Frankly I'm surprised the OPP are still enforcing the law so rigorously. Fantino's & the OPP's public image is taking a pounding
It turns out I wasn't paranoid enough.
Ontario's new "racing" law, which actually has nothing at all to do with racing, so thoroughly discombobulated me that I recently Motor Mouthed one of my patented (less kind souls would say angst-ridden) screeds that said the heavy-handed regulation was: (1) unjust; (2) likely to cause youngsters to try to run from the law; and (3) the slippery slope of Ontario's decline into a police state.
I got a number of favour-able letters -- more than a few from driving instructors who guide our youngsters in the art of avoiding getting run over by 18-wheelers -- agreeing that, indeed, many a young, testosterone-fuelled male is likely to try fleeing the gendarmerie rather than trying to explain to Dad why his brand new Lexus LS 460 got impounded. Of course, I also got a few "There, there, Dave" e-mails tut-tutting my descent into full-blown paranoia, their basic premise being that slower speeds on our thoroughfares might save lives and, of course, we can trust our constabulary to apply these new laws efficiently and fairly.
Wrong, it turns out, on both counts. First comes the news that, as of last Sunday, more than 1,000 drivers have been charged with travelling more than 50 kilometres an hour over the speed limit. That's almost 40 drivers a day that have been caught "racing" on our streets, making me wonder how it is that I have managed to drive these last 25 years in Ontario never having personally observed one of these crazed street races.
Most interesting was Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino's response. Rather than admit that the new laws were perhaps a little too draconian and catching more middle-aged college professors than young, speed-seeking youngsters, Ontario's top cop lamented that his one regret in implementing the new regulations was that he "didn't go after 30 over [the speed limit] as opposed to 50 over."
Imagine, just for a moment, the chaos if he had succeeded. Virtually everyone in Ontario would be branded a street racer. My mom has driven faster than 130 km/h on the 401. So has my dad. It would be quite difficult, I would think, to actually find someone who hasn't exceeded the speed limit by 30 klicks. Following Fantino's logic, why not reduce the threshold to 10 km/h over and brand even Buick drivers as law-scoffing drag racers?
Of course, this may not be all about safety. The province stands to collect between $2-million and $10-million for that first month's speeders alone. Some of that money will go to the municipalities whose police forces wrote up the charges, leading me to wonder why Mayor David Miller doesn't get the law re-written to charge everyone moving 10 km/h under the speed limit so he could collect fines from everyone moving faster than a bicycle courier and balance Toronto's budget.
And the insurance companies are just eating this stuff up. Why wouldn't they? Under previous rules, a 50-year-old dentist with no convictions might see a modest increase in her insurance for a speeding ticket. But with a "racing" conviction on her record, her insurance rate will be hiked through the roof. She'd be no worse a risk than before, yet she would generate a far heftier profit
But, perhaps, being a very slow driver, none of this leaves you alarmed. This should. I've already received a letter -- detailed and well thought out, I might add--from a dedicated family man, a surgeon even, who has come face to face with the problem with making police the judge, jury and executioner of any law.
Dan (the name has been changed to protect the slightly guilty) was stopped by police after having just turned onto Eglinton East after exiting Allen Road. He wasn't much worried about a serious offence since he had been boxed in by a car in front and a car to the side. Imagine his surprise when the police officer accused him of travelling 102 km/h, "conveniently," as Dan notes, just over the 50-km/h threshold.
Dan says he felt "cheap and degraded" by this "terrible abuse of public trust and power." The police commissioner might call that "tough policing," but the first step toward the Orwellian Big Brotherism is to create laws so restrictive that everyone is guilty and so feels relieved when granted clemency by our benevolent dictators.
Still think I'm paranoid