Travel Warning: BC Speeding Laws and Police Stranding Drivers?

 

British Columbia’s Excessive Speeding Laws mandate the impoundment of vehicles traveling 40kph/25mph over the limit, and that’s stranding travellers.

By Neil Johnston

Neil Johnston is the Motorcycle & Auto writer of http://OutDrive.ca & http://OneWheelDrive.net, videographer, UI/UX guy, Social Media-ist & Techie. Article was originally published on August 21, 2013 and is republished with Neil’s kind permission. You can view the original article here.

For travelers westbound to Hope on BC Highway 3 June 23rd, 2013 the scene played out like a tourist-nightmare reality TV episode. Dozens of vehicles were pulled over and seized by police. In the parking lot of a tourist pull out, a couple with children and two dogs are awaiting one of the stream of tow trucks that are carting vehicles to a seven day impoundment. Another family’s rocket to an extreme speeding violation is that echelon of performance, the first generation Toyota Echo. If British Columbia’s speeding laws are structured to catch and impound extreme speeders and dangerous drivers, then the intent of the law seems lost.

While the couple in the Echo unload all of their weekend luggage and try to arrange some way home, other similar vehicles accumulate in the parking lot, most seem genuinely surprised at being pulled from a herd of similarly flowing traffic. On site a cop of bellicose manner lays into drivers, raging about the dangers of speeding, suggesting to some they are driving like “assholes”. This is not a case of a third world police corruption, cars held hostage until stranded owners and families can bribe them out of impoundment, but instead a sanctioned ensnaring of average drivers in British Columbia.

The local detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have chosen to set up this speed trap at the first passing lane following approximately 15 kilometers of canyon turns, which offers no safe opportunities to pass. The passing lane stretch is a downhill grade, where even the slowest of vehicles then surpass the 80 kph speed limit – or what most American drivers would know as a grindingly slow 49 mph.

Sitting for over an hour and observing police behavior at a tourist pullout mid-way down the passing lane, it’s clear the RCMP are focusing their attention to the start of the passing lane, where drivers initiate a pass. What they are not doing is determining if drivers are returning to the normal flow of traffic after the pass is executed, the moment the driver reaches the excessive threshold of 40kph/25mph over the limit they are considered an excessive speeder. So the context is lost, a normal driver overtakes then slows and merges back into the right lane with the flow of traffic, a speeder, ostensibly the target of the initiative, continues onwards over the limit. Without this context the intent of a driver’s actions is dissected to a couple seconds of examination, and the normal driving behavior of a safely executed pass is criminalized, with a fairly extreme punishment attached.

Scene set, this seems not a trap to catch only dangerous speeders. This is a trap designed to maximize returns at the expense of ordinary drivers, those who want to use the passing lane to pass a motorhome or slow driver that has been backing up traffic, only to have that vehicle accelerate a bit on the downhill straight stretch, near ensuring they are at the threshold of “excessive” speed to perform the pass.

In British Columbia, excessive speeding is now defined as 40kph (25 mph) above the posted maximum. In this case 120kph or 74.5 mph, less than 10 mph above the posted limit on most US highways. What’s clearer is that in many circumstances this law has effectively made passing illegal.

Other violations that could improve the safety and flow of road users are ignored however. In BC, it is illegal for vehicles in the righthand lane to accelerate when being passed, one assumes to prevent this type of scenario. Tellingly none of these law breakers are pulled over, despite their participation in creating a situation requiring correspondingly higher passing speeds. So while passing generally requires a driver to move at 20-30kph faster than the vehicle they are overtaking to perform safely, if the slower moving vehicle now traveling downhill accelerates to 10-20 kph over, not an uncommon occurrence, then passing easily bumps up against or into “excessive” speeds for a brief moment during the pass, a point clearly being capitalized on by police in this setup.

Roadside, there is no legal recourse for these drivers. Some 36km (22 miles) east of the nearest town, Hope, there is no reasoning with the RCMP officers on site.

