HERGOTT: Don’t blame road conditions

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

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Residents of Rural Keremeos, Olalla and Hedley are being asked to give feedback for the first Official Community Plan for the area. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Survey on RDOS Area G OCP open until April 30

The area’s first Official Community Plan is in the early stages of development

Nominally 'flushable' wipes caused one of Keremeos lift stations to shut down, damaging the pump inside. The Village is asking residents not to flush anything that isn't human waste. (Black Press)
Keremeos reminds residents not to flush wipes after pump damaged

‘Flushable’ wipes caused the pump to seize up and burn out

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Grade 2 and 3 classes from a North Okanagan elementary took over Letters page of this Black Press newspaper

Most Read