What am I Entitled to Expect as a Driver?

Stressed Out DriverThe headline read “Malahat crash sees angry motorists verbally abuse first responders.”

One person died in a T-bone collision on Highway 1 north of Victoria requiring a highway closure from the Summit to the Bamberton exit while emergency responders provided life saving assistance, investigation and cleanup. Closures such as this one are done with the permission of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

This closure lasted from about 4:45 to 9:30 p.m. and since there was no alternate route around the scene, drivers were forced to wait until the closure was lifted.

I can understand the drivers being unhappy with the wait and I’m sure that if I were stuck in the lineup I would likely not have been happy either. However, understanding the nature of what occurred, I can appreciate the need to wait where others could not. This begs the question “What am I entitled to expect as a driver?”

Since we all pay for the construction and maintenance of highways through taxation the first thing that comes to mind is that we should all have reasonable access to use them when we want to. The mode of travel should be irrelevant as well, with drivers, cyclists and pedestrians having equal access.

Our highways should be maintained in usable condition for all modes of travel. This is not always possible due to wear and tear, weather, disaster and yes, blockages caused by collisions. When these situations occur, reasonable efforts to mitigate them must be undertaken.

Depending on need, new highways might be constructed, existing highways modified and unused highways decommissioned.

We should expect road users to follow the laws, drive with skill, constant consideration and behave in a courteous manner to each other at all times. Sharing is the ideal.

If we are involved in a collision or other incident, we must accept responsibility for our actions if we are at fault. Maintaining proper insurance coverage where required is paramount so that those harmed by our mistakes or deliberate bad behaviour may be properly compensated.

There must be consequences for those who cannot or choose not to be responsible when they are on the road. Generally, these are legal via policing, financial through insurance or social as we decide what is acceptable to society. Those consequences can be expected to evolve as we learn and adapt.

If we are becoming unsafe drivers, regardless of the reason, we must take steps to either regain our skills or to stop driving. It is not acceptable to wait until the regulating authorities find out and take steps to stop us. Knowing that we are a risk to others should be enough to decide to stop on our own.

Finally, I cannot always expect unfettered use of the highway on my own terms whenever and where ever I want it.

No doubt you have additional ideas or may wish to expand on those that I have already listed here. If you would like to comment and don't have a user account, send an e-mail to entitlements@drivesmartbc.ca and I’ll post them here for you.


How long is too long ?

It seems the article is referring to motorists angry at first responders treating the injured.  That is of course wrong.  If it takes an hour to safely extricate someone, that's what it takes.  And... no we should not be putting our first responders at risk by allowing flowing traffic anywhere near where they are working to assist the injured.

HOWEVER once the injured are cared for and the vehicles and debris can be moved the story changes.  In this day and age with the advancement in digital imaging, the ability to mark the location of vehicles, it is rediculous for the police to keep a highway closed for 3, 4 or more hours.

The police will say "we needed our traffic analysist to fully investigate the scene".

No, you need lots of photo's and the locations of all the major pieces, (vehicles and debris) marked.  Then a few days later when traffic is light, weather and lighting is good, re-attend and conduct further measuring and documentation.  Perhaps stopping traffic for several brief periods to complete the tasks.

As for "cat calls" from motorists while paramedics are still working on injured ?  Completely unjustified.  But as I've said time and again, "you can always tell and idiot, you just can't tell them much".


Unfair criticism

It should be obvious to any reasonable person that the first responders were just doing a job. No matter how inconvenienced you are by the situation do not take out your frustration on someone who is not responsible for the policies being followed.

As someone who works providing a service to the public, I often get complaints about how something affects one particular customer. But they can't comprehend the idea that if it was changed to accommodate them many others would be inconvenienced even more. Some people just can't see beyond their own immediate needs.

Submitted by E-Mail

Having been “stuck” in that kind of delay on more than one occasion, I can relate to the frustration and even anger that some travellers feel when it happens to them. The frustration is because of what seems to be the snail’s pace at which the investigators at the scene work. The anger is the result of the failure to communicate with the affected travellers.

On one occasion, because I was unfamiliar with the road, I didn’t learn until later that I could have turned around and taken a detour around the scene and saved several hours. It would have been a simple matter for someone to have gone along the line of stopped vehicles and given people the option of waiting or turning around.

On that same note, if someone would just tell folks approximately how long this is likely to take, people could consider their options such as returning to their point of origin and travelling later in the day or even the next day.

It’s not a question of manpower because there are always several people in uniform, or not, standing around looking important but doing virtually nothing.

Because of my background I understand the need for a thorough investigation, but there is a right way and a wrong way to treat the motoring public and the RCMP has not come up with the right way on this issue.

I find the behaviour of

I find the behaviour of motorists who are abusing first responders to be deplorable. Our society has degenerated to the point where it is all about "me, me, me."  I wonder how many of those abusers are regular users of the Malahat who routinely travel at way over the speed limit, even when road conditions are far from ideal.  If they are upset by the delay perhaps they should consider if their own reckless behaviour is the cause of so many accidents and the subsequent closures.

I agree with a previous poster about the advances in digital technology.  Some police departments are now using drones to take aerial photos of the scene.  This can be done with precise measurements and would greatly speed up the process.

While we are on the subject of technology, it is beyond belief that both provincial political parties (Liberal and NDP) are so reluctant to employ a relatively cheap but very, very effective solution.  Speed averaging cameras would have an immediate impact at reducing both speeds and the consequent accidents.  The excuses both parties use are 1. People would think it is a cash grab, and 2. Privacy invasion.

Both are red herrings.  If fining people for breaking the law is a cash grab then large parts of our judicial system needs to be changed.  The correct thinking on this should be don't break the law and you won't have to pay anything, AND you might actually save a few lives.

The privacy aspect is already given great weight by existing laws.  Governments are only allowed to use the data they collect for very specific purposes.  Do they sometimes disobey their own laws?  Sure, but then they are subject to penalties for doing so.  That bridge needs to crossed when and if it happens.  As for the speeders, in my opinion, they should have no expectation of privacy: they are criminals who have no thought for those around them.

Submitted by E-Mail

Yes I agree that drivers should expect our roads to be kept in good shape under most conditions, and yes there are times when even the best efforts by highways crews and police are put to the test. Having driven professionally for almost 40 years, I have seen a lot of things, most people are decent drivers but it only takes one or two in adverse conditions who seem to feel that they are capable of doing the posted speed to screw things up. I think that some people believe the ads seen on tv about the capability of cars and tire are true, including the "fantastic " abilities of anything with 4 wheel drive. For your own sake use common sense which seems to elude a lot of drivers, and yes I include drivers of big rigs in that class as the seem to have the same mind set.


In the mid 1960's, when my Dad was involved (Assistant Chief Warden Revelstoke National Park in charge of Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass) keeping the pass open was a priority. Everyone from Highways to RCMP to avalanche control to RCA firing howitizers at known avalanche sites worked hard to keep road closures to a minimum. Sadly today I don't see this same goal uppermost in the minds of those responsible for BC highways. Having had personal experience in the realm of urban traffic control I note that some traffic service police agencies do not appear to share the idea of getting & keeping the road open to facilitate traffic movements. I give for example the difference between the Vancouver Police Dept who try their best to open a lane to traffic as soon as possible whereas where the RCMP who are responsibile for traffic control in Burnaby & Surrey major roadways keep traffic off & roads stay closed to all traffic for hours. 

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