Beyond the limit
Nothing seems as out of place in this province as a vehicle with out-of-province plates, clearly tourists, travelling at the posted speed limit while scores of cars stream past them.
You can imagine the discussion in the car: “Honey, everyone’s passing you. Are you sure the speed limit’s 100 km/h?”
This is not to make light of a serious issue: there have been a slew of catastrophic highway accidents in the last few weeks, many of them on 100 km/h arterial roads.
One of the biggest problems? Speed limits, put in place to outline the top legal speed in perfect road conditions, seem to be viewed as conservative suggestions by many of our drivers.
Chances are, the speed of at least one of the drivers in many accidents in this province has to do with driving too fast, either too fast for road conditions, or just too fast in general.
Roads like the Veteran’s Memorial Highway, from the Trans-Canada Highway to Carbonear, are clearly dangerous, not only because of the absence of dedicated passing lanes, but because of the behaviour of drivers.
Anyone who uses the route regularly can tell you not only about terrible accidents they are aware of, but about the legion of close calls they’ve seen during regular driving. There are plenty of reasons: there are drivers travelling the route at absurdly high speeds in the 150 km/h range, but also drivers using the same route as an easy community-tocommunity short hop, bottlenecking the road while tootling along at 70 km/h, building long lineups and increasing frustration behind them. There’s a real ignorance of road conditions, with drivers travelling at the road’s top speed limit even in adverse weather, and a real lack of situational awareness about other drivers sharing the road.
The constant in all of those cases? One thing — bad driving habits.
How dangerous is it? Well, when you consciously change plans and don’t travel the road because of something as simple as rain, there’s an issue.
But what do you do if police resources are stretched too thin for full and thorough highway enforcement, and drivers clearly and knowingly exploit that fact?
Do we reach a point where the provincial government has to bring in photo-radar to start catching not the average speeder, but those travelling at clearly dangerous rates of speed?
Will massive fines get peoples’ attention when even horrible accidents fail to? Do we have to go even further, so that if you’re convicted of travelling 40 or more kilometres over the speed limit, you lose your license for a period of time to let you ponder the consequences?
Public awareness campaigns, occasional and well-publicized ticketing campaigns and editorial tut-tutting don’t seem to be doing a single thing to make the roads safer.
We’ve tried the carrot, and it’s failed to have an effect.
What kind of stick do we need to use?
I am writing to express my concerns over NL Hydro’s proposed rate increases to electricity rates soon to be heard before the Public Utilities Board this coming October.
In July of this year, application was made for a rate increase that would see electric rate increase of 13 per cent over the next two years.
While NL Hydro has a reported profit of $138 million over the fiscal year, again we see NL Hydro asking for an increase in rates to cover added future expenses to cover costs to their infrastructure. What bothers me in this application is the fact that NL Hydro did nothing to prevent faults in our electrical system in the past as expressed in both Liberty Consulting reports since the occurrence of the “DarkNL” events of our recent past.
When does a product or commodity become so highly priced that it becomes unaffordable, and how does a commodity like electricity get priced fairly when we see such neglect as our electrical system saw, the proof being shown in the Liberty Consulting reports? It was the risk that NL Hydro took in the first place that saw them coming back to the PUB in the first place.
To what extent do we have to pay for a “cost of doing business” when the crown corporation already shows a positive bottom line in spite of the neglect that we now have to pay for?
In the light of increasing costs to consumers as a result of the failing Muskrat Falls project, how far can we go until the crown corporation hits the wall known as the “law of diminishing returns”?
In my house, electricity costs are already at their zenith with the commodity fast outpacing the cost of living numbers. In no way can any consumer justify an increase to rates outside of core inflation numbers under normal conditions, but neglect is not covered. Heads should have rolled.
What NL Hydro has reaped in the neglect of regular scheduled maintenance in the Liberty report is now coming home to roost for the corporation as well as consumers. What they have sown is a huge discontent that requires consumers to simply say “No!” to any proposed increases to rates. We need the Public Utilities Board to side with consumers on this one to send the message to all that we simply can’t afford what you are asking. That comes at the detriment to NL Hydro’s bottom line which belongs to the taxpayers in the first place.
NL Hydro should withdraw its application for a rate increase and absorb it as a “cost of doing business” in the first place.
To this end, I am asking all consumers to write to the Public Utilities Board expressing dissatisfaction with the proposed increase, and also a note of support to Dennis Browne who is representing consumers’ views in this fight.
Now, more than ever, consumers and business have to be heard!
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices