Leadfoot drivers on Lougheed

Area east of 240th Street is trouble zone on Highway 7 to Mission

RCMP Const. Tom Sparks of Ridge Meadows traffic services checks the speed of traffic along 256th Street on Wednesday.

RCMP Const. Tom Sparks of Ridge Meadows traffic services checks the speed of traffic along 256th Street on Wednesday.

Blast down the Lougheed at dangerous speeds, and there is a chance you’ll see your ride on a tow hook.

Laws that allow police to impound the vehicles leadfooted drivers have judiciously been put to use.

At a rate of once or twice per month, members of the Ridge Meadows RCMP Traffic Services unit will impound vehicles stopped for excessive speeding – defined by law as being 41 km/h over the speed limit.

In the past year, the time frame from March 1, 2012 to March 1, 2013,  they had 18 vehicles impounded.

The year before that it was 24.

Since the laws were put into effect in September 2010, police have had 56 impounded.

Across the province, 16,000 cars have been impounded for excessive speeding, from the time the new law came into effect until the end of February 2013.

RCMP Sgt. Dale Somerville explained that it’s a small percentage of the number of cars stopped for speeding.

The unit of six constables, a corporal and Somerville himself enforces traffic laws from the Pitt River Bridge to 287th Street.

They issue approximately 2,000 speeding tickets each year, and most range from $138 to $196 fines, for being between 20-40 km/h over the speed limit.

Excessive speeding is defined as a vehicle going over 41 km/h over the limit, and those going more than 60 km/h over the limit are in another class.

As soon as a vehicle is going more than 60 km/h over the speed limit, the driver is facing more serious sanctions from police.

“That is a huge risk to the public – you’re putting everyone at risk,” said Somerville.

The fine for speeding from 41-60 km/h over the limit is $368, and over 60 km/h is $483, in addition to the possibility of having your vehicle impounded for a week.

The driver is responsible for towing and impound fees.

Whether a vehicle is towed or not is the discretion of the officer.

Officers can weigh several factors. For example, a driver doing 41 km/h over the limit in a school zone may face impoundment if there are lots of children and traffic, and he or she is obviously endangering others.

The same speed at 4:30 p.m., when the streets are nearly deserted, may result in a fine and a warning.

Another factor is the driver’s past record, which is accessible in the police cruiser’s computer. The past five years worth of data is available dependably, as well as any criminal convictions prior to that.

“If there’s an officer wavering on a decision, he’s going to use that.”

Somerville said some drivers need to be saved from themselves – the person testing the limits of their new street bike, or the inexperienced driver roaring around in a five-litre muscle car.

“I have the tool to take away his means to kill himself or someone else,” Somerville said.

The trouble spot in the region is the area from 240 to 287 streets along the Lougheed Highway.

“People think it’s a freeway, and it’s not a freeway,” he said.

Government once considered increasing the limit on the route, but with traffic volume growing and new traffic lights at 272nd and 280th streets, the limit will stay at 80 km/h.

Somerville stressed the priority areas of enforcement are impaired driving, distracted driving and seatbelt use.

And when doing speed enforcement, police officers have a high level of tolerance – they’re not stopping people on the Lougheed doing 83 km/h instead of the posted 80 km/h, they’re stopping those doing 111 km/h.

With more than two full years of higher fines and cars impounded, Somerville thinks the most dangerous drivers are starting to get the message to slow down.

ICBC stats show the number of fatal crashes has been dropping, from 366 in B.C. in 2007, to 263 in 2011.

“People realize the power that police have to deal with that aggressive driver.”