‘Speeding has been normalized’
Driving instructor says speeding data ‘may even be on the low side’ of real number of incidents
Panic, fear, and worst-casescenarios whirled through Michael Tops’ head as he ran to help his son and close friend after their motorcycle collided with a pickup truck.
The 2005 accident at the intersection of Brooklyn Street and Lanzy Road in Centreville, Kings County could have been worse. Both men survived, but Tops’ friend Eric Payne lost one of his legs and his military career. Tops says the hospital visits also contributed to his family’s decision to relocate from Greenwood to Shearwater.
And all of this is because of the dangerous driving he believes caused the accident.
“The roadway they were on is a road where speeding is a normality – a back road outside of town rarely patrolled by police, in an area where traffic volume is generally low. Both were there at the same time,” says Tops.
“Whether there was a huge intentional component there to be driving dangerous, I can’t say. But, my gut tells me.”
Speeding a factor in insurance averages
Eighty per cent of motor accidents can be avoided with one more second of response time – but only if motorists are driving at the posted highway speeds, says Gary Howard, vice-president of communications at the Canadian Automobile Association’s Atlantic department.
Once speeding is factored in, drivers have even less time to respond. Despite dangerous driving happening across the Atlantic region, he says there’s no certain way to tell which province is most dangerous.
“If you speed, and you have a distraction, you likely would not be able to react as well,” he says.
“It doesn’t take much, especially if speeding, to have a fatality.”
Among the Atlantic provinces, Newfoundland has the highest five-year average of speeding tickets from 2013 to 2017 – 29 per 1,000 people – with P.E.I., N.B. and N.S. coming in at 21, 20 and 17 per 1,000 people, respectively.
Newfoundland also has the highest average insurance rates in Atlantic Canada, at $1,132. Prince Edward Island has the lowest at $796, with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in second and third, with averages of $842 and $819.
These higher insurance rates aren’t due only to dangerous driving – rates consider additional factors like a driver’s age and driving record – but also consider claims per capita for all kinds of accidents, says Howard.
“The simple thing is the higher claims means higher risk, means higher premiums. The insurance industry is extremely complex… But in general, the three maritime provinces are comparable,” he says.
Tops, who works as a project manager and defensive driving expert with Safety Services Nova Scotia, says while he can only speak to Nova Scotia, he’s not at all surprised by what the data shows.
“Do I find these numbers surprising? Not at all – I think they may even be on the low side. Speeding has been normalized in Atlantic Canada,” he says.
Sgt. Andrew Buckle with the RCMP uses a LIDAR to catch speeders in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.