Claiming the “I’m just following orders” defense, officers on site argue that they have no discretion under BC’s speeding laws. To be clear, the officers claim that the law mandates police impound vehicles traveling 40km/h (25 mph) in excess of the speed limit for seven days. Where police clearly do have discretion the location where speed traps are set up, and which vehicles they “cherry pick” out of traffic. There is also discretion whether the speed trap itself violates the intent of the law by interpreting passers as speeders, provided that is the law’s intent.

No doubt government officials and area RCMP will have been patting themselves on the back for a highly successful initiative against speeding, based solely on offender counts, but the reality is that ordinary drivers are suffering impoundment of their vehicles. This is a case of false positives, an act of near-entrapment by the provincial government and RCMP effectively engineering a transgression of regular behaviour on the road. We are all told in our driver instruction books to wait for the passing lane to safely overtake, and for years prior the September 20th, 2010 law, police had reasonable discretion in deciding whether a driver was speeding or not, and drivers were not stranded by roadside impoundments. There was a tacit understanding that making a pass at reasonable speed wouldn’t land drivers a massive ticket or impoundment, that reasonable speed judgement made in context to the circumstance.

This is no longer the case, and now with excessive application of the law comes excessive punishment. Drivers tagged as “excessive” incur the ticket, travel, towing and storage charges – generally amounting to upwards of $2000. Without oversight, checks or balances there is no legal recourse for drivers against this action, and even if they should effectively fight the ticket, there is no escaping the towing or storage charges or inconvenience of being left potentially stranded away from home and without a vehicle for seven days.

For now the vehicular travel situation in British Columbia amounts to a travel warning befitting a corrupt third world regime and police forces. Essentially, passing is illegal here, exceed 40kph/25mph over the posted limit and you risk immediate roadside impoundment with no recourse. More questionable, given the severity of the punishment meted out, and lack of any recourse, is that this scenario does not require any actual evidence, only an officer’s visual estimation.

If you are a vehicular traveler, you may wish to find more civilized places to spend tourism dollars and time without such traveler risks – you can at least negotiate with police in Mexico.

Additional Articles on BC’s Excessive Speeding Laws:

BC’s New Motorcycle Laws: Diminishing Civil Liberties Rather than Improving Safety

Speeding & Impoundment: The 40km/h Solution

Speeding & Impoundment: To the Limit – The Perfect Speeding and Racing Law Protest?

Comments

  1. EP3

    September 8, 2017

    It happen to me today, im middle of nowhere 2h north of kamloops. No cash for motels. I have to life 7 days in the forest and pick up my car. Im scared of the bears and cold nights.

    • Connie

      October 28, 2017

      This happened to me at Avola, bc. My only option was to hitch hike to Valemont and wait five hours for my husband to come get me. No taxis, buses or rentals . To serve and protect my ass. I have never been left so vulnerable in my life thank god I had my dog at least he could alert me to wildlife . Yes I was passing a convoy of semi trucks . My question is who invented this stupid law speed doesn’t kill bad drivers kill. And yes u have to accelerate to pass semi trucks or u will die

  2. david

    May 2, 2017

    I will never visit B.C. again….Really, really stupid RCMP and laws

  3. AJ

    October 27, 2016

    I just received an excessive speeding ticket and 7 day impoundment. Any advice on how to dispute this ticket would be really appreciated? What’s a good defense to use in court?

    Thank you.

    • ian

      October 28, 2016

      Sorry. Make sure this is an election issue in 2017. FYI, Acumen Law has been doing a lot of work on IRPs. You may consider giving them a call.

  4. Dan Hughes

    August 6, 2016

    I myself along with about 20 others (at the time probably a lot more by the end of today) were the victims of this today. Was driving towards Castlegar and I was stuck behind a truck. There were plenty of corners and these semi-trucks, slow down big time. After a long stretch of no passing lane, or otherwise safe legal way to pass, traffic was building behind me. When the opportunity presented itself for a safe, legal pass, I went ahead and started to pass. The truck kept speeding up and I really had to accelerate to get by him. Go figure, on the next corner the police were hiding.

