A residential street used as a racetrack. What else is new? Last week, an anonymous social media post from a Kemptville resident brought to light something that is really not news to anyone at all – drivers in our area speed… a lot.
The anonymous poster had specific concerns about the stretch of County Road 44 that enters Kemptville town limits to the south – it is a 50 km/h zone before entering town limits (where it changes to the Kemptville-wide 40km/h zone), and is designated as a “community safety zone” which means that speeding fines are higher. The social media user notes that “some cars use it as a racetrack to get in and out of town”. This must be true for it to have been declared a community safety zone, and it’s certainly not the only spot where speeding is a problem. It raises the question – why the hurry lately?
Instead of going into a generic-sounding rant about how we need to slow down, I’d like to stick my neck out and give the other perspective. People are busy. People are tired. People are struggling. Having two or more jobs is a reality now. It almost seems like total fiction to think of decades past when a family could have one breadwinner working 35-40 hours a week with weekends off, while their spouse looked after the home, and any kids in the family focused on school. In the current day and age, in a family unit with two adults, it’s more common to see both working multiple jobs, barely having a social life, perhaps not even seeing each other, and still struggling financially.
What does this have to do with speeding? Well… everything! I’m reminded of the very well known Alabama song, “I’m in a hurry”. The lyrics are quite idealistic. “I’m in a hurry and don’t know why. Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” The song was released in 1992 and has a very 1992 vibe. Life was simpler then.
A 2023 version of the same song would need far different lyrics. How about: “I’m in a hurry and I know why. Oh I rush and rush so that I can eat. All I really gotta do is work four jobs to pay my rent, so I’m in a hurry and I definitely know why.” It could use some work in terms of rhyming and general flow, but I feel that the essence is there, copyright pending.
No one’s job is worth more than a life. No reasonable argument could ever be made that speeding should be excused or allowed to get people to and from work faster, with a risk of death to beloved people and pets. But people don’t often think that far ahead, do they? One study I found suggests that for every 10 mph (16 km/h) faster that you drive, the risk of death in a crash doubles. This means that going 112 km/h in an 80 km/h zone will quadruple your chances – and your passengers’ chances – of dying if you collide with something. And yet we speed frequently, because for most of us, the worst that will happen throughout our whole lives is a fine and some demerit points.
Who remembers the horrific crash that occurred in Melfort, Saskatchewan in April of 2018, when truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu ran a stop sign and killed 16 players of the Humbolt Broncos hockey team? He was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was incredibly remorseful – what happened was an accident. If the bus hadn’t been there, he would have gotten a fine of a few hundreds dollars (and only if caught in the act). It’s more likely he would have simply pulled over after realizing he blew a stop sign, gave his heart some time to stop thumping into his throat, and continued driving on. The 8 years in prison resulted largely from an unhappy turn of chance. So what was the point of it? Certainly not “revenge…”, our justice system is better than that. No, it’s something called “general deterrence”. We severely punish drivers for accidents that kill people as a reminder to the rest of the country that when luck is not on your side, the consequences can be life changing. The actual perpetrator is punished far more by their own conscience than by prison time in such cases, I suspect.
I am very much against careless driving, excessive speeding, distracted or dangerous driving, and any kind of bad driving really. I don’t excuse anyone who is a menace on the road. I do, however, feel the need to express my opinion as to why so many people take unnecessary risks on the road these days. People are not getting dumber, or more reckless, or more careless, they are simply getting… busier. There is little doubt that the world is a tough place economically right now. The old mantra of “give yourself extra time” is not useful to someone for whom job A ends at 4:30 pm and job B – a 30 minute drive away – begins at precisely 5:00 pm. Seconds do end up counting, and I for one, have felt that pressure in my own work. It makes people do stupid things.
Driving rules are only as useful as the enforcement tactics used to police them. A lower speed limit and increased patrol can’t fix everything. It certainly can’t fix the fact that what used to be a “9 am to 5 pm job” is now replaced by a seemingly never ending working life that feels more like “9 am to… Thursday”. Perhaps speeding and distracted driving are one of the many problems that can be fixed only by overarching systemic changes. These reminders of tough times are getting more and more frequent. The most important question is: who has the power to create lasting, positive change? I suppose we all do… with our votes.