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May 28, 2008

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Ray

Your story made total sense Jim. Although I agree that no one should be going 50 over the limit, the current limits are underrated. I know because I'm in the engineering field and have designed plenty of roads in my lifetime and all are designed with a design speed of 20 over what will be posted. Not to mention that those "design speed" criteria are based on "comfort" rather than physics.

I'm 36 years old, have a pretty flashy sports car that I drive mostly on weekends, but I don't drive like a nut, well not on public roads anyhow, that's what tracks are for. My driving record is clean, yet I constantly get harassed by local cops trying to find something to nail me with. I can't help but feel that it's becoming a police state around here with all these new laws.

Keep up the good work Jim.

Hazen Colbert

Having driven from Toronto to Vancouver, then along the US Pacific Coast into Mexico, I continue to be amused by the artifically low speed limits in Ontario designed to keep police officers in their jobs.

Street racing is a serious issue. But the 50km/hr rule is stupid. Despite the thousands of people caught by the rule, it has not had any impact on street racing in Ontario.

Jeff in Mississauga

Jim, love your articles and I'm glad to see you blogging. I hope your high speed Internet comes through so we can hear from you more!

This issue of this law being a 'violation of the "innocent-until-proven-guilty" premise' is one that really should be pressed some more. I've never seen this issue explored in the media or heard of Fantino being asked about it.

I believe this temporary license suspension for DWI was ruled on by the Supreme courts, but did that give the government carte blanche approval to violate the Charter of Rights?

I wish you or someone on the Wheels team would do an article on this aspect of the law!

Colin Thompson

To poster Hazen Colbert.

You honestly think speed limits are made to make police have jobs? Are you really that narrow minded? I think police have far more other things to be concerned about, ALONG with speeding. I'm sure police were employed even before the speed limits were ever imposed.

Also, do you have any FACTS to back up that the new street racing/stunt driving law has not had an impact? Where's the numbers that you have that no one else has. I'm sure one or more people have thought twice before doing over 50 Km/H, which would DIRECTLY show that there is an IMPACT on street racing.
If the speed limits do get increased to say 120 Km/H on the 400 series highways, would you still say the 50 Km/h over the speed limit is still stupid (ex doing 170 Km/H on the 400 or 401 is a smart thing to do, is it a safe thing to do? I really don't think so).

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sean Milller

Great work Jim!

I have a pristine driving record and as a law abiding citizen
of Ontario,I am in disbelief that Bill 203 was even put foward to become HTA 172!
This law gives powers to the police officer to sieze and impound your vehicle and suspend your drivers license for 7 days and a increase on your already ridiculous insurance premiums
all this on the side of the road without a trial in a court of law,and last time I looked #11 section(d) of the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms states:
To be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

This is nothing but a cash grab and all residents of Ontario
should be deeply concerned with HTA 172.

Sean Miller

Michael Banovsky

Great post, Jim. But I still question the reality of a 20+ hike in speed limits when parallel parking is taught during driver training, while skid control is not.

As for enforcement, take the 403/QEW West out of Oakville during rush hour, and you'll find people in the flow of traffic darting to the on-ramp, accelerating, and forcing their way in five or six cars ahead of where they were. You'd think an OPP on each on-ramp would solve that...and pad the coffers...

My point is that speeding is not the most dangerous activity on our highways, but it seems to be the most visible. Radar guns, calibrated speedometers, the whole lot, are thousands of dollars of equipment bought for the express purpose of catching speeders. There are no 'didn't signal' radars, no 'unsafe lane change' warning lights, and no 'merged at 40kph below the speed of traffic' gongs.

And when one of our government institutions has so skewed their enforcement focus — think of the Crown only prosecuting murderers — it's time for a total re-think of how we enforce on our roads and why.

Johnny

The OPP has banged the "speed is evil" drum for 50 years or more and it is doing no more good now than it ever did. The fundamental problem is lousy drivers with no technical driving skills who don't care about other users of the roads.
McGuinty and Fantino can pass all the laws they want but until these problems get addressed we're going to continue to see lots of crashes.
By the way, I was an OPP constable for 22 years, speeding tickets were and are all about stats to justify one's existence and budget.

