We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

The trials and tribulations of traffic flow

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, May 3rd 2019

Vehicles flow around a traffic circle on Helmcken Road in a time-exposure image. Roundabouts are more environmentally friendly than traditional intersections because they keep traffic moving.


Traffic topics are always top of mind for commuters. Kerry, a regular column reader, had a very insightful comment.

He would like to know why politicians of all stripes rave on about harmful emissions from vehicles, and yet take every opportunity to halt the traffic that produces these emissions, and in doing so compound the problem.
He wants to know why traffic lights are preferred by engineers, when roundabouts are so much more environmentally friendly.
Why stop traffic at every opportunity, rather than keeping it moving?

Why are taxpayers not up in arms about the cost of building a regular signalized intersection being about five times the cost of a simple roundabout?
That is just the construction cost: What about the maintenance costs?
The sophistication of a multi-faceted, multiple-lane intersection, with all its electronic components, hardly compares favourably with a large roundabout, with several lanes all going the same direction.
The maintenance costs of a roundabout involve an intermittent sweeping of the road surface, and a coat of line paint as part of a yearly-refreshing operation.

The initial cost of property acquisition is far outweighed by the enormous financial construction and maintenance cost of intersections with traffic lights.

Think about it: Why construct an intersection model that has head-on and T-bone crash potential?
These are the two most deadly types of crashes in our traffic system.
There seems to be no logical explanation.

Is it too much to ask that the traffic lights we presently have be synchronized to the heaviest flow-direction advantage?
People have walked on the moon, and we can’t seem to get traffic lights to stay green for the any length of time in sequential fashion.
Would this not be helping the environment, instead of hurting it?

A senior asked me if there was a technology trap on the Enhanced Road Assessment test administered to seniors in B.C. At first, I did not understand the question.
He wanted to know why he had to manually operate the windshield wipers and the headlights prior to beginning his practical driving test.
I replied that the examiner wanted to know the functions were working properly and that he knew how to use them.
When it rains or when it is dark, his wipers and the headlights are automatically engaged.

Why would a person buy a vehicle with the most advanced technology and not be able to put it to good use on a driving test?
The ERA test involves a demonstration of cognitive and memory exercises while driving.
It is also a demonstration of physical ability.

The operation of the vehicle controls is germain to both.
So says the testing agency.

His next question really threw me for a loop.
Suppose he was on his driving test and approached another vehicle from behind.
This action necessitated the computer-activated braking system to engage.
Would this be deemed allowable? The vehicle’s hazard-avoidance system, in this case, would have automatically stopped the car.

How is this marked on a driving test?
What about the self-parking car?

The dreaded parallel park request by the driving examiner could very well be a non-stressful situation.
Can the student driver taking the test simply push a button and let the car do all the work?

Picture a driver on a road test, about to make a lane change, only to be interrupted by a voice command from the vehicle crash avoidance system.
DANGER! DANGER! Is this allowed on a road test?

If not, should it be allowed?

Does it matter how the crash was avoided?

Stay tuned: There is more to come on this technological topic.





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