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.