I’ll admit it. I must be getting old. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of anyone wanting to stunt drive on the highway. They call it “extreme speeding” now. Fancy, eh? It has an “Indianapolis 500” kind of ring to it … exciting, exhilarating. Oh, wait, I almost forgot: stupid, deadly.
I mean, who would be so impossibly selfish as to drive at 196 kilometres per hour on the QEW near the Burlington Skyway? According to the OPP, a 32 year old Hamilton man was recently charged with doing exactly that. An 18 year old Brantford man was clocked doing 155 kilometres an hour on the 403 near Copetown. It’s just hard for the rest of us to believe. Stupefying in fact. I have to wonder why these drivers continue to insist that their right to joyride supercedes our right to enjoy a long and happy life.
A few months ago, I wrote about a near-collision I had on Highway 6 outside of Port Dover. A black car with tinted windows decided to pull into my lane head-on in order to pass three or four vehicles ahead of it. Unfortunately, the driver couldn’t merge back into traffic quickly enough. He or she came straight at me, and I had no choice but to swerve onto the shoulder of the highway or be road kill.
The story seems to have struck a chord. Many of you commented online, telling similar tales of hair-raising brushes with injury or death on Highway 6. But here’s the thing. Instead of doing something about it, we seem to shrug our shoulders, congratulate ourselves on a lucky escape, and put the whole thing behind us. Until the next close call, of course.
Happily, someone really is doing something about it. I didn’t realize this until the issue became such a personal one for me. Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon is getting some solid traction on the problem at Queen’s Park. You may recall that she was inspired to found the “Share the Road Cycling Coalition” after the tragic death of her husband on a country road in Milton in 2006.
OPP Sgt. Greg Stobbart was killed by a careless driver who had a record of five violations for driving with a suspended license. McMahon pressed the government for an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, one that would toughen penalties for those who get behind the wheel while suspended and uninsured. The amendment, known as “Greg’s Law” was passed in 2009.
McMahon ran for office and won her seat in the Legislature in 2014. She continues to advocate for road safety, just last month introducing Bill 213 — another amendment to the Highway Traffic Act. This time, the focus is on careless driving. Among other things, the amendment asks for increased fines. Right now, the fine involved runs anywhere from $400 to $2,000. Bill 213 seeks an increase to anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000. The bill also proposes a licence suspension of up to five years and potential imprisonment to a maximum of two years.
Call it a quantum leap from where we are now.
I rediscovered Eleanor McMahon and her story when I began digging — digging for a way to find some purpose in my near-miss on Six. Sure, I had had a narrow escape, but what was I supposed to do with it? Visiting the OPP detachment in Burlington a few days later seemed like a good place to start. I asked one of the officers there for advice.
She told me it was simple: Start a petition and present it at Queen’s Park. So a few weeks and a few phone calls later, I’m happy to report that it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. The petition is on paper now. It requests that the government take concrete and specific action to address the lack of adequate surveillance on Highway 6 (human, drone or otherwise). It requests that the government launch a public awareness campaign to educate drivers on the penalties they face for careless driving in Ontario. It throws full support behind Bill 213 and the call for increased fines, license suspension and imprisonment.
And all it needs now is your signature. If you’re interested, please let me know. In the meantime, it seems fitting to give the last word to Eleanor McMahon. According to her, it all comes down to this: “Driving is a privilege, not a right.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Karen Cumming is an educator and freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected]
Source: The Hamilton Specator