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Road Distractions, Winter, and Impaired Driving

Web posted on January 12, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

It's nice to see that there are some new distracted driving laws on the books. As usual they do not go far enough. The fine for using hand held devices and texting is only $490. The smallest fine for the first offence should be no less than $1000. For too many people the current fines are just a cost of doing business. If convicted of texting while driving, they should lose the device for a minimum of seven days, just like impaired drivers lose their cars for seven days. That should make some hard core users think twice. If convicted of a second offence, they should be given a hammer and would have to destroy the device on the spot, and a one year ban on owning or using any smart device. If that doesn't scare the living daylights out of even the most hard core users, I don't know what will. Fines should at least double with each conviction, and appropriate jail time if there is a serious collision. I notice that a Quebec coroner is suggesting that causing an accident while using a hand held device have its own criminal penalty. Good idea, the penalty should be at least the same as impaired. The latest reports from the OPP indicate that more people are killed and injured in crashes involving distracted drivers than with impaired drivers. Get with it politicians, and make the penalties severe enough to stop people from even thinking about texting while driving or using a hand held device. The obvious exemption for emergency use would still apply.

While on the subject of distractions on the road, those new LED things (I refuse to refer to them as running lights) replacing real running lights on new vehicles must be banned immediately and retroactively. The colour temperature and brightness hurt the eyes. Those funky shapes should not be considered as running lights. These new things are just as much distraction for some people as if they were texting. Not one person I have talked to about these abominations thinks they should be allowed and all agree that they must be banned immediately. These things alone have taken away what little pleasure is left in driving.

The other seriously distracting thing out there is those vehicles that have the headlight go out when the turn signal is activated. If we cannot see a turn signal it is either because the headlight is too bright, or the turn signal is not bright enough or too small. These must be banned retroactively. I would be reasonable about this and give the manufacturers 90 days to solve the issue and replace them all. There must be strict laws on colour temperature and brightness on both running lights and headlights. Those new bluish ones must go immediately at the manufactures expense. There must also be a limit on the number of lumens the lights emit. I understand the need for bright lights when driving outside of cities. If they can make self driving cars they can make devices that turn off the high beams for oncoming traffic, and dim the lights when following another vehicle. These must be made mandatory by the 2018 model year.

There are too many lights on the roads these days. There should only be two reasonable sized tail lights on vehicles, not a whole panorama of LED lights covering the back, and of course the middle light. Again the brightness must be regulated. Whatever happened to the concept of two headlights on the front of vehicles? There are way too many vehicles out there with what appear to be a second set of headlights. Again, these must be banned. Stick with the old formula of one set of headlights and one set of parking/turn signal lights in orange. We also don't need the fancy lights under the vehicles. If people want them for show purposes, fine, but there must be an interlock that prevents them from operating when the vehicle is moving, and more importantly, pay a huge premium when renewing their plates. There must be a limit on the number of lights and size permitted on vehicles.

Driving at night used to be a pleasure, now I avoid it. I don't even like being a passenger at night.

Hey folks it's WINTER IN CANADA. That white stuff may look nice and fluffy, but it can be very dangerous. There are way too many drivers out there who don't clean their vehicles and that number seems to increase with every snowfall. CLEAN ALL THE SNOW OFF YOUR VEHICLES. This means cleaning all of it, not just a little spot on your windshield. Ever notice that the bigger the vehicle the lazier the owner (what a surprise). If you are going to drive an Urban Redneck Vehicle or Silly Urban Vehicle, you can afford to buy a proper snow brush (a device for the removal of snow from a vehicle) or even a broom so the rest of us don't get hit by flying snow or ice. Police should be doing a lot more to enforce this. They need to set up something like RIDE checks the morning after, or even during every major snow event. Charge everyone who has not cleaned off their vehicles properly. There should be zero tolerance. Hey politicians, make the penalties MUCH stronger so that no one will even consider driving without completely cleaning off the vehicle. Right now the fine is only $110. Add a zero to that fine for a first offence. Also add at least 100 hours of community service cleaning senior's driveways. For a second offence double the fine and impound the vehicle until all the snow melts. This should also result in six demerit points. If there are children in the vehicle, there should also be an automatic charge of child endangerment. I am fed up with driving behind moving blizzards.

