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September 19, 1997 Halifax Herald

Itís time to crackdown on all traffic offences

I sometimes wonder if many of the laws enacted to assure as much as possible the safety of people who use or cross Nova Scotia highways, except those outlawing speeding and drunk driving, have been repealed or declared inoperative. For instance, directional and signal laws are rarely enforced.

Because of the before-mentioned, many drivers have come to view "stop" signs as a nuisance, and thus contemptuously ignore them. For example, two weeks ago my wife and I almost met our Maker when a middle-aged man, who was running a stop sign with his large truck at the busy intersection of Old Sambro Road, Sussex and Rockingstone streets, missed broadsiding us by inches.

"YieldĒ signs rarely rate even a pause. Many drivers view it as a challenge to beat traffic lights. Go to any intersection where such are located, and watch dozens of drivers thumb their noses at the law by running them. Miraculously, only occasionally do they leave bodies scattered about.

Many drivers indulge in other hair-raising and illegal practices: A few evenings ago, at an intersection where two four-lane streets cross, we saw a middle-aged man risk his life and endanger the lives of others by ignoring the fact that oncoming vehicles have the right of way. When the light turned green, he made a left turn into the path of oncoming traffic missing being smashed into by a hair.

Many drivers don't have a clue that directional signals are needed to assure public safety. Itís not unusual to see close calls occur as drivers turn right or left without signaling. Could the rise of this dangerous practice be related to the fact that a telephone is often held in the hand needed to use signal equipment?

While listing highway demons, we can't omit the slow poke drivers who spitefully tramp on the gas when entering passing zones. They do this in order to prevent the back-up of cars, which have collected in no-passing zones, from passing them. When many of these maniacs come to stretches of highway with passing lanes, they take on the guise of race car drivers. I've seen some recklessly accelerate to speeds well in excess of the legal limit to prevent passing.

Does it cost a bundle to turn headlights on in visibility reduced conditions? One would think it does. For some unknown crazy reason, many drivers refuse to turn head-lights on until absolutely necessary. Therefore, its not unusual to encounter darkened cars racing at you out of the gloom when driving in the conditions mentioned. There is no doubt that this practice costs lives. Meeting cars at night with bright lights on is another hazard that is quite common, especially on divided highways.

Over the past 30 years, either on business or pleasure, I've driven in excess of two million miles on Nova Scotia's highways. During that time, I've had my life jeopardized hundreds of times by drivers who pull illegal, dangerous stunts. In many cases, police officers were seen observing the hazardous infractions, and they did nothing. I've asked several why. The stock answer has been: "Itís hard to obtain a conviction for the offenses mentioned, and very time consuming to prepare a case." Methinks they should take the time.

I list the following as the worst drivers: First, those who have only a rudimentary knowledge of the laws which govern driving on Nova Scotia's highways. Second, teenage girls and young women. Yes, in my opinion, young women now have the dubious distinction of outdoing young men in this regard. Third, teenage boys and young men. I hasten to add that the vast majority of young drivers drive with care - itís a reckless minority who create problems.

The best drivers are those who were licensed in the era when the laws which govern the privilege of driving had to be memorized before a driver's licence was issued. Then, the questions were random and one could be asked as many as 20. Today the examiner asks the applicant to respond to written questions, with answers supplied, multiple choice. One quick read of the manual the night before, and almost anyone should be able to remember enough to pass a test. Ask the same people 20 random oral questions a few weeks later, and see how many have retained enough to pass.

Since obtaining a license in 1954, I've had no more than for or five close calls with speeders. The scariest happened about 20 years ago near Bedford, and involved an RCMP cruiser. We were proceeding toward Truro on the 102, and were almost to the top of a hill. Unbeknownst to us, a speeding cruiser was passing a car coming our way. He raced over the top of the hill, on our side of the road, and came within a an inch of hitting us head-on. I estimate that he was driving in excess of 100 miles per hour. No matter what excuse he might have offered - that is, if he had stopped - his actions were indefensible. To my knowledge, I've not had a close call with a drunk driver.

I'm not defending either drunk or high speed drivers - they do injure and kill. What I am saying is that many other driving infractions also cause disabling or fatal motor vehicle accidents. I don't think anyone can argue very convincingly that failure to signal direction intentions, to switch on headlights, to yield to those trying to pass, tailgating, etc., are conducive to assuring public safety.

To reduce the carnage on our highways and streets, and keep it low, we need full enforcement of all traffic laws, not just enforcement of those where convictions are easily realized.

Daniel N. Paul

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