Stay Between the Lines

Traffic IslandOne sure sign of growing up when we were young was the ability to use our crayons and colour between the lines. An important skill for a "grown up" driver is also the ability to stay between the lines. Judging by the e-mails that I continually receive from readers who state that this is their main pet peeve, there is a sizable number of drivers out there who need to do a bit more skill improvement.

Staying centered in your lane is not difficult. Here's a beginner's tip from the Tuning Up Guide:

The first thing you may notice as you begin driving in moderate traffic is that you have to stay in the centre of your lane. To start with, this is no easy task. The magic rule: look the way you want to go. If you keep looking 12 seconds ahead down the centre of the lane, your peripheral vision will help you centre yourself.

If you haven't been on the inside of a curve lately and met an oncoming driver part way over the center line into your lane, a quick look at the lines painted on the road will tell you that many tires have passed over the paint and worn it away.

It shouldn't matter if you cross over the lines when no one is coming should it? Well, it's both illegal in that situation and will end up in a collision the first time you fail to see the oncoming vehicle. It will be really interesting if that driver is doing the same thing!

Perhaps more common still is the encroachment onto the shoulder when drivers go around a corner. This territory is the domain of pedestrians and cyclists, your vehicle does not belong there. It's hardly likely that you would be injured or killed in a collision here but the same cannot be said for the unprotected shoulder users.

Should vehicles have to become smarter than their drivers? Your next new vehicle may have lane keeping assist to help you stay where you are supposed to be.

One side effect of this safety feature will be enforcement of signalling lane changes. If you fail to signal your lane change, the system will see this as a drift to one side and will take action to alert you.

Here in Canada, winter snow hides the lines on the road. Unless it is unsafe to do, your guide is the tire tracks left by the vehicles that have already been driven there.

So, show a little pride in your ability to be a mature, skillful driver. Keep your vehicle inside that 3.6 meter wide space between the lines. This will also show your respect for other road users and help to keep them safe. If you cannot, it's time to put your crayons back in the box and let someone else do the driving.



Stay between the lines.

Well said.  This does seem to be an epidemic.

Thanks for addressing this

I'm not sure that it just a skill problem on curves as much as it is a speed problem. The tendancy seems to be to overcompensate for the centrifigal forces pushing the vehicle toward the outside of the curve. Just this morning on an 'S' curve I was heading downhill in a single lane while a vehicle in the oncoming left lane lane drifted into my lane. If he'd been in the right light lane, or just slowed down on the curve, he'd have probably been OK. Instead I had to brake and maneuver my car out of the way or a collision would have resulted. It was a near miss that left me shaken for a few moments. Somehow I don't think that he was as shaken as I was.

Colouring Between the Lines

This is a great analogy, and the worn lines are a great indicator of where this happens. On double left turn lanes I stay very close to the dashed white line, when in the lefne and find that it freaks a lot of drivers who are used to cutting the corner. Also, when turning into left turn lanes which open from a paied island, I ensure that i signal far in advancebut, still find others who cut accros the island feeling that I have cut them off by turning into a lane that did not exist prior to where I entered it. This issue is, in my opinion, the result of a lack of knowledge, caring, and concern for the rights or responsibilities of driving.

To me, BC drivers are far worse thaird Alberta, Saskatshewan, or Washington neighbours, and that driverthe Lower Mainland are far far worse than those in the balance of the province. Similar to the issue of no one feeling that they are a less than average driver, people confronted with their inability, lack of caring, or disrespect for other drivers and their own obligations, people ned negative reinforcement (monetary) to learn that they have to take driving seriously. In Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Washington there is a significantly more noticeable police pressence, and a visually greater number of vehicles ulled over, assumedly for traffic violations. We need a serious, sustained ticketing program.

With the province cedeing all monies collected to the municipalities, I fail to see where the municipalites are not concentrating their efforts on traffic and bylaw enforcement, both cleaning up the behaviours in their jurisdictions while bolstering their own coffers.

Police presence

I agree, more police presence would help remind drivers of their responsibilities. I've driven all over the Canada and the US and very rarely do I see a patrol car in BC (but I've said this before).

That said I was surprised last Saturday to find flashing lights as I crested a hill (above the 'S' curve mentioned above). A late model black truck was stopped, so I passed with care. About 5 K later, at the intersection of 3A and 97C, here comes the black truck just barreling down the road. There really isn't a way to pass but many drivers will opt to proceed right (which is meant to go southbound) and make a left turn to head northbound on 97C instead of proceeding left. As I was waiting for traffic to clear I saw the truck make his left turn and apparently accelerate past me. I'm going to guess that he wasn't stopped for speeding, or if he was he didn't care about the fine.

I honestly don't understand that behaviour.


Whether you pay attention or care is key.

Lanes and Lines

So here in the north, where snow is prevalent in winter, and the maintenance departments are budget driven, the snow is rarely cleared effectively.  We all still drive whether the streets are plowed or not, and we make our best guess as to where we should be.  For the most part, we are pretty good at not killing each other.  However, as time goes on, the lines become less and less discernible.  Then one day, the snow starts to move and the lines become visible once more, and we find out that on most corners, we are crossing the yellow centre line or the bike lane.  The "lanes" created by the vehicle tire tracks are still used instead of the true lanes, and you can see the tracks criss-crossing the lines for the length of the road.  My question is this:  if I follow the lane markings and stay in my lane, and the other vehicle follows the tire track "lane" and there is a collision, how would the MVA apply?  Who would be at fault for the collision?