    They claimed that I was speeding up to 143 KM/Hr while I was passing that truck. Really? While I do accelerate when passing, to get by the vehicle as quickly as possible on a broken solid, this I thought was a normal thing to do when passing. Why didn’t they go after the truck driver for being aggressive in his driving? I admit I don’t usually look at the speedometer while passing another vehicle but, I am trying to get it done as quickly as possible to minimize danger.

    I also stay back a bit from trucks, so I can see by them to know if it’s clear to pass when the broken solid is there. So yes I may have been going 140 KPH in order to pass a large vehicle like a semi-truck, but, I think it was reasonable to do so, in that situation. As soon as I passed him, I slowed to 110KM/Hr

    RCMP need more discretion at their disposal because getting my vehicle towed for passing someone legally is unreasonable. They took my vehicle and gave me a $360.00 ticket. By the time I get my vehicle back, it will cost approximately $720.00 + 3 points on my license. All for passing a semi-truck that was going under the speed limit (but started to speed up when I went to pass)… Wish me luck in court!

    • Angie

      August 8, 2016

      Exact same thing happened to myself and another vehicle that I was following the day before you…I’m glad to see that our RCMP resources are at a good use. Doing a perfectly legal pass.
      I had two little kids (2&4)on board that they put on foot in 30+ degree heat. Barely any taxi service in the area, no car rental available anywhere near the area due to their excellent work on the dirtiest spot to sit on the highway!!! Now I’m 9 hours away and have to find a way to retrieve my vehicle, still unsure how to get around that obstacle…so frustrating!!!
      So yeah, 368$ fine plus tow and impound plus hotels plus fuel and hotel to retrieve the vehicle, it’s going to be a 1000+ kind of bill. Good luck in court, I won’t bother cause of the distance : (

    • Michael Lee

      January 31, 2017

      “RCMP need more discretion at their disposal because getting my vehicle towed for passing someone legally is unreasonable.”

      Please show me where in the Motor Vehicle Act does it state that exceeding the speed limit is legal while passing. It definitely is not. Speeding is just as illegal when passing. You are only legally allowed to pass if the vehicle you are trying to pass is traveling significantly slower than the speed limit. If it’s going the speed limit, or is speeding itself, then you cannot legally pass. Take responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming others. That’s being a mature adult.

  5. glenno

    February 26, 2016

    Same spot same results highway3 just outside of hope..
    excessive speeding ticket cuz I passed in a hun zone that magically
    turned into a 60 construction zone..
    impounded
    luckily tow truck driver knew the greyhound schedule and got me on it or I was stranded in hope..
    just fought ticket and won but no recourse for reimbursement for the tow or the seven day
    impound or the seven day rental or the bus ticket.
    I understand why the RCMP are so flagerant in their ticketing for excessive speeding when there are no financial consequences for their actions..

    • david

      May 2, 2017

      Congrats on the win in court….I got caught too but am from Ontario so my penalty will be even more…This issue needs to highlighted to the nth degree

  6. Amoula

    December 2, 2015

    in all of this debate about “boy raecrs ” i never hear comment about the sheer POLLUTION these idiots cause. Ever seen a “burnout” ? Know just how many toxins are being fired up into our atmosphere when rubber is burnt ?( DOH thats why we’re not allowed to burn tyres in our backyards) ..ever thought about the hundreds if litres of diesel that get poured over roads (and then runs into the ground) so these reatrds can burn their rubber ? Ever thought about the fossil fuels these people burn mindlessly speeding around in convoys of hundreds of gas guzzling cars ? And while we’re at it … I have rellies whose lives have been turned upside down by these convoys arriving in their area every weekend… the pollution doesn’t end with the burning rubber and diesel…it extends to HUNDREDS of bottles , cans and takeaway containers thrown from cars to the point where after every weekend a COUNCIL TRUCK is sent out to pick it all up..it extends to the noise which has kept them awake EVERY weekend for 3 years until 2 in the morning..then theres the vandalism..then there’s the tagging..the bottles and rocks thrown at cars which try to use the road they use…oh..and there’s the $70,000 ratepayer funded fuckin burnout strip 2 km away which sits unused because ” its no fun when its organise and why should we have to pay to use it ?”As far as i’m concerned this group of youth is a MAJOR disappointment ..they care nothing about global warming or the environment..their “protest” is all ” me me me ” give me students marching down the street protesting war/rugby tours/ famine any day. Oil companies / tyre companies and the aftermarket industry must love this crowd of unthinking poluting playstation addled consumers !

