A Terrible Tragedy

On a cold February day, the snow is blowing across the highway. The visibility is poor and the road is a sheet of ice. A car stops in the middle of the highway, and a truck doesn’t see it before it is too late. It crashes into the car, killing the driver, leaving the family without a mother and grandmother. Are these tragedies an inevitable factor of driving in bad winter conditions?

Statistics tell us that in BC, the number of accidents that result in serious injury and death double from October to December! How can we reduce the number of fatalities caused by winter driving conditions?



First, tell someone where you are going.

Always notify your family and friends as to where you will be, as you can never have enough people know where you are in case something happens.

Consider the temperature in relation to your tires.

Change to winter tires designed for the cold. Did you know that all season tires start to lose their elasticity after it reaches only 7 degrees Celsius? If you encounter a situation where you need to stop rapidly, without winter tires, breaking is not enough to alter your course and speed. Winter tires are effective to negative 30 degrees Celsius!

Have your vehicle inspected.

Vehicles require regular maintenance and checkups to remain safe and secure. Get your battery inspected before the start of the season and make sure you have the right grade of oil for winter temperatures. Also, check to ensure your lights are in perfect working order so you can see others and others can see you!

Carry a fully charged cell phone.

If you wind up in the ditch or if your car breaks down in a remote area, you need to have a way to communicate for help.

Stay home if the weather is bad.

If you look outside and you can’t see your car in the driveway through the blinding snow, stay home. Do not take uneccissary risks.

If staying inside is not an option, consider these tips to help keep you safe.


Thinking Back

Visualize that cold February day, where a family was left without a loved one. Would she still be here had she, or the truck driver, considered the safety information above? When it comes to winter driving – caution and knowledge is of utmost importance.

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When is being nice and courteous not always the right thing to do? When you’re on the road. Waving something through traffic or a busy intersection at the wrong time can cause injury or worse. And it makes no difference whether it’s another driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian. Following the rules of the road is better than being polite.

An incident this summer in North Vancouver shows what can happen when a driver tries to be nice. A driver had stopped early to clear an intersection and then waved through another driver. Unfortunately, the other driver crashed directly into an oncoming cyclist.

“The bike and the cyclist did a cartwheel over the hood of the car,” an RCMP spokesperson said, “and the cyclist hit his head into the car.”

Fortunately, the cyclist was released from the hospital the next day.

It might go against our nice guy, polite Canadian nature, but you should think twice about waving others through or around you.  You could be directing them in front of oncoming traffic or another person or object that you just didn’t see coming.

Being safe is better than being nice.


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Vancouver’s mild climate means most people don’t install winter tires on their cars. Given the problems of last winter, City Hall thinks it might be time to change that. Council is considering a proposal to fine drivers who do not use winter tires in the colder months.

While the city’s political leaders mull over this idea, there are a few things you should know about winter driving.

In most parts of BC, winter tires are necessary. On some highways, signs indicate that winter tires or chains should be in use between October 1 and March 31. You’ve likely seen these along the Sea-to-Sky highway and the Coquahalla. Police can ticket you and send you back if you don’t have snow tires or chains.

Transport Canada regulations require winter tires to be specifically designed to grip the road at temperatures below 7°C. Your summer and even all season tires are not equipped to handle colder conditions.

If you do get into an accident where it is determined that winter tires could have helped, ICBC may consider you at fault for the crash. ICBC offers a helpful guide for selecting and storing winter tires.

And what about your all-season tires? Won’t they do? Not necessarily and the reason essentially comes down to science and design.

While all-season tires can handle many different road conditions, they are not all that good at handling the cold. The harder rubber in all-seasons gives them great durability, but when temperatures drop, the rubber gets even harder and starts to lose traction. The softer rubber in winter tires is much better at remaining flexible enough to grip cold, icy roads. The treads on both tires are also different, with winter tires being the best for pushing away slush, ice, and snow and getting a solid grip on the road surface.

