X does not equal X

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Small towns talk, and they love to talk about bad drivers. Sure, people who live and work in large cities can’t drive either, but the small town vibe is different. Bad driving in a community where everybody knows everybody gets a lot more personal. Residents here also have a perceived sense of “ownership” over their streets and roads, so the arms tend to fly up in a classic “what on earth are you doing?!” gesture when they see someone going too fast. A popular sentiment is, “if you run over my child or dog speeding down my street, the police will be the least of your worries”. I agree!

Many are of the opinion that a speed limit of 40 km/h is appropriate in any residential neighbourhood. It is already this way everywhere inside Kemptville town limits and I agree that this does make for a safer area in places where people are constantly moving around and children are at play. There will always be people who find it too slow, but I’m not one of them – not for inside town limits. A lower speed provides additional reaction time and minimizes the severity of any collisions that do occur. 

When it comes to outside of towns and villages, and specifically on our county roads, my opinion differs. The speed limits and some other traffic control features in some parts of these roads make little sense to me. One consideration when determining a speed limit or the type of intersection that will be used in a particular spot is whether the measure will be TOO controlling. This is not just because it would impede traffic flow, but because it tends to diminish drivers’ overall respect for rules of the road. Isn’t that fascinating? If we, as motorists, see a few seemingly pointless stop signs or a section of road with an unnecessarily low speed limit, we stop taking driving rules seriously altogether. And of course, in that case, driving becomes more dangerous for all. 

One of my favourite examples of this is not in North Dundas or North Grenville at all, but is actually on the Ottawa side of the border, near Kenmore. At the intersection of York’s Corners Road and Marvelville Road, a four way stop sign controls the traffic. For decades, motorists local to the area have asked, “why”? The purpose of a four way stop is to control low visibility or high traffic intersections. The intersection at York’s Corners and Marvelville is neither low visibility nor high traffic most of the year, though I suspect that visibility drops significantly in the late summer and early autumn due to corn growth. This would explain the four way stop. The rest of the year, most drivers barely slow down. I’m not kidding! It’s so common to see drivers in all four directions roll through this stop sign at 40-50 km/h that anyone could probably observe at least a handful of cars doing it in the span of a 15 minute observation. It’s possible to see far in all directions, and so if there are no cars coming, local drivers “save the brakes”, so to speak. I am not condoning this – just reporting the facts! One day when going through there, I noticed that a pick up truck waited about 30 long seconds to make sure I was going to stop before proceeding, likely because he is used to seeing cars simply speed through. 

Another spot that causes confusion is where County Road 3 meets Cameron Road in Inkerman. When entering town from the northeast on County Road 3, after the initial curve, proceeding straight will bring you off County Road 3 and onto Cameron Road. Technically, drivers should signal a right turn if they intend to proceed straight onto Cameron Road. Instead, it is more common to see drivers signal a left turn to take the curve that simply keeps them on the same road they are already on – County Road 3. Some signage would probably help those who aren’t familiar with Inkerman, before they start to lose faith in the whole road system!

The most frustrating spot for me is the new 60 km/h speed limit on County Road 43, between South Gower Drive and Kemptville town limits. The 60 km/h reduction makes sense for the intersection itself – perhaps 500 metres in all four directions approaching the intersection of County Road 43 and South Gower Drive. Instead, the speed reduction extends far too long, particularly going west from the intersection all the way into Kemptville. This 2-3 km section of road is a well paved, wide, high visibility, straight section of road with only sparse homes and businesses. If any standard section of county road in Eastern Ontario can be labelled as “X”, then this particular section of County Road 43 would be “X”. Except here, X does not equal X, because no other similar section of county road would have a 60 km/h speed limit. I get tailgated going 80 km/h through there, which tells me others agree. 

As is usually the case, there are two sides to this problem. Drivers need to respect road rules and use safety common sense, but the province and municipalities also need to impose rules that match the actual traffic and environment conditions. Making everyone see road rules as useless because they are unnecessarily strict ends up making roads more dangerous, rather than safer. Ontario is already a place where speeding is seen as tolerated. Lets face it – a thin majority of drivers go 100 km/h on our county roads, and when was the last time anyone got pulled over for it?

It’s time to break out the algebra. X must equal X. If it’s safe to travel 80 km/h on one stretch of road, it should be safe to go the same speed on an identical stretch of road nearby. No one is asking for a German autobahn, but a little common sense would travel a long – and more efficient – way. 

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