Just Slow Down

February 10th, 2012 by Emma Durand-Wood

That’s the name of a local public awareness campaign, which aims to “help drivers understand the relationship of excessive speed to traffic collisions, injuries and fatalities.”  I’ve been turning this phrase over in my mind and mouth for weeks.

It started with a tweet from @diesellibrarian, who lives in my hometown of Lethbridge. It said,

“Concerned about recent pedestrian deaths in #Lethbridge? Join Look Out Lethbridge on fb! http://www.facebook.com/groups/172050302900195/

The group Look Out Lethbridge was created to raise awareness of vehicular and pedestrian collisions and was spurred on by a number of recent deaths due to these types of accidents. The group is planning their first “Walkupy” (haha, pretty clever!) event tomorrow, where it will use critical mass to occupy a crosswalk for a short period of time.

Anyway, when I saw this group’s name, I immediately thought of our own city’s alliteratively-named citizen action group, WiseUpWinnipeg. What a contrast. One group dedicated to making streets safer for pedestrians, and the other, determined to put an end to what they consider unfair and profit-oriented photo radar speed enforcement.

I have no problem with photo radar. To me, it’s simple. If you want to drive, you have to abide by the law, regardless of whether you think it’s fair or reasonable.

A draft of this post had been in progress for a couple days when an article about WiseUp in our community newspaper, The Herald, caught my eye. I agree with much of what author Marlo Campbell had to say. The folks at WiseUp Winnipeg may have some legitimate concerns, but their heavy-handed language is extremely off-putting.

“So sure, let’s have a public discussion about ‘traffic infrastructure inadequacies.’ Maybe changes do need to be made. But let’s also assume some personal responsibility for our actions while behind the wheel – because really, the most likely reason people receive tickets for speeding or running reds is also the most obvious one.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Winnipeg has had way too many car accidents and pedestrian deaths lately, and I’ve got a few things to say.

Everywhere you go, people think anyone who’s got a different licence plate is a bad driver. When I lived in Alberta, it was “Those damn BC drivers.” When I lived in BC, the refrain was “Those damn Alberta drivers”.  In Winnipeg, people complain about anyone who they think isn’t used to driving on snow and ice.  But you know what? Everyone, everywhere, needs to take a little more care when they are behind the wheel.

I speak to this issue with some personal experience. I had a brother who was fatally injured when he was hit by a truck as a child. So when I am behind the wheel of a car, I always remember that it is essentially a several thousand pound weapon. Some may see this as paranoid or morbid, but it’s the truth. In vehicle vs. person, the vehicle almost always wins. Speed is never a virtue in my books.

The final straw for me was hearing that children from Dufferin School had to ask our mayor for a crosswalk near their school, because traffic makes it dangerous to cross.  I heard on the radio they also asked for a speed camera to catch drivers speeding around their school.

I would be thrilled to see Winnipeg establish lower speed limits for areas where children are often present — the speed limit in school and playground zones here is 50km/h.  There is a commonly (yet wrongly) held belief that you can go up to 9 km/h faster than the posted speed limit without being penalized. So this means that instead of 60 or 70 km/h, as people tend to drive in the rest of the city, drivers in school and playground zones are going 50 or 60. This seems totally insane to me, when in many parts of Canada, the limit is 30 km/h.

I’d also love to see Winnipeg participate in a pace car program, which exists in several Canadian cities including Edmonton, Humboldt, SK, Kanata, ON, and many communities in Nova Scotia.

So here is my plea to everyone reading this: slow down. Cars are accidents waiting to happen. No matter who you are or where you live, you could probably stand to take a little more care behind the wheel. Put your seatbelt on. Put your phone away. Take your time. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Human lives are in the balance.

4 Responses to “Just Slow Down”

  1. Jim says:

    Wonderfull and well written so nice to see some see wise up for what it is . I agree it is just a matter of slowing down .

  2. Ann says:

    Good points and a good reminder to us all. Thanks, Emma. So sorry about your brother 🙁

  3. Crash says:

    My husband and I were surprised when we first moved here from Vancouver last July and saw that we could drive 60km in the city and then 50km in a school zone…in BC it’s 30km in a school zone and 50km the rest of the time in any city/town limits. Not saying that I want the regular speed limit lowered like in BC, but I do think it’s warrented in the school zones. And yeah, there’s crappy drivers no matter where you go….BC, MB, AB each have their share of drivers who think the road is owned by them.

  4. Shelley Green says:

    Crash..it is 30 km in school zones! My complaint is the St Mary’s passed the Perimeter Highway!!! Yes build your homes outside limits where Deer live, but slow down!!!! 80 in a Deer crossing stretch!! 3 days I have been taking that route to help a friends dad clear his lot and have seen 2 dead Deer!!! MPI must really love this!! SLOW IT TO 50!!!!

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