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Motor Mouth: Distracted driving is the real danger, not speed (Canada)

Motor Mouth: Distracted driving is the real danger, not speed (Canada)

Want lower speed limits in the city? Then be prepared for more tickets, more aggravation, and more distracted driving

How many of you have ever had a speeding ticket? C’mon, ‘fess up. Even you, granddad, sitting in your rocking chair lamenting both the Internet and the fickleness of youth, I know you’ve received a few. Remember back in ’76 when you were rushing to Myrtle Beach for great aunt Bea’s funeral? Yes, I know you were only going 10 over, but Deputy Dawg still wrote you up. Hell, even my dad, a driver so conservative that he bought little four-banger Ford Taunuses and Epic Envoys back in the day when V8s ruled the gas pumps, has had a few contretemps with John Law.

Now for the second question: How many of you have been stopped for texting while driving? Not many of you, huh? Indeed, casting the net even wider, how many of you even know anybody who’s been ticketed for texting behind the wheel? I don’t and, even if my inbox gets filled by the few folks who have, let’s at least admit that getting stopped for distracted driving is something of a rarity.

Motor Mouth: It’s time to deal with left-lane bandits

The reason for my asking is that both motoring infractions have garnered headlines in recent months, their 42-point bold-face type pointing to all manner of Armageddon. First there has been the implementation of higher speed limits on some (very select) highways in British Columbia. The safety nannies, full of their usual venom and vitriol, have filled the blogosphere with their continuing predictions of doom and gloom, their argument always returning to the one high school physics lesson they actually learned — that greater momentum causes greater damage when it is interrupted — their conclusion being that any increase in the average speed in highway travel can only result in greater carnage.

B.C.'s capital city of Victoria has lowered its inner-city limit to 40 kilometres an hour from 50 km/h.

B.C.’s capital city of Victoria has lowered its inner-city limit to 40 kilometres an hour from 50 km/h.
Aaron Lynett, National Post

Despite the British Columbia precedent, the Ontario Liberal government has said that there will be no relaxing of speed enforcement on its watch. The Quebec government has gone even further, noting that it, too, will look at its provincial speed limits, but with an eye to reducing speed limits in certain cases. Indeed, things are heating up so much in the crackdown that, while the B.C. provincial government looks to increase speeds and traffic flow, the capital city of Victoria has lowered its inner-city limit to 40 kilometres an hour from 50 km/h. In a similar move, Ottawa-Centre MPP and cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi is now asking that Ontario’s Liberal government reduce Ontario’s default speed limit in cities to 40 km/h from 50 km/h.

More dramatic is that there are now calls — led, according to the Vancouver Province, by Dr. John Carsley, a preventive medicine specialist at Vancouver Coastal Health — for the speed limits in downtown Vancouver to be reduced to 30. Yes, 30 crawling, doddering, little-old-lady-from-Pasadena kilometres an hour. For those of you who can’t imagine how slow that is metrically, that’s 18.6 measly miles per hour, that seemingly minuscule 0.6 decimal point retained in my text because when you’re travelling that slow in any competent automobile more modern than the Model T, every possible inch per second you can squeeze out will seem a relief.

What’s particularly odd is that, against this continued backdrop of the war on speed, comes the news that distracted driving, not speeding, is now the scourge of our highways and byways. Indeed, texting is now considered more dangerous — by sources as varied as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Car and Driver magazine — than even drinking and driving. Note, distracted driving was the direct cause of 78 deaths last year in Ontario alone compared with 57 attributed to drunk driving and 44 fatalities to speeding.

And governments can claim they are doing “something”. Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, for instance, is tabling legislation this fall that would see the fine for texting while driving rise to $1,000, a staggering figure that garnered some of those aforementioned 42-point bold-faced headlines. British Columbia is promising to ramp up its enforcement efforts.

Const. Kevin Woytas trains a radar gun on vehicles along Alberta's Highway 63.

Const. Kevin Woytas trains a radar gun on vehicles along Alberta’s Highway 63.
Ed Kaiser, Postmedia News

But how committed are our constabularies to truly effecting change? The fact remains that, though the penalty for distracted driving may now be financially ruinous, it is seldom enforced when compared with speeding. Why? Because apprehending and convicting someone of distracted driving takes time, diligence and forethought or — as recently happened in both Ontario and B.C. — a costly and manpower-consuming enforcement blitz.

Issuing speeding tickets, on the other hand, is a comparative doddle. Just find a nice downhill section of unrealistically limited roadway (like the four-lane thoroughfare right outside my house), set up your radar gun, and any cop worth his Timmy’s can have his week’s quotas of traffic offences in half an hour. British Columbia makes much of the fact that it writes up almost 50,000 distracted drivers per year, but it pales in comparison to the million or so drivers Sense BC estimates are charged with speeding annually. (For municipal cops, the pressure is especially intense; both Winnipeg and Montreal finally admitting they have “objectives” — not to be mistaken for quotas! — for traffic ticket revenue expected from their local police forces.)

Whatever their motivation, it might be best if all those safety proponents in Vancouver prepare for some unintended consequences to their speed limited piety. If indeed motorists are restricted to 30 km/h on side streets and 40 km/h on major thoroughfares such as Granville or Hastings, chances are they are going to get very bored behind the wheel. Idle hands being the devil’s playground, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in human nature to see them texting and calling even more. Contrast that with the speed-unlimited autobahn, where the concentration needed to drive at high speeds sees cellphoning behind the wheel a comparatively minor irritant. Heck, Germans can’t even wrap their heads around our obsession with Timmy’s and the distraction caused when we reach for our cups.

I suggest that Dr. Carsley be careful what he wishes for.

Proof that speed enforcement is a money-making racket

Though its American data, some numbers compiled by statisticbrain.com point to the money-making racket that speed enforcement really is. According to its compilation of NHTSA figures, 112,000 speed tickets are issued each and every day. That means 20.6% of the United States’ 196,000,000 licensed drivers will get a ticket this year. And, just in case you still think that said enforcement is really about protecting our safety, those 41,000,000 tickets annually generate some US$6.2-billion in revenue, or, to illustrate the pressure on local constabulary even more, US$300,000 per police officer. Closer to home, the Edmonton Sun reports that photo radar put $41.2-million in the city’s municipal coffers compared with just $8.1-million in equipment costs. No wonder speed traps are so common!

Canada , Others

Date: 9/18/2014 8:29:13 AM

By: YASA WEB , driving.ca
 
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