  7. May

    October 24, 2015

    Got a 75 km/h excessive speeding on a 30km by passing a long line of trucks trying to get to Patullo Bridge. I ,have to do that to safely change lo the left lane due to the oncoming vehicles behind me (which none off the we’re near 30 km/h) as i was preventing to get stuck in the slow lane to enter the bridge. Worst than the speeding ticket is that because it was Friday, I won’t be able to recuperate my car until not 7, but 9 days after as the towing company is close on weekends, i and I do have to pay for the extra date!!! I am not a criminal and my driving was not unsafe, I feel like someone robbed me big time!

  8. Anny L

    October 15, 2015

    My name is Anny, I want tell everybody what happened to me and my husband in Canada, so other AAA members will not have the same experience what we have. I hope you can read it and publish my story.
    About myself. I’m 54 years old, my husband is 65. Both of us had been member of AAA club for years. We are live in Los Angeles for last 30+ years. I don’t drink or smoke, and never have any tickets for my long years of driving.
    Now let me tell you what happened. Last September of 2015 we decided to go to trip to Canada. It’s a long drive but after our driving in LA it was easy to drive, because no traffic at all between cities. We managed to get to Canada, and after spending a few days we starting to go back home. After Alberta it was another province close to US border – “beautiful” British Columbia.
    Our last stop in Canada supposes to be small town 50+ miles near our border, this town call Cranbrook. It was after 4pm, I was driving, my husband asleep in the car. We driving trough forest, there were no cars, not in front of me not behind me, not in opposite direction. This forest full of wild animals such as cougars, wolfs, bears. I saw road sign that this is the place where animals go to drink water; it was small lake behind the trees. I got pretty scared. Me, LA driver, driving in the forest with absolutely nobody and less than 2 hours will be dark. But I knew I will get to this Cranbrook before dark it 120 kilometers left to drive. Anyway I drove 85 miles and its allowed only 110 kilometrs, its approximately 65 miles. But again I was afraid driving slow there, I want to get out from that forest as soon as possible and NOBODY was there, so I was speeding. Anyway it was a hill, so I start driving down the hill and my car went even fast around 88, 89 miles and I notices a police car hiding in the bushes. Of course he stops us and now let me tell you what actually happened.
    In addition to speeding ticket policeman told me that according British Columbia Law my car will be impounded for 7 days. I was speeding over 42 kilometers. If it will be under 40 kilometers I will only have a ticket. He is practically kick me and my husband out from our car with ALL our staff from the car in the middle of forest with full of wild animals and getting darker. He told us that we can ask tow away company to give us a ride to closest town. We are waiting 40 minutes for local Indian who is the owner of Tow away company to arrive. We only have last $100 CAD with us, because we already close to our border. We begged this guy to give us a ride to Cranbrook, so we can get rental car, drive to Idaho, where our phones will work, where we have our banks, so we can do exchange and come back in week to collect our car. When I called my friends from hotel that evening and told them this story all of them were shocked, that our property were taking from us and offer help. I told them we have a credit card, so we can be in USA tomorrow morning and this small city doesn’t have our bank and have only one rental car company. People who knows me, that Im safest driver, and don’t drink not even in Holidays, I don’t drink because I have an allergy to the alcohol. People who don’t not know me presume I was drank, that’s why my car was impounded.
    Anyway it’s a draconian law in British Columbia. If person who is speeding will be drank in addition, car will be impounded for 30 days. Policeman told me it was reckless driving and dangerous to everybody. Then I asked him how it will be dangerous – where was nobody, he replies “I was there” (hiding in the bushes).
    According there’s law I can fight the ticket and probably will win, but nobody will return money for impound my car, for screwing up 7 days of me and my husband life. To fight ticket I need to be physically present in their court house, they not allowed to do this by mail declaration.
    According this law even if you will be in your car with little babies, they will kick you out, if you are disabled, they kick you out.
    I will never drive there again, that means I will never spend my money to local business. So British Columbia will not see me there.
    I’m not going to pay this ticket, Its not affect my California Driver License at all.
    If you decided to drive to British Columbia you will NOT see sign like here in USA “ your fine will be double if you are speeding in working zone, Slow down”. No, no sign at all stating that your car will be impounded. So I just want to all AAA member aware what it could happened the them, if they decided to drive in British Columbia.
    When we finally drove back home from Sacramento to LA 5 south 70 miles speed limit, I was drove 84, 85 miles again, you know how many people pass us? I told my husband – see all of them will be on that impounded lot in the middle of nowhere in that British Columbia.
    I know I shouldn’t speeding, but why ticket is not enough? Is British Columbia will be safer, because I’m not driving there at all?

