Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for October 27th, 2008

Ontario bill would ban cellphone use by drivers

with 5 comments

Globe and Mail

Whether or not BC decides to follow Ontario’s example (and I doubt we will given the way Gordon Campbell dumped photo radar) can I use this space to recommend a course of action to my readerrs. Hang up and drive.

Remaining focussed on the task of driving is not something that comes naturally. As our confidence as drivers increases we tend to relax behind the wheel. We certainly lose focus, and it is not at all unusual for people to actually doze off while driving. And there are always distractions, both inside and outside the car, that deflect attention. There are good reasons for thinking that hands free cell phone use is not much safer either. I have certianly noticed that there are many people who are incapable of having a phone conversation without using emphatic hand gestures. So the process of being in a conversation can certainly occupy the whole of our brain at that moment, and make us do quite inappropriate things at that moment.

As for whether the bans actually work, in Newfoundland, statistics show an eight per cent drop in the number of collisions between 2003 and 2005, shortly after the law came into effect.

An eight per cent drop is certainly worth having, but we would much rather argue – and most of it will be droven by “nanny state” arguments. If we were sensible, we would not need a law. We would just not do it – and I will confess I have done it myself. Even though I know that I can always check the voicemail next time I stop. Very few calls really need to be answered instantly.

I have had one collision due to distraction too. My old van had a very dodgy cup holder. My ex-wife had used it as an ashtray, and the foam insert that was supposed to hold the cup was weakened by cigarette burns. I had a tall cup in it when I took a bend a bit quickly and got hot coffee on my legs. Now I know you ae supposed to simply grit your teeth and ignore the pain as best you can under such circumstances – but of course I looked down and drifted into the path of the car beside me. This just produced minor damage to both vehicles and no one was hurt. But the woman whose car I hit was on the phone – even while I was trying to exchange details with her – but mostly trying to persuade her to move her vehicle away from a blind bend. If I had wanted to be litigious (and I don’t now and didn’t then) I could have argued that she was equally responsible. After all, if she had been paying attention, there was room for her to avoid me, or even (perish the thought) slow down a little. She also tried to claim personal injury later – but the claim for “whip lash” neck injury in a collision like that did not stand up to much.

Driving requires all of your attention. Lives are at stake. At higher speeds, the severity of collisions rises exponentially. If you must take or make a call, pull over and stop first. Set a good example, but do not rage impotently at those you see doing stupid things on the road. That is their problem – and your job is to avoid them not seek to punish them. Phones and road rage are not a good combination.

But also try to minimize distractions inside the car, if you can. The people out there who are your main concern are, in any event, not so much other drivers as those without the protection of a steel encased padded cell.


I was driving home this morning when i noticed that the driver of the car behind me was talking on his cell phone. When we pulled up at the traffic light, I looked again and noticed that he was wearing eppaulettes on his shirt, and there was an interesting collection of lights across the top of the widshield, inside the car and normally not visible except in low direct sunlight. It was a very ordinary looking grey Oldsmobile – and this was the sort of policeman who wears a white shirt with lots of pips on his eppauletes. So I drove very carefully ay 78km/hr aloing Highway #17.

It seems very unlikely that Senior Police Officers are keen on a cell phone ban here.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in Road safety

Tagged with

Plan released for rail transit across Surrey

with 10 comments

SURREY – Surrey City Council candidate Paul Hillsdon announced today the centrepiece of his campaign – the Transit for Tomorrow plan. The plan, designed specifically to meet the growing transport demands of the South Fraser area (Surrey, Langley, Delta, and White Rock), would vastly expand the rapid transit system, with no need for local property tax increases or fare hikes.

“The Transit for Tomorrow plan begins to fix our woefully inadequate transit with fiscal prudence during these times of economic hardship. Construction of the lines will boost the local economy and create jobs, while addressing our transport, health and environment issues all at the same time,” said Hillsdon.

The Transit for Tomorrow plan is based on the thesis of getting more for less. It calls on the Provincial government to shift $1.1 billion dollars promised for 6 km of SkyTrain in Surrey, to instead fund a 43.4 km light rail network across Surrey and Langley.
Light rail, as was initially proposed for the Evergreen Line in Coquitlam, is a well used transit technology around the world. Light rail runs at street-level with priority over other road vehicles. It costs $27 million per km, almost five times less than the cost of SkyTrain. Light rail systems exist in Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, and Sacramento, among other world cities.
The light rail network as proposed would be composed of three lines – the King George line, the 200th line, and the Interurban line. The network would connect Surrey City Centre and the Expo Line SkyTrain with Newton, Guildford, Cloverdale, Langley City, Willowbrook, Willoughby, and Walnut Grove.
An expanded Rapid bus network would extend the reach of the region’s transit network and would add communities such as White Rock, Abbotsford, and Maple Ridge to the rapid transit system.

Hillsdon challenged civic candidates from across the South Fraser area to endorse the plan: “I call on all civic candidates in Surrey, the Langleys, Delta, and White Rock to let it be known whether or not they support the Transit for Tomorrow plan, and whether they too would pressure the Provincial government to redirect its funding promise from SkyTrain to light rail technology.”

The Transit for Tomorrow plan is attached to the media release and can be downloaded from Hillsdon’s campaign website at


See the story on CBC News

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2008 at 7:59 am

Posted in politics, transit