Silly traffic law will cost lives

One of the problems with having a full-time legislature is that you tend to have a lot of legislators who apparently have nothing better to do than pass useless and baseless laws.

One of the problems with having a full-time legislature is that you tend to have a lot of legislators who apparently have nothing better to do than pass useless and baseless laws.

What’s worse, sometimes those laws create more potential for harm than they can possibly prevent.

As someone who routinely drives up and down the Hwy 2 as part of my job, I’ve seen the results of one such piece of legislation up close and personal enough times to know that it’s only a matter of time before Albertans are treated to a major fatality accident that will be directly traceable back to a recent traffic law change.

I’ll spot you a hundred dollars that the buck won’t stop there, though.

A few years back, after what appeared to be a spate of traffic collisions with police cars parked on the highway shoulder during routine traffic enforcement stops, the Alberta government decided to adjust our driving laws in an attempt to reduce the danger faced by officers on the highway.

At the time, it was felt that forcing traffic to slow down or change lanes would reduce the chances of inattentive drivers plowing into vehicles parked on the highway shoulder.

Unfortunately, the real result is that it appears that the danger of routine traffic enforcement has been increased instead.

According to the law, motorists passing a police car with lights flashing must either move over one lane or reduce speed to 60 km/h when passing in the adjacent lane.

This isn’t so bad on most highways, and is actually quite workable until you apply it to the heavy traffic and high speeds of our major freeway, which was the primary source of the initial problem.

Instead of an orderly transfer of most traffic to the left lane, accompanied by a slowing of vehicles remaining in the right lane, an entirely different scenario plays out.

What usually happens is that, when faced with a set of flashing lights and the potential for a $600 fine, chaos ensues.

First, there are the drivers who think they have to slow to 60 km/h, even one lane over. Then there is the sudden shift of traffic to the left lane so they don’t have to slow down. Many are big trucks. Some slow and move over.

Fourthly, the whole mess is exacerbated by the vehicles in the left lane that have no intention of slowing a great deal, because they don’t have to.

The real result is a massive collision of intentions that can ripple back up the freeway as much as three km out of sight of the initial police stop that caused the situation in the first place.

If you’ve experienced it on a busy day, even if you’ve done everything right, it is frightening and dangerous, and completely unnecessary.

While I sympathize with police officers over this, the fact remains that collisions with police vehicles conducting routine traffic stops remains an anomaly. If there are no accidents of this type in Alberta for the next several years, it’s simply the law of averages at work.

It’s a rare enough occurrence that there isn’t any discernible difference in the numbers of these types of crashes when comparing American states with similar laws against those that don’t.

Does the driving public bear a share of the blame in this?

Of course. Drivers should be looking further down the road, and more should be aware that they don’t need to slow to a crawl when in the left lane.

At the same time, police who lobbied for this law should also be aware of the driving behaviours and should have been able to predict the real life situations that now arise daily on Hwy 2.

There has already been one fatality accident on Calgary’s Deerfoot Trail that some witnesses blame squarely on the kinds of reactions I’ve described. That means it’ll happen again.

What if such a chain reaction accident kills someone you love? Whose fault is it, really? Who will bear the legal and moral responsibility if someone’s family is wiped out because of predictable circumstances brought on by ill-thought legislation?

I’m not advocating blowing past emergency vehicles such as tow trucks or ambulances attending to roadside emergencies at 120 km/h.

I am suggesting that police officers have tools that they can use to help reduce the danger they face when conducting roadside traffic stops.

The current law is a bad deal and someone will die because of it.

If Alberta’s traffic cops aren’t already aware of this, something’s seriously wrong here.

Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.

Just Posted

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

Migrant caravan swells to 5,000, resumes advance toward US

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the… Continue reading

“I don’t feel real”: Mental stress mounting after Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Amy Cross has a hard time explaining the… Continue reading

Toronto residents set to vote Monday on the next four years of civic leaders

Toronto’s municipal election campaign, marked by unprecedented provincial interference, ends Monday when… Continue reading

Former PQ minister Lise Payette remembered as role model for female politicians

MONTREAL — Members from across Quebec’s political spectrum gathered at a downtown… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today, some complain of long lines

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia are heading to the polls today… Continue reading

Kennedy Stewart named mayor of Vancouver; one of several B.C. turnovers

VANCOUVER — Former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart has won a neck-and-neck… Continue reading

‘In our bloodline:’ Land-based learning links curriculum with Indigenous culture

REGINA — A school day for six-year-old Hunter Sasakamoose can start with… Continue reading

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Most Read