Here's an odd rationalization

I have a friend who often cuts inside corners when driving. When I call him on it, he claims he does it on purpose as a defensive driving technique in case an oncoming driver cuts the outside corner. I remind him that the shoulder is for cyclists, pedestrians, etc. but he still thinks he's doing the right thing.

It's amazing how easily drivers will construct elaborate excuses for laziness or just plain poor driving.

Traffic pattern when no lines visible

I believe the majority of us do stay within the lines when they are visible. During the winter and by late summer they have faded to where they are hardly visible.

I do wonder though if maybe the design of the road is wrong. Watching where the tracks go when the lines are not visible it seems to me people are turning in what seems the most logical radius for the corner. Quite a few corners seem to be extremely tight. It is like the engineers intended one to make a right angle corner rather than turn smoothly. There are corners when you watch a semi the steering axle one tire is running on the centre line and the trailer is tracking on the fog line. If the corner wasn't as sharp or followed the line that will prevail once the snow covers the lines the vehicle would stay within the lines. So I believe that engineering is one of the problems.

Another thing is tourist season. Next time you are following a motor home or a trailer watch and see how often these drivers appear to be unaware of where their vehicle is tracking especially trailers. I find it annoying watching a pick-up approaching and the trailer is either running on the centre line or often in the approaching lane. They seem unaware that the trailer is wider than their pick-ups.

I wonder if our moderator ever attended a accident where two trailers, and skidoo trailers are great for this, where the wheels are the widest point side swiped each other or locked together? Never saw it happen but did see the wrecks after on a logging road.

People are Lazy

It's not the most logical, it's the easiest. I watch my neighbours turn onto our street, which intersects in the middle of an "S" turn. Invariably they cut the corner to their left and in the summer complain that the weeds on the side of the road are too high and they can't see.

If you drive far enough into the corner before turning left to exit on the proper side of the road, you can see without issue.

No, to my knowledge I have not investigated trailer side swipes.

Reply to people are lazy

Didn't articulate myself very well.

Was not thinking of street corners but corners on paved rural roads where it has been pointed out that once the lines are covered with snow the tendency is to cut or round the corner. You will also notice that the plow trucks do the same. Which is clearly evident when the lines do become visible again where you will find that sometimes the plowed portion even extends past the pavement on the inside of the corner and the outside the fog line is not visible.

You might be on a 80 or 90k road but the corner is designed for 50 or 60. If they would have designed the corner with a different radius could have stayed with the higher speed.

If you have ever laid out a industrial road the best place to hear the critiquing of your work is in the cookhouse when a group of truck drivers are discussing the pros and cons.


This article brought back memories from when I was learning to drive 55 years ago. I got my Learners in Feb 1965 - in the snow in Vernon, streets were quite clear. - in a 1953 Austin A 40.

I just scared myself - driving since 1965!!

Almost all cars had a hood ornament or crease down the center of the hood. I was taught to keep that item - looking from the drivers seat - close to the right shoulder which would keep you in the center of the lane.

Recently, with the design of cars changing so much, that option is not there, and a lot of time, you cannot even see the front of the hood.

I find I have adapted along with the design changes to keep myself centered in my lane.

In addition I was taught to constantly scan the mirrors, which is turn had the benefit of seeing the lines - center, shoulder.

I also drove box truck, so no windshield mirror.

I especially was interested in your article about failure to keep lanes when turning corners at intersections. We were very busy offline and I did not get a chance to reply.

Over the long weekend at the beginning of July I had 3 times when I was really glad I knew what I was doing and could see what the driver behind me was going to do.

We live in South Langley, around midnight Friday I had to take my wife to the ER at Peach Arch Hospital for Kidney Stones. We were still in the process of unpacking, stress, moving items, etc and she thought the pain was just due to exertion. At midnight I gave her an ultimatum. Either I drive you to the hospital or I call 911 and an ambulance with take you.

I could not stay with here due to the restrictions (which I greatly respect.  I left the ER, went up to 16th, turned left to find a Tim Horton's and watched in my mirror the car behind me as it appeared the driver was going to go wide, which it did.

Coming home, at about 2 AM, I was driving South to 16th (I cannot remember the name of the road - I am from the Okanagan Valley and still trying to learn my way around) Immediately turning left onto 16th, the road narrows from 1 lane each way to 2, and heading East the truck behind me made the wide left turn and hit the gas to get ahead of me. Between the mirror, shoulder check and hearing the engine sound, I eased off the gas and lightly hit the brakes.

LOL (wish it was actually funny)

I live near Shannon Lake Rd. in West Kelowna, which is a quite windy semi arterial road. The city repaints lines usually by April, and usually by August they are gone on the curves. I have never seen so many drivers cross the line - which is solid yellow by the way and cut the corners.

In my observations, it is the newer type luxury SUV driven by 30 something men and women who drive like this. They’re also very inconsiderate of the speed limit and crosswalks. It is not the older people and it is not young hot rodders, it is the moms and dad’s going to and from elementary school or Yoga class.

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