Blame the Driver, Not the Highway

SoapboxAfter many horrific motor vehicle crashes in our province comes a call for highway improvements. For the most part, the call should be for driver improvements instead. Traveling past the site of one such recent incident in my neighbourhood it struck me that inappropriate speed, failing to maintain space margins, lack of lane discipline and poor communication needs to be improved before the highway does.

It almost goes without saying that the majority of the drivers have difficulty following speed limits. This is a particularly poor practice when the road conditions are not ideal, yet you will often see vehicles speeding and passing when traction is less than optimal. Travel speeds below the posted limit may be called for to maintain safe travel.

Space margins and lane discipline go hand in hand. Tailgating, changing lanes too closely in front of following vehicles and failing  to maintain a clear space in the adjacent lane to leave yourself an out are commonly observed in daily driving. Add the inability to always maintain a proper lane position and the risk of collision rises.

When is the last time that you saw a driver who failed to signal? Chances are you see this every day. You may also notice that much of the signaling is done after the vehicle starts to make the signaled move. This is really wasted information as the signal needs to be made well before the move so that other drivers may prepare for it.

Before you complain about the highway, make sure it is not yourself that is the greater hazard!


Blame the driver

100% agreed, well said.

Thanks for another good post.

ICBC refuses to accept any accountability

What's one of the biggest complaints we talk about  on the roads besides aggressive,  inconsiderate drivers, and how ICBC and the police do not crack down on these kinds of drivers?  The roads and highways of course.  Yes, it's the road and how poorly they are either maintained or the quality of the roads (which include highways).  

Living in a "rain forest" it rains most of the time in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike our neighbours to the south of us, ICBC deliberately ignores the need for "cat eyes" on the road. How often have you driven in the rain at night and you can't even see the lines on the road?  Yes, we've all been through this.  

What we need everywhere is those same cat eyes we have approaching the George Massey Tunnel on the roads and highways where we can see the lines of the road so we can not only drive confidently but know our lane's borders However, ICBC would rather blame the driver than the fact the road isn't very good to begin with. Afterall, it costs nothing to blame the driver but it costs to add cat eyes to the roads.

"You may also notice that

"You may also notice that much of the signaling is done after the vehicle starts to make the signaled move. This is really wasted information as the signal needs to be made well before the move so that other drivers may prepare for it."

I somewhat disagree with these statements.
Having a signal on, in quite a few situations, encourages the other lane to tighten up and outright not let you in, especially in heavy traffic. Therefore I long took practice of only giving the signal when there is a space to switch to. Furthermore, I never switch, or ideally, don't make any moves on the road that affect the traffic around me in anyway. I will not make a switch if the driver behind me would have to brake. I'll miss my turn - thats fine - but I don't ever try to drive in a way that holds up traffic.

I also don't make a switch into the braking lane - I wait until the lane I need to be in is "less complex".

In rare occasions when I do signal to switch with no potential spots - I do that WELL in advance, and I drive the speed appropriate for the lane I am driving - making sure to not slow my current lane down; and when I finally do get somebody to let me in, I make the switch quick, and usually "reward" the nice smaritan with a single hazard flash as soon as I complete the switch - it always makes my day when other drivers excersise this simple form of road etiquette.


Cat eyes are a great idea! I see drivers get into very unsafe patterns when they cannot see the lanes. I find I drive 50% by senses, 50% by memory - I have good road-memory - where I can rememebrt he labne positions, pot holes, sewer hatches, pavement irregularities without actually having to see them in the rain int he dark to know they are there.
But lots of times I've had clueless drivers drift all over, simply for the lack of discernable lane markers.



Perhaps traffic does tighten up when you signal, but if you are signalling your intent and then proceed to move into the lane, other drivers have no choice but to let you merge. I have driven in rush hour traffic and traffic jams in places like Boston and LA. It's better to signal your intentions ALWAYS.

If you need "cat eyes" to see the road, you're driving TOO FAST! It's all about road conditions and your life. My daily commute takes me by Twin Lakes on Hwy 3A. Frequently, at this time of year, snow is falling in addition to wind and dark. Sometimes I have to stop until I can actually see the road. It isn't a fun commute then and has taken me an hour for what is usually about 30 minutes. Yes I'd love to see the white lines repainted sometimes, but let's face it, you can't see them with snow on the ground anyway.

Yesterday a car flipped near Twin Lakes into a ditch. Black ice - 1; BMW - 0. Bet the driver thought that 90 KPH was a safe speed!

If you need "cat eyes" to see the road, you're driving TOO FAST!

That's probably one of the most ridiculous driving comments I've heard this year....right next to the dude who got his Lamborgni impounded because he claimed he couldn't afford to pay the infraction. 

How is that a ridiculous

How is that a ridiculous statement?

If one assumes the need for "cat eyes" is because the driver can't see the road, then the driver needs to slow down until the edges of the road can be clearly seen. There are some things we can control, and others we can't. Road condition is not something you can control, but speed and attentiveness is controllable.

