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Appendix D. Speed kills? Or does it?

You have heard it so many times from the government, police, and the insurance industry:
"Speed is a direct cause of almost all fatal or major accidents."
"Speed limits exist for a reason."
"We should target all sorts of aggressive/dangerous driving, including speeding."

Not surprisingly, according to the 1996 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 449,508 speeding tickets were convicted, accounting for 60% of all Highway Traffic Act related offences. If we estimate a 90% conviction rate, close to 500,000 speeding tickets were handed out in Ontario during the year 1996.

But have you ever wondered why almost nobody obeys the speed limits, we haven't yet all died of motor vehicle collisions? Maybe they lied to us?

Not quite. They are just very good at manipulating and twisting the meaning of the term "speeding", and use it to their maximum advantage to hit home their propaganda. They even managed to do it so subtlely that the masses get brainwashed into thinking that speeding really kills.

First, let's clarify what I mean by "speeding", and later we will see how this gets twisted so subtlely that you don't even notice at first sight.

"Speeding" is defined as driving a motor vehicle in excess of the posted limit by 1km/h or more. This is a fact and a law. If you are caught driving 61km/h in a 60km/h zone, you are speeding and it is illegal. Following me? Ok, read on.

"But driving 61km/h in a 60km/h zone isn't necessarily dangerous," you may wonder. That's right, any competent driver knows that the maximum safe speed at which one can drive is affected by a number of factors:

  1. the road condition (dry, wet, snowy, icy etc.)
  2. the vehicle's mechanical condition (drive-train, tires, brakes, steering etc.)
  3. the driver's ability (fatique, age, emotion, mind concentration, drug influence etc.)
  4. the traffic condition (dense, moderate, light)
  5. visibility (day, night, fog, snow storm, heavy rain etc.)
These conditions change every minute and a fixed speed limit sign is hardly useful. Collisions occur because drivers fail to heed one or more of the 5 factors above, not solely because a magic number painted on a white sign is exceeded.

Now this is the catch. When they tell you that speed kills, the term "speed" really means "too fast for conditions", which is precisely why collisions occur. But perhaps more than 98% of the "speeding" tickets are cited for "too fast for speed limit", rather than too fast for conditions. When the police say they want to target dangerous drivers (including speeders), what they really do is they setup a speed trap on an open highway on a warm and sunny day (the least dangerous condition to go fast), perhaps with a bit of stealthy tactics too so that it is always too late to slow down!

This is how the government, police and insurance industry so subtlely manipulate the meaning of "speed" to get you to buy in to their propaganda.

When we already have careless driving to cover the "too fast for conditions" situation, it becomes obvious that there is absolutely no legitimite or ethical need whatsoever to have another "too fast for speed limit" offence.

In addition, the insurance companies intelligently use this double meaning of "speeding" to charge otherwise safe speeders extra premium while assuming no risk. They don't even bother to make the distinction between different levels of speeding. A 1km/h over ticket has absolutely the same effect as a 40km/h over ticket. If you are caught speeding 1km/h over twice in three years, you are a dangerous high risk driver and the insurance company can refuse to insure you, and can refer you to the Facility Association, which is the high risk insurance group. The premiums there are outrageous.

So the government, the police and the insurance industry have made it look like "speeding" is a really bad thing. If slow is what they believe to be safe, then how can they explain the use of unmarked patrol cars? Isn't a marked police patrol car more effective than an unmarked one? When motorists see a marked patrol car, they will voluntarily slow down. Then isn't the goal already achieved? What is the purpose of using unmarked cop cars anyway? Deliberately setting the speed limit too low, and then sending a cop out in an unmarked vehicle to sneak behind motorists, is highway robbery disguised as traffic safety enforcement. When you have been given a speeding ticket, you have been robbed. The robber is the plaintiff and the victim is the accused. In other words, the robber who robbed you blind is the one charging you with an offence!

