Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Defective vehicles — a crash looking for a place to happen?

What do you do with a pickup that has only one operating light

By Tim Schewe

What do you do with a pickup that has only one operating light, a high beam headlight, being driven at night between towns? How about another being driven in the rain with wipers being operated by the passenger who was pushing and pulling on a rope with one end tied to each wiper and run through the passenger compartment via the vent windows? One driver even put black tape over the warning light that would have led him to discover no brake fluid in one reservoir of his master cylinder if he had investigated it.

These examples are just a few of many that I ran into over the course of my career in traffic law enforcement. Apparently this is still a common problem according to an article in Burnaby Now dated Nov. 14, 2020 and titled “Burnaby cops find whopping number of people driving ‘defective’ vehicles.” It’s illustrated with a picture of a high end SUV being towed away.

My father was a service station owner and he said that the advent of self serve gas stations were a boon to the auto repair business. It was part of my job as a pump jockey to check a vehicle over while filling the tank and bring any issues discovered to the driver’s attention. For the most part, this service is now part of history.

Despite the lack of maintenance, I cannot point to many collisions I investigated that were directly attributed to a vehicle defect. Bald tires on a rainy day and bad brakes are the only examples that come to mind.

I suspect that many defects simply compounded driver error and made the situation unavoidable rather than causing the crash directly.

Prior to legislation ending the requirement to report a collision to the police in 2008, crashes would be investigated and reported using ICBC form MV6020. The contributing factors determined by the investigator used to be recorded there and could guide Vision Zero planning if it were available today.

Referring back to my list of defects at the beginning of this article, it’s glaringly obvious that these drivers chose to put other road users at risk. What might be less obvious is the dilemma I was in. Now that I had found them I was obligated to do something about it or I would risk liability myself if I were to let them continue.

Once your vehicle is no longer properly equipped for use on the highway you are obligated to remove it immediately. In order to take it to repair you would call a tow truck or other vehicle capable of moving the vehicle safely such as a deck truck. This is the only legal way to move a defective vehicle on the highway.

If you choose not to and are a significant hazard, police will order the vehicle removed immediately, may seize the licence plates and vehicle licence document to return to ICBC. The order will also require that you repair the vehicle and pass inspection at a designated inspection facility prior to driving the vehicle on the highway again. This is commonly known as a notice and order number one.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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