Police have had all they can eat of bad drivers

Too many cars on the road still being steered by distracted people behind the wheel

Police are keeping an eye on the roads for drivers engaging in risky or stupid behaviour.

There was the time Darrin Ramey spotted a man drinking tea behind the wheel.

No, not the steeped tea from Tim Horton’s, all neatly packaged for your driving pleasure in a handy-dandy spill-proof cup.

We’re talking a Royal Albert cup-and-saucer pinkie-extended-while-making-Queen-Liz-proud hot cuppa — with all the spillage hazards that implies — as the guy drove through the busy streets of North Vancouver.

Of course that wasn’t quite as gobsmacking as the fellow he once saw negotiating urban intersections while plunging his knife and fork into a heaping plateful of mamma’s best spaghetti and meatballs.

Drivers, you do some dumb things out there on the road and nearly all of them involve thinking that steering a 3,000-pound clump of chrome and steel at 100 kilometres an hour somehow doesn’t deserve your full attention.

Ramey, an RCMP sergeant and commanding officer of the Central Island Highway Patrol can chuckle at the funny stories along with the rest us, but he still issues a pointed reminder that bad driving is not a laughing matter.

“Driving is one of the most dangerous things people do,” Ramey said. “Any time you’re doing anything other than not concentrating on driving — at some point you’ve got to draw a line.”

Nearly 35,000 crashes were reported by ICBC on Vancouver Island in 2013.

In three of those crashes someone died because someone was driving too fast for conditions. Another 19 people were killed due to high-risk behaviour such as following too close or failing to yield. Ten more died because of distracted driving and 13 more from speeding.

“Most drivers are good drivers. Most of the time we see good behaviour,” Ramey said. “Bad drivers are the ones who cause the mayhem. If you’ve ever been to a scene where there are people in pain, you want to do something.”

ICBC and the RCMP continue to focus their awareness programs on the unholy trio of risky driving behaviours: speeding, texting, and driving while impaired.

But there are plenty of other mistakes that get made on a frequent basis.

Two of the things that pop up regularly include passing on the shoulder to the right of someone making a left-hand turn, and stopping to wave a jaywalker through. In the latter instance, Ramey said you may think you are just being courteous, but you’re not.

“When you start breaking the rules and other people are following the rules, that’s when things collide.”

Another common failing is that not nearly enough people consistently use their signal lights, or shoulder check while changing lanes. In all the above cases, you are creating or dealing with blind spots.

“Always be looking out for another road users,” ICBC road safety co-ordinator Colleen Woodger said. “They are extremely vulnerable.”

“I ride motorcycles and that makes me a much better car driver,” Ramey said. “Even if you are in the right, you are going to lose every single argument.”

Eating behind the wheel is not an offence, although extremes like the plate of spaghetti could get you a ticket for driving without due care and attention, a catch-all category for many poor habits.

Woodger suggests drivers should put distractions like cell phones out of reach so they aren’t tempted. Frequently “one quick look” can turn into several.

“They think ‘I’m kinda expecting this text’ and they look down,” said Ramey. “You can travel a long distance in three seconds.”

Finally, Woodger said don’t forget to leave early.

“Our biggest message is to slow down and give yourself enough travel time,” she said. “Driving takes your full attention.”

Follow me on Twitter @JohnMcKinleyBP

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