Why does Ontario disallow the use of radar detectors? Ask any radar detector user in the U.S.:
"What will you do when the detector sounds an alarm?"
Isn't the "safety" goal already achieved? But they don't want this to happen, because they want you to pass that speed trap at an illegal speed and therefore hit you with a ticket. It almost makes you forget that speed limits were for safety! Repeat after me: speed limits have absolutely nothing to do with safety.

In fact, incorrect speed limits are even detrimental to safety. For the past 60 years, every known qualified traffic engineering report had proposed that speed limits should be set at the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions. That is, 85% of the population will travel at or below that speed during light traffic and clear weather, without enforcement presence. The upper 15% is defined to be excessive. The 85th percentile speed is also the safest speed to travel, below or above which the risk curve starts to rise. But most speed limits in Ontario are found to be posted between the 30th to 50th percentile, with the 400-series highways as low as 10th percentile. With speed limits this low, they allow the police to pull over anyone, anytime they want, as evident in the maximum production, tag-team speed traps often found on Highway 401 and 417 during long holiday weekends. Don't these ludicrous limits make you wonder what their purpose is when they define 90% of the population as offenders?

The government might be telling you that almost all accidents are due to driving in excess of the speed limits so and so, and they have statistics to prove that. This point is moot because if the speed limits are set too low then no wonder why all accidents happen at above them. Imagine if all speed limits are 1km/h, then all accidents will have to be due to driving in excess of speed limits. This tells you absolutely nothing useful because some other factors such as alcohol might be related, but they put the blame on speed instead. One can interpret statistics by correlation in anyway they wish. If I say 99% of the drivers who are involved in accidents did not wear rocket ship underpants (Calvin and Hobbes), then should the Government make a law and require all motorists to wear such underpants while driving? This is also a perfectly valid correlation, albeit a ridiculous one.

According to the same 1996 Ontario study, this correlation is not even true. Of the 384,453 vehicle collisions involving property damage, personal injury and fatality, only 25,943 were deemed to be speed related. That's a whopping 6.7%. Other major factors include following too closely, failure to yield right-of-way, inattentive driving and so on. Yet, 60% of all the Highway Traffic Act convictions were for speeding! It seems like they are targeting the wrong group of people. If we leave out the equipment violations, administrative tickets such as vehicle registration and other non-moving violations, 4 out of 5 traffic tickets were speeding tickets. And they keep telling us that speeding tickets were for safety! And that they only target the "dangerous drivers who jeopardize the safety of our kids and other road users".

Now you know that those safety bureaucrats are just a bunch of liars, but they are really honest when they told you that "speed limits exist for a reason". They didn't provide you with a clear answer, but it is pretty obvious: it is a healthy source of revenue. Let's take a look at the 449,508 speeding tickets convicted in 1996. 241,831 of them were convicted for 15km/h or less over. If the average fine for those tickets was $80, while the remaining 207,677 tickets carry an average fine of $150, we are looking at a whopping 50 million dollars, and this does not include other traffic offences and parking tickets. Keep in mind that a speeding fine of $150 is a very conservative estimate.

If you think the amount of money reaped from traffic fine is tremendous, then the money the insurance companies can exploit will be staggering. It is not a one-time penalty upon conviction, but an increased premium you pay for at least three years. No wonder in the US, the IIHS, Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges, ur, I mean Highway Safety, lobbied so hard to get speed limits reduced. And no wonder why insurance companies give away radar guns and laser guns, worth thousands of dollars, to police agencies, in the name of "safety". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more tickets the police write, the more surcharges the insurance companies can put on their clients. Now it becomes clear that these "free" radar guns and laser guns are more than paid for in a short time. Remember even the traffic fines are split among different government entities and court personnel, while insurance surcharges are pure profit for the insurance companies. Not surprisingly, this Facility Association thing is setup so that everyone can obtain insurance, including bad drivers, as long as they have very deep pockets.

