Monthly Archives: September 2015

Driving Too Fast in the Rain is Like Driving Drunk

There was some heavy rain in the St. John’s metropolitan area this morning, so like virtually all mornings when it is rainy, traffic on all the major roads ground to a standstill because of cars hydroplaning and sliding off the road. Luckily nobody was seriously injured or killed. I want to be clear that not everyone who has an accident when it is raining was driving recklessly; it is to be expected that there will be more accidents when roads are in poor condition. I will say though that far too many people do not adjust their driving to the weather conditions and these people are putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk.

We as a society have come a long way when it comes to drinking and driving. Once upon a time if you only had a six pack of beer and didn’t drive home people would have looked at you funny. Now if you drank a six pack at someone’s house and drove home you would be looked at as a menace to society. A lot of people, particularly the people at MADD, have put in a tremendous amount of work over the years to change these attitudes and many lives have been saved because of it. I can’t help but feel though that we need an organization devoted to combating reckless and stupid sober drivers.

I find that I am rarely passed on the highway when the roads are clear and dry. When I am driving my Jeep on the Outer Ring Road in the snow or rain, however, I regularly have cars fly past me as if I were stopped. No doubt many people go through their entire lives without causing an accident by driving much too fast in bad weather, but there are also people who drink and drive and never cause an accident. The uncomfortable truth is that people who don’t drive appropriately in bad weather, either from a lack of knowledge or a lack of caring, cause more injuries and deaths on the road than drunk drivers. Most people realize this is a problem but there is a sense that this is just an accepted fact of life.

When someone who is driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit causes an accident, there is public outrage and that driver faces serious legal consequences, including potential jail time. If someone is driving too fast in the rain, hydroplanes and causes a fatal head on collision, it is considered a tragic accident. The person who caused the accident, if he or she survives, only has to worry about a higher cost of insurance.

Changing attitudes towards drinking and driving took decades, so there will be no quick fix to changing how people drive in poor weather, but if anyone is looking for a place to start we should take a look at our outdated speed limit system. Right now if the speed limit on the highway is 100km/h, it is 100km/h 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or visibility. Police always tell us to adjust speeds accordingly, but you still can’t get a speeding ticket for doing 100 on the outer ring.  The reality is that on a relatively smooth divided highway in clear and dry conditions the speed limit could be raised to 110 or 120km/h without much of an impact on safety. On the flip side, there would be a significant impact on safety if the limit was reduced to 90 or even 80km/h in rain, fog, or snow.

If the government were to change from a fixed 100km/h limit on highways to a 90/110 system based on weatehr, I believe there would be a significant reduction in highway accidents. It wouldn’t just be because of the reduced speed limits in poor weather, but also because they would be formalizing the concept that speed limits are dependent upon whether.

 

Tim Horton’s Should Be An Election Issue

I like Tim Horton’s coffee. The coffee is always fresh and consistent, and even though it is not the greatest coffee in the world, it’s pretty good, particularly for the price. I am always irritated when hipsters feel the need to mock it and describe it as something akin to fermented bog water. That being said, I rarely go there.

I go to Tim Horton’s around 6:30am on the weekends to get a coffee and a Danish on the way to golf when the place is pretty much deserted. I don’t go there on weekday mornings as there are usually about 400 cars in the drive through, with some cars literally stopped on the street waiting for the opportunity to even get in on the parking lot. I have no evidence to back this up but I would be willing to bet that the rate of accidents in the vicinity of Tim Horton’s must be twice as high as the average.

One of the hallmarks of every Canadian election is that every candidate goes out of his or her way to make everyone painfully aware of how much they enjoy their Tim Horton’s coffee, or “Timmies” as they like to call it. But if politicians like Tim Horton’s as much as they say they do, I believe that they should start making it an actual campaign issue.

There are two Tim Horton’s related laws that I believe we need. The first, and most important from a public safety point of view, is that it should be illegal to stop your car on the street while you wait for room in the drive-thru to open up. If a drive-thru extends out into the street, the correct response should be to keep driving. You can circle back and try again in a few minutes, but I don’t think it should be acceptable to shut down rush hour traffic just because you are addicted to a particular brand of coffee, no matter how good it tastes. I’m not suggesting that someone should go to jail for stopping their car in the middle of the road while they wait to get in a drive-thru, I think a fine of a thousand dollars and having your vehicle seized and destroyed would be more than sufficient.

While I generally only go to Tim Horton’s very early on the weekends, there are times during the day when I notice that the parking lot is mostly empty and decide to pop in for a small coffee and a snack. Sometimes everything goes according to plan and two minutes later I’m walking out with a coffee and a Danish, but there have been many times, including one just last week, where the one person in front of me walks up and pulls a piece of paper out of his (it is always a guy) hand and gives it to the person behind the counter.

The small line of a couple of people slowly starts to stretch out the doors of the building as the person behind the counter builds a skyscraper of coffee trays. Sometimes these people even have the gall to get bagels. You would think someone who was buying coffees for twenty people would have the decency to either skip the food or just get a big box of Timbits, but no. In the example from last week, there were two checkouts open, but both of them had a person making bulk purchases.

We as a society need to have a frank discussion on what is an acceptable scale for a coffee run. I believe that five coffees should be the limit, which is essentially the number of coffees you can fit in a single tray – one in each of the four slots and one wedged into the middle. Anyone who tries to order more than that should be fined a hundred dollars and banned from all coffee shops one year. I should clarify that this would only apply to walk-up bulk orders; any regular customer who wants to make a large coffee run can call in their order in advance and have it waiting for them when they get there without delaying others.