With winter fast approaching and city council continuing to debate the issue, this is a good time to assess your driving needs. Think about the kind of driving you do, find out what kind of tires you use and need, and talk to a tire or automotive specialist today about installing winter tires on your car.

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In BC there is a car crash nearly every 2 minutes. It’s costly and can be devastating for some families. Just last year, ICBC paid out nearly $4 billion in injury and vehicle damage claims. And the year before, 300 people died on our roads.

If you think things are getting worse, you’re right. ICBC reported a 23% increase in crashes between 2013 and 2016. A lot of that is because there are more cars and people on the roads and too many drivers let themselves get distracted by their electronic devices.

Driver attitude is also a factor. A recent survey showed that 99% of BC drivers think they’re good or excellent drivers. But 75% had wrong answers on a road test quiz. Another 20% admitted they were aggressive drivers, and a third said they bend the rules when they think there’s no one else around. These are not the traits of excellent drivers.

So what can you do to make our roads safer?

The number one thing is to follow the rules. That means no speeding, no reckless driving, and never allow yourself to become distracted by an electronic device. No text or tweet is worth a crash. Driving requires your full attention. You have to be cautious and alert when behind the wheel. Be aware of what’s going on around you and keep your focus on driving.

If you have kids that are approaching their driving years, there are two things you can do. First, be a good example. They learn from your habits – good and bad – whether you’re aware of that or not. Second, send them to an accredited driving school. They’ll learn proper driving techniques, avoid your bad habits, and they might even teach you a thing or two.

We all have a responsibility to be better drivers so our roads are safer and fewer families are hurt. Do your part and help make BC roads safer for everyone.


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Whether it’s a short or a long trip, being a passenger in a car can leave you a bit restless. Thinking about kicking back and putting your feet up on the dashboard? There’s only one word of advice for that thought: don’t!

Audra Tatum from Georgia thought nothing of it. That was before the crash that landed her in the hospital with serious injuries. She now has six screws and a metal rod in her leg. Bethany Benson of Ontario also had a similar incident. It left her with 100 stitches, multiple injuries to her legs and face, and many other serious problems.

Both women were passengers in a car and decided to stretch out a bit, putting their feet up on the dash. That was a big mistake. While they didn’t expect the crashes that lead to their injuries, the real surprise was what hurt them the most – the airbag.

Upon impact, an airbag instantly flies out of the dash, inflating at a speed of just over 300 km/h. That’s a bit faster than the speed of a jumbo jet at takeoff. With feet and legs pressed against, the force comes out with all that fury, throwing the limbs back toward the body. For Audra and Bethany, it was a devastating and life-changing blow.

Airbags are designed to protect properly seated and buckled-up bodies from slamming into the dash and windshield. They have to open faster than your body flings forward. Putting legs, feet, or anything else up against the dash blocks the airbag hatch. And when that flies open, your own body parts are like shrapnel in an explosion.

So never put your feet on the dash! If you are a tired or restless passenger on a long haul, keep your legs under the dash, move to the back seat, or ask the driver to stop for a stretch break.


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We live in a world of cameras, found on everything from cellphones to elevators. So what about adding one to your car? Dashboard cameras are becoming more common in Canada and there are some very practical reasons to get one.

Safely mounted to your vehicle’s dashboard, these cameras record the view through your windshield. Law enforcement officers have used them for years and they have been helpful in many legal cases in both protecting the public and prosecuting offenders.

A quick search on YouTube will show countless dashcam videos from Russia. Their popularity stems from insurance, security, and policing issues in that country. But what about here in Canada? Should you buy a dashcam for your car?

One really good use for dashcams is recording car crashes. No one ever wants to experience one, but they do happen and in that moment of fear and reflex, it can be difficult to recall what happened. Eyewitnesses and accident victims may remember conflicting details or nothing at all. Enter the dashcam with its video recording of the crash.

There are a few legal and privacy issues to consider with using a dashcam (or any recording device for that matter). But under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), recording in public is permitted and nearly all roadways in Canada are considered public property.

