• Driving Safe

Dealers Voice: Staying Safe also Means Driving Safe

Far too many drivers are taking advantage of the open roads to drive recklessly.

Cliff Lafreniere By: Cliff Lafreniere April 30, 2020

There is an old expression that truth is the first casualty of war.

I was thinking about that expression and how it applies to the COVID-19 crisis, as rumours have been flying about police stopping and ticketing people just for driving.

As our understanding of COVID-19 to evolves, the internet has been a great source of information and connecting with others, but it is also a breeding ground for misinformation.

To help set the record straight, I asked Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the highway safety division of the Ontario Provincial Police to provide clarity on these rumours.

Schmidt says that although road traffic volume has been greatly reduced in the past month, far too many drivers are taking advantage of the open roads to drive recklessly, which puts themselves, other motorists and the police at risk.

Reckless driving leads to more collisions and injuries and puts additional strain on hospitals that are already managing an influx of patients related to COVID-19.

Last weekend alone, 30 drivers in the GTA were stopped and their vehicles impounded and licences suspended for street racing and/or stunt driving. On average, 10 vehicles per day in Ontario are taken off the roads for speeding or stunt driving.

In Toronto, from March 15 to 30, police issued 35 per cent more speeding tickets than during the same two-week period last year. In York Region, tickets issued for stunt driving were up 60 per cent in March, compared to March 2019.

The message that Schmidt wants to share with the public is that drivers need to obey all traffic laws and public health guidelines. That means “slowing down and driving responsibly.” Schmidt stressed that the OPP will not take a break from enforcing public safety and traffic laws.

During this COVID-19 crisis, police (like everyone else) are trying to limit close contact with the public, which explains why police stations in Ontario are closed indefinitely (stations are accessible through phone and website). Police do not want to be a source of transmission of this disease or to be in contact with someone who may have COVID-19.

One of the most persistent rumours is that police are stopping drivers randomly and asking them where they live and to explain where they are going, and why, and ticketing vehicles that are carrying too many people.

According to Schmidt, that’s not true. At this time, there are no travel restrictions in place anywhere in the province, and no checkpoints. Nor are police ticketing cars with multiple passengers under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

However, Schmidt suggests that drivers listen to the recommendations of Public Health. but ignoring their recommendations is not an offence. He reiterated that Public Health has specific recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Drivers should understand that not only speeding and stunt driving are dangerous on the roads, but all types of reckless driving, including driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and distracted driving.

If there is a central message that Schmidt needs the public to understand, it is this: please slow down and use common sense. He says Ontario is still under a state of emergency and all citizens need to do their part to help flatten the curve.

“The job of the highway traffic division is to ensure the safety, security and protection of all Ontario citizens who are using the roadways,” Schmidt says. “It’s everyone’s job to obey the rules of the road and to follow the guidelines of health officials.”

This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.