We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Police not immune from road-rule errors

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, March 23, 2012

2011 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor. Photograph by: Ford, handout

We all make mistakes while driving. Last month, I turned onto a one-way street, travelling the wrong way. I had left home to go to a swim workout when I realized that I had forgotten a basic piece of equipment, namely my bathing suit. As I made the turn, it looked strange that the parked cars were all facing me. It was late in the evening and there was no other traffic on the road. I did a three-point turn and was on my way. The street was only one-way for a short block. I got out of my regular routine and the result was a wrong turn. It happens to every driver, whether we wish to admit it or not. The police make mistakes as well.

I had to get up early one morning to drive with one of my students who planned to take the driver’s test an hour later. We were practising the normal parking and driving manoeuvres. As we approached a traffic light that had turned red, the student looked both ways and proceeded to make a legal left turn onto a one-way street. After the turn was made, a police car following us sounded a short siren blast and used the flashing lights atop the cruiser. We pulled to the left of the one-way street and parked the car. The RCMP constable approached the driving-school car and asked the student driver to produce the necessary documentation.

In more than 25 years, I had never had a driving lesson interrupted by the police. The policeman asked why the student driver thought she was being pulled over. She had no idea. Constable B. explained that she had made an illegal left turn on a solid red traffic light. He further explained that such a turning move could only be made from a one-way street to a one-way street. It was obvious to me that the constable was from Saskatchewan and unfamiliar with this B.C. traffic law. Constable B. was indeed from a small Prairie town in the above-mentioned province.

When he was informed of the difference in traffic laws between the two provinces, he was incredulous. I told him to radio back to the detachment office and check with his commanding officer. I was not in the best of moods, considering the bad advertising of being stopped by the police, but more importantly, the upset my student was likely experiencing. While the student was on the driving road test, I received an apology phone call from Constable B. He had indeed checked with the brass back at the office and learned it was legal to make a left turn in the above-mentioned manner.

Despite the additional stress, the student passed the road test. All was forgiven. The whole episode became the stuff of legend. When Constable B. returned to the staffroom at the end of his shift, there was a very obvious posting of his indiscretion on the bulletin board. To this day, I am told, any such foul-up is referred to as “pulling a Constable B.” We should all take an example from the young constable and just say we are sorry when being pulled over for a minor traffic offence. Everyone makes mistakes.

In fact, I learned later that Constable B. had no intention of issuing a traffic ticket, but only wanted to use the opportunity to educate a new driver and an instructor, as well. Over the years, I have been afforded great latitude by the police, while teaching driving and appreciate it. After all, we are both trying to promote safe driving.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School, operating on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C.


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