After a video of a Ponoka RCMP member’s cruiser mirror being clipped during a traffic stop went viral on Ponoka News’ Facebook, the comment stream showed how badly drivers need to brush up on safe driving practices and rules of the road.
The RCMP patrol car video shows a driver pulling a holiday trailer along Highway 2 rush by the cruiser and stopped vehicle in the shoulder of the right lane of traffic, driving at excess highway speeds, completely remove the cruiser’s mirror.
“That has got to be the most misunderstood traffic rule in this province for safety,” said Cpl. Jerry Court.
On a four-lane highway such as Highway 2, traffic in the right lane needs to slow to 60 km/h when approaching any emergency vehicle, road workers and tow trucks or safely move to the left lane. Drivers in the left lane should remain at the designated highway speed for safety reasons.
Evident on the video’s Facebook page, some drivers believe it is acceptable to slow to 60 km/h while driving in the left lane. “That causes traffic concerns. It can lead to traffic congestion and rear-end collisions,” said Court.
Court says incidences such as the one in the video happen more frequently than many people think. He spoke of a cruiser in Innisfail that was rear-ended twice in one month during traffic stops while its emergency lights were activated.
“Traffic stops pose a significant risk to the officer,” said Court. In some cases they lead to serious injuries and death for the officers.
One of the main causes of traffic stop accidents is people don’t take defensive measures until the last second and, especially if road conditions are slippery, this can causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
“We take traffic safety very seriously and we take traffic stops very seriously. That’s why you sometimes see passenger-side approaches,” said Court.
Drivers who aren’t following safety rules when driving also pose a large threat to roadside workers, who may be subject to the dangerous drivers for several hours. “I believe there was one killed this late summer near Strathmore,” said Court.
“Drive, think. Driving is not a leisure activity,” said Court, who wants to remind drivers to pay attention to the roads at all times while driving “Traffic conditions and road conditions can change in the blink of an eye.”
While it’s illegal to park on the side of the highway unless it’s an emergency, drivers who continue to do so also put themselves at risk. “We have responded to numerous collisions that resulted in fatalities from vehicles being parked on the shoulder,” said Court.
If a driver feels they must pull over, use highway exits because they’re safer due to less traffic volume, or find a designated rest area.
For those experiencing a mechanical breakdown, drivers should move their vehicle as far to the right as possible — off the shoulder of the road.
Court finds many young or inexperienced drivers leave their vehicle still parked partway in the driving lane or straddling the fog line because they believe they will lose control if they move over any farther. “They’re terrified to have their tires leave the road.”
“Everyone thinks the QE2 is a very unsafe highway but they don’t take any precautions, they don’t think ahead,” he added.
The driver who clipped the mirror in the video was charged with careless driving and will appear in Ponoka traffic court in November.