Toronto Police have launched an aggressive campaign to try to curb the poor driving habits that have led to a doubling of traffic fatalities in a short one year period.

In a recent two-week period, police have laid almost 19,443 traffic related charges in a blitz designed to bring awareness to the fact that drivers must obey our highway traffic act. Lives depend on it.

So far this year, there have been 18 traffic fatalities, 11 of them being pedestrians. While the drivers are not always the one’s at fault, a good deal of the tragedies are caused by people in vehicles that are simply in too much of a hurry and who fail to follow the rules of the road.

One does not need to be a traffic specialist to know that most drivers today fail to follow even the most basic of traffic laws, that being the legal requirement to come to a complete stop at all stop signs. The signs are put up as a means of control and as a safety precaution and they are not merely a suggestion, they are the law. A full stop is required whether or not you or I feel that it is completely unnecessary. Today, regardless of where in the G.T.A. you find yourself, it is almost unsafe to come to a stop as the driver behind you expects you not to.

While the police are doing what they can to curb our lax driving habits, they need to do more. With the gun problem still festering in our neighbourhoods, our finest undoubtedly have their hands full. I have no idea as to the workload of the average cop, but I sometimes am dismayed to see somebody do something completely stupid in their vehicle in front of a police cruiser with absolutely no reaction from the officer and absolutely no consequence to the driver in question. Perhaps their time allotment simply doesn’t allow for the reaction that we would like to see, I simply don’t know.

I do know that as one who takes driving responsibly very seriously, I have been disheartened several times when I have expected someone to get pulled over and reprimanded only to see the police officer simply shake his head and drive off.

Another issue of course is the financial aspect of tagging offenders. While law and order and our safety should be paramount, one would simply be naive in today’s financial reality to not realize that there is also a connection to the financial incentive of a city issuing tickets. While a perfect world would absolutely exclude this variable, we don’t live there.

With the number of ex-police officers leaving retirement to operate companies which promise to help you beat that traffic ticket, it occurs to me that perhaps our finest know of some legal loopholes in our highway traffic act that the rest of us do not. On one occasion when I was much younger, (no, really,) I employed the services of the then newly opened Pointts, run by an ex-policeman from Toronto. Brian was nice, and was also well connected.

I had been clocked in my rod doing in excess of 200 km/hr on the 401. The officer who pulled me over was angry, and rightly so. Little did I realize back then the mortal danger that I had placed so many in, and the damage and destruction I could have caused an innocent family.

We had entered court, myself convinced that I didn’t have a chance, and my counsel confident. When my case came up, my counsel approached the judge, talked for about one minute, laughed with him, and then returned to me. My charge had been reduced from dangerous driving to following too closely which, in terms of penalties, was almost a complete discharge. While at the time I was a very grateful little punk, I realize now that that is not justice.

It makes me wonder how many of the charges that our police lay this year will actually result in consequences for the offending drivers. Is it worth the trouble to pull a car over today, when the chance of a successful conviction is so severely diminished, and if that is the case, is there anyway to adjust our highway traffic act to eliminate some of the legal maneuvering that is done in our courts?

As well, many fines are paid to the province, while the cities and municipalities are the one’s who foot the bill for our police services. While some money is sent back to the cities, the lion’s share ends up at Queen’s Park. Perhaps if the fines were returned to the police forces who issued the tickets, there would be a greater incentive to add more officers to that area of law enforcement.

I, for one, am unhappy as anyone whenever I am foolish enough to earn a traffic citation, but in the back of my mind I am also pretty sure that I have earned each one that I have ever received. (There was that one time, however……)

Now that I have gotten a little older and a smidgen wiser, I have simply learned to follow the rules of the road. I no longer worry about receiving tickets as I no longer earn them. As a pleasant result, I no longer pose the risk to the other drivers that I once did. I figure that since I cherish my own children, I should show as much respect and care for yours.

I have also learned to slow down a great deal, even in everyday driving situations. As a result, my inclination to get angry with other drivers has all but disappeared, and I find myself a lot less stressed out in my everyday drive and actually find it to be the pleasure that it once was when I first began driving 20 years ago.

Will our police forces make our streets safer? Perhaps, but not by much. They will remain the gravely dangerous place they presently are until the majority of our drivers, you and I included, once again become cognizant of the need for each of us to obey the rules of the road.

I wonder how many drivers who have killed young children with their vehicles considered themselves good drivers? I wonder how many of them wish that they could turn back the clock. You can. It is turned back now. Change your driving habits before you have to see the look of death on perhaps a child.

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