Prove it in jail

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There is a new “talk of the town” as of last week – speed photo radar, also known as Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) for those with a more vibrant vocabulary. It has been touted as a source of revenue, as a source of safety, and alternatively, opposed as a source of nanny state annoyance and removal of basic freedoms. Whether any of these arguments are true, another argument is certain – ASE is a source of great debate in North Dundas right now.

As reported in the last issue, there was a proposal put forward by Counsellor John Lennox at the last Council meeting to suggest the use of ASE on county roads within North Dundas. Some county roads run through villages and double as streets, such as St. Lawrence Street in Winchester and Main Streets in Chesterville, South Mountain, and Winchester, to name just a few.  

The thing that I believe puts many people off the idea of speed photo radar is the idea that “status quo speeds” will no longer be possible. I may get vilified by some people for this, but for the majority of people, I think it will be relatable: I don’t go 80 km/h on county roads. I’m sure I am one of the many, many people who can and should admit this. 

Our county road system consists of extra wide, smooth, well-maintained roads, usually without sharp curves, and with plenty of visibility and good signage. The SD&G county road system is one to be proud of, and it can easily support a safe travel speed of 100 km/h in many sections. Of course, there are places when 80 km/h makes sense. It is difficult to maintain a steady 100 km/h in the heavily winding section of County Road 3 between Inkerman and South Mountain, for example. For this section, an 80 zone suffices. On the same road, just west of South Mountain, there is a sharp curve just after passing Rick’s Gas Bar (heading west) where the limit has increased to 80 km/h, but it is quite literally impossible to take that curve at 80 km/h without rolling your vehicle. In other words, outside of settlement areas, drivers are accustomed to using their judgement on safe speed, within a 10-20 km/h margin of the posted speed limit.

I argue that 100 km/h has become “status quo speed” for 90% of SD&G’s county road sections. There are more people travelling a safe margin over the posted speed limit than those who stick right to the speed limit on county roads. This is similar to controlled access highways like the 401, 417 and 416. I dare say that not just some, but MOST drivers are pushing their speed at least to the 110-120 km/h range on these highways. Compared to most places I’ve travelled in Canada and the USA, Ontario police are very lax with highway speeds. I have passed many a police car on our county roads going 100 km/h with no issues, same with 400-series highways going 120 km/h. I once again repeat the phrase of my own invention – “status quo speed”. I’ll add that in settled areas, I stick to the speed limit on the nose. In any of North Dundas’ villages, for example, I go 50 km/h in the 50 zone, no exceptions, and I encourage all drivers to live by that rule. 

The proposal which Council will likely consider later this month only applies to roads that have a speed limit of less than 80 km/h. You may ask why I rambled about 80 zones and 100 zones if this is the case. Simple: panic over not being able to drive at “efficient” speeds is the misguided and moot reason why I believe so many people oppose ASE. 

Here is the thing about speed photo radar: it is my understanding that a signage requirement exists, where locations of ASE radar zones must be clearly marked for drivers in advance. This means that this enforcement method is not supposed to act as a “general deterrent”, making us all paranoid for the duration of every car journey. The use of ASE would be for specific deterrence in areas where speeding causes real danger, such as near schools. The signage at these locations would slow most drivers down with no need for fines. Anyone who doesn’t see the signs is likely distracted and shouldn’t be driving in the first place, therefore garnering no sympathy from me when the fine comes in the mail. 

I don’t believe that there is an excuse for driving quickly through any village in North Dundas (or anywhere). There are too many drivers who act like hooligans on purpose, perhaps many of them young drivers who are too excited about new freedoms. There is a particular pickup truck with an overly loud muffler that drives by the unloading buses at Winchester Public School on Clarence Street nearly every day. The truck absolutely zooms through the bus unloading zone, and then tears loudly and way too quickly down St. Lawrence Street. I always wonder what drivers like that have to prove. Do they not realize what a busy and unpredictable spot a residential neighbourhood is? Do they not realize how quickly things can happen in a school zone, particularly when parents are trying to drop off or pick up very young children who are not always road safety conscious? Striking a pedestrian is not an accident – even if they darted out in front of you – when you are driving recklessly. Whatever such people are trying to prove, many of them will one day have to prove it in jail, when they lose their freedom. 

Speed photo radar may come to North Dundas one day, and in certain spots, I would welcome it. Next on the agenda – school bus stop arm cameras!

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