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Too many drivers just plain awful - Saturday, April 13, 2002

RE.: 'Photo radar could allow higher speeds' (April 10, 2002)
The Hamilton Spectator, Opinion
Saturday, April 13, 2002

As a driver trainer I am glad that the idea of raising speed limits is a "nonstarter" in the view of the OPP and Queen's Park.

Proponents of increasing the speeds are similar to those pushing for more liberal laws on illicit drugs: Misuse of both can lead to deadly consequences.

While engineers can refine vehicles to perform better at higher speeds, they cannot reengineer people to shorten emergency response times.

As speed increases, the driver's field of vision shrinks to a very narrow "cone" as the result of having to concentrate on the road in front. Drivers must be like fortune tellers - able to look into the future. If a driver's field of vision is narrowed, drastic problems will arise: vehicles will be too close together and drivers will be unable to respond to anything unusual.

It takes almost a full second for a healthy human to recognize an event as it is happening; it takes the same time again to respond. The remaining time and distance for braking cannot be quantified because there are too many variables, such as road conditions, weather, amount of light, vehicle condition, traffic volume and, of course, the main one - the driver.

Time is the most precious commodity in driving. Whatever one does in the car takes time and distance. The greater the speed, the greater the distance one covers in a given time. This is why there is a recommended minimum of two seconds of following distance behind another vehicle.

Most people overestimate their ability to make a maneuver, and underestimate the time and distance required for it. As a result, most people drive too close to the vehicle in front. In case of an emergency, there is no room left for a corrective maneuver.

And drivers vary in competence; some are good, some are OK, but too many are just plain awful.

The sooner most drivers realize that driving is a full-time task, the sooner collision rates will diminish.

Add the distraction of cellphones and radios to higher speeds and the result can be deadly.

The 1990s should have been called the "not-my-fault decade" because many people refused to accept responsibility for their actions. This attitude has carried over into the new millennium. It must change; drivers in particular must take responsibility for their actions.

Instead of increasing speeds, we should be trying to slow drivers down. I'm a fan of photo radar; the provincial government should bring it back. Yes, it is a cash cow, but what a wonderful one! Revenues could be put to good use, such as improving public transit.

Slow down and you'll live longer.

Dez Miklòs jr., Hamilton

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