It's the Highway's Fault!

Maniac DriverI revisited this old article from 2009 today. It concerned a Facebook page dedicated to bringing improvements to an intersection on Vancouver Island that frequently sees major collisions. Dividing the highway, adding concrete barriers, prohibiting turns, reducing the speed limit, installing traffic lights and other similar suggestions make up the majority of the solutions put forward by concerned people whenever events like these occur.

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design. The concept is that if road users fail to follow rules due to lack of knowledge, approval or ability, or if injuries do occur, then system designers are responsible for taking further action to prevent people from being killed or seriously injured.

Implementation of median barriers, modern roundabouts, speed humps, pedestrian islands, curb extensions along with enforcement methods such as the installation of speed and red light cameras that make car travel safer must be considered.

The Facebook group was on the right track.

In past, we considered that 90% of the problem involved people and driver error. Vision Zero says that we should consider that 90% of the solutions involve speeds, roads and vehicles.

Our vehicles continue to evolve and improve. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are becoming standard features on new vehicles and have been proven to reduce collisions.

We are also improving our roads. 30 years and more than 7.500 projects later, ICBC's Road Improvement Program can claim a 24% reduction in serious injuries or fatalities an a 15% in claims costs where these changes were implemented.

Education and enforcement are still a part of Vision Zero but might be the more difficult of the necessary changes.

I can relate speed and attitude in one encounter with a travelling salesperson who told me that a traffic ticket was just the cost of doing business. If he had to drive at the speed limit he wouldn't have time in his day to conduct that business. Clearly, the ticket that I was issuing to him at the time was no deterrent.

We seem to be reluctant to subjected to speed enforcement, whether it be automated or in person. Just look around you the next time you drive. How many of us follow the speed limits?

I've also wondered how difficult it would be to pass a current class 5 road test. The driver examiner I asked about it told me that few adult drivers would pass easily if they were called back for a re-examination.

He also suggested that the exam was the minimum standard and that a current driver should be expected to perform at a higher level of skill than someone who was obtaining their first full privileged license. After all, look at the practice and experience they should have gained over the years.

This does not speak highly for the skills of mature drivers and our government that does not test, promote or require improvement outside of our medical and enforcement systems.

For the most part, we are very fortunate to have the highways we do and the manner in which they are maintained. Perhaps we should be calling for a little more enforcement and education to produce a significant reduction in B.C.'s crash statistics.

I came back from whistler a few years ago on Greyhound. I got into conversation with the driver about these bad roads that are out to kill you. On 2 or 3 of the blind curves he related to me of the times that he encountered 2 side by side cars and just narrowly averted a head on collision. Notice that i did not use the word accident. A few months back I rode my scooter to Gold River for a few days holiday. On the way back I was passed in no passing zones about 4 or 5 times, once by motorcycles and the rest by cars. Why do they build these deadly highways? I've decided that I can do without these winding roads that are meant for motorcycles. I don't care for the idea of seeing 2 cars side by side coming at me and no apparent escape route. I personally don't believe that education is the answer. It doesn't seem to have helped a great deal with reminding people of the dangers of drinking and driving. We still seem to be mopping up the blood and continuing on. Apparently in Manitoba now you have to take a safety course to get your bike license. Here in B.C. the course is so expensive that most don't bother. I would love to get involved in doing something about this. I've looked into what other places are doing about it. Any helpful ideas?

How true that education and consequences in fines might help. I was the unfortunate recipient to a stupid driver during a snow storm in Parksville at a 4 way stop street. Other drivers saw me stop on my street and thought that 4 way were courtesy stops if you could be first in to the intersection no need to stop. She ran it and did $7,000.00 damage to my new station wagon. I was over half way into the intersection when she clipped me. Fortunately she t-boned me dead center to the front wheel so no personal damage. Spun us around twice. Fortunately I had my digital camera and immediately took shots of her wheel tracks showing she only applied her brake after she was into the intersection. Only 1 wheel had brakes that worked. ICBC was very interested in my photos. The photo showed her tracks over the yellow strip and no skid marks till she was into my vehicle.

