It’s a depressingly familiar thing in this province’s newsrooms. First, there’s the brief press release from one of the province’s police forces: “Officers are on the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident …”
Then, it’s Round 2: “Police are advising that the TCH is temporarily closed as a result of …”
Then, it’s the inevitable release announcing yet another highway fatality.
This year, it’s seemed like the releases are a more than weekly occurrence.
Over this weekend alone, despite dry roads and good driving conditions, there was another pair of fatalities. Near Port Blandford on Saturday, 62-year-old Clayton Phillips apparently lost control of his pickup, hitting a tractor-trailer head on.
Then, on Sunday, a 76-year-old man was killed after his car went off the road near South Brook.
These particular accidents are still under investigation, but it’s not hard to make a pretty basic generalization about driving in this province, particular when road conditions are good. Drivers are regularly exceeding the posted speed limits, police stops for speeding are a rare occurrence, and distractions, like cellphone use, are almost a constant.
Drive regularly on the Trans-Canada between St. John’s and the turnoff to Carbonear, and you’d be hard pressed to cite a day when you will not be passed by 40 or more vehicles traveling at 20 or 30 kilometres an hour over the 100 km/h speed limit. If you’re at all aware of the other drivers, you’ll see a hefty percentage who clearly can’t put down the phone.
Chances are, you’ll see a goodly number who are both speeding and chattering away, phone pressed tightly to ear.
Closer to St. John’s, you realize quickly that even the slowest lane on the Outer Ring Road regularly travels at 110 km/h, and cars that actually travel at or below the posted speed limit are treated like slowpokes — cars dart out around them and pass in endless streams.
There are plenty of hazards in driving: ruts in the road, water buildup and hydroplaning, moose, impaired drivers (the RCMP arrested three in Sheshashiu alone this weekend, along with charging an impaired tractor-trailer driver near Port aux Basques), rough road conditions, you name it.
But there is one fundamental thing that you do have control over: your own driving.
It may be far from your thoughts as you speed blissfully along, but car accidents carry a terrible toll: the dead, the injured, the families left between, the trauma to the other drivers involved, the long-term injuries, the expense — the list just goes on and on.
And here’s just one last closing though. Say you decide to drive at 110 km/h to make the 429-kilometre trip between the St. John’s airport and Grand Falls-Windsor.
The provincial government’s road distance calculator says you can, without speeding, average 96.4 km/h and get there in four hours and 27 minutes. By breaking the speed limit the whole way, you’ll save something close to 27 whole minutes.
Is that really worth the risk?