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Editorial – DriveSmart BC – The Respectful Driver – Fact Or Fiction?

Burnaby – I’ve been reading Moving to Vision Zero: Road Safety Strategy Update and Showcase of Innovation in British Columbia and was struck by these words: “The Safe System Approach enables more ambitious progress by treating the road system as a product of numerous components. These components are: safe road users who are well – trained, knowledgeable of driving challenges and risks, and who are respectful of traffic rules; safe vehicles, which are equipped with proven and effective safety designs and technologies; safe roadways, road designs, and land – use planning that reduce the risk of crashes as well as the risk of death and serious injury when crashes do occur; and safe speeds, including setting safe speed limits, and adequately enforcing those limits.”

Let’s take a look at the first topic mentioned, that of the well trained driver. My mother tells me that when she was old enough to obtain a driver’s licence she went in, paid two dollars and was told to go learn to drive. I had to take a 20 question multiple choice exam, practice driving a bit and then pass a 15 to 20 minute road test. My children took a 50 question exam, passed through two levels of graduated licencing which included one hour exams and took formal driver training because we could afford it and I thought it was an important life skill.

That’s quite a change over three generations! However, to put it all in perspective, a driving examiner confided in me that even after passing through the Graduated Licencing Program, drivers still only possessed the basic skills necessary to drive well and that further training would be needed to become a really accomplished safe driver.

Pop quiz. Hands up all of you who have taken formal in vehicle driver training after getting your basic licence. Yes, some of you, and I’m guessing that the majority of those did so because their work required it rather than because you wanted to for personal reasons.

Great! We’ve got the technical part of driving covered, improvements have been made. Let’s move on to the second half of it, being respectful of traffic rules. I will also dare to expand that to being respectful of other road users because the traffic rules are only part of that equation. Sometimes we need to be nice to others even when the rules tell us that legally there is no requirement to. The Golden Rule is not found in the Motor Vehicle Act but does need to be part of every driver’s learning.

Sadly, and perhaps because my career was in traffic law enforcement, I see drivers today as being less respectful of the traffic rules and each other when I drive. What stands out for me is women and young drivers. When I began policing I rarely wrote a traffic ticket to women in comparison to men. By the time I retired I no longer noticed a difference between genders. Young drivers are now tagged with New Driver signs (if they respect the traffic rules) and are easier to spot so this may not be a fair comparison to what I knew from the past.

Aside from enforcement action, Moving to Vision Zero establishes the following priorities: the development of a sector – wide provincial road safety calendar of education and awareness initiatives; the development of a best practices toolkit for education and awareness events; the creation of a provincial road safety logo; and the building of a network for distributing education and awareness campaigns. Hmm, advertising and tickets, no mention of testing, training or incentive to improve skills. I’ll have to re-read the document, maybe I missed it…

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Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)

DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.

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