Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

Drivesmart column: What about police officers who don’t follow the driving rules?

Police officers can be issued traffic tickets too

By Tim Schewe

“I want you to focus your writing on the driving behaviour of many police officers. I realize that not all of them only follow the rules when it is convenient, but there is a significant number of them. Why don’t they follow the traffic rules like the rest of us?”

I always held to the thought that if I couldn’t follow the rule myself, I couldn’t write a traffic ticket to someone else for that particular behaviour either. Since I knew what the rules were, I expected my driving to be an example for others to follow, not to criticise. This is what the public expects from the police and they are correct to complain when it is not delivered.

Operators of emergency vehicles may be exempt from following the rules set out in the Motor Vehicle Act. The exemption requires that the driver follow the Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation when they do and in general must exercise due regard for safety.

Police must weigh the risk of harm to members of the public and be sure that the risk from the exercise of those privileges is less than the risk of harm to members of the public should those privileges not be exercised.

This must be done using flashing emergency lights and a siren.

Depending on justification, the use of only flashing emergency lights or no lights and siren may also be possible. At an intersection with a red traffic light, they must stop and proceed only if safe. Neither of these exemptions apply at an intersection with a stop sign or in a school or playground zone.

Even though response without emergency equipment can be justified legally, the public cannot tell why it is being done and usually see it as an example of poor driving rather than a justified response. That is not always the case.

This cannot be justified when the officer is driving their own personal vehicle while off duty. My policing career was in medium sized detachments and that was not enough for anonymity. The public soon knew which officers followed the rules and which didn’t, which is probably why this article was requested.

What to do? Make the same driving complaint that you would for any other driver on our highways. If the driving was justified, the supervisor should be able to find out why and provide an explanation. If not, police officers can be issued traffic tickets too. Believe it or not, it has been done!

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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