The best and worst of Newfoundland’s highways
Speeding, distracted driving go hand-in-hand says RCMP officer
As light snow fell, Const. David Bourden hoped drivers would slow down and drive for the conditions. Some did. Others took unnecessary risks on slippery roads. As a traffic services officer with the RCMP, Bourden is based out of Holyrood, but his job takes him anywhere he needs to be. On Nov. 29, he was patrolling Veteran's Memorial Highway and conducted two traffic stops, one resulting in a ticket after Bourden noted the driver, about to turn onto a 100-km/h zone, was not wearing a seatbelt after approaching a stop sign at a relatively high speed. The driver claimed it had simply slipped their mind - something Bourden hears too often. “Sometimes, people will just make it even worse for themselves by saying ‘Oh, I wasn’t paying attention,’ or ‘I was talking to my passenger.’ Well, that just makes it look worse because then we’ve got someone who is not only driving over the speed limit but says that they’re not even paying attention to the road,” he said. Bourden knows just how fast nearby drivers are going thanks to the multitude of equipment, marked with RCMP logos, inside his Chevrolet Tahoe. With the help of speed monitoring systems that beep periodically in response to drivers both ahead and behind him, Bourden sees just about every speeding offence in the area. It's not exactly rare to find people driving above the speed limit along busy roads. But, he says, speeding is not always the direct reason behind accidents - there are many factors at play. “Speeding itself shouldn’t always be the sole blame behind a lot of collisions. There’s often another factor that plays into it that, once you mix in speeding as well, can result in an accident or collision,” Bourden explained, noting that distracted drivers are a major problem. Phones are the most common, but he’s seen many other distractions, ranging from drivers eating behind the wheel to an uneasy dog in the passenger seat. A more astonishing example is a person reading the newspaper while driving. Even if safety is not a driver’s top priority, the legal ramifications of speeding should be. In June 2018, amendments to the Newfoundland and Labrador Vehicle Seizure and Impoundment Program upped the top limit to 51 km/h and added heavier fines and the possibility of a three-day vehicle impoundment. Despite the high speeds one would have to drive to break that regulation, Bourden says it's not overly difficult to find. “I mean, if you spend a day on the Trans-Canada, then you’re likely going to find one or two people driving at those speeds, depending on the day and the weather of course,” he said, adding that prior to the new regulations, the highest speed he had seen was 204 km/h. “We’ll have people call us, too, and advise of us some drivers who are going that fast. People will tell us, ‘hey, we’re doing a good 115 here on the highway, and this other guy just zoomed past us,’ so obviously that person passing them is driving way, way too fast.”
Const. David Bourden has seen the best and the worst of highway drivers on both the Veteran’s Memorial Highway, as well as the TransCanada Highway.