Be­yond the limit

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL -

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-to-com­mu­nity 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?

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