Reflections on Holiday Weekend Traffic

memory lane imageThis is a short trip down memory lane with a retired traffic cop: me. I've just recently completed a round trip from Vancouver Island to the West Kootenays and back and had plenty of time to think along the way. There were ghosts along Highway 3 from the Manning Park works yard to Rock Creek, one of my old patrol areas.

I found myself recalling the sites of serious collisions that I had investigated and areas that I knew I could always find frequent violations of the traffic rules. I was transferred away from there in 1997 but some incidents that took place before then are still not far enough in the past. If they resurface for me, I wonder how they still affect the people involved along with their families and friends today.

I was only passed over a double solid line three times on the trip and had to prepare for evasive action in one of them. In each of the three cases the speed limit was not fast enough for the drivers that passed me. I wish that I still had my ticket book and flashing red and blue lights when these things happen.

Highway 3A and Green Mountain Road near Yellow Lake was the spot for this. On a holiday Monday I would have the laser and a stack of pre-written tickets ready, stop sign in hand. Traffic returning to the Lower Mainland would round the corner with the lead vehicle at or just above the 80 km/h limit. One of the vehicles in the group behind it would sail out over the double solid line and the driver would put their foot to the floor.

Vehicle impoundment for driving at excessive speed was not part of my enforcement toolkit back then, but if it had been there is no doubt in my mind that the tow trucks available would not have been able to keep up with the demand.

Before you point out that this long straight stretch was an unfair invitation to westbound traffic, I'll remind you that eastbound drivers using the passing lane don't always check for illegal oncoming traffic and the intersection is there to complicate the situation. Drivers who pass in this scenario may be adjusting their default setting to one that will eventually have significant consequences.

My shiftmates and I didn't always get to write until our fingers fell off on holiday long weekends. Unfortunately, someone usually dies in a crash somewhere in our province and that ends all the fun. It's bad enough when only the offender suffers the consequences, but more often than not, their actions involve others.

Christmas is no longer the season where you have the highest chance of running into an impaired driver. The summer holidays are now the time of top risk for everyone. According to ICBC, 40% of impaired driving deaths occur during the summer.

I still remember an August long weekend in Penticton. An impaired driver had crashed his car into a tree in the front yard of a home near the Skaha Lake beach. He exited the vehicle and ran off. The homeowner and his neighbours were fed up with stupid tourist tricks by then and I arrived to find them frog marching the driver back to the scene for me to deal with.

Being retired, I can now choose to avoid driving during the holiday long weekends or I can travel early and leave late. To those of you who don't have that choice, I wish you a safe and happy Canada Day long weekend. Please don't add to someone else's collection of ghost memories!

Judging by the picture and the signs I see I am assuming that this is not a passing lane but a left turn lane to the resort area. In my opinion there should be arrows showing that it is a left turn lane only. As it is I can see many drivers taking this as a passing lane.

One of my pet peeves is radar traps set up along the passing lane. I have been in bumper to bumper traffic travelling 50 - 60 in 90K zones only to hit the passing lane and the lead vehicle which is holding everyone up suddenly accelerates to 100K or 10K above the limit.

If police were really interested in reducing the carnage on the roads they would check the lead vehicle of a long line of vehicles when they hit the passing lane and then check to see how much they increased their speed. They are impeding traffic. Pull them over. The law in B.C. clearly states that if you are holding up traffic you are to pull over and let them pass "As soon as it is safe to do so". When you are in a passing lane that is an excellent time to do so. Not to speed up.

As for having three cars pass you on a double line? Personally I would be checking my own driving. Did you have a line of cars behind you? If so why didn't you let them by?

Who is a safer driver? The one going with the flow of traffic or the one driving the speed limit? If you had to take evasive action to prevent an accident and say you were unsuccessful and a multi-vehicle crashed occurred or conversely you increased your speed and avoided the situation completely which is the better option?

It's not a picture, it's Google Street View. Click on the square in the upper right to make it go full screen and then you can click your way back and forth along the highway to see what is there. It is a passing lane and I was dealing with traffic coming out of the picture, not into it.

If you are going to reference something, laws or not, I always encourage linking to your reference. In this case, I challenge you to prove your assertion about impeding traffic.

When I am driving at less than the speed limit and back up a line of vehicles behind me on single laned roadway, I do move over and let them by. When I drive on multi-laned roadway I use the right lane out of habit and unless there is a reason, only use the left lane to pass.

In this case, there was no lineup (two were overtaking and one was oncoming) and I was traveling at the limit. Unless they're tailgating and presenting a danger to me, I don't feel the need to get out of their way.

As a traffic officer I would challenge ge you on your analysis. Have you ever monitored the the various elements of the traffic to see who is the problem? I have, all the time - both on duty and off. Do you think police never have to contend with traffic and bad drivers on our personal time? Of course we do. However, because of our job we are always evaluating behaviour from all angles, nor just our own perspective. Do you?