This was an excellent perspective. It highlights the fact that we have a large portion of existing licensed drivers whose knowledge and skills have either deteriorated over time since initial licensing or they never were at the level required of a new driver today. I have long felt that since we have to renew our licenses every 5 years we should do something besides getting a current photo of the driver. How about an automatic review of driving records (including convictions, complaints and claims) along with an eye exam (wouldn’t hurt to help people find out their vision has deteriorated) and re-do the written exam. With today’s computer systems this shouldn’t be too onerous. And if the driving record is less than appropriate, maybe they should be required to re-do the practical exam, and prove they can meet today’s standards. Charge what the license test actually costs, so it won’t be a drain on government coffers. A failure would send the driver back to the Learner’s Permit stage. Wouldn’t that be something??? Everybody thinks there an above-average driver – so we should be able to prove it!

I`m 78 years old. I drive an F-150 with a 4 spd transmission. Not many young people would have a clue how to drive it.

Its not always a question of knowing the rules of the road, its being able to ``handle a vehicle`` in different road conditions, highways, rain, snow and wind.

I likely could not pass a written exam today because so many rules have changed. Would have to read the book and study it. But I`m darn sure I would have no problem on a road test.

The problem with modern cars and the technology in them, drivers are not going to learn how to really drive and handle a car, truck, motorhome or towing a trailer of some sort. People will expect more from the vehicle to tell them how to drive it and drivers will become more ignorant of driving skills when they are needed. Technology is taking away ``the feel of the vehicle on road conditions``.

A good driver will use his or her common sense to handle their vehicle to the road conditions. Not too many have that common sense. It is not how the road or highway was constructed with all the safety built in, its how the driver drives the road or highway. I`ve always maintained, BC needs a highway patrol division with some good old time policing.

I'm so tired of people saying that every road needs to be improved on, that's crap, where do you think the funds come from, thin air?

It's all about training, or lack thereof, and accountability. Everyone wants to drive on every road like it is a super highway because the technology in the cars will probably make this possible; except drivers always forget one important factor, they are not the only one on the road, they must share with everyone else, be they inexperienced drivers, trucks, cyclists or whatever. If a road is very windy and narrow you must drive accordingly but no one does, the need to straighten out every curve and go faster than is safe for an old road seems to be treated as a birthright for many drivers.

Slow down and drive the posted speed, it's there for a reason, if you can't stay in your own lane you are driving too fast. If a driver of lesser skill or more patience than you is ahead of you don't crowd them, give them safe room to proceed as they are legally allowed and expected to do, look for an opportunity to pass only when it is safe to do so without risk to the driver you are passing or any potential oncoming traffic that may be driving as recklessly as you are. You are not that important so stop thinking otherwise.

We have got to stop driving like we are on a private road, take a breath and share the road responsibly.

From the article:

In past, we considered that 90% of the problem involved people and driver error. Vision Zero says that we should consider that 90% of the solutions involve speeds, roads and vehicles.

This reminds me of an adage from the computer world:

"There are no technological solutions to behavioural problems"

or from the WCB:

"Your hard hat cannot protect you unless you're wearing it"

I've said this in this forum before, but the solution is better drivers.  We can fix the highways -- and definitely should -- but we need to train better drivers as well.  The graduated licensing program has brought us a long way.  

Let's go further...



I learned to drive at a young age by my Dad. In his opinion, and like many of the saying of our parents that drove us up the wall as kids, today I agree with him. There is no such thing as an accident. You screwed up.

May also have been the career I took but I have always kept myself up to date on changes. You keep yourself up to date on your chosen career so why not keep up to date on your driving? Over the years I have taken defensive driving courses and go through the ICBC practice test on a regular basis. As most kids from the 50's the car was our ticket to freedom. When your passionate about something you take an active interest in it. I still have that interest.

Big problem I see is here in North America we cater to the point and go mentality. A driving instructor I talked to recently sees nothing wrong with students learning to drive with all the bells and whistles. Learning to park with a self parking car nothing wrong with that. And that is what some driving instructors are promoting today. Do you think those new drivers have a clue how to handle a vehicle?

Ralph Nader said it very well, "Unsafe at any Speed", unfortunately he was talking about the vehicle and not the driver. But that is the position we are at today. Until we start teaching people to drive rather than point no matter what changes you make to the highway's accidents will continue to occur. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. Does that sound like the people that continue to harp that we just have to slow down? Could it be they are the problem?