Learning drivers need extra space and a little patience

We start not with a question this week, but with an excellent reminder for all drivers.

Q. Would you remind the supposed “experienced” drivers that the large green “L” on a vehicle means just that – “L” as in Learner. New drivers are excited and nervous. When you try to intimidate them with your car it may make you feel better, but all that happens is a scared driver and one who later on may use road rage as a way to solve his or her lack of driving abilities.

A. This is an extremely valid point, and one all motorists should actively consider when faced with a learning or a new driver. I remember my anxiety level when I was learning to drive. So does my dad – he only tried to teach me once before signing me up for professional lessons. Driving is a learned skill, and many people do not learn well when placed under unnecessary stress. We owe it to all learning drivers to give them extra space and patience.

Q. I have a question regarding lane changes when there are three lanes. Vehicles in the two outer lanes signal to change to the centre lane at the same time and as neither vehicle can see the other’s turn signal, which vehicle is at fault if they collide in the centre? Is there any “rule” that stipulates which vehicle has the “right of way” in this instance?

A. Section 151 of BC’s Motor Vehicle Act states a driver must not drive from one lane to the other unless the movement can be made with safety and will not affect the travel of another vehicle. Meaning, drivers must be extra careful when changing lanes on a multi-lane road. In the scenario above, it is likely both drivers would be at fault as neither took the care to ensure another vehicle was not already trying to move into that lane. There is no hard and fast rule about which vehicle would have the right-of-way, but common sense and courtesy dictates the vehicle that was the first to move should be given priority.

Q. Hi Sandra, I’ve one question only, and that’s when is something going to be done about all the jaywalkers? They act as though they own the street, dark clothes and all on a rainy night. I thought it was illegal to do?

A. Yes, jaywalking is illegal (most of the time) and could earn a pedestrian a hefty fine. Unfortunately, many pedestrians fail to recognize how dangerous it is to cross the road between intersections. Police target problem areas in an effort to raise awareness, and municipalities use landscaping and railings to deter jaywalkers, but this remains one of those issues that will never go away completely.

Q. I have a question about when one vehicle is making a left turn and a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction is making a right turn into the same road. Who has the right of way? I have seen near accidents when both drivers feel they have the right of way to turn first.

A. I’ll start by explaining who has the right of way in regards to left turns as explained by Section 174 of the BC MVA. When a driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close to the intersection as to be an immediate hazard. HOWEVER, once the driver has yielded (and signalled), the driver may turn left. Now it is the approaching traffic that must yield.

It all comes down to vehicle placement in the intersection. If the left-turn driver has the room and time to make the turn, a driver making a right turn at the same intersection must yield to them. My best advice is to never “think” another driver is going to yield or turn, even if they are signalling their intent. You are safest by waiting until other traffic has yielded or turned before making your move.

There were a few dozen emails with various questions and concerns, and it’s unfortunate there is not room to answer them all. That said, there are many valuable resources out there, like the ICBC website at www.icbc.com and Drive Smart BC, www.drives-martbc.ca. I’ll leave you with one last email from one reader with an obvious sense of humour: “I think there should be one more driver designation – the M driver. M for moron. Drivers that cause too many accidents should have to display an M on the front, rear, and sides of their car so the rest of us could have a chance to avoid them.”

Vancouver police constable Sandra Glendinning blogs at behindtheblueline.ca. Her opinions aren’t necessarily those of the city’s police department or board.

A red ‘L’ on the rear of a car alerts other motorists to a new driver. Be kind.
Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, Postmedia News Service