, but rarely do I find a document that explains the path we've taken and what the outcomes were. Especially pointing out that improvements were actually due to the change we've made rather than being a general trend.

For the most part, we still seem to be stuck with the same old drivers. Remember ICBC's on line refresher testthat only 40% of participants passed? Maybe that is why I see what I do when I drive.

We're resistant to ending our driving careers too. This week's case law article involves an older lady who is a pillar of the community that made a serious of dangerous actions that ended with a toddler being hit. She wanted the 5 year driving prohibition she received for driving without due care and attentiong reduced and a higher fine instead.

The appeal justice made an oblique reference to the fact that some older drivers chose to surrender their licence before things like this happen.

It might be inconvenient or even painful, but I think that we should be doing more to improve our driving than simply renewing our licence every 5 years.

However recently, I have heard cases that RCMP traffic enforcement is present. Like you I don't see it often.

I think there needs to be more use of technology to change poor driving behaviours. Speed cameras,  photo radar, drones. What ever it takes.

I mentioned the speed limit reduction in my area. The town council decided that reducing the speed limit from 50 kph to 30 kph may solve the speeding and burn out issues. Well the big burn outs continue and some still speed. A camera may help, or a drone, if RCMP presence is not possible.

Most follow the rules. Those that don't need a reminder, education, whether a ticket in the mail, online or in person, there needs to be follow up.

Our RCMP and other police face huge challenges today with personal rights. Huge social issues, drugs and abuse. So speeding is small potatoes, best left to technology, I suggest.

You are far too polite.  I'm sure that over your career in traffic policing you came away with very similar conclusions to mine after my 35 year career in safety.  Our society is simply not prepared to make the hard decisions that are required to improve drivers.  It can be done and has been done in many other jurisdictions, but we are afraid to face the pushback that would come from demanding accountability from drivers.  

As you pointed out traffic injuries and fatalities far outweigh all criminal acts, but the public demand action on property crime rather than on traffic enforcement.  Government resources are not made available for the costs of effective action - BUT we then have to suffer the costs of emergency services & health care, excessive injuries, property damage and long term impacts on families, employers and individuals.  These are not all out of government budgets, but out of family and employer budgets. 

In a sane world the Minister of Health would be demanding action to reduce the senseless toll, but government silos prevent such "interference" in another portfolio.  Is this any way to fight a war???   Our COVID pandemic is showing us the consequences of inaction.   Preventing traffic injuries could be a major economic benefit, but how do we convince our politiicans to invest in it?

Instead we rely on the magic mantra of engineering.   If we build highways that keep vehicles from colliding then the problem is solved - RIGHT??   That's why our government budgets for roads has skyrocketed and our taxes to pay for it.   If we build cars that can reduce injury levels the problem is solved - RIGHT?  That's why our vehicles cost so much today.  a minor collision can set off 6-8 air bags and write off a car - but that's on the owner's insurance bill.  

The only engineering miracle I have hope for is that still far off day when AI is driving the car and not the drivers - because we do little to ensure they are competent, sober and paying attention, let alone making good decisions.   Unfortunately we still have a long ways to go until then.  For now, add me to the list of paranoid drivers.

Many years back I got involved in a program that was looking into the licencing of drivers in the province and how improvements could be made. I'm just guessing here but I would put this around the mid 70's.

At the time I did research and tried to interview owners of driving schools. Except for one company in North Vancouver none would meet for a discussion. And even the fellow I met with asked not to be quoted.

I would say that most competent driving schools recognise there is a problem while at the same time their hands are tied. At least in the 70's and I doubt that it has changed the schools cannot stop you from challenging the test. They know you need more practice unfortunately you can herd the vehicle down the road well enough to pass the test. And as much as I have heard officially on how much the examining of drivers has improved, some of the kids I have talked to locally still say the test is a joke. If you keep it between the lines and don't do the most horrendous of all errors go over the speed limit you will pass.

When it comes to driving schools think it was last fall when a driving school car was pulled over and the student was charged with impaired driving. The instructor saw nothing wrong with his driving. No wonder ICBC stats show that professionally trained new drivers are no better than those that weren't professionally trained.

I'm sure all of us want to see improvements but read these columns and most only feel that one law needs to be enforced. Take the discussion on "Keep Left, Except to Pass". Read through it again and see although running in the left lane in an infraction of the MVA a vast majority do not see why they should move over. What is most incredulous is one Judge saying he would not enforce that segment of the law! The next time you are on the highway watch where the local law enforcement vehicle is driving. Left lane.

Initial outlay would be a few dollars but why are simulators not used in instructing and checking driving skills? Teach new drivers how to control a skid, handle highway speeds, check mirrors etc.? When I got my licence if you took it on an automatic you were restricted to an automatic. Lets bring back some of those restrictions. Most driving schools use underpowered, automatic front wheel drive vehicles. How about restricting people to the type of vehicle they use for the test? That front wheel drive underpowered vehicle handles a lot different than the 400HP rear wheel drive pick-up many end up driving.

The main problem in B.C. and North America is we don't teach people how to drive. To improve the driving skills of this province we must remove the blinkers, actually teach people how to drive. Quit worrying about the person driving a few klicks over the speed limit or the person that failed to put on a seatbelt. There is a lot of sections in the MVA. Lets enforce them all. Then we will see a reduction in highway accidents.