Jo

The question to ask the OPP is "How many lives have you saved?" and how did you measure that number?
Various studies have shown that strict speed enforcement can reduce the average speed slightly (as long as the enforcement is continued)But it has no effect on the number of collisions and fatalities. "Speed kills," based on the artificially low speed limits is simply not true.
Auto collisions are caused by driver error - period. The source of the problem is lack of driver skills. Why are the OPP not pushing for more and repeated driver training?

Peter F

Everyone with half a brain is well aware that Fantino's War on Drivers is politically motivated. The premier of our province can't get any wins with regards to gun violence and crime in our city and province, so instead he choses to perpetuate a war on drivers to distract from the most grievous problems of our province and city.

Drivers on the autobahn in Germany don't have a speed limit in most of the areas of that highway, yet their accident rate is much lower than that of North America. So, is it the speed limit, or the drivers themselves? Why focus on speed, instead of focusing on the less-than-adequate licensing program? Why are there so many drivers going 30km in a 50km zone who have no clue what they're doing? Or slow drivers in fast lanes that help cause traffic jams? Let's focus on education rather and violence rather than creating an artificial war on speeders, which doesn't solve anything.

Peter F

Everyone with half a brain is well aware that Fantino's War on Drivers is politically motivated. The premier of our province can't get any wins with regards to gun violence and crime in our city and province, so instead he choses to perpetuate a war on drivers to distract from the most grievous problems of our province and city.

Drivers on the autobahn in Germany don't have a speed limit in most of the areas of that highway, yet their accident rate is much lower than that of North America. So, is it the speed limit, or the drivers themselves? Why focus on speed, instead of focusing on the less-than-adequate licensing program? Why are there so many drivers going 30km in a 50km zone who have no clue what they're doing? Or slow drivers in fast lanes that help cause traffic jams? Let's focus on education rather and violence rather than creating an artificial war on speeders, which doesn't solve anything.

David

While I agree with the overall thrust of your argument I would point out that doing 50km/hr over the speed limit (while chargable under the street racing legislation) is actually classified as a stunt. While stunt driving carries the same penalities as street racing there is a logical difference between the two. That being said if one wants to change speed laws they should change the penalties for speeding not just lump them into another charge.

Jim: More-or-less my point, which a lot of people seem to have missed! A semi-normal, certainly far-from-uncommon, cruising speed is far removed from any of the other items listed in HTA Section 172, the "stunt" driving law which also incorporates street racing. As I will point out in this weeknd's print edition, it also denigrates the fight against REAL street racing.


GZ

We certainly see on this province's highways that the speed limit is artificially low. I think this is shown by the effect someone traveling within the speed limit on the 401 actually has - traffic slows and constricts as people try to make their way around (of course the culprit is usually not in the right lane...); obviously a dangerous situation. I believe most drivers travel at a speed they consider safe, given their skills and the circumstances (certain exceptions, of course). As this speed tends to be in the 120 range, it would make sense that the speed limit reflect that. People shouldn't be penalized for driving in a safe and considerate manner just because they happened to be 'caught'.

Regarding skills, conceptually it would be amazing if our licenses required us to continually upgrade our skills (although I cringe at another difficult to manage government program) - skid school, driver training, etc. Perhaps a course every three years or something. If you didn't take one, you don't get your license at renewal time.

Jim:Couldn't have said it better!

Daniel Dukhcharan

What Michael said really hit a note. I actually emailed the OPP about the people who enter on ramps to get 5-6 cars in front and also drive on the shoulder in some instances. They said there is no law against that or something to that tune. That is far more dangerous that speeding in my opinion, not to mention the waste in emissions and increase gridlock.

