HERGOTT: Don’t blame road conditions

Lawyer Paul Hergott addresses driver negligence in his latest column

“If roads are in such a condition that a motor car cannot safely proceed at all, it is the duty of the driver to stop. If the roads are in such a condition that it is not safe to go at more than a foot pace, his duty is to proceed at a foot pace.”

Those common sense words are as true today as when they became a legal precedent in 1941.

And they are consistent with the “Careless driving prohibited” section of British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act that prohibits driving “at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions”.

If it’s such common sense, why is it our instinct to blame icy roads instead of those who overdrive them?

It’s an instinct reinforced by news media. Here’s a recent headline:

“Icy roads cause several accidents across Kelowna”.

It’s true that the crashes would not have occurred absent the icy road conditions. But is that logic as misguided as blaming the lake if someone drowns?

A deadly weekend in Manitoba led the RCMP to issue reminders to Manitoba drivers. Cpl. Julie Courchaine reportedly shared two safety tips within the last week.

One: “The RCMP reminds motorists that with the recent fluctuating temperatures a thin layer of ice often forms on the highways due to melting during the day and re-freezing after sunset”

The other: “Drivers need to remember to drive appropriately for the road conditions. Often this requires driving at less than the speed limit. Stopping distances are drastically increased on icy roads whereas stopping distance on dry new pavement at 100 km can be as short as 50 metres. That same vehicle travelling at 100 km/h on icy roads may require up to 390 metres to stop. By reducing your speed to 70 km/h you can cut that stopping distance in half.”

Do we really need reminders about how ice forms, and that it’s slippery?

I guess we do.

I am going to add one that’s not quite as obvious, but close. Please expect changing road conditions.

Road surface traction can change dramatically simply on turning a corner from one roadway to another. In the Okanagan where winter temperatures often hover around the freezing point, surfaces can become slippery over the course of a commute. High mountain passes are particularly susceptible to dramatically changed road surface conditions.

If we maintain constant vigilance, test traction any time we are uncertain and adjust our speed according to conditions, we can avoid hurting ourselves and others.

Let’s please stop blaming one of the most naturally occurring substances in our Canadian winters. And instead realize that it is within our power to learn how to drive just like it’s within our power to learn how to swim.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 83 will see another teacher reduction, this one expected at South Broadview Elementary come Monday, Oct. 26. (File photo)
Union challenges reductions to teaching positions in North Okanagan-Shuswap

South Broadview Elementary expected to see reduction of kindergarten teacher on Oct. 26

Lumby is proceeding with Halloween fireworks for 2020, but encouraging everyone to stay in their cars or watch from home. (Dale Eurich Photography - 2019)
Halloween fireworks curbed in all but two North Okanagan communities

COVID-19 forces Lake Country, Coldstream, BX, Armstrong to cancel events

Forest fires spark billboard art near Vernon

Artist examines the necessity of wildfires, amid the devastation

An investigation is underway after reports of individuals linked to the sex trade were spotted near the notorious Salmon River Road property that was the subject of an extensive search in 2017 (pictured) that uncovered the remains of 18-year-old Traci Genereaux. (Jim Elliot - Salmon Arm Observer file)
Sex workers called out to area near Sagmoen farm: Vernon Mounties

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

selfie.
Morning Start: Selfies Kill More People Than Sharks

Your morning start for Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)
COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan weaponizes senior care, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

A male deer was spotted with an arrow through its back near a Columbia Street home Oct. 19, 2020 in Penticton. (Dave Katt / Facebook)
Deer with arrow through back spotted roaming Penticton

Conservation officers are searching for the animal

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

Blotter bug
Updated: Highway 1 reopens near Revelstoke after morning crash

DriveBC says to watch for traffic congestion

Most Read