By Jordan W. Charness

Sometimes I have to do a lot of research to write this column. Other times I take my ideas from the many letters that readers are kind enough to send me. On rare occasions I am presented with a letter or e-mail that pretty much writes the column for me.

Mr. K. went to the trouble of sending me a detailed e-mail telling me all about his sad story and suggesting that I use it in this column. Would you have acted any differently than he did if these things happened to you?

Here is his story:

“I have been driving for almost 50 years. I have never been in an accident, either as a perpetrator or as the perpetratee. I might drive quickly, but always cautiously. It would be fair to say that I am a good, safe driver. However, I am about to lose my driving license.

I vividly remember all my offences.

The first occurred in November, 2005. I take responsibility for that one. I just came off the highway where I had been driving at highway speeds. I was on the road leading into Hudson, where I live, which has a posted speed limit of 40 kilometres per hour. I had just learned that a close relative was terminally ill and I was therefore preoccupied. There was no traffic, no houses, no through streets, and I was going down a short hill. I must have unconsciously pressed on the accelerator and did not see the police car hidden that the bottom of the hill. I was clocked at 65 km/h and earned two demerit points.”

(The moral of this vignette is that if you are distracted, pull over. While understandable, the driver’s state of mind is not a valid defense for a speeding case. All the Crown has to do is prove that you were in fact speeding, not that you consciously intended to. JWC.)

“The second was two months later, on the same street. It was 10 p.m. and the area was well lit with street lights. There were no cars around that I could see, nor was there any movement. I did not come to a full stop at a stop sign placed where a secondary street comes to a T end. I did not see the police car parked in a driveway waiting for someone like me. I just earned myself another three points by going through the stop sign and was now up to five.”

(From this one we can learn that there being no movement and no other cars in sight does not relieve you of the obligation to come to a full stop at every stop sign. JWC)

“The third was another stop sign violation. The main street I was on was fairly busy. I stopped behind the car in front of me that stopped at a stop sign. There was no traffic on the secondary street. After the car in front started, I drifted across the street without coming to a full stop. I did not see the police car parked behind a postal van until it pulled out to get me. Now I had eight demerit points.”

(If there is a stop sign it means that you must come to a complete stop. You may not count on the fact that the car ahead of you has stopped as fulfillment of your legal obligation to stop.)

“The fourth was on the 401 outside Cornwall. It was 7 p.m. and there was little traffic. It was raining and I came up behind several 18-wheel trucks who were throwing up a considerable spray. The road was straight, and it seemed to me that if I was going to overtake, the most sensible thing would be to accelerate quickly to cut down the time I would spend in the spray. In overtaking I was speeding. I got another ticket and was now up to 10 points.”

(If you want to pass, you are permitted to do so, only as long as you do not exceed the speed limit while you are passing. JWC)

“The fifth was yet another stop sign offense and I take responsibility for that one. I was driving for the first time on a main road running parallel to a park which I was admiring and did not see the stop sign until I was almost at the intersection. I jammed on my brakes; but when I saw that there was no movement, I released them and did not come to a complete stop – although I could have. One more ticket and I now have 13 demerit points.”

(There’s that distraction thing happening again. Keep your eyes on the road looking out for traffic and stop signs and you will not get so many tickets. JWC)

“Now I am sure that you can imagine that having amassed 13 points I was not about to take any chances or so I thought. I spent Wednesday “Up North”. I was not in any rush to get home since we were having a late supper. The traffic was quite heavy and I was travelling in the slow lane when I came up to a few cars going a bit below the speed limit. I waited for a gap in the fast lane and accelerated into it quickly because I did not want to cause the driver behind me to have to brake. Unfortunately I went too fast and was clocked at 126 km/h. When I pay this ticket I will have 15 points and my license will be suspended!”

(Mr. K pointed out that when he lived in Nova Scotia, the law there prohibited speeding unless it was prudent to do otherwise. In other words if speeding would be the safest thing to do in Nova Scotia at that time it would have been allowed. Nowadays, however you’re virtually never allowed to speed, not even if you think that your reasons for doing so are justified. JWC)

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