Recording on private property can be sticky and if you are at an international border crossing, its best to switch the camera off. Border agents can deny you entry if they find you recording their questioning. And of course, a dashcam is an electronic device, so if you’re driving, don’t fiddle around with it – that can count as distracted driving and can get you a hefty fine or worse.

And of course, these cameras aren’t just for drivers. Many cyclists and motorcyclists are attaching cameras to the helmets and bikes to capture any potential danger or accident.

In our experience in working with accident and injury victims, we’re finding more and more that video footage is proving invaluable in showing what happened in a crash and who was at fault. You may never need it, but for a small investment, a properly mounted and properly used camera can have a big impact on determining the outcome of an accident claim.

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If you’re drinking and driving and get pulled over, the police will likely ask you to provide a Breathalyzer sample to determine the level of alcohol in your blood. But what if you’re texting while driving? Get ready for the Textalyzer. Advances in technology are making it possible to determine whether or not a driver has been texting or using their hand-held device while driving.

Back in 2011, Ben Lieberman of New York lost his 19-year-old son in a tragic car crash. His son was in the back seat of a car when the driver suddenly crossed over the center line and collided head on with another vehicle. It had all the signs of a case of texting and driving, but as Ben found out, that wasn’t so easy to prove.

“Phone records — as I found out the hard way — they’re tough to get [and] it’s an agonizing process,” said Ben of the process. The driver was claiming that he was drowsy and merely dozed off, denying that any texting took place. New York, just like BC and many other jurisdictions in North America, has a strict ban and penalties on texting and cellphone use while driving.

After six months of digging, pushing, and challenging the legal system, Ben was able to get the records he needed. In examining the data, the truth came out—the driver was using his phone just prior to the accident that killed Ben’s son. A young man’s future extinguished by a careless text.

But Ben Lieberman did not let the fight die with his son nor did he let it end with the closing of the case. Creating an advocacy group, Ben has been working with a tech company called Cellebrite to develop a new technology that would essentially be the Breathalizer of texting and driving. The “Textalyzer” canlet law enforcement know almost immediately if a phone was in use moments before a crash. All that’s needed it to attach the phone to a device and a quick answer comes back.

Lee Papathanasiou is an engineer who worked on the device: “They can simply just tap one button … and it will process, about 90 seconds or so, and it will show what the last activities were — again that could be a text message and so on — with a time stamp.”

The technology still has some further development before it becomes fully functional and of course it will have to be accepted by and configured for use in various jurisdictions. The device doesn’t examine what has been sent or shared, only whether or not a phone has been used, which should help alleviate any legal concerns with privacy.

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One horrible lesson we’ve learned with the advance of cellular and smartphone technology is that distracted driving kills. But still, people continue to be lured by the bings and rings of their phones. That’s why in 2010, BC implemented a set of new regulations to the Motor Vehicle Act that banned the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving.

That means no talking on hand-held devices, no texting, no searching Google, no posting to social media, not even touching your phone or using it while stopped at a red light. It is a complete ban on hand-held devices and the list of what isn’t permitted is extensive (check the link for a helpful look at what the law says you can and cannot use while driving).

Unfortunately, our distracted driving problem hasn’t gone away. Last June, the government increased fines and penalties, with multiple offenders facing an escalating level of fines – up to thousands of dollars! And yes, touching your phone while driving is an offence, including when you’re stopped at a red light.

One North Vancouver man found that out when he was ticketed for plugging in his phone while stopped at a red light. He challenged the ticket (and the law itself) all the way to the BC Supreme Court. In her decision, Justice Maisonville ruled against the North Vancouver resident stating, “it’s the handling of the device, and the use, not whether the device was capable of transmitting or receiving, that is the issue before the court.”

The law is tough, some may even say harsh, but the deadly reality is distracted drivers are leaving a path of carnage and tears along our roadways. BC’s laws are some of the strictest in North America and now backed by this Supreme Court ruling, they’ll continue to do their part to curb distracted driving. Now the challenge is for all of us to our part. When driving, leave your phone alone!

