Lack of cameras does not green-light lawbreaking

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Drivers in metro area need to consider their actions: instructor, RNC

In an hour-and-a-half driving lesson, instructor Tony Cumby says, he typically sees a half-dozen people driving while texting or talking on a cellphone.

It’s one of the reasons he wouldn’t mind seeing traffic cameras installed in the metro area.

“A huge amount of people are driving with their cellphone up to their ear and not paying attention,” he said.

“Every time I see one I point it out to my students.”

On Tuesday, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) offered an update on their use of cameras in downtown St. John’s — which has brought down the number of calls to police relating to alleged assaults, vandalism, liquor violations and other unwelcome activities.

Taking questions from reporters, RNC Chief Robert Johnston said there are no plans to add to the 12 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras now up and running.

“I do see value in the CCTV cameras. But at this particular time, there’s no plans in place for expansion of the CCTV cameras,” he said.

“That’s something we’ll have to look at as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, comments submitted by readers on the cameras in downtown St. John’s raised the subject of the potential for cameras being used for traffic enforcement.

“Now install some traffic cameras at stop lights and the such. Drivers in this city are insane,” wrote one commenter, identifying himself as “Steve.”

“I am a strong advocate for red light cameras in this city,” added “Lily.”

“The blatant disregard for any form of traffic regulations is shocking.”

Testing the comments, The Telegram stopped by several high-traffic roads and key intersections around the city Wednesday. While we were at each location for just a couple of minutes, it was not difficult to spot reckless drivers, bad habits and illegal actions.

See video from the stops.

Whether it was the use of cellphones, drivers running late yellow and even red lights, or not turning into the lane closest to them, it was nothing Cumby — who works as an instructor with Safety Services Newfoundland and Labrador — had not pointed out to his students many times before.

“A lot of people don’t indicate or do head checking before they do lane changes,” he said, noting the problem is sometimes noticeable on heavy-use, multiple-lane roads like Kenmount Road and Topsail Road. Drivers are legally required to signal when changing lanes.

“You’re not allowed to pass on a double here. But you’re not allowed to cross over it either,” he said, pointing out some drivers will turn into parking lots across double lines.

Don’t get him started on “rolling stops.”

As for having traffic cameras to help police curb the behaviour? “I think they’re a good idea,” he said.

RNC Const. Talia Murphy told The Telegram following speed limits and driving to the road conditions are just two considerations for drivers. Picking and choosing which other rules of the road you obey means both endangering the public and opening yourself up to a costly ticket.

“The RNC is committed to traffic law enforcement to ensure that our roadways are safe for the public,” she stated, noting both marked and unmarked police cars are used for traffic enforcement.

For anyone who has not reviewed the rules of the road in a while, the provincial government (through Service NL) has posted the “Road Users Guide” online.

The guide includes an explanation of the rules, but also tips on keeping your vehicle in working order and what to do in worst-case scenarios.


Rules of the road

• It is illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving in Newfoundland and Labrador.

• When you intend to: stop, turn, change lanes or leave the road, you must signal. If your lights are not working, there are hand signals.

• If turning — for example from a two-way street left onto another two-way street — you must turn into the lane closest to you when there is a single turning lane.

• Stop signs mean stop. “Rolling stops” are violations where a driver does not comes to a full and complete stop at a stop sign.

Organizations: The Telegram, Safety Services Newfoundland and Labrador, RNC Const. Service NL

Geographic location: Kenmount Road, Topsail Road, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • HitByaBadDriver
    December 02, 2012 - 06:00

    I was struck by a car on march 30 2012 cant really give many details because im in the middle of legal matters still, but simply said a camera at the light would have saved me a massive amount of hassle. every city should have cameras at every light.

  • Jim
    June 19, 2012 - 08:05

    I've lived spent a lot of time living in different parts of Canada and the US, and what I have learned in the last five years living in NFLD is that RNC is probably the laziest cops in Canada but more importantly that Newfoundlands drivers are the worst drivers I have ever seen. I don't think they know how to change lanes or what a crosswalk is. Maybe if the RNC actually wrote some tickets it might get through to some of them.

  • Billy Maguire
    May 03, 2012 - 13:27

    It's not just St, John's, Newfoundland or Canada. I have seen all of these issues, and more, in my home town of Salem, Oregon - and it's not only drivers. Last night I had to slam on the brakes just after starting to accelerate through an intersection, as a pedestrian, cell phone to ear, walked blindly into my path, against the red light.

