Ontario's dire need for speed

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

To the Editor:
Last weekend I drove home to the GTA and of course used the world’s busiest highway â€" the 401 â€" to get there. The trip was uneventful, but I saw several drivers on the shoulder with a cruiser’s flashing lights behind them. Chances are they were pulled over for “speeding.” The posted speed limit on Ontario provincial highways is 100 kilometres/hour. But this arbitrary number is too conservative for favourable driving conditions. Anyone who has ever driven on the 401 should know the de facto speed is much higher. Most people drive at least 10-20 kilometres/hour over, with skilled drivers like me doing a bit more than that. But still, some people tailgate, wanting to go even faster.

The 100 kilometre/hour speed limit is a relic from the 1970s oil crisis, chosen because it maximized the fuel economy of the cars of the day. Queen’s Park took its cue from U.S. Congress then and never looked back. It hasn’t changed because it makes more money from tickets than it spends on laughably inconsistent enforcement.

In 1995, a teacher was ticketed for doing 117 km/h in a 100 km/h zone. In protest, he organized a couple of friends to drive side-by-side with him on the 401 at exactly the speed limit. He was pulled over again, but this time he was given another ticket for obstructing traffic, even though he was technically obeying the law!

Don’t buy into the half-truths and jingoisms the Ministry of Transportation and police use about safety to defend their unholy cabal with insurance companies. Let’s raise the speed limit to something realistic, like 130 kilometres/hour, and use police resources to catch the real dangerous drivers.
â€"Scott R. Hollinshead
Honors History III

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