Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Need for Speed in Fort McMurray

A Facebook post from a local radio station caught my attention today. It was about a motorcyclist who was recently clocked driving at 202 km/hour – or 100 km over the limit. The incident seems absurd enough, that anyone would even think of driving at that speed – but it was the ensuing conversation that boggled me.
There were those who rose to the defense of the motorcyclist, with comments like “we all do it”, and others saying that the police should “just let him go” as it was probably a one-time thing. There were those who discussed running from the police should they be observed going at such speeds, and commenting on ways to evade charges.

Now let’s be clear: there were those who also saw the insanity in this driver’s actions, and in the comments of those who tried to defend him. But it was those who didn’t seem to see anything wrong with it – and who did defend him – that worry me – because those people are out there on the roads with the rest of us.
Look, people. Most of us have sped at one time or another, but there is a difference between occasionally catching oneself going 10 km over the limit and deliberately going 100 km over. There is a difference between those who see this as “normal” and “acceptable” behaviour, and those who don’t.

If you don’t like the speed limit then work to have it changed, don’t ignore it. You want to test your ride? Take it to a sanctioned race track, or create an organization to build such a race track here. Don’t turn our urban streets and rural highways into your personal testing ground, because here’s the deal: you aren’t just endangering yourself. You are putting me, my child, and everyone else in this community in danger. And frankly your rights to “test your ride” do not trump my right to keep all my limbs and live for another day.
There is a selfishness in all this. Since we all share the roads we need to be respectful of others, and we need to be aware that our actions impact them. A decision to drive while impaired or fatigued, or at excessive speeds or in an aggressive manner, can impact more than you. A selfish desire to “own the road” and indulge your need for speed can end in my death, and I reject that selfish attitude.

The local radio show host suggested that those who speed excessively should have their vehicle crushed in front of them. I am not sure if that is the solution, but I do think we need to get serious. As an analogy if you wield a baseball bat as a weapon you can be charged with attempted assault – maybe it’s time for those that ignore those speed laws in egregious ways to face similar charges. I can guarantee this: if a driver driving that kind of speed kills or injures someone in my family and survives it will be my personal mandate to see them do jail time, and tie them up in civil litigation for decades. I don’t believe in retribution, but I do believe in justice, and if their selfish act costs me then I will make sure that it costs them, too. Call me vengeful if you want, but there it is.
How many of us know someone who died because of actions like excessive speed or impaired driving? Show of hands? I suspect there are a lot of hands creeping up, because I think most of us do. In my life I have known several, including a dirt bike accident that killed two young friends immediately, put the third into a lingering coma, and forever altered the life of the fourth (who for years after had surgeries to remove the gravel that kept coming to the surface of their skin, so deeply was it embedded in their flesh after they skidded down the road on their face). And I will never forget when my sister’s new boyfriend was killed when he wrapped his new motorcycle around a tree. The police officers said his speed must have been incredibly high to break almost every limb in his body, and to embed parts of his bike so deeply into the tree that they are still there, even 35 years later. I was only ten at the time, but I will never forget my sister’s face when she heard the news.

Here’s the reality, folks. I know there will always be those who drive at excessive speeds and who think it’s acceptable to drive in ways that endanger others. If they only endangered themselves, if they were the only ones at risk, then it’s perfectly acceptable to me. If you want to go cliff diving or parachuting or any other risky activity that only affects you then go right ahead and do it, because that is between you and your family. But once you make a decision to do this on a road you share with me then the dialogue has changed, because now it’s between you, me, and those I care about. Trust me – it’s not a dialogue where I will ever admit defeat, because lives depend on it. And the funny thing is the life I save might even be yours.


  1. At no point was the manner how he was driving discussed or reported. Merely the speed. Could be a deserted stretch of highway. Who says he endangered anyone but himself?

    Speed alone does not kill anyone. Speed alone is not dangerous. Careless and reckless behaviour are separate from speed. There are many places around the world where there is no limits on speed. They have no more lethal accidents due to speed than we do. Deaths on the road, everywhere on the world, come from the same cause. Inattention and lack of skill. Lack of skill can be cause by impairment, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, or just plain old shitty driving. Two people need to fail for 99% of the accidents to happen.

    The old man in the work truck having trouble lighting his cigarette is just as careless. Texting or reading texts, ditto. People die in these scenarios everyday, yet they are not demonized for their actions.

    I've had two friends die on the road and one critically injured. One work truck didn't secure his load coming out of a work site. Ladder swung out and hit my friend in the head. One more struck by a young woman txting while he was stopped at a red light. She didn't even slow down. The family of that friend wanted her to do jail time, but no. Poor young woman crying about her mistake, can't send her to jail. Guy with the guillotine ladder? Fine. Nothing more.

    When is the last time you saw or heard of the police issuing fines and stopping people for these infractions? (distracted driving)

    When is the last time you heard of a speed stop or ticket in the mail from someone you know?

    Now how often do you think people are actually driving recklessly at excessive speeds, compared to people who are texting or just generally being inattentive?

    Speed has be vilified for a long time in our country. The insurance companies lobby to keep hwy speed lower. Media sensationalize any incidents involving speed. It's also good PR for the police to write a lot of speeding tickets. (not to mention income)

    Remember that horrible accident on 63 last year where the infant died? Many people cried out that the police aren't present enough on 63. Two weekends later they had a blitz on 63. Press Release - we wrote 667 speeding tickets this weekend. Wow. Making our roads safe!! One week cops on 63. Effective? Hardly.

    The problem is not, nor has it ever been, speed.
    We gave up safer streets and communities when we required our police forces to be fiscally responsible. Policing should be a cost centre, not a business.

    You want a safer need police to patrol. Patrolling has been proven to reduce the incidents of all crimes, especially on the hwy. Problem is, patrolling costs money and doesn't generate as much income as sitting in the car with a radar gun. Write 100 tickets a day for drivers doing 120 on the hwy looks far better on paper than the intangible reduction of dangerous drivers. That's business. Were those 100 people really endangering anyone doing 20 over? Were they reckless? Undoubtedly, you will argue that's not the same as doing 225. True enough, but my point is you've already bought into the hype about the speed, rather than asking about circumstances. Speed = BAD. Period. If you viewed all of the other infractions in the highway act with the same impunity, there would be no one left on the road.

    1. So in essence you condone driving 100 km over the legal limit? If so then work to change the law. That's your choice. And I'll work to make sure that does not happen. That's my choice.

      I can quote a whole bunch of stats at you about speed and stopping times and all that jazz but you can Google so you know it's out there.

      I haven't bought into any hype. I recognize that my rights end where the right of another person begins, and if my speed endangers others then I have no right to speed. I don't own the road - I share it with other users.

      I continue to be baffled that anyone thinks their rights trump my right to safety. If your speed imperils me - or your other dangerous driving habits do- then you need to address them, because you do not have the right to risk the lives of others. Risk your own on a private racetrack, or in other ways - but not on roadways we share.

      Incidentally I know several people who have gotten distracted driving tickets, as well as tickets for stop signs, etc, so that argument is a total red herring. Wrong question to ask me as I know people who have just paid those fines.

      And I never said I thought it should be treated differently - regardless of the behaviour that endangers others. Speed is one factor in reckless driving. I never implied or said I thought it was worse or better than any of the others.