  • Cameras and Re-Test Drivers
    May 03, 2012 - 13:18

    The only way to re-educate drivers is to hold them accountable for their behavior and I am not talking in terms of fines. Cameras work great to catch the driver and in some cases, it will change the behavior for a short time but it may not implement permanent change in driving behavior. If you get caught speeding, rolling a stop sign, red light, etc.....chances are very high it was not your first time doing it. Look at how incredibly easy it is get your licence renewed…all you need do is show up and pay a fee. There’s no road test involved because the DMV assumes you know how to drive and still drive according to the rules of the road. I think it’s about time all drivers are required to be re-tested at a set time interval (for example every 5 yearsr). If that driver fails…well guess what you lose your licence until you do the test over again and pass. Lets face it…if this did happen, you would have a lot of people either taking the bus or taxi to work the next day….well the City of St. John’s would finally incentive to improve its public transit because there would be a lot more passengers who would have to get Point A to Point B. Clog up the system until people are able to get through their thick skulls that the only person who is going to improve the quality of driving in NL is the driver itself. After a few painful years of watching NL’s worst drivers finally clean up their act (hopefully), things would return to a degree of normalcy.

  • California Pete from NFLD
    May 03, 2012 - 12:27

    So what is new

  • Bad Idea
    May 03, 2012 - 12:19

    I've been almost everywhere in the world and Newfoundland has the worst drivers by far. That said, red light cameras are a bad idea. They're just a cash cow and you end up with erratic behavior at red lights. These cameras don't curb the other bad behavior such as people not indicating, not holding their lane, etc. There are two things needed here. The first is a public awareness campaign about bad driving practices. The second is the RNC have to stop being lazy and send people out ticketing for something other than speeding. I know, I know, it's hard to actually do your job, but unless you ticket a bad habit, it won't go away. Of course, neither will happen, so why talk about it.

  • Vote no for Cameras
    May 03, 2012 - 11:07

    I live in Alberta and deal with these "red light" cameras all day every day. I understand that some may perceive these cameras as an aid to distracted driving and running red lights. I've actually seen many accidents caused by vehicles rushing/abruptly slowing to avoid getting their pic snapped by the cameras. I've also witnessesd these cameras taking pics in error- they are fallible machines and therefore prone to error. Furthermore, they are very expensive to operate and maintain--I'm sure the tax payers don't want to pay for these items. I believe many people are suffering from the grass is greener syndrome. Please don't invite the notion of traffic cameras--if not for the logistics of it, then for the $400.00 ticket you are inevitably going to get in the mail- whether it's warranted, or not.

  • michael
    May 03, 2012 - 11:06

    Some of the police out there can't drive either.Illegal lane changes ,driving too fast,not signalling,talking on there cell phones etc and that is in there police cars.It is easy to brake the law when u know there are no police in the area.It's easy to spot there big white cars and there unmarked impalas.Come on Chief Johnston put your guys in a VW or a KIA or maybe a Honda unmark car and see how many people u pull over then.

  • love to see camaras on the lights
    May 03, 2012 - 11:04

    I have been saying now for sometime that there should be camaras on all of the traffic lights, it scares the s.... out of me everytime I have to stop on a red light, when it turns green I wait to see if someone is running a red on the other side and sure enough most times there is, and as usual they are using a cell phone, I read a joke recentley, a prof said to his class, I know you are texting, no one looks at their crotch that much and smiles, same goes for the drivers, for gods sake, keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone, I want to stay safe while I'm driving.

  • CBS Driver
    May 03, 2012 - 09:27

    Sometimes it's not just about breaking traffic rules. Some signs are just put in the wrong place. For instance if you are coming down Foxtrap Access Rd and wish to turn right onto the by-pass highway, you get a yeild sign where as the traffic coming the other was gets to cut accross the flow of traffic with no sign. I guess that's a "Woodrow French" sign, because he's backwards also.

