Why Are They Called Accidents?

Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Greg Stobbart was killed last year while riding his bike in training for a triathlon; a driver for a construction company smacked his head with the side-view mirror after swerving to avoid cars while trying to pass. That is getting so common that it is barely news any more; What is news came out last week in court: The man who hit him, who drives for a living, had a history of traffic violations, $14,000 in fines, and charges for driving with a suspended licence. Two months after the accident he was charged again for causing another. What sentence did he get in court? 100 hours of community service and two years' probation, along with an order to take a driver's education course and a one-year licence suspension. He is now appealing that conviction.

The Globe and Mail quotes Sergeant Stobbart's wife: "Surely to God, we can do something that allows the police to stand up to these people and say, 'I'll be taking your keys and licence now, and your driving days are over."

We try to promote bicycles as the greenest and healthiest alternative to the car, but people in North America are afraid to get on them as our roads become more crowded and the drivers get more agressive and dangerous. Accidents happen; these are not accidents but negligence and stupidity leading to murder. All over North America it is getting worse and drivers are getting more agressive. Erin Anderssen in The Globe and Mail continues:

"But aggressive drivers are notoriously hard to catch - until their high-risk behaviour literally smashes up with another vehicle on the road. They cause more accidents than simple speeders. And when you take away their licences, the majority of them keep driving.

In some cases, the behaviour escalates or includes driving drunk: By the time many impaired drivers get caught behind the wheel, they already have a long list of traffic violations. In other cases, the violence spills outside the car - road rage is so prevalent in the United States that a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety cautioned drivers that you "are playing Russian roulette if you raise a middle finger to another driver."

Research suggests that aggressive driving will only rise, fuelled by frustrating traffic congestions and the next batch of young drivers who sat in the back seat as children watching their parents explode at the wheel. A growing number of experts say that the police need more powers to stop them in their tracks and that society has to learn to not laugh at road rage....

Various American states are also looking at increasing penalties for aggressive and suspended drivers. In Florida, lawmakers have considered a bill that would set minimum jail time for suspended drivers caught on the road - a proposal that followed the deaths last year of three police officers killed by people driving illegally. In August, a police deputy was shot in the head during a traffic stop by a man with 37 traffic violations and 14 licence suspensions."

Part of the problem, says Bill Grodzinski, the Chief Superintendent of the OPP Highway Safety Division, is that high-risk driving doesn't earn public censure -you can still joke about your speeding ticket at a dinner party. "We have to make aggressive driving as socially unacceptable as impaired driving and we're not there yet," Supt. Grodzinski says.

Behind a stupid circulation fence at ::Globe and Mail

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