About the 150 over the speed limit. I understand what you are saying, but I have driven at very fast speeds on the 401. When I was younger I used to cruise at 160km/h. The thing that I noticed, is once you pass 140km/h, in any car, luxury or beater, the control "significantly" decreases. Now I am talking about driving on the highway with normal traffic. I think going 150km/h on the 401 is dangerous and should be controlled. I am actually for this stunt/street racing law, although I don't think it has any effect on the idiots who speed wildly and should have their licences revoked.

What should be done is to tackle the dangerous drivers who don't signal lane changes, tailgate, driving in the passing lane while impeding traffic, etc. Traffic safety is far more important than just the speed you are going. I remember these same general speed limits from when I was a child, and car technology has improved GREATLY from then. You have better control with steering, your brakes will stop the car and give you control.

That was my rant, Keep them coming Jim. The GM on is another great one.

Sez Jim: The O.P.P. officer who told you that passing on the shoulder is not illegal ought to study the Highway Traffic Act more closely. A "four-wheel off the road" pass is indeed illegal, and as you say, vastly more dangerous than - well, just about anything!

I agree with you that traffic safety is about far more than just speed limit enforcement. Sliding this 50-over (NOT 150-over!) provision into the stunt driving/street racing law is a perfect example of gross overkill.

GZ

I realize this is drifting away from the topic of this particular blog entry, but several posters have made the point about the lanes people decide to drive in. When I was a kid, back in the 70s, I seem to recall that there were signs every couple of km on the road that read "Keep right except to pass"; am I right with that recollection? Of course, people tend to ignore signs of all sorts so I don't know that they'd obey this one, but I have submitted that comment to the MTO as a really inexpensive way to remind drivers of where they ought to be.

Just a thought...

Eric

If I remember correctly, I heard that the towing and storage fees for this law are non-refundable. If so, and what-if the officer mistakenly gives the ticket to the wrong driver and is proven wrong in court? The innocent driver is then out $1000 bucks for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, add to that time off work, possibly even losing a job, whoops didn't think that one through. This politically motivated law just motivated me to boot the "thinkers" out of office.

Jim Kenzie

RE: GZ's comment about drifting away from the topic": It is indeed a very relevant comment. Lack of lane discipline, NOT speed, is THE major failure on our freeways - anyone who has ever driven in Europe knows that. My Carte Blanche column in the print edition of Wheels this weekend deals in part with that. You still see a few of those signs around, but because our roads are designed so that the right lane (the 'Jim-only' lane) disappears all the time, people are reluctant to get stuck in there. There is no enforcement of the existing legislation that requires drivers to drive right, and no education either. Those stupid pixelboard signs should contain traffic warnings, or DRIVE RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS - nothing else. (BTW, there IS no blind spot, as regular readers will already know...). That same message should be painted on every overpass, and police should be required to put enforcement of that law ahead of EVERYTHING else except seat belt use and impaired driving. It would be SO easy...

Jim Kenzie

RE: Eric's comment about non-refundable charges: These are but one of many problems with this legislation.

Nadim Abu-Zahra

I am 100% for this new speeding law. It provides a fantastic deterrent to people wishing to test the limits.

I am 100% against being pulled over for going 120 km/hr on the highway when it's 6 am and not a car in sight.

I have been the recipient of many tickets, many of which I attend court for one year later. If you think those reckless drivers don't get caught believe me sooner or later within 10 years it does catch up to them in the form of an accident or ticket

Furthermore if they raise the limit to 110 like Alberta, who is going to slow down in the winter?

In France, the limit is 110 in rain and 130 when dry.

And you still see reckless driving of people getting cut off and angers flaring mostly by lead-footed men.

Chris

When I was a young pup getting my license, metric conversion was just happening. The speeds on the 400 series of highways were set at 120 km/h and on the two lane highways at 100 km/h, as these were the two whole numbers closest to 70 mph and 60 mph, which were the default speeds on highways according to the HTA at that time. The posted speeds were reduced in a "me-too" reaction to the US reducing interstate speeds to 55 mph. It was never about safety; it was always about supposed fuel conservation.

