Ridge Meadows RCMP are in the middle of a safe driving blitz that is targeting aggressive drivers and say, despite increased penalties, drivers are not getting the message that they need to slow down.
In the first three months of 2016, there were 106 drivers who had their vehicles towed and impounded for excessive speeding – going more than 40 km over the speed limit. That is more than double the 47 impounds during the same time last year.
May is High Risk Driving Awareness Month, and as part of a publicity campaign, RCMP are featuring an ‘Impound of the Week’ on their Facebook page.
Monday’s offering was a sporty sedan on the back of a flat deck that had been going more than 130 km/h in a 70 km/h zone during the morning rush hour.
Then there was a motorcycle and a yellow sports car that were both impounded on the same day, each doing more than 140 km/h in an 80 km/h zone.
The charge of excessive speeding under the provincial Motor Vehicle Act carries a minimum fine of $368, with the vehicle being driven impounded for at least seven days.
According to Maple Ridge Towing, the average cost of a tow and seven-day impound is about $325, but varies by vehicle weight and the distance towed.
Drivers also get six demerit points, which could lead to novices immediately having their licenses suspended, and experienced drivers losing their licenses if they get two excessive speeding tickets in a year.
There are areas where police are most likely to find people guilty of excessive speeding:
- just east of the Pitt River Bridge;
- 132 Avenue;
- Neaves Road north;
- Dewdney Trunk Road between 222nd and 207th streets;
- Lougheed Highway from 116th Avenue to the Haney Bypass;
- On both Dewdney Trunk Road and Lougheed Highway from 240th to 272nd streets.
A police spokesman said members of the public sometimes argue the speed limit is set too low in some of these areas – such as Lougheed Highway, from 116th to the Haney Bypass.
However, he points out the route passes a high school, and that to be ticketed for excessive speeding a driver would have to be doing 90 km/h in a 50 km/h zone
“Ridge Meadows RCMP will be focusing on high-risk driving offences during the month of May,” said Cpl. Brenda Winpenny. “This awareness campaign is aimed at educating motorists and getting them to change their driving habits. As always, our objective is to make our roads among the safest in the world.”
In addition to speeding, high-risk driving includes following too closely, ignoring a traffic control device, failing to yield and improper passing. These types of driving behaviours have led to numerous crashes causing serious injury or even death, Winpenny added.
“High-risk driving behaviours, like speeding, increase your risk of crashing,” said Kate Woochuk, local ICBC road safety coordinator. “Give yourself extra time to get to your destination so you don’t feel the need to rush.”
According to ICBC collision research, crashing into a solid object at 30 km/h is like sitting in a vehicle when it falls from a one-storey building.
Speeding is involved in 94 deaths every year, 24 in the Lower Mainland, and is the leading cause of car crash fatalities in B.C., said Woochuk.
More than 50 per cent of all fatalities in speed-related crashes occur on weekends, and the peak hours are between 6 p.m. and midnight.
A lawyer asserts the police approach to excessive speeding is likely responsible for a doubling of impounds in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows so far this year.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen a giant increase in people speeding, but there’s more focus on it by enforcement,” said Michael Thain, of B.C. Driving Lawyers.
He said people try to fight the harsh penalties of excessive speeding tickets, which are $368 for driving 40 km/h over the speed limit and $483 for those speeding 60 km/h over the limit.
People will try to fight the penalties, but Thain said they come to court with bogus arguments, such as, “I was being tailgated,” or, “A lot of vehicles were speeding, why stop me?”
He said they are not valid. A good defence is necessity – such as a life-or-death situation. Or one that can point to a fault in the method of speed detection.
If the ticket relied of an officer’s visual speed estimation, there may be a successful challenge. But most tickets are issued by officers using hand-held laser devices in speed traps, which are precise.
“They’re not easy to fight.”
Some drivers fight the ticket in the hope the ticketing police officer will miss the court date. But he said most officers schedule their court appearances for the same day, and make sure they can appear.
Even drivers who are successful in fighting an excessive speeding ticket will not be reimbursed for the towing and impound fees, Thain added.
He said among the hardest hit are travelers from out of province who are unaware of the sanctions.
B.C. Driving Lawyers has been called by people having their rental cars towed. They face impound fees for their rental, and then the added cost of renting a vehicle.
“You get calls from them asking, ‘Is this allowed to happen?’”