When so much money is at stake here, it becomes clear why the government, police and the insurance industry all collaborate their efforts to rationalize and legalize this blatant extortion. How do they do it? The following is a few simple steps:

  1. Underpost all speed limits. Bureaucrats, instead of qualified traffic engineers, take control.
  2. Distort statistics and use false correlation to get you to think that speed really kills.
  3. Pass enough laws to punish speeding.
  4. Remove as much due process protection as is legally possible.
  5. Adjust speeding fines to be just below the motorists' tolerance (above which most people will start to fight their citations aggressively where most profit is gone).
  6. Catch speeding drivers in a sneaky manner, i.e. by using unmarked patrol cars, instant-on radar, hiding in bushes etc.
  7. Charge convicted drivers extra premium on their insurance policies, while taking no significant extra risk.
  8. When the lies of "speed kills" are starting to expose, they start to coin other terms such as "dangerous/aggressive driving", "road rage" and associate them with "speeding". Then, mix in with a bit of emotional tactics too such as "it's for our kids".
Now when you have understood the truth behind "Speed Kills" and the purpose of speed limits, please don't further support this highway robbery by sending in the fine without first fighting it. When you fight your ticket you are making them work for your money. Court costs are tagged onto your fine whether you fight it or not, so there is no reason for you to just pay up. The majority of tickets are paid by mail and credit card charges without the trials actually happening. And you get to pay your own postage too when you send in your payment. So I don't know how most of the "court costs" are spent when processing a payment only takes a few minutes of a court clerk's time. This speeding ticket system is not only the most legalized crime in the country, it is also a multi-million-dollar business.

If we take the profit out by fighting every ticket, the system will automatically collapse. The moment you plead not guilty to the ticket, the moment the ticket will become a net cost to the province. It's always a win as far as frustrating the system is concerned. Trials slow down the cash flow as well as cost the province a great deal of money. They have to pay the clerks who handle the ticket and the trials. They have to pay the prosecutor to prosecute you in the trial. They also have to pay the judge who preside over the trial. And in some cases, they have to pay the cop overtime for coming to the court to testify. If you know how much money a typical government employee makes this is no surprise courts take great pains to inconvenience the defendants. The profits of the system is established by keeping a disproportionately large number of people who contribute payments quickly. If you create enough problems for the court, or if the court feels that your case has become "too expensive" to prosecute, they will often let you go and try to harass other defendants who are not as persistent. The system will come to a screeching halt if enough people fight it. Here are a few things you can do to sway the balance in our favour:

  1. Fight every speeding ticket, obviously. Be persistent. Don't be discouraged by the court's effort to intimidate you. Hit them where it hurts them the most - in the pocket book.
  2. Use what they use best against you: intimidation. You are going to intimidate them the same way they intimidate you: PAPERWORK. Cops hate paperwork. Handling paperwork is definitely not the reason why they are in the police force. But you are going to bombard them with requests of disclousre and discovery, and hold them responsible if they fail to honour your requests.
  3. Frustrate the legal process as much as you can, and hold the province responsible for giving you a timely trial.
  4. Boycott any insurance companies who put surcharges on speeding drivers. Not just the company who surcharged you, but ANY insurance companies you know who surcharges speeding convictions.
  5. Write to your local MPs to voice out your concern.
  6. Pass the word to everyone you know.
Together, we CAN make a difference.

The 1999 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report has been released. There were 592,827 speeding offences convicted in 1999, an increase of 143,319 from 1996, now accounting for 64% of all Highway Traffic Act related convictions, or 82% of all moving violations. Yet, fatality rate continue to decline, and speed (including Speed Too Fast and Speed Too Fast For Conditions) now only accounts for 5% of all collisions involving fatality and personal injury.

Less people are dying on the highways, speed continues to be a very minor factor, and they have written MORE speeding tickets. And it's 143,319 tickets more.

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