11 Sep 14

Speeding to the bank with fine revenues?

In the news recently, we’ve heard a story about an initiative to reduce the minimum speed limit to 40 km/h.  As a cabinet minister, Yasir Naqvi is asking his government to amend the Highway Traffic Act.  He is quoted as thinking that it will put Ontario in a leadership place among other jurisdictions in North America.
His justification is that he knocks on doors and this issue comes up often.  Also that the city of Ottawa once estimated it would take $5-million to install the signs, should it adopt the lower speed limit in all areas.  Municipalities already have the power to invoke lower limits, either in response to petitions, or because of safety.  Lower speed limits are nothing new to anyone who lives near schools, but are young kids playing on the streets really the reason?
In older neighbourhoods, I suspect the streets are bare compared to even 10 years ago as the kids are moving on, have cars of their own, and are not out in the streets.  In newer neighbourhoods, I suspect it is the density of housing, narrow streets and a lack of parking for multi-car families that is the real risk for youth playing, let alone two cars needing to pass.
I won’t even go into the number of months of a year available for street hockey, or the maintenance of neighbourhood streets – the lowest priority for plow service let alone pothole filling.  The real issue is that public transit has not kept up with expanding populations — they certainly do not serve the rural areas in the same manner as the cities.  Demographic trends tell me that there will be more retired baby boomers out for a walk than kids playing in the streets.
Reducing speed in neighbourhoods will always be an issue, and one that evolves as the neighbourhood age changes.  Many options have been tried: speed bumps don’t work, because the plows destroy them; rumble strips might work, and many rural municipalities use them to good effect, but they need a certain distance to be effective.
This writer believes there is an ulterior motive to a reduced minimum speed limit: more fine revenue.  Consider that most of us are used to driving 80 km/h, and reducing speed to 50 km/h upon entering a community — it is automatic and we have been conditioned to do it.  Part of the driving experience is an understanding of our vehicles, and knowing what certain speeds feel and sound like as we decelerate.  We are too busy watching outside to monitor the speedometer constantly, so once we learn what 50 km/h feels like, we hardly think about it.
Now consider what it would mean after a drop to an unsigned 40 km/h: everyone except the newest drivers would slow to a default speed 10 km/h over.  Now also consider what the fines are, and how little leniency there already is if you happen to be a little slow on the brakes, you could easily be caught doing 55 km/h in a 40 km/h zone.
This writer believes that those fines would go a long way to maintaining roads, and paying rising public transit costs, but do less for public safety.  That is assuming that the Liberals have it in them to use the revenue where it is needed, and not to pay for cancelled power stations, but that is a whole other issue.
Pamela J Pearson