I'm with you on this one, Jim. Repaint the lines on the roads, enforce "keep to the right" rules, and you'd see our 4-lane highways get even safer. Besides, posted speeds on the Trans-Canada through Northern Ontario is 90 km/h. How come similar highways in the south are posted at 80?

Just askin....

Brian

Yup, even if found totally innocent of all charges, you don't get back the towing and impound fees. Nor the legal fees, which are likely to be significant, nor does a business owner get compensated for lost business, nor anything of the sort.

If you want to be even more scared, consider all of the OTHER definitions of "stunt driving" and how they can be (mis)interpreted. Signal left, pass a couple of slower vehicles, signal right, and you have now made multiple lane changes in an attempt to outdistance another vehicle! If this happens at the usual 20 above the speed limit, it's at a "significant departure from the lawful speed". Theoretically an officer could seize your vehicle for this completely normal and safely-performed action, and you would have no recourse for it! The door is wide open for widespread abuse, and a moderate amount of poking around on the internet will find an ample number of examples.

This is not about road safety. This is not about speed limits. This is about fundamental rights to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This law needs to go away.

Jesse David Hollington

Well-written article, and summarizes my general thoughts about traffic safety and speed quite well. I remember a phrase I read years ago on a Usenet tagline somewhere: "Speed doesn't kill. It's a DIFFERENCE in speed that kills."

A good friend of mine who was a professional driver also used to have a great quip about traffic collisions and other incidents: "In almost every case where there's a traffic collision, it's the direct result of somebody who allowed their speed to exceed their skill." (granted that for some people that speed:skill ratio is extremely low - possibly even zero, but the point still stands no matter how you look at it).

With regards to the "Street Racing" provisions, I have a problem with two aspects of it in addition to what has already been said. The first, implied by Jim's post and some of the other comments, is the terminology of dubbing 50-over as being "Street Racing." Driving at high speeds does not automatically make one a street racer, nor should they therefore be classified as one (leaving aside the semantic argument about the definition of a highway versus a street).

The other factor, however, is how arbitrary and absolute this number is. I've always felt that speeding fines and other penalties should be *proportional* to the actual posted limit, not simply based on the number over the limit. Going 100km/h in a residental 50km/h neighbourhood is *far* more serious in my opinion than going 150km/h on a controlled-access 400-series highway. In fact, most of us who regularly do 120 on the 401 would never even consider doing 70 km/h in many 50 km/h zones.

Rob

GZ, that is correct.

If you are ticketed roadside under this legislation, the vehicle impoundment fees are non refundable. EVEN if you are found not guilty in court.

This is where a lot of the issue I have with this law comes from, you are being penalized monetarily and otherwise immediately upon being charged, without being proven guilty.

GB

Two days past my 50th birthday, with one speeding ticket 4 years ago (it was 8 km/h over) to my name, I made a left-hand turn from a left turning lane out which takes you onto a major street from our local Sobeys. I was the first car in the turning lane, fully stopped at the light, seatbelt on, no cell (yes, bluetooth, but not on a call). Three cars behind me was a police van. The light turned green, no one on the opposite turning lane, I made my turn, and got pulled over. "You made a left hand turn before oncoming traffic. That's an automatic 7 day impound of vehicle and driving license" stated the officer.
Did I make the turn? Yes I did. There was a car coming, about 200 meters (guessing at meters, but was, I double checked, 3-to-3.5 light poles away. Maybe unsafe? That could be argued. But Stunt Driving? In a 2002 Jeep 6 cyl at 8:15am? No way.

Jim Kenzie

Hi GB:

If what you describe here is remotely close to what actually happened, then the police officer was being a jerk, beginning and end of story. Sorry, police officers everywhere - I admire and respect what you do. But sometimes you collectively are your own worst enemies. Do you people not get a single minute of public relations training?

