Lack of cameras does not green-light lawbreaking

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

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on May 3, 2012

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.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Factbox:

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.

Drivers moving through this intersection at Allandale Road and Prince Philip Drive midday Wednesday generally followed the rules of the road, but failures to signal, running red lights and other bad practices were spotted at intersections throughout the city. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram