Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Racing law working too well?

Ontario's new road racing law is beginning to take hold -- well beyond anyone's expectations. In its first month, 1300 people have been caught doing 50 km/h (30 mph) over the speed limit. The sanctions are tough: Zero tolerance, no warnings -- a mandatory seven day suspension beginning at roadside, vehicle impoundment and a fine ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

One consequence is that people in a "rush" to get somewhere are keeping the needle just below the fault line -- say, 148 in a 100 zone. On the other hand, the dragnet has caught people who aren't even aware they broke the law. That's not an excuse, of course, but the principle of mens rea states that to be found guilty one must have willingly broken the law or acted recklessly. That means people who just used bad judgment -- rather than acted with criminal intent -- could face the same kinds of sanctions, and I'm not sure that's constitutional.

I'm surprised few who have been cited attempt to turn the tables on the cops and issue a sub poena demanding the radar be calibrated and tested by an independent lab. This is a common legal tactic in the States and it results in more than a few speeding tickets getting quashed because the cops are found in contempt for not having obeyed the order.

And it does raise an important question, too -- whatever happened to the presumption of innocence, or the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay? The Therens precedent has resulted in 3/4 of DUI charges in Canada being dropped on these important points; and I see no reason why a court would have a problem in striking down the racing law.

We need to stop speeders, without question. There are better ways to do it, however. If people actually bothered to drive at or just above the limit in all lanes of traffic, thus forcing the would be crooks to follow the flow of traffic, that might be a first step. Of course, that would just send drivers to the back roads -- so try such things as spike strips or the "California stop" ramming technique.

35 automatic suspensions per day ... something's not quite right there. Our roads can't be that bad.

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Monkey Loves to Fight said...

My problem with this rule is the speed limits are so ridiculously slow. I've driven on similiar highways to the Highway 401 and typically the speed limit is between 110-130, not 100. I think it makes perfect sense to suspend someone's licence and give a $10,000 fine for going 180km/h, but not 150km/h. I think one should be ticketed for doing 150km/h not lose their licence.

Besides one of the biggest problem is that people drive in the passing lane at below the speed limit rather than keep right. I was in Germany last June where people drive as fast as 250km/h on the autobahn and they actually have one of the lowest accident rates of highways anywhere in the world. The difference is people don't tailgait, don't pass on the right, and only drive in the passing lane if actually passing.

Anonymous said...

It is a very good and interesting blog.In my opinion this racing law is working well and it is good for everyone.

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