Stunting is more prevalent
Police take action to cut down on carnage with 2018 Operation Impact
The study defines these drivers as “driving at speeds beyond posted legal limits or driving too fast for road conditions and driver behaviours which are deemed illegal or outside socially acceptable norms which put other road users at risk.”
Tops, a driving instructor by trade who has taught motorcycle safety since the 1990s, recognizes the role age and lack of experience can play in such accidents.
He doesn’t feel it was a factor when his son and friend collided with the truck, rather that speed and “inattentive driving” were more likely to blame.
“Whether (the driver) drifted over, or it was Eric – the long and short of it is both vehicles were at the centre line at the exact same time,” says Tops.
Dangerous driving was also identified as a concern by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in its 2018 Operation Impact, an initiative some provinces took part in to address aggressive, impaired and distracted driving, as well as seatbelt use.
Nova Scotia participated, but RCMP public information officer Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says it’s difficult to assess what direct impact the initiative has had since it began in October.
Stunting – a charge Nova Scotia drivers face if clocked driving 50 km/h or more above the limit – is also cause for concern, according to Clarke, who says data shows charges have risen steadily in the province since the law came into effect in 2013.
“Before that law came into effect, someone who was going more than 50 km/h would have received a ticket for speeding, so it’s not as if drivers weren’t being ticketed for that offence,” she says.
Tops says he’s thankful both Payne and his son survived the accident and says both men feel lucky the incident has only left them physically scarred. Payne now presents as a motivational speaker to other amputees, and Tops’s son owns and drives his own motorcycle.
As for Tops, he now uses the experience as a first-hand example of the consequences of dangerous driving and the seconds it removes from a driver’s response time.
“That accident could so easily have taken both their lives,” says Tops.
One province seeing a regular increase in drivers caught speeding 50 km/h over posted speed limits is Nova Scotia, which has seen increases each year since 2013. In what Halifax Regional Police media officer Const. John Macleod calls an incident “of significant speed and danger to the public,” a Nova Scotia man was caught driving 162 km/h over the posted limit in a Bedford school zone in March 2018.
This was one of 18 stunting tickets issued in Halifax from November 2017 to November 2018.
“Whenever someone chooses to exceed these limits, it places both the occupants of that vehicle in potential danger as well as the rest of the motoring public and pedestrians in the area,” says Macleod.
Such incidents show Atlantic Canadians still have far to go, says Tops. He sits on the province’s Road Safety Advisory Committee, which he describes as a “think tank” for the transportation department.
Tops says the incident serves as an inspiration to him and others deciding how to best address speeding and dangerous driving that result in these accidents. They often occur due to several factors, he says, including speed, weather, age, and experience.
“There were certainly a multitude of factors when our accident happened – it was a recipe for disaster,” he says.
“A moment of inattention can make a lifetime of difference.”
Clarke said the one thing police can continue doing is change tactics, such as using car rentals to spot traffic violations or even dressing police as hitchhikers watching for cell-phone use.
“We will continue to be out there… trying to do our part to improve road safety for Nova Scotia drivers,” says Clarke.
Tops’s family and Payne met up in 2015 in Coldbrook to mark the 10-year anniversary of that life-changing accident. They have dubbed the anniversary “Alive Day” to celebrate that they and their love of motorcycling survived.
“After the accident, we all still rode. Has it changed the outlook? Sure, and some things are a little more pronounced now – a little more caution used on blind turns,” says Tops.
– Gary Howard, CAA Atlantic
Michael Tops, right, stands with his son, wife and close friend Eric Payne. While riding motorcycles along Brooklyn Street in Centreville in 2005, the bike Payne and Tops’s son were on was struck by a pickup truck. They are pictured here in 2015, when they met to mark the 10th anniversary of the event they’ve dubbed “Alive Day.”