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Russell Wangersky: The needless need for speed

['A 24-year-old male driver was clocked this morning on the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary\'s "Kustom Eagle" radar, travelling at 157 km/h on Pitts Memorial Drive. — RNC photo']
['A 24-year-old male driver was clocked this morning on the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary\'s "Kustom Eagle" radar, travelling at 157 km/h on Pitts Memorial Drive. — RNC photo']

Call it a Sunday drive.

Last week, I got onto the Trans-Canada Highway eastbound from Roaches Line to head home St. John’s. It’s somewhere between 65 and 67 kilometres in all, a pleasant drive on a well maintained four-lane divided highway.

It was late afternoon, sunny, the sun cutting down to the horizon behind me so the visibility was superb, picking out every stick of birch and lighting it yellow-orange.

Oh, and I broke the law.

Mildly. But literally — although probably not even enough to garner the attention of a passing RCMP cruiser.

I set the cruise control to 110 km/h in a 100 km/h zone, nosed into the right lane, and drove.

Heading out of town on Saturday, I’d seen plenty of police cruisers. On the Outer Ring Road, a stack of three RNC cars had been lined up eastbound between the Thorburn Road and Paradise interchanges, with a police pickup truck riding shotgun and picking off speeders for the chase cars to grab and ticket. Another RNC cruiser was ticketing a westbound driver on the other side of the road, and out near Paddy’s Pond, another was trolling, and not for trout.

Even Veteran’s Memorial Highway wasn’t immune, with RCMP SUVs on the road, though it wasn’t clear if they had speeders in mind.

You can understand the interest: there have been scores of accidents and deaths in recent weeks, and every speeder you slow down might save a life.

Every driver who sees you picking off speeders slows for a while, too.

Sunday, though, there were no police cars in sight.

What there was, though, was a huge number of people in a deadly rush.

Pickups roared by, loose loads flapping. Heck, I was even passed by a midsized car with an empty, gently-hopping aluminum trailer, the trailer looking like it was having a hard time keeping up.

I’m no mathematician, but it occurs to me that the difference between going 100 km/h and 140 km/h is that, should something change on the road in front of you, you get 40 per cent less time to react before you’re head-and-eyes-and-spinal-column into whatever it is you’ve come upon, whether it’s a sudden slowing of traffic, a moose, or a lost exhaust system right in the middle of your lane.

A black Honda Civic with a tailpipe so fat you could stick a beer can into it and low-profile tires blatted by me — everyone passed me, some, slowly, others, like I was standing still.

Now, I’ve done something like this before: I came back to St. John’s from Goobies four years ago at 100 km/h, just to see what would happen. On that day, 67 cars broke the speed limit to pass me.

But this past weekend, there were more speeding cars, and, frankly, more speed.

And the speeding was virtually unanimous. I didn’t wind up in a pod of like-minded and like-speeded drivers.

I was all the way to the Foxtrap weigh scales before my speeding car actually caught up with anyone: on the shallow hill just before the scales, I had to pull out to pass a hulking black SUV that appeared to be doing the same thing I was, except with the cruise control set at an absolutely-legal 100 km/h. It meant I crept by at barely more than a walking pace, able to glance over and see that both the driver and the front seat passenger were wearing soft whiplash collars. Maybe they had their own reasons for not speeding.

Want to know where the accidents are coming from?

Look in the mirror.

No, don’t. Apparently, at the absurd speeds everyone is driving, they’d better keep their eyes on the road in front full time.

 

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 35 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.

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