Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: It’s the highway’s fault!

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design.

By Tim Schewe

I revisited this old article from 2009 today. It concerned a Facebook page dedicated to bringing improvements to an intersection on Vancouver Island that frequently sees major collisions. Dividing the highway, adding concrete barriers, prohibiting turns, reducing the speed limit, installing traffic lights and other similar suggestions make up the majority of the solutions put forward by concerned people whenever events like these occur.

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design. The concept is that if road users fail to follow rules due to lack of knowledge, approval or ability, or if injuries do occur, then system designers are responsible for taking further action to prevent people from being killed or seriously injured.

Implementation of median barriers, modern roundabouts, speed humps, pedestrian islands, curb extensions along with enforcement methods such as the installation of speed and red light cameras that make car travel safer must be considered.

The Facebook group was on the right track.

In past, we considered that 90 per cent of the problem involved people and driver error. Vision Zero says that we should consider that 90 per cent of the solutions involve speeds, roads and vehicles.

Our vehicles continue to evolve and improve. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are becoming standard features on new vehicles and have been proven to reduce collisions.

We are also improving our roads. Thirty years and more than 7,500 projects later, ICBC’s Road Improvement Program can claim a 24 per cent reduction in serious injuries or fatalities and 15 per cent in claims costs where these changes were implemented.

Education and enforcement are still a part of Vision Zero but might be the more difficult of the necessary changes.

I can relate speed and attitude in one encounter with a travelling salesperson who told me that a traffic ticket was just the cost of doing business. If he had to drive at the speed limit he wouldn’t have time in his day to conduct that business. Clearly, the ticket that I was issuing to him at the time was no deterrent.

We seem to be reluctant to subjected to speed enforcement, whether it be automated or in person. Just look around you the next time you drive. How many of us follow the speed limits?

I’ve also wondered how difficult it would be to pass a current class 5 road test. The driver examiner I asked about it told me that few adult drivers would pass easily if they were called back for a re-examination.

He also suggested that the exam was the minimum standard and that a current driver should be expected to perform at a higher level of skill than someone who was obtaining their first full privileged licence. After all, look at the practice and experience they should have gained over the years.

This does not speak highly for the skills of mature drivers and our government that does not test, promote or require improvement outside of our medical and enforcement systems.

For the most part, we are very fortunate to have the highways we do and the manner in which they are maintained. Perhaps we should be calling for a little more enforcement and education to produce a significant reduction in B.C.’s crash statistics.

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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