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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!
When it comes to life in the great outdoors, few places on earth are as blessed as BC. With the spring and summer hiking season about to get going, you may be thinking about hitting one of the many hiking trails in our area. There are many to choose from but your first choice is always to put safety first.
Here are a few tips and ideas for making your trek a safe one.
Choose your trail
Before you head out, always make sure you plan ahead. Check out Vancouver Trails for an excellent rundown of nearly every hiking trail in the BC South Coast. They provide information such as length of the trail, incline and difficulty, where to find it, whether or not it is pet friendly, and amenities on or near the trail. Some trails can be extremely challenging and long, requiring an overnight stay. Know your ability and don’t push yourself to the point of injury.
Check weather and gear
On the day of your hike, check weather conditions and make sure you have the appropriate gear – including a change of clothes, the right footwear, and rain gear. Conditions can change quickly especially if you’re hiking through different elevations and things like wet rocks can be very slippery.
Pack snacks and water
While some trails are very close to amenities or even within city limits, others can take you deep into the forests and backcountry. Make sure that you’ve packed enough water and food to last the journey. You need to stay hydrated and fueled for both the physical demands of a hike and your own mental alertness.
Tell your friends
Never go hiking alone – not only is it more enjoyable with friends, it’s safer that way. Even after recruiting a hiking buddy or two, make sure that someone else knows your plans including where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you expect to be back. Bring along a charged cellphone to contact your friends if you get separated, run late, or change your plans. And check in again when you’re back.
Respect our four-legged friends
Metro Vancouver may be one of the most populated parts of Canada, but it’s also home to many wild creatures like coyotes, cougars, bears, and more. Some of these you don’t want to encounter when you’re in the middle of the forest. When they feel threatened, they can be a danger. Make a bit of noise along your hike to let them know you’re there (they really don’t want to be around humans and will gladly stay to themselves if they know you’re coming), but if you do come across a bear or other large animal, give them their space and calmly back away.
From the weather to the trail itself, in rain or under the hot sun, trail conditions change all the time. And some trails have special requirements or rules. Many of the marked trails in the area will have signs posted throughout to let you know what the conditions and rules are. Follow them! They are they for everyone’s enjoyment and safety.
Like cherry blossoms and daffodils, every spring in Vancouver sees the return of something truly spectacular – thousands of people out enjoying the Seawall. But 30 kms of seaside trails can result in conflicts between people wheeling it and people heeling it. Cyclists, rollerbladers, pedestrians, and joggers need to share the Seawall and follow the rules.
You’ve probably experienced it. Out for a sunny stroll near Granville Island when a speeding cyclist takes a turn too quickly and nearly crashes into you. Or you’re enjoying a leisurely bike ride around Stanley Park when a group of walkers and gawkers wanders off the pedestrian path and into the bike route to snap photos of the totem poles.
It can be frustrating and dangerous.
As the crown jewel of the city, the Seawall is meant to be enjoyed. Here are four easy things you can do to make it a safer, more delightful experience for everyone.
Stick to your lane
There’s a simple reason why most of the Seawall has two separate lanes: it’s safer that way. While there are spots where space is limited and the path has to be shared, it is mostly separated into two well-marked lanes. Generally, people on foot take the water side and their trail is often “bumpy” (made of paver bricks, cobblestones, or grooved concrete). The path for the faster moving wheeled set is on the inside and is smooth (except in shared areas where the “bumps” help slow those wheels down). If that isn’t apparent, there are signs to let you know which lane is yours. Stick to your side and stay safe.
Watch your speed
If you’re on fast-moving wheels – mostly bikes and inline skates – mind your speed and stick to your paths. You’re travelling at a faster pace than walkers or runners and need more space for sudden stops. And in case you didn’t know, the Seawall has a speed limit: 15 km/h. And yes, police will enforce it. For runners, be mindful of pedestrians ahead and navigate your way through them carefully when going by.
Beware of sticky points
While you should be careful and alert at all times, there are a few areas where things get quite congested and require much more caution and attention. These include areas:
If you decide to skip Vancouver’s Seawall for West Vancouver’s Seawalk, leave your wheeled equipment at home. Bikes and rollerblades are not permitted there. Check local rules for what’s allowed on other municipal trials and paths.
Share and share alike
There are some parts of the Seawall where there’s just not enough room for separate paths (like just west of the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park or near Leg-in-Boot Square on False Creek). In these areas, you have to share the path and the responsibility for safety.
Another thing to share is this message: the Seawall is for everyone’s enjoyment but it also has rules, including rules of etiquette. Ring your bell when you’re biking by and politely point out to people if they’re not in the correct lane. Keep your dogs on a leash, a close eye on your kids, and don’t get your head stuck in your phone when you’re walking through busy parts of the Seawall. Just a few simple things can make for a great day on our magnificent crown jewel.
Snapchat, HipChat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, good ol’ texting – we get it! There’s an endless array of ingenious apps out there to let people connect and communicate from their smartphones and your kids are probably using most of them. But one place where smart apps are just plain stupid? When you’re behind the wheel of a car.
