Calling all drivers

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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?

Organizations: Trans-Canada, RCMP

Geographic location: Port Blandford, South Brook.These, Carbonear Outer Ring Road Sheshashiu Port aux Basques

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Recent comments

  • Joe
    August 01, 2013 - 14:14

    Why is it that we are shown pictures of accidents, but never told on completion of the investigation the cause of the crash? Except when drinking may have been involved. Are the police afraid to give a cause, in case someone might accuse them of being wrong? What is the use of an investigative division, if they don't give results?

  • Pro Driver
    July 31, 2013 - 16:07

    If the government wants to slow down traffic, allow people to drive in the "fast lane" and do away with the "keep right except to pass" rules. People will then drive in the "fast lane" going 100 to stay out of the ruts (which is safer) while others will stay in the "slow lane" going 100. These drivers then become pace cars and slow down all the traffic going 120+ behind them.

  • Tony Rockel
    July 31, 2013 - 12:02

    Studies have shown that the performance of a driver using a cell phone is as bad as that of a driver whose blood alcohol is above the legal limit. I see idiots with cell phones glued to their ears every time I'm on the TCH. In some jurisdictions the police now check the drivers' cell phone records to see if they were talking or texting at the time of the crash. They should do that here.

  • Chavy
    July 31, 2013 - 11:20

    Statistically, distracted driving causes 1/3 of all traffic deaths, that is more then speeding, alcohol or failure to wear a seat belt. RCMP say that. Yet, here's the war on speed. Despite the fact that none of the accidents that lead to fatalities in the past weeks were actually attributed to speed, here you are... banging the drum. Using the several unfortunate deaths last week and this weekend to promote your "Speed Kills" agenda, without any knowledge of how or why these accidents happen. RCMP didn't attribute any of them to speed. And their yearly numbers routinely show that few accidents are even slight influenced by speeding. Still, we see headlines like this: "Speed Demon Nabbed On TCH" Oh my goodness gracious!!! SPEED DEMON FROM HELL!!!! BURNING... FLAMES... But wait, if you read the article, he's drunk and the RCMP charge him with drunk driving. Here's another "Impaired Speeding Driver Caught"... let's just go ahead and associate the worst people in the world, drunk drivers with everyone (because everyone speeds). You're brainwashed into believing that something that is a major cash cow for governments and insurance companies is the worst possible crime you could commit on the roads. As a public we need to refocus our passion to rid the roads of people texting, jabbering on cell phones and generally shagging about in their cars. It's routine. There are things farrrrrr worse then speeding, but unfortunately none are easier to enforce and profit from. Bang the drum.. The war on speed is alive and well.

  • tismeby
    July 31, 2013 - 11:17

    Speed is not the primary issue with most accidents (excluding hydroplaning of course) it is the other things as stated such as cell phone use, poor roads, and moose as well as other factors such as tiredness, lack of concentration, alcohol and drugs, poor tires and brakes, and plain poor driving habits. Do some research and you will find that a modest increase in speed over posted limits has very little if any effect on the number of accidents. Yes severity of the accident can be increased due to speed, but whether you are hitting the tractor trailer at 120 km/h or 100 km/h is not going to make much difference in the end result. Studies have shown that driving tired is worse than driving drunk. There are likely plenty of people who drive tired. Bad driving habits that I regularly see is cutting out in front of people when there is not sufficient distance, speeding up in the passing zones, passing you then slowing down, and tailgating. By the way I do not condone speeding; just saying it is not the big factor in the cause of accidents. Personally I keep to 110 km/h or less on the highways (unless I have to go 120-130 to get past someone who does 90 in the non-passing zones then speeds up to 110-115 in the passing zones!!).

  • Ron Tizzard
    July 31, 2013 - 10:11

    Tom, you respnded 'Yes, it is worth the risk; but you'd put down the cell phone'. You must be sick! RETHINK your response Tom, please. While you are (super)speeding down the road with your fellow-drivers (innocent mothers, fathers, perhaps children) breaking legal speed limits (which exist to relate to safer-arrivals). You think that's reasonable behaviour? What gives you the right, REALLY! What gives you the right, the moral right even to decide to recklessly play with others' lives and/or physical health. Think of this....what if the other driver was you Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, another relative...a BEST FRIEND. To often, speedsters seem to forget that should a serious/fatal accident occur it could be 'the end of their own lives; perhaps in a wheelchair for the next 30, or forty years. Don't be so stupid. If you have a fetish for speed...rent out some time to race to your MIND'S-DELIGHT on a speed-way...and stay off our highways.

  • saelcove
    July 31, 2013 - 09:36

    it has as much to do with slow drivers as it does fast

  • J
    July 31, 2013 - 08:55

    I guess it would never occur to anyone that the speed limits are purposely to low. The police have a vested interest. Vehicles are being equipped with more safety systems (abs to name one) but yet the fact that anyone and everyone can get a license these days is probably one of the largest contributing factors to all these crashes. Most people in this province have no idea on the rules of the road, no idea how to merge, no idea how to yield, no idea how to check their blind spot before a lane change, no idea that they should be driving 10 under the speed limit in the left lane. To blame it on the speed limit is an easy way out.

  • Slow Them Down
    July 31, 2013 - 08:48

    Drive 100 in the "fast lane" on the Outer Ring where you do not have to keep right. If possible keep a 100 driver close to you in the "slow lane." If you get passed by a commercial vehicle takes note of about how fast they are going and their fleet number or plate then call the company. You might annoy some drivers, but you are teaching them a lesson and saving their lives. Become a moving speed bump. Generally, the province needs to do away with the keep right rule province wide so people can be moving speed bumps as they are on the Outer Ring while stay safe keeping out of the ruts.

  • Tom Baird
    July 31, 2013 - 07:23

    Yes, it is worth the risk; but put down the cell phone.