Steve Wallace: Transportation hit with new norms

The current health situation of 2020 has changed all sorts of things forever, and transportation is no exception. It might be referred to as turning the Coronavirus Corner.

Prior to this pandemic, there was positive reinforcement for those with more than one person in a vehicle. Carpooling was a rewarded and socially acceptable behaviour. Now, the opposite is true. More than one person in the front or back seat of any vehicle, gets the occupants at minimum, a discerning look or, more often, one of disdain. Public shaming cannot be too far away. How things have changed in only a few weeks. Driving in an HOV lane is now the norm rather than the exception.

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Public transportation has always been a viable option for daily commuters. Under normal circumstances, buses carry many passengers on each route. The drivers, as a group, are excellent. People feel safe when a professional driver is at the wheel. That has not changed in this time of carrying passengers in a pandemic.

What has changed is the social distancing. The passenger accommodation is now reduced from up to one third to one half. Entering and exiting is restricted to the rear door. Ridership is down, despite fares being forgiven.

Ferry travel is presently restricted to necessity only. The vehicle deck is now a place for in-vehicle passengers, as opposed to the past practice of keeping it altogether free of passengers. These decisions seem contradictory, but they are in place to protect us from transmission in a pandemic. The amenities, such as the food service, entertainment and shops are closed. This will hopefully encourage only trips of necessity.

People are generally overjoyed to see truckers arrive with their cargo at grocery stores throughout the province. Ninety-five per cent of everything we purchase, arrives by truck. It is probably time to dedicate some sort of appreciation day, week, or other defined thank-you option for these knights of the road.

Travel on our highways is particularly dangerous at this time of year. Many truckers will experience this teeter-totter temperature timebomb. Some will begin their trip in below freezing temperatures and do the mid-day portion of it above freezing, before having to once again readjust to the below freezing reality. Slick road surfaces are a daily reality in many parts of our province at this time of year.

Drive-thru food-service options have become more popular during this distancing reality. What seemed to be a fast-food convenience has now become the only way of serving customers for many in this business.

Restaurant take-out is the only plan for many in this food business. It is by no means the preferred plan for owners, but it might be a means of survival during the pandemic.

Gas prices have fallen to below a dollar a litre in many places throughout B.C. It is somewhat ironic that this is at a time when casual travel to other communities is not permitted. Fill it up and no place to go!

Many people have parked their vehicles and reduced their insurance coverage to storage only. This does retain the comprehensive portion of the policy.

Many companies will save money discontinuing collision coverage. Those with early model hybrid vehicles should think twice before they follow suit. The battery replacement for these vehicles is very expensive. They must be driven every few weeks to remain operational.

I made the mistake of leaving one of my such vehicles parked for a little more than a month. Granted, the vehicle was 12 years old. Upon putting the car back into service, the batteries failed and had to be replaced. DO NOT PARK YOUR HYBRID FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD. Ask the advice of a mechanic.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba graduate.

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