As a parent, you need to talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving. No message, no app, no cute cat meme is ever worth losing your focus or losing your life. Set the example and leave your phone alone while driving.
Jacy Good from Pennsylvania knows all too well the consequences of drivers distracted by their mobile devices. In 2008, her parents were killed in a horrific crash caused by a teenager who was focused on his phone and not his driving. Since that horrible day, she’s been sharing her story with young drivers hoping to get the message across – there’s more on the line than whatever message is on your phone.
On her last day of college, Jacy’s parents were driving her home when suddenly at an intersection, a milk truck slammed right into their car trying to avoid an oncoming car driven by a teen talking on his phone. In a split-second, Jacy’s parents were gone and Jacy herself was seriously injured. Broken bones, surgeries, a brain injury, and a lengthy recovery later, she now shares her story hoping that it will deter drivers from picking up their phone while driving.
The story didn’t just end there. While Jacy had to recover from a traumatic brain injury and can’t use one of her arms or the lower part of a leg, there was another victim that day. The truck driver was so traumatized by the event that he couldn’t bring himself to ever drive again. His life spiraled out of control and into a toxic soup of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and family problems eventually leading to his suicide. All that from one kid on a cellphone.
Sadly, Jacy’s story has become all too common. But she wants it to be a warning to kids and parents: “I want people to stop killing each other. It’s in your hands to make this world, to make our roads a little bit better place to be.”
So before you hand over the car keys to your teen driver remember Jacy’s story and share it with your kids: focus on driving and absolutely no use of devices while behind the wheel of a car. Nothing on your phone is ever more important than that single message.
There’s something you do all the time and it’s costing you time, money, and energy – as well as putting you in harm’s way. Left turns! They’re more trouble than you think and that’s why UPS drivers avoid them as much as possible.
UPS knows a thing or two about driving. Every day, they deliver millions of packages to people all over the world. And to get that delivery to your door in the most efficient and safest way they can, their drivers in North America follow one simple rule when on the road – avoid left turns.
It may seem odd, but it has a big impact. Left turns can take longer, often wasting gas and time to get through a busy intersection. They also require turning through oncoming traffic, increasing the risk of a crash.
For UPS, an accident or a traffic snag puts them behind schedule, burns extra fuel, and puts their drivers and others at risk. While you’re not making the large number of stops a delivery driver does, nor do you have a fleet of thousands of vehicles, reducing your risk of an accident is a good reason to avoid left turns in areas with heavy traffic.
Statistics tell us left turns account for 50% of accidents. Right turns account for only 6%. Pedestrians are three times more likely to be struck by a driver turning left than in other circumstances.
So when you’re making a trip through a busy part of town, think about your route before you get there. Plot out the safest way to avoid left turns. And just like a UPS package, you’ll be delivered to your destination safe and on time.
Unusually cold weather causes an equally unusual problem in Metro Vancouver – icy sidewalks. With the risk of people slipping and falling, this also poses some legal questions. Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks? And by when?
All of the local municipalities have bylaws covering this. In Vancouver, Richmond, Port Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge sidewalks must be cleared by 10:00 a.m. while in Surrey and North Vancouver they must be cleared “as soon as possible.”
So who cleans up the mess? That’s less clear. Most bylaws state that shoveling or salting sidewalks is the job of the “owner or occupier” of the property. But that can vary. Check with your local municipality for the rules in your area.
In Vancouver that means both landlord and renter for residential and business properties. The city’s website says both are responsible for clearing snow and ice “from the full width of sidewalks around your residence and business.”
Yet provincial guidelines say it depends on what you rent. For multi-unit buildings, landlords are responsible. If the whole property is rented, such as a house, the tenant is generally responsible, unless stated otherwise in the rental agreement.
If you live in a condo, the job of snow and ice removal falls to your strata. The cost of clearing sidewalks is covered by your maintenance fees. Your property management company should be on top of it.
The City of Vancouver will enforce these bylaws if it receives complaints or if city crews note safety concerns. First time offenders will receive a notice, but fines may be handed out if there are repeat offences. That can cost $250 per offence for single-family and duplex dwellings and can reach up to $2000 for apartments and business sites.
So what should you do? The first step is to know your local bylaws. Check their website or call for information. From there, make an action plan for the future. Agree on who is going to clear the sidewalks and how and when it will be done. And keep supplies on hand to get the job done. Some shovels, picks, salt, and other deicing solutions, in particular.
Aside from avoiding fines, you want to make sure all responsibilities are taken care of so that no one falls and gets hurt. That can lead to serious injuries for unwitting pedestrians and costly legal issues for you. A few preventative steps planned in advance can save all sorts of future hassles.
Like an army of zombies left over from an apocalypse or a cheesy horror flick, you see them everywhere – people walking around, absorbed in their mobile phones. They’re texting or checking social media but they’re not paying attention to where they are going.