Obstructing vehicles: I have occasionally been stuck behind the slow mover that speeds up to the speed limit when reaching the passing lane. Yes, that is extremely aggravating . However, most of the time I found the "slow mover" was actually doing the speed limit, and the slower speeds behind that vehicle were caused by the impatient drivers behind it speeding up and slowing down in an accordion fashion. This results in slower and slower speeds the further behind one gets as everyone is repeatedly trying to reset a safe following distance. If everyone just followed the lead of the front vehicle, everyone would get to go the speed limit.

Of course there is the flow of traffic argument that people so often raise. Here is my challenge: Who gets to set the flow of traffic? The only one doing a predictable speed is the person doing the speed limit. Everyone else is doing his or her own thing, so in reality, there is no flow of traffic. That is why we have speed limits - to set the flow. Sure there may be a group of cars catching up doing 10 over the limit, but that group is only following the lead of the first car in that group - perhaps that car is to slow for the rest of them too. Why not just slow down to the speed limit like the law requires?

The flow of traffic is a much abused concept. It is only intended for when you are changing lanes or merging. If a vehicle is maintaining its lane, that vehicle sets the flow. If you catch up to that vehicle, you naturally have to slow down. You don't get to claim you are the flow of traffic simply because you are going faster and there are 2 or 6 vehicles behind you. Most likely 1 or two of those vehicles think YOU are going too slow too. On the rare occasion that vehicle is going unusually below the speed limit and impeding traffic, hopefully a police car comes along to catch it, but in all reality, unlikely. I have, however, been fortunate enough to catch a few of these guys in my service, and you better believe it when I write that they got a ticket for doing it.

As for the speed traps in the passing lanes, I always set up at the end of the passing segment and targeted vehicles who either had completed passing (ie now the lead vehicle) and as such had no more excuse to speed, or were passing at such a dangerously high rate or speed that any other driver's frustrating behaviour could not be used as a justification. I also use to set up in single lanes on straight stretches but would take the lead vehicle's speed as it came through the last of the curve (on roads where I was confident that the vehicle would not have speed up to the speed limit prior to me seeing them). If it was doing the speed limit, anyone that passed it was fair game. If it was more than 5 km/h below the speed limit, I gave passers the chance to pass and only pull them over if they didn't slow down enough after passing.

I was 1st on scene to some very horrendous crashes and am still somewhat haunted by the memories.

I'm stopping my 300km of driving / day at the end of July. I'm getting tired and traffic Nanaimo / Pt. Alberni / Courtney / Comox / bumper to bumper ...!

No doubt you’ve seen some terrible accidents in your day because of driver error, speeding, impaired, inattention, falling asleep and not being 

alert at the wheel and whatever else.  Very seldom an accident is related to mechanical failure. 

I’m no perfect driver (who is?) but try to obey the rules of the road best I can.  I also see so many drivers following too close, 90-100 kph and not much more than a car length behind the front vehicle.

I know the police force are short on resources, but we really need a Highway Patrol Division in the Province. I’ve said this many a time to my friends when the topic of driving is in discussion. 

I’m not going very far this weekend, taking the old 63 Ford out with our car club to a Seniors Residence for display.  The older folks enjoy seeing old cars which bring back many memories for them.

Yes I should have called it a Google Map or street view.

I am sure the wording has changed since the late 50's or early 60's but the section of the MVA that I currently found is Section 145. It does not say that one has to move over and let vehicles pass. At one time I am positive it stated if you had 5 vehicles following you that you were required to pull over when safe to do so and let them pass. Personally feel it is how it should currently be worded.

Don't know how to put links to a section of the MVA into here, sorry.

Slow driving 145 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law. (2) If the driver of a motor vehicle is driving at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, a peace officer may require the driver to increase his or her speed, or to remove the motor vehicle from the roadway to the nearest suitable place and to refrain from causing or allowing the motor vehicle to move from that place until directed to do so by a peace officer.

Keep in mind that most of my driving is done or rural roads with light traffic. I like to control the environment around me and have always felt safer if I have vehicles catching up to me to have them in front rather than behind. For that reason regardless of the speed I am travelling if you catch up to me I am going to let you pass.

I have also found that my cruising speed even though it is above the posted limit is what most are driving therefore I don't have many getting impatient and taking chances passing.

I am sure the wording has changed since the late 50's or early 60's but the section of the MVA that I currently found is Section 145. It does not say that one has to move over and let vehicles pass. At one time I am positive it stated if you had 5 vehicles following you that you were required to pull over when safe to do so and let them pass. Personally feel it is how it should currently be worded.

With regard to the BC Motor Vehicle Act, Sections 157 thru 160 have more information. Both here and elsewhere, there was a time when the authorities realized that slower drivers who impeded others could be as much of a danger in their own way as faster drivers not taking sufficient care when attempting to get ahead. A tap on the horn by the driver wishing to pass is actually sufficient under law to obligate the driver ahead to help facilitate their maneuver, rather than prevent it.