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act's infamous Section 172 does include a very convoluted description of an illegal left turn, which in itself in no way sounds like any sane person's definition of stunt driving. But never mind - it is but one of a dozen things wrong with this stupid law. Among those is reflected in your comment that it could be "argued" that your turn might have been unsafe. Well, no - it cannot be "argued" because you have already been convicted and punished WITHOUT your chance to argue it in court. Forget the presumption of innocence that has been the very basis of British Common Law for a thousand years; you are guilty without even getting a chance to argue, let alone prove, your innocence.

Amazing. Stunning. Scandalous. How does our Legislature allow laws like this to pass?

This law is being challenged in at least one Charter of Rights case, which we will be following is some detail in the print edition of Wheels over the next few weeks. Stay tuned - it's gonna be fun.

Peter F

Can't wait to see what happens when this law is challenged. Their are other laws which are similar that it applies to as well, this presumption of guilt without the chance to prove your innocence. I'll be playing close attention.

Jim, keep up the good work!

Peter F

Was this law ever challenged? Have been waiting patiently for updates but have not seen or read anything as of yet...

Brad W

I don't understand how if you are going 50 over you have the huge fines, the license removal etc. but if you blow just under on a breathalyzer you are free to go, and if you blow over, you get maybe a 24 suspension if you're a first timer. Driving drunk at any speed is much more dangerous than driving 50 over on a sunny day on an open highway.

Seriously, spend more time and effort making the roads safer. Concentrating on speeding is a joke.

A friend

The picture that accompanies today's article is good - Batman having his car seized. Picture this, my good friend was left with her two children hours from home as officers seized her minivan. Yes, she was going too fast. She was hurrying to get the ferry and wanting to get home. But does she deserve to be left at the side of the road with two kids? Something is wrong with that picture.

Aaron P

I'm keen to hear about more info on the charter of rights violations. I know at least one case of it being brought up in Ontario, but haven't heard the outcome of the trial, or if the trial has happened yet.

I am charged under the "stunting" definition of the law for 50+ over the limit, and have trial coming up in February. I have already paid $650 to get my bike out of the impound, and $900 to a paralegal to defend my position. I have since sold the bike and drive as little as possible, but still face losing my job, jail time, stiff fines, etc. if I am convicted...

Cheers,
Aaron

Jim Kenzie

Hi Aaron:

I get into trouble with our lawyers if I talk too much about this stuff when they're not riding shotgun on me. I don't think I'm supposed to comment on cases that are before the courts, but I can tell you there is a series of cases being run through the system as we speak which are addressing the constitutional issues. I also have heard - third-hand - of one paralegal who has won eight stunt driving / street racing cases in a row using more conventional defences. Have your paralegal look into that in more detail, good luck, and let us know how your case turns out.

Jim

Dan

You're absolutely right Jim. I agree with you on every point. Now if Fantino really wants to makes the roads safer and is just not flexing his muscles on a personal vendetta, he should go after drivers who drive the speed limit or below, or the drivers who go well below the flow of traffic. Statistically these are the drivers who directly or indirectly cause 6-7 times more fatal accidents than excessive speeders do. They cause the normal flow of traffic to be disrupted and way too often people have to get around them in the middle or right hand lane of the highway. I read a study done in the states that said that excessive speed alone is responsible for 4% - 6% of fatal accidents while excessively slow drivers cause more like 30% - 40% of fatal accidents. These are the idiots who are blocking the passing lane thinking that they are going fast enough and no one should be going any faster and people are forced to pass on the right hand lane or on a 2 lane highway preform an over take they normally wouldn't have to do. If you have a few cars piling up behind you on a 2 lane highway have a little courtesy and pull over so other vehicles can pass. But a lot of these idiots think they should govern how fast other people can go and get mad when people do pass them. IF YOU CAN'T KEEP UP WITH THE NORMAL FLOW OF TRAFFIC THEN MOVE TO THE RIGHT OR PULL OVER, DON'T EXPECT THE FLOW OF TRAFFIC TO SLOW DOWN TO YOUR PACE. These people are dangerous, ignorant drivers, they should be the ones having there car impounded and license suspended. They're the real danger on the road.

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