Tripping on a curb or bumping into a pole might amuse onlookers, but there are real dangers. If one of these distracted walkers wanders into traffic or steps in front of a moving car they risk serious injury or even death.
These zombies now have a name: ‘petextrians’. Pedestrian texters who are more focused on their screens then they are on the world around them. But catching a Pokemon or texting an emoji in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly.
A handful of cities across Canada want to curb distracted walking by putting a ban on using a handheld cell phone in busy pedestrian areas like a crosswalk or sidewalk. Last July, Toronto City Council passed a motion to put a ban on using mobile devices “while on any travelled portion of a roadway.” Calgary is looking at similar rules and two city councillors in Vancouver are promoting the idea here.
A recent survey shows that two-thirds of Canadians think this is a good idea. Another study on pedestrian accidents shows a 350% increase between 2004 and 2010 in pedestrians being killed while using their cellphone.
So how do you avoid becoming a petextrian? A few simple steps can save you. If you are walking and using your phone, step to the side and get out of the way of others. Go up against a wall or a building to avoid crashing into someone. And if you’re in an area where there are moving cars, like a crosswalk or parking lot, simply put your phone away. No texting or tweeting in these areas! Because if you’re looking at your phone, you’re not going see what’s coming at you.
You know you’ve done it. You’re walking down a busy street, your phone bings, so you pull it out to look. A text, a notification from social media, a calendar reminder – you have to know! Your attention focuses on the phone and you bump into another pedestrian.
While that may seem harmless or maybe just impolite, texting and walking can be much more dangerous. Imagine if you were doing that while crossing a busy intersection? In the wrong place, at the wrong time, you could find yourself walking into traffic.
That’s the thinking behind a Toronto City Council proposed ban on texting and walking. The move was supported by Toronto Mayor John Tory, and according to Ontario’s provincial Transportation Minister, it is well within the city’s jurisdiction to pass such a bylaw.
Backers of the proposal want to change Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act to ban “actively using a hand-held wireless communication device or hand-held electronic entertainment device while on any travelled portion of a roadway.” Similar bans have also been proposed in Calgary and New Jersey. And a safety campaign around texting and walking was recently launched in South Korea. Could BC be next? Two city councillors in Vancouver already like the idea.
Smart phones make for dumb pedestrians. You’ve heard the joke about not being able to chew gum and walk at the same time? Well, it isn’t far off the mark. While we try to multitask and we think we can do many things at once, we can only focus our attention on doing one thing at a time.
Eyes glued to a small screen means missing out on potential risks, whether it’s another pedestrian, a crack in the sidewalk, or an oncoming car.
So what to do? Simple. If you’re using your phone while walking, step to the side and away from others to use your device (like against a wall or alongside a building). And never text while in an area where vehicles may be present (such as a crosswalk or parking lot).
Pokemon Go is all the rage. The augmented reality game has taken off around the world with people tracking down “Poke Stops” and collecting Pokemon characters on their smartphones. But it has come with some undesired, even dangerous side effects.
Combining a video game with a real-world scavenger hunt, the objective is to get out and collect digital Pokemon characters and icons “hidden” in spots all over the world. And players are getting out there – thousands of them! We’ve even seen it here first hand at Slater Vecchio – a busy street corner just outside our office has been one of the stops with people lined up on the sidewalks trying to zap characters.
While the app has become more popular than Twitter or Tinder, there are reports of some dangers with the game. Many players have become so focused on getting points and tracking down characters that they’ve actually hurt themselves in the process.
Some reports have shown people walking into busy intersections trying to snap a character, others tripping and falling because they were too focused on the games, and even some stranger incidents. Players finding dead bodies or being lured into being robbed are just a few events alleged to have happened because of the game. In BC, there have been reports of players wandering into places they shouldn’t be – like the Richmond office of the RCMP. Fortunately, the game does have a built in speed limit to prevent players from driving while playing.
But it does open up some questions about our use of technology and draws parallels to other distracted activities like texting or viewing social media. Games are fun, but if you still have to play by the rules of the real world. That means focusing on your environment, paying attention to traffic and pedestrians, and being mindful to not enter private property or restricted areas. The Vancouver Police Department agrees with us on these points – they’ve even issued a statement on Pokemon Go. Like in sport, safety is the first rule, and as more games like Pokemon Go merge the digital and real worlds, it will become even more important to play it safe.
Want to text and walk? Go to Belgium. Digital Trends says pedestrians using smartphones in the Belgian city of Antwerp are now using dedicated “text walking lanes”
Like The University of Utah and Chongqing in China, the text walking lanes have been painted onto Antwerp’s busiest sidewalks. While this was a clever marketing stunt by a smartphone company, residents now want to keep the lanes.
CTV Vancouver says there are more than 2,700 pedestrian injuries in BC each year, and over 40% of them are because pedestrians ignore traffic signals. Some U.S. cities have started ticketing ‘careless pedestrians’ for looking at their smartphones while crossing the street.