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Editorial: Upping the ante

Const. John Goss of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary talks with the driver of a hearse during a Canada Road Safety Week traffic checkpoint Tuesday morning on Riverside Drive. RNC Const. Keith Bursey can be seen checking another vehicle in the distance. <br />Diane Crocker/The Western Star
Const. John Goss of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary talks with the driver of a hearse during a Canada Road Safety Week traffic checkpoint in Corner Brook. RNC Const. Keith Bursey can be seen checking another vehicle in the distance. — Western Star file photo

It just arrived today, but many people might not be aware of it.

If you’re speeding along the Trans-Canada Highway today, blissfully cruising up over 151 kilometres an hour, you might be in for an expensive surprise. You might get there a little earlier, or you might get an $1,800 fine, among other penalties.

Last December, the provincial government began the process of increasing a number of penalties under the Highway Traffic Act.

The legislation, which brought in new rules about such things as excessive speed, stunt driving and driving without due care and attention, also hiked fines significantly, with those penalties coming into effect today.

Speaking on the bill last December, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons pointed out, “If somebody is travelling at 51 kilometres over the speed limit, whether it’s 100 kilometres or it’s 60 kilometres, it’s way too fast. … (This) is another really important part that we get out to the general public and let them know, listen, we’re not tolerating this anymore; your car can be taken from you and you could be suspended. You could be going to jail because of it, and that’s what we really want to emphasize to the general public.”

The rule changes include altering the “Move Over” provisions: drivers approaching emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road not only have to move into an adjacent lane, but the speed limit automatically drops to 30 km/h lower than the posted speed. In municipalities, that would mean slowing to just 20 km/h while passing emergency vehicles, or face the possibility of a ticket.

The legislation, which brought in new rules about such things as excessive speed, stunt driving and driving without due care and attention, also hiked fines significantly, with those penalties coming into effect today.

If you’re looking at your cellphone to check your texts and cause an accident, you’re looking at a brand new offence. As Service NL describes it, “The new penalties for this offence are: a minimum fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $20,000 or up to two years’ imprisonment, or both; licence suspension of not more than five years; and six demerit points.”

Even if you don’t cause an accident, you’re looking at an expensive result: “The amendments also increase the existing fines for driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons from $120-$480 today to $300-$1,000.”

The truth is, all of the new rules and increases in fines and other penalties shouldn’t even have to take place.

What’s required is a modicum of that most uncommon thing: common sense.

If you’re driving, then your first responsibility should be paying attention to the road — and the rules of the road.

Unfortunately, as anyone who drives in this province will tell you, there are plenty of people who disregard speed limits completely and can’t resist the lure of that fateful incoming text.

Let’s hope that the threat of new fines and possible imprisonment make an impact with those drivers before the accidents they are eventually going to cause.

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