Sleep, Text, Be Impaired & Supervise a New Driver

New Driver Signs 2011Every once in a while a visitor to DriveSmartBC will pose a question that makes me go “hmm...” This week brought one of those moments with the query “Does a driver supervisor have to be sane?” Without thinking, my response was that of course a supervisor would have to be sane, but after I thought about it, the only thing that a supervisor requires is a minimum age and a valid driver's licence.

I would expect that a driver supervisor would have sufficient driving skill to effectively guide a new driver while they learn to drive. This person would be paying the same attention to the road as they would be when driving themselves. They would actively guide the learner during the drive if necessary and take opportunities to teach when they presented themselves.

ICBC provides Tuning Up for Drivers to all new drivers. This document contains suggestions for choosing a supervisor that include skill, sobriety, communication, patience and not being a risk taker. It also contains tips for the supervisor that indicate an active role in the process is required. The Guide recommends that professional training is extremely valuable. It will help master the skill more quickly and help to avoid developing bad driving habits.

Of course, there are examples of how the real world does not meet ideal expectations. I once stopped a van displaying an “L” sign for speeding. Mom was the supervisor and she was happy that I had stopped her daughter. “Maybe she'll listen to you” said Mom, “she doesn't listen to me!” To me, this is an easy situation to remedy; if you don't listen to instructions, you don't drive.

Division 30 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations sets out accompanying adult conditions for new drivers in 30.06 and 30.071. In either case, the onus is on the driver being supervised to comply with the conditions. They essentially amount to the supervisor being a licenced driver training instructor or an adult aged at least 25 who has an appropriate valid driver's licence and is in a position in the vehicle to exercise supervision.

There is no onus on the supervisor except perhaps a moral one.

As a supervisor you could have a snooze, read a book, send text messages, be impaired by alcohol or other drugs and yes, perhaps you could even be insane.

Police in Salmon Arm found a supervisor in care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol and applied the Immediate Roadside Prohibition to suspend his licence and impound the vehicle in 2013. They eventually backtracked on their actions and agreed to a settlement for damages. News articles from the time report that the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (now known as Road Safety BC) could not point to any legislation that the police could rely on to do this.

One consequence that people might not consider is liability for a crash. An ICBC insurance adjuster suggested that having an inadequate supervisor could be a problem if the driver being instructed was responsible for causing a collision. This would be decided on a case by case basis.

Driving is a life skill with potentially serious consequences for all road users. Since the majority of the time a GLP driver puts in practicing is done with a non-professional supervisor there should be some standards for that supervisor to meet with the onus on themselves, not the driver. I think that it is time to add to Division 30.

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I know personally about the situation of a severly impaired "adult, holder, supervisor".  The person must old enough, hold a license for the type of vehicle and be in the front passenger seat.  That's it.  No requirement to be, sober, sane, paying attention, supervising, or for that matter even being awake.

I investigated one where the learner totaled a vehicle, with the supervisor completely intoxicated.  The impaired owner/supervisor place a claim with ICBC for the vehicle.

Like you, at the time I "knew" this just couldn't happen.  I reviewed the Ins Vehicle Act, Ins Vehicle Act Regs and the MVA, nothing said the supervisor had to be anything but in the right front seat, be of age and hold the correct license.  I then consulted one of the best civil insurance lawyers in the business, the claim was paid in full.

"small hole" in the law eh ?

The RCMP in Salmon Arm tried to apply "care and control".  Thinking that through, since the learner driver was legally driving the vehicle (according to the MVA) if the impaired passenger by virtue of his ownership of the vehicle being operated by the sober driver was impaired by having care and control.  Every owner of every vehicle being driven by a sober friend would be driving while impaired by being in care and control, which is of course not the case.