(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, a driver of an overtaken vehicle,

As to the '5 car rule', my memory may be incorrect but I think it applied in Washington state. I've tried to Google it without success, although I did come across a very sensible rule that's still in effect down there, allowing a driver to exceed the speed limit when passing a slow moving vehicle: 

According to RCW 46.61.425, no person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduces speed is necessary for safety.

A person following a vehicle driving at less than the legal maximum speed limit on two lane highways with one lane for each direction, and desiring to pass the vehicle may exceed the speed limit only for such a distance as in necessary to complete the pass within a reasonable margin of safety.

If you're familar with linking block/copyURL/paste procedure, the link symbol is tenth from the left on the toolbar (just left of the ") at the top of the reply window.

Only the speed mongers advocate their solution to all traffic issues is to go faster!  Their need for speed and inability to “wait your turn” is out of control and is detriment to the chaos on our roads.  We seem to have breed drivers who’s sense of entitlement is what controls their poor driving skills, they are aggressive, they can not be ‘second’ and they simply can not wait their turn!  It’s, go, go, go!  Faster, faster, faster!  And the end result is almost always carnage, of innocent ones.  

What is the corrective action to minimize and control those who are out of control?  I think the first step is, to stop making excuses for those who want to drive faster and aggressive.  If you’re busted for speeding, excessive or otherwise, then your driving privileges will be severely punished.  I would believe most aggressive drivers only get the message when the consequences are greater then their sense of entitlement.  Big fines, progressing to bigger and impounded vehicles (get them off the road!) will certainly put a dent in this entitled crowd.  A large blitz of traffic enforcement for an extended period of time (much like CVSE) and put these drivers on notice!   I don’t know.  I think it’s a start.  We need to get these speed mongers and aggressive drivers off our roads.  


Canada has some of the lowest speed limits in the world and a high accident rate. European countries with higher speed limits have lower accident rates.

Problem I see is inadequate drivers training. People that can only claim that speed mongers are the problem I would suggest to look at their own quality of driving. Are they the problem not the solution?

I past every driving test I took on the first attempt. I got my class 5 on Monday and class 1 on Wednesday. In those days we took our drivers test with an RCMP Officer. Just after my 18th. birthday I took another Class 1 test with a Motor Vehicle Examiner.

The original intentions with the 5 year licence is you would be re-examined every 5 years. I took my last class 1 test in Vancouver.

Driving has been a passion for me. I have taken more defensive driving and update courses than I can remember. I am a member of the ICBC advisory committee. I keep myself abreast of changes in the law. Although I have spent most of my life in smaller communities I lived in Vancouver for over 25 years. Until just recently I made at least one return trip to Vancouver monthly. I still drive what is considered the most dangerous section of the TC between Malakwa and Lake Louise regularly.

I'm not an accident re-constructionist. My brother and I were taught to drive by our Dad and one thing we had drilled into our heads is "There is no such thing as an accident. Someone screwed up." A lot of accidents I have seen which were officially blamed on speeding in my opinion were the result of incompetence not speeding. 

Working as a paramedic for the last 18 years I feel the same way. If people had to attend a fatal accident and be stuck trying to piece people back together again, I guarantee they would think twice about reckless behaviour!

And the RCMP want to come in my house and take my guns, many of which I have owned and had registered for 60 years.

How many families in Canada are very sadly affected by Automobile accidents every year, How many die from hard drug overdoses every year. Tens of thousands thats how many.

We need photo radar back. 0 tolerance for drinking and driving, much lower speed limits and much heavier penalties and the death sentence for non addicted dealers in hard drugs.

There isn,t a political person in this land who has the guts for it. As for the frog marching,now adays they'd charge you with assault.

As for bad drivers, there are too many. I see it every day.

We are all living in an anarchist society and I don,t see any signs of improvement.

I recently drove from Comox to Cranbrook on some of the roads you patrolled.

Generally, driver’s were responsible although almost all over the posted speed limit. I had a GPS which was useful in reminding me of speed zone changes. There continue to be high fliers –well above the 20 KPH over ticketing range. On some freeways the general traffic speed is close to 20 KPH over with tailgaters, in the rain.

I think drones or speed cameras are the only answer for penalizing high risk drivers. The Coke has variable speed limit electronic signs-a $25 million investment, but no visible enforcement for high fliers.

I’m paying close to $1500 a year to ICBC for the privilege to drive with fortunately, the maximum discounts for a good driving record. Many who need to drive in rural areas are bring cost driven out of their cars

Sadly our politicians are simply passing on the cost of high risk drivers to all of us. It’s not the money but risks of serious injury that is the issue for me. When will those in charge of road safety get serious about addressing high risk drivers-with technology?