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Biking and sunny days go together so well. Biking and cars, not so much. But as the days warm up and more people get out on their bikes, everyone needs to take safety to heart. Drivers don’t want to run into a cyclist and cyclists dread crashing into an opening car door. That’s why the “one meter rule” is making the rounds on streets and bike routes across our city.

A few provinces have actually legislated that cars are to give at least one meter (or roughly three feet) of space when passing a cyclist – Ontario and Nova Scotia, for example. More recently, New Brunswick has enacted what has become known as “Ellen’s Law”.

Ellen Watters was a 28 year-old cycling phenomenon from that Maritime province. Just days before Christmas of 2016, Ellen was out on a training ride in the small farming community of Sussex, NB when she was struck from behind by a vehicle. The impact killed her and sent a shockwave throughout the province and the cycling community in Canada.

While a one-meter law in NB had been debated earlier, Ellen’s tragic death brought the issue to the forefront. In February of 2017, it made its way through the legislature and is now law. No such law exists here in BC  but just because it isn’t an official rule, it’s still a good rule of thumb.

For drivers, the one meter rule means that if you encounter a cyclist on the road you should:

For cyclists, it’s also important to do your part. Ride single file in both bike lanes and roadways. Only pass other cyclists when there is room to do so and it is safe. Ride on the right side of the road with vehicular traffic and follow directions and instructions on designated bike lanes.

Putting that space between moving cars and bikes can save lives. It can even prevent those dangerous dooring accidents when cyclists pass by a parked car. A little bit of space and a whole lot of respect for everyone else on the roads can go a long way to keeping us all safe.

One-metre reader

Are you giving cyclists one metre?

Posted by CBC Ottawa on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do, but it’s not the only distraction hurting and killing people on our roadways. Many of us think we’re champions at multi-tasking and that driving is just a minor inconvenience while you’re doing other things. It’s not. Driving requires your full attention.

But other than playing around with a phone, what other things are distracting people behind the wheel? Here is what law enforcement says.

Eating and drinking

Reserve eating for times when you’re not motoring down the freeway at 100 km/h. Some easy to reach and eat snacks can be acceptable. A messy cheeseburger or a piping hot bowl of soup – not so much.

While you know you should never drink alcohol and drive, even reaching for or drinking a non-alcoholic beverage can be a risk. Removing a lid or cap or handling a hot coffee can distract you from what’s happening on the road. Pull over or wait until you are stopped.

Grooming on the go

Whether it’s shaving or putting on lipstick or tying a tie, leave that for home or at least for when you’re fully stopped. When you’re driving, the rearview mirror is not for primping. The time you think you are saving could end up being lost to you forever.

Music and stereos

“Life is a Highway” a great tune for driving, but let’s keep the volume down, please. Your music or favorite talk radio show should be at a reasonable level so you can still hear what’s happening outside and around your car. Whether it’s a siren, screeching brakes or a horn from another car, or a warning sound from your car’s sensors, you need to hear as well as see when driving. And don’t be fiddling with center console stereo controls while you’re driving either – that takes your eyes off the road.

All things electronic

Yes, we’ve mentioned cellphone usage but they’re not the only devices people reach for when driving. Game consoles, GPS devices, tablets – all of these are distractions. In 2010, the rules in BC on both hands-free and handheld technologies were clarified – some permitted, some banned. The list is available here. And of course, in 2016, the fines for distracted driving in BC went up.

Your brain

Your brain is a powerful computing system. But it can work against you. Maybe there’s something worrying you, or you’re tired, or you’re just bored from driving on long stretches of boring highway. But it is difficult for your brain to concentrate on two things at once.  That is why distracted driving is so dangerous.

To prevent distraction, avoid driving when you’re tired or emotionally stressed or drained. Take frequent stops to rest, replenish, and rejuvenate. And remind yourself that you’re driving – it’s no time to get lost in your own head. No matter what the distraction is, leave it behind when driving.

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