  9. HEJ

    August 18, 2015

    Do not really like BC and do not plan on living or going their… There are many other places in the world that love my spending money….and cannot be bothered by their tree huggers, liberal bullshit….

  10. Travis Ready

    April 23, 2015

    Today I was the victim of the same B.S. Law…..I am a B.C. Roadstar and yes I occasionally exceed the speed limit, but without incident . They are set far too low for modern vehicles and some people feel the need to drive 20 under the limit no matter what, frustrating many and putting many to sleep. Our police are used purely as tax collectors now…..if it doesn’t carry a fine, they don’t want to deal with it!!!

  11. Name

    August 15, 2014

    All cops are same I hope each of them die cuz they are all corrupted.leting people stay on side of road even when u not speeding i got my car impounded for doing 15 over apparently he said I was going 150
    Up hill yeah really that’s why each year less and less people coming to bc

  12. Jamie

    April 14, 2014

    The RCMP in British Columbia should be spending their time keeping drugs out of our schools, not putting all their resources towards an easy money grab. Think, compared to solving real crime like theft, drugs, violence etc… with no financial gain, our rcmp can write a ten minute ticket with a potential paid day at court with great financial gains. Is is the easy way, and I’m sure they get a nice pat on the back for producing. Problem is they have lost focus on the need for the organization, to keep peace. I don’t believe extorting money from working class people is contributing to peace keeping, I think exactly the opposite, the way they treat people and hitting them so hard financially makes honest people not have any respect for them. Lets be honest entrapment is extortion… Setting up a speed trap outside a mill or plant at shift change is a sad way to bring money to a community by taking from some poor guy just finished his shift and just wants to go home for much deserved rest. I also have another question, whats the connection with the towing companies where they have the monopoly on towing and impoundment linked with the rcmp, they even have higher rates for rcmp initiated towes and impoundment compared to regular rates how is this regulated? New vehicles have impoved a lot over the years to handle the road, but yet there have been no increases in speed limits… I understand we have a voice here, but why do we live in such a dictatorship that all these rules are put into effect and it seems as if there is nothing we can do about it, we are only talking to each other… How does anything change with how our province is being ruined I mean run?

  13. Matt

    March 14, 2014

    I got pulled over near the ten mile hill (going down it) with plenty of traffic around me and got an excessive as speed signs changed coming through the canyon. Was left on the side of the road with an employee with me, work bags, luggage and all belongings to head to Vancouver where I live for 2 weeks off. Left with a tow truck and a ride to golden, had to rent a uhaul as that is all the town has to rent. Drive it in the winter through the coquihalla right after the class 4 avalanche and through a snowstorm… I learned my lesson but what is safer? Me driving my truck with winter tires and 4×4 1000 km to get home at 2 pm in the afternoon, or rent a uhaul with crappy all seasons, bad steering and the bad conditions.. Really made me think how a cop must feel proud after pulling over just a regular hardworking guy on his way home from a month of work! Gooooo justice system!

