Opinion

The highway is not dangerous, the drivers are

I moved to Vancouver Island from rural Eastern Ontario in 2006.

I was delighted at the prospect of no more driving for several months in snow, freezing rain and ice. I was impressed with the flashing lights on the highway which warned of impending traffic lights, the really long merge lanes and the left turn flashing green lights which allowed more than half a car to turn left and no breaking up of the roads when the frost left the ground .

My delight soon ended after making the following observations:

• Almost no-one uses their turn signals. Pick-up truck drivers are the worst culprits. This lack of turn signal use is very frustrating trying to enter the traffic circle. It also becomes dangerous as many drivers don’t appear to understand what yield means and charge into the circle without even looking.

• Drivers use the passing lane for regular driving and not passing.

• Many drivers seem to think the posted speed limits are nothing more than a polite suggestion.

• I see many drivers using their cell  ‘phones even in heavy traffic.

• Very few drivers actually stop at stop signs, they slow down and carry merrily on their way.

• I see many vehicles on the road with cracked windshields.

• Vehicles with overhanging loads in the rear seldom have a red “flag” attached to the lumber or whatever makes up the load.

• Our winters are very mild but if it is necessary to drive when the temperature drops, vehicles should be equipped with proper tires.

There appear to be no consequences for  these infractions.

I see very few spot checks and then they are in such obvious places, that it is no problem to avoid being caught. If drivers were subject to heavier fines, demerit points, confiscation of cell phones and vehicles, and/or increased insurance costs for dangerous drivers, we would all be a lot safer on our highways.

When I first moved here, I was horrified to find that I had to pay almost twice as much for insurance for the same coverage. I had a letter from my previous insurer verifying that I had a clean record.

After some research, I found out that there are two basic reasons: ICBC is inefficient and incapable of good financial management.

The insurance premiums are such that the good drivers are subsidizing the bad drivers. If someone has a genuine claim for injury, ICBC offers a pittance and it is necessary to hire a lawyer at a large cost to get a fair settlement. If the individual cannot wait two years for a settlement, they must accept the pittance.

I suggest two things are necessary to make our highways safer. The first is to tighten up on charging those who break the law. The second is to either revamp ICBC or get rid of it altogether.

J. Estabrooks is a Ladysmith resident.

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