A night on the town 

This is the story of two people who drive for a living. Cst. Lee Hamilton is Whistler’s first local traffic safety expert. He is also an accident investigator and trainer with the RCMP.

I am a professional racing driver, advanced driving specialist and development tester for several major manufacturers. I rode with Cst. Hamilton a couple of weeks ago for a night patrol, from 4 p.m. to the wee hours of the morning. I think it’s fair to say that we both found it an educational experience.

I was disappointed in Cst. Hamilton for his failure to live up to several cliches. We never stopped for doughnuts or coffee, he didn’t have a potbelly, and his attitude towards the job involved more co-operation than confrontation. From his standpoint, I guess Lee must have been relieved that I didn’t show up with helmet and driving gloves and could speak in complete sentences.

We stopped about a dozen drivers during the patrol, most of them locals. I have to point out, based on years of teaching advanced driving, that many motorists are horribly deluded when it comes to assessing their own skills behind the wheel. This is confirmed by a recent survey in which 90 per cent of North Americans stated they were better than average drivers. Locals in any area, including the Sea to Sky corridor, are often the worst. The reasons range from complacency to impatience to just plain ignorance.

Here are a few good tactics to avoid being stopped by the police: keep your vehicle well maintained, clean the windows, and obey some basic traffic rules.

Cst. Hamilton sets the standards and guidelines for enforcement in this area, and one thing he wants to see is complete stops at all stop signs. I’m guilty of the occasional roll-through, but in all honesty, I wish we’d adopt international standards and use more yield signs. Some places, a complete stop just doesn’t make sense, except as a make work project for the police.

Lee actually has made a few changes in this direction and one of his tasks is tidying up our messier intersections.

Lee is pretty observant, and also something of a negotiator. We stopped people for running red lights, not wearing seat belts, illegal tints on driver and passenger windows, faulty exhaust systems and speeding. In each case where tickets were issued, the drivers got some slack as long as they behaved reasonably. Several of the cars we stopped were in pretty poor mechanical condition. A lot of warnings were handed out, as well as orders to repair lights, replace tires or have a complete vehicle inspection.

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