    • Ian

      March 14, 2014

      Matt, thanks for the story. What lesson did you learn? Did you feel you deserved a charge for excessive speed? Was your driving dangerous?

  14. Edy

    December 4, 2013

    I have been driving for 6 years in BC, and I can guarantee you, 99% are driving over the speed limit. The government knows this very well. Now the question, why they don’t want to increase the speed limit? The answer : Even if the speed limit being increased, people won’t drive faster. Same if being decreased, people won’t drive slower. The government knows very well that everybody is driving over the speed limit, but they don’t want to bring it up because that will lesser the chance for the RCMP to issue ticket, means less illegal tax being collected. In my 6 years of driving, the max speed I saw people driving on highway was 130 kmh. I have never seen anybody driving 160kmh. Now most highways limit are 90kmh, and 99% cars are traveling 110-120kmh. This is a tuna-fishing-ground for the mafia to collect illegal tax. If they bring up the speed to 110kmh, then still people will drive at 110-120 kmh, and less ticket will be issued, and almost zero car will be impounded. Sou our smart government thinks that better to keep the speed limit, so when we need more, we just go out for fishing, and most time we can catch a blue-fin tuna (130 kmh in 90 zone). We, the people, are the fish.

  15. Edy

    December 4, 2013

    The revenue from ticketing people, should be given to the schools or hospitals, that way we will see RCMP issuing tickets to increase safety instead of money. If you look at the statistics, most accidents happened NOT because of speeding over 40kmh, but because of :
    – Distracted drivers (cellphones, eating, drinking coffee, etc)
    – Tailgating.
    – Never yield on signals for changing lane, speed-up instead.
    – Never stop on stop sign.
    – Driving below the speed limit on a single lane, then increase speed when the single lane ends and others are trying to overtake.
    – Running over traffic light.

  16. SAM

    November 27, 2013

    I find it interesting that the police spend more time policing themselves and ticketing the general working public then working on the real crimes of today. I live in Nelson BC where the population is 10,000 ppl total and we have Nelson City Police along with RCMP. Two forces for one community. Let’s just say you don’t want to go 1km above the speed limit here let alone look at an officer funny. It’s a disgrace and a total waste of tax dollars all around. You would think that a community police force would work with it’s residence…..this is not the case

  17. Staying Out Of BC

    November 21, 2013

    After reading this article, I will never drive in BC. No thanks. You can keep your crappy speed limits and laws there………………..there goes one less tourist.

  18. Ivan

    October 6, 2013

    Finally we got some momentum thanks to your website on this speed limit issue.
    Having grown up in Europe and gotten my drivers licence before general speed limits
    on Autobahn or rural highways, I was always shocked about the poor driving habits
    of North Americans. Still travel frequently internationally, and to me B.C. seems
    the worst ! Too slow (not just speed/not driving off when ight is green in timely fashion,
    and basically not paying attention to traffic and road most of the time.
    Too Low speed limits encourage bad driving. Hopefully we will get better adapted
    Limits, this whould be a minmum of 130 km/h for cars, trucks at 100 km/h or less
    on more dangerous roads. Truck speed is mostly excessively high, probably
    politics behind it. Trucks in Europe are limited to 100 km/h even on the Autobahn,
    and less on dangerous sections, there are also No Passing Laws for trucks/trucks
    at certain times of the day etc.

  19. Robert Pestes

    September 19, 2013

    Causing an actual collision doesn’t bring this kind of punishment. Come to think of it, if the offending driver is an RCMP corporal from North Vancouver, there may just be no punishment at all, except perhaps a donation to charity several months after a blind eye was turned to the excessive speeding violation.
    The Police Republic of B.C. is becoming a stranger than fiction place indeed.

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