There was a news report over the weekend about a driver in Winnipeg who was ticketed for having about 10 cm of snow on his van. The ticket came close to $240. It's better than our fine of $110. According to the report, in Manitoba snow on a vehicle is considered to be an unsecured load.

From what I saw after our December snow events, at least half of the cars driving around should have been ticketed. Several days after the snow ended there were still a fair number of idiots (my editors won't let me use the words I would like to use) driving around with several inches of snow on their vehicles. Driving with any snow still on a vehicle 24 hours after a snow event should have the same penalties as distracted driving. Throw the book at these people, not that they could read it.

These people also don't care about the environment either. Let's face it, the snow will change the aerodynamics of the car and use more gas. The extra weight of the snow will also waste more gas. These people also must love She Who Must Not Be Re-elected because they want to give more money to her latest cash grab.

We have laws on the books about not shovelling your snow onto the roadway. Why aren't the by-law officers out in full force after every snowfall? I see people pushing snow out to the middle of the roads way too often. I am talking about those (expletive deleted) people who push what seems to be their entire driveway out onto the road. Double or triple the current fines. With the number of people throwing snow on the roads we would not need that special levy if the by-law people did their job. I would also like to see some serious community service, such as cleaning senior's driveways with teaspoons and paint brushes. Maybe the city should put several dump trucks worth of snow in their driveway. I would dump a whole truckload of coal in your driveway, not just the one lump you got for Christmas. Get with the program. Clean your driveways responsibly. DO NOT PUSH THE SNOW ONTO THE ROAD!!!!

Unless you are one of those people who will only drive on city roads when they are clean and dry, why don't you have winter tires on your vehicle? If you are riding your bicycle with snow on the road and wearing all white clothes, why haven't your loved ones done an intervention and had you involuntarily committed for intensive therapy?

I also feel that there is still not enough done with impaired drivers. With all the advertising campaigns, and the social stigma associated with drunk drivers, getting caught should be a very rare occurrence. Yet hardly a week goes by without the police report section showing multiple charges. Look at the number of accidents and fatalities caused by drinking and driving over the past few years. I don't think that number is going down. All too many times the impaired person isn't the one injured. We still have some very wimpy penalties for impaired driving. The penalties must be many times more severe than they are today. What is it going to take for politicians to take this issue seriously and take some real meaningful action? How many more innocent people have to die?

I realize that alcoholism is a very complex disease. A first offence must result in a medical assessment to see if the driver is an alcoholic or just stupid. The problem is that there are many people who can never give up drinking, and will try to keep driving no matter what the courts do. There have been numerous news reports of people with lifetime driving bans getting caught driving impaired. Interlock devices would be great if all motor vehicles had them, and that would have to include boats, planes, tractors, riding lawn mowers, electric wheel chairs, scooters, and even golf carts. Somewhat impractical, even for this curmudgeon, besides how would you ever put one on a bicycle?

Maybe it will have to come to other extreme ideas such as treating drinking like smoking. How many people die each year as a result of drinking related problems? How many people are injured each year by drunk drivers? How many people take up health care space with drinking related diseases? Perhaps drinking on television and movies should be restricted like smoking. Maybe there should be warning labels. Will it take a complete ban on advertising? Prohibition did not work back then, and it won't work today. Things must change. I am not against responsible drinking. I enjoy the occasional drink and I know my limits.

Then there is the proposed legalization of marijuana (great idea as long as it becomes a serious cash cow for the governments like tobacco, alcohol, and they can lower other taxes). Perhaps that idea should be put on the back burner or even off the stove, until a reliable roadside check is available. The last thing we need is more impaired drivers on the road.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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