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Monday, November 23, 2009

"Judge tosses stunt-driving charge as unconstitutional"

Interesting. Very interesting.

Justice Peter West, a provincial court judge in Newmarket, found that a potential penalty of up to six months in jail violates the Charter of Rights because the law does not permit an accused any defence.


An absolute liability offence means someone may not argue they took precautions and did not realize how fast they were driving. More than 20 years ago the Supreme Court of Canada stated that potential jail terms for offences that do not permit a defence breaches the Charter.

In other words, the law comes perilously close to making police officers judge, jury and executioner. Note the corruption of the language. The law was marketed as going after street racers, but it's real intention is targeting high end speeders. An interesting figures is that 10,000 drivers have been charged with "stunt driving." If driving 50 km/h over the limit is so dangerous, why do so many do it? If 10,000 have been caught, how many do so on a regular basis undetected? Where, then, is the mass carnage? How many people actually die, or are injured, each year because of those driving at such speeds? 

Saying one is too many is an evasive answer. Road fatalities could be virtually eliminated tomorrow if cars were banned from going faster than 40 km/h. Speed limits are not about some platonic conception of safety, but cost vs. benefits. It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of European countries have highway speed limits in the 120 km/h to 130 km/h range. A friend of mine visited China this summer. Aside from designated areas - where photo radar stations are clearly visible - the police pay little attention to speeding, the average cruising speed being about 130 km/h. Ontario's 400 series highways were designed nearly half a century ago for speeds of about 130 km/h. That was in an age without anti-lock brakes, air bags, seat belts and modern tire technology. 

In other words, how much is this law, and speeding laws in general, based on genuine public policy concerns? How much is this law based on making the McGuinty government look tough on something - a hard thing for the Dalt to do - and lining the pockets of municipal governments? The point isn't that reckless speeding isn't dangerous, and that there should no be laws against it - the roads being publicly owned, there is little alternative - but that the laws are drafted with things other than public safety in mind.

While the Ontario government hunts down speeders, owners of pit bulls and other such threats to the general peace, Caledonia remains occupied. Far easier to target ordinary Ontarians going about their way, rather than those who might fight back. Governments, like water, follow the path of least resistance.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 23, 2009 | Permalink


“Governments, like water, follow the path of least resistance.”

That's exactly why Canadian firearms owners keep getting pushed around. In general, they're lazy, passive, disorganized, self-centered, introverted and offer an easy “target”; I'd know, I am one.

Before anyone goes about declaring I'm wrong or being unfair, and ranting about how they just contacted their MP last week (which they probably did not, though I actually did) perhaps they should just consider themselves excluded from the “in general” part of that.

Posted by: Pete | 2009-11-23 5:09:35 PM

Pete, I must agree as unpleasant as the truth may be. I would however probably labelled it complacency.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-11-23 5:41:27 PM

PUBLIUS, I agree.

Pete, governemnts are counting on people being complacent. The cost to us of a new tax might be $100 per year. The cost to fight it might be thousands. So most of us do nothing.

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-23 7:54:39 PM

Exactly right TM. The cost to the individual is too high versus his benefit. This is the case for any type of lobbying where the benefit is worth the cost of the lobbyist but not for the person being expropriated.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-11-24 5:44:50 AM

In the case of traffic tickets, considering insurance costs, it does make sense to fight back, even with a low chance of success. Only a very small proportion of people issued tickets fight them. If even half of all drivers went to court and trial, the system would be overwhelmed. It would at least make governments think twice about the current system.

Rather than using the HTA as a revenue generating scheme, they could focus on getting dangerous drivers off the road. The current system is poor deterrent and fails to remove the dangerous from the roads. Far better to let dangerous drivers keep racking up tickets rather than pulling them off the roads.

Posted by: Publius | 2009-11-24 7:25:53 AM

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