  • fintip
    May 03, 2012 - 09:12

    The introduction of CCTV on George Street was intended to deal with a specific problem in a specific area. I opposed it at the time, not because I worry about being caught on Candid Camera entering and leaving George Street bars, but because I saw it as the thin edge of the wedge. A year later, RNC statistics have shown that it has had a marginal, almost negligible impact on illegal behaviour. Predictably what it has done is lead to a call for camera surveillance of traffic on our streets. Again I disagree on principle - that principle being the right to privacy, and the inevitability - not the possibility - that such technology will be used to infringe our charter rights. The Telegram's Wangersky has been especially vocal in recent times with his view that drivers in this province are among the worst in Canada - that, in effect, they are out of control and that they are responsible for mayhem in the streets. I'm all for driver education, regulation and enforcement that enhance safety on our streets but changes in public policy should be evidenced based - not driven by personal whim, knee-jerk reactions and public clamour whipped up by well intentioned but misguided editorial writers. The most recent statistics available from Transport Canada and other sources do not support the popular notion that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are the worst drivers in the country. Based on population, number of drivers and miles driven, we are below the national average with respect to injuries and fatalities - in some cases well below. Any non-hands-free cellphone use while driving is too much, but this province has one of the lowest rates of driver distraction by cellphone use of any province. Upon closer examination, many of the bugaboos raised by people like Wangersky begin to fall apart. Where we don't do well - no surprise - is driving under the influence. Among drivers fatally injured in accidents, this province had by far the highest rate of alcohol consumption as a contributing factor. This is likely a reflection of the underlying culture in this province that has historically tolerated, if not encouraged, the copious consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately we have a government that is conflicted on the issue. It would like to rein in vices like alcohol and gambling but is too busy counting the money they add to its treasury. The rate of accidents in this province is no doubt influenced by factors not completely within the control of drivers. Moose-vehicle collisions and the extremely poor design and condition of some of our roadways are only a few examples. The Outer Ring road best exemplifies how not build a highway. The point is that before giving into popularized notions, decision makers need to gather and analyze some meaningful data. Where problems exist, there are almost always solutions that work without infringing on civil liberties or giving rise to an expensive, intrusive and abusive a Nanny state.

    • Devil's Advocate
      May 03, 2012 - 14:07

      Oh my God! An actual critically thinking person...maybe all hope is not lost.

  • Holden
    May 03, 2012 - 07:59

    Policing of these infractions would be just about impossible both for police on the street and those monitoring the cameras( you would probably see five infractions in a single shot). The only way to reduce these habits in any significant way is to have driver tests every five years when the licence is renewed. If a driver makes errors during the road test they should be required to do courses and a retest(some drivers may been tested more 40 years ago without a subsequent review). For the number of drivers in the province this would require fewer than 50 testers and SAVE LIVES.

  • Barb
    May 03, 2012 - 07:49

    What about those all too common 'wonderful' drivers that like to follow too closely? I mean like almost in trunk of the car ahead of them? Do they think thats going to make the car ahead speed up or disapear? The arrogance of drivers in this city never ceases to amaze me. If there wasnt such a risk involved, i'd love to just hit the brakes and let nature take its course...

  • kent
    May 03, 2012 - 07:45

    Can anyone makes sense out of that headline?? Is that supposed to be a sentence?? Who writes this stuff???

    • Billy Maguire
      May 03, 2012 - 13:32

      Oh, lighten up, Kent. I can understand it, and I'm not even Canadian. BTW, my personal all-time favourite headlines: "Red Cross agrees to RE-VAMP blood supply" and "British and Irish agree to talk about talks".

  • Justiceforall
    May 03, 2012 - 07:40

    Drivers in St.John's are the worst, most inconsiderate drivers anywhere, and I have driven in cities all over the world. Merge, Yield, indicators, Stop signs, Four ways stops, Crosswalks, Speed limits are all foreign to most Newfoundland drivers...I am amazed that there are not more accidents in this city or people killed...the problem I think, stems from the lack of police presense on the's evident and drivers take advantage.

      May 03, 2012 - 08:26

      Observe drivers in the Bay Roberts area, now keep in mind there are absolutely now lines on the road and have not been for some time, no one knows what a speed limit is, and don 't dare try to cross the road, certainly in great need of lighted crosswalks in that area, to much of a risk to cross. For some reason everyone is in a hurry to go nowhere as I have observed and by that just a driver pulling around me only to cut right in front of me all for the sake of a drive through. I would be curious as to how they would handle a big city street where laws are monitored by cams.