Wheels of misfortune

Brian Jones
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There are apparently a lot more good drivers in Newfoundland (and Labrador) than previously suspected.

I heard from quite a few of them after they read last week’s column (“Memo to RCMP: issue tickets, not advisories”).

Some people were offended by the suggestion they are incapable of controlling their car at 130 km/h or 140 km/h, or by the intimation it is unsafe to drive at that speed.

Actually, I agree, in one aspect. Most people could drive at those speeds from St. John’s to Corner Brook without flying off the road and becoming the subject of a 911 call.

But here is the essential fact to keep in mind when discussing speed limits: you are not the only one on the road.

Zipping along on an empty highway is one thing. It is another thing altogether when you factor in the hundreds of other vehicles also on the road — in the other lane, coming from the opposite direction and, most importantly, entering the highway at an intersection.

Police reports about traffic accidents often describe one motorist “attempting to turn” this way or that onto a busier road.

The ensuing accident isn’t always the turner’s fault. In such incidents, it matters whether oncoming traffic is travelling at 100 km/h or 140 km/h.

Get this straight, Mr. Andretti: the reason the speed limit is 100 km/h rather than the 140 km/h which is more consistent with your considerable skill is that you cannot foresee all the unpredictable events and hazards that can occur on the road, simply because you are not the only one on it.

Somebody put the kibosh on my adhere-to-speed-limits argument by pointing out some countries in Europe, with higher speed limits, supposedly have lower rates of highway fatalities than does Canada.

Ah yes, the legendary German autobahn and pedal-pushing Europeans in their BMW, Mercedes and Audi roadsters.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post, almost 400 people die each year in accidents on the German autobahn.

And contrary to popular belief in North America, there are speed limits on the autobahn — where it passes through towns and at intersections (see above).

The same Post story (“Autobahn speed limit proposal revs up debate in Germany,” May 20, 2013) says it has become a political issue in upcoming elections.

If they’re discussing it in Deutschland, we should talk about it here.

I heard from a number of people who agreed speeding is out of control.

One reader had a terrific suggestion: “The police need to become as aggressive as the drivers are.”

Then again, an RCMP officer sent an email disagreeing that enforcement is lacking.

“Do you think our traffic services members sit in the office and just send out advisories and road reports?” he wrote. “Our members are out on the road enforcing traffic laws and ensuring public safety. We might not get every speeder out there, but then, we cannot be everywhere all the time. I find your editorial unfair to the men and women who are out there every day trying to do their job.”

OK, fair enough. But with all due respect to the RCMP officer, debate about speed limits and their enforcement isn’t necessarily a criticism of individual officers or their capability or diligence. It’s more of an overall policy issue.

Consider the RNC. In the past couple of years, the RNC has issued several public notices that they are cracking down on speeders in the St. John’s area.

It seems to be working.

You can now drive the speed limit on the parkway without having dozens of cars hurtle past you as if they’re going for the checkered flag.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached

at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: RCMP, BMW, Audi The Washington Post

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Germany Europe North America

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Recent comments

  • To Darryl
    August 21, 2013 - 07:19

    Slow down Darryl, 6 tickets in 32 years is not that great a record. Just because you weren't near a town it doesn't mean there aren't people around.

  • yo mama
    August 18, 2013 - 10:10

    Mandatory re-licensing for those who cause accidents, at their own expense of course.

  • Darryl
    August 16, 2013 - 14:41

    Well, duh, Eli.

  • Darryl
    August 16, 2013 - 10:10

    I have gotten about 6 speeding tickets in the 32 years I have been driving. All of them occurred on the TCH no where near any towns. I do a lot of driving in central. I get a kick out of drivers who travel at a steady 90km/h on the highway right through the 60km/h zones in South Brook, Badger and Appleton. These zones have driveways directly off the TCH,kids on bikes and soon. I have yet to see a patrol car in any of these zones where they would be a lot more useful.

    • Eli
      August 16, 2013 - 11:27

      What you're admitting to is you were only caught 6 times.

  • Joe
    August 16, 2013 - 07:48

    In Ontario people driving at 150kph are ticketed, banned from driving for 7 days and their car is impounded on the spot. That is I believe 40kph over the speed limit. Let's make Canada more uniform across provinces.