Obviously you also missed the fact that guy driving the Lamborghni was SPEEDING. He was breaking the law. Speed limits are not suggestions. I don't care if someone doesn't want to take their own safety seriously, I do however, care when that same driver tailgates me, or does something else that puts my safety at risk.

Your logic

ICBC is responsible for directly or indirectly for the roads. Basically, what most of us are inferring by your reasoning or logic is that if you're moving when it is raining cats and dogs at night with on-coming headlights glaring at your and the overhead street lights may be impeding your vision, you're going too fast. If you can't see that Cat eyes are necessary then you should work for an insurance company that will always hold someone else accountable and not themselves.   Heck, maybe you already do. ;)

Oh contrare

"It's better to signal your intentions ALWAYS."

TRUE. It's also best when your intentions do not interfere with other people's plans or "sense of entitlement - you go behind me beggar". You do it your way, I'll do it mine ;) (Although I WILL systematically LET people in, who DO signal properly).


"If you need "cat eyes" to see the road, you're driving TOO FAST!"

I don't need CAT eyes, it's the drivers that drift over into my lane, forcing me to brake or accelerate to avoid a space conflict that need them. But I do notice that the first or second year drivers are really distracted by the reflections on the road, and really behaive like their brains are 100% utilized by the extra load. I've long gotten used to filtering the visual information, where I pay attention to the light refraction off the paint, instead of the sky reflected on the pavement.


"Sometimes I have to stop until I can actually see the road."

Don't want to be overly critical here, but what I got out of that response is - you often stall in the middle of the road during a blizzard to see if you are still on the road. Not only you are a stopped hazard - as you should never STOP unexpectedly on the ROAD; but IS it really WISE to be on that road in such conditions? I've never heard of somedy stopping to find their lane, sounds ridiculous to me... Boy would you get a load of my horn if you were doing that infront of me...

Oh and overall: DUH, if the CAT eyes are covered by snow they can't be seen...
However the comment was about "George Massey Tunnel's cat eyes", which would be great on all the highways in 50km range from Massey Tunnel: West Vancouver to Langley (GVRD), where the snow covers the highway for 3-5 days per year, but it rains 150-200 days.



Submitted by E-mail

Regarding paragraph 2 & 3 you are on bullseye saying driver improvement is required. I have thought for a long time now that why do we not have regular mandatory testing. I would like to suggest every 5 years a written exam is required and every 10 a practical re qualification is needed to maintain your license. It seems silly to me that people that have their license for 10+ years don't have any idea what the rules of the road are. Little know what the meaning of courtesy is.

There is talk about bringing in motorcycle cc limits on new riders. It's interesting to me that if a motorcyclist crashes that person is pretty much toast, usually only to themselves. Yet someone that passes a DL in a small car, goes to the dealership and picks up a truck. If they get into an accident with a smaller vehicle the occupants of that vehicle are pretty much toast. Yet a different license is required for a motorcycle.

Another thing is I watch Canada's Worst driver. (I hope that the examiners that passed these driver's are being investigated). How these people managed to get their licenses who knows. I watch it to reinforce who I share the road with.

Highway Lane Signage

Which highway signs are correct, using highway 19, on Vancouver Island as a sample.

"Slower traffic keep right" who is the slow driver? "Keep Right except to pass", people still insist on driving in the passing lane, especially if they are turning left within the next 8 Km's,and saome turn right then!!  Then there is the new sign? " with 2 arrows, pointing forward, with lane information, below each arrow. Below the right arrow, it says "driving lane", and below the left arrow, it says "passing and driving lane", of course hear, it's up to what the driver feels like doing, and as many drivers, especially those with an "N" or ( "Z" for those, who don't know the difference, and to me "Z" means sleep) figure the rules are made for others.



Nobody can control a driver's actions without enforcement

While driver education, skills, and applying the rules and education they have received and learned is paramount, people will ALWAYS drive the way they want to. For the most part, EVERYONE knows "better" but they fail to apply their training and knowledge. A few, may need a reminder but essentially without enforcement people will continue to drive however they want to.  Essentially we cannot control how people drive. Just try reporting an aggressive or dangerous driver to ICBC, they'll tell you it's not their problem, call the police. The police will usually say "we're too busy" or "are you prepared to go to court"?  Even then, it's your word against the "bad" driver but it almost never comes to that. Only if the police see the aggressive or dangerous driver driving illegally they *may* do something.

What we can control is making the roads better (for everyone) especially those of us who do follow the rules of the road.  Unfortunately, ICBC does not understand this concept, just like they dont understand that cyclists using the roads should be be licensed, carry insurance, and pay for the implementation of bike lanes which they are using.  Blame the driver whenever possible, not their road or surroundings they travel on seems to the norm for ICBC and those influenced by them. 

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