Pellerin: It’s time for a driver’s education refresher course, Ottawa

When the light is red it means “don’t go” because it’s other people’s turn. This applies even when you’re in a hurry. This may be the first time you’ve heard this suggestion.

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Numbers Just released by the city of Ottawa. show that, on average, 155 people per day were caught by a traffic light camera in 2023, a problem that gets worse every year. Just like speeding. And distracted driving. It’s obvious: no one knows how to drive beans worth their salt.

Luckily for you, I’m here to offer you a basic driver’s education course that should put us on the (geddit?) path to safety. I hope the sarcasm isn’t too obvious.

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Perhaps, especially if you’ve been outside in recent years, you suspected we had a problem with terrible, dangerous driving. It’s not difficult to see. That’s why the city published an article last week on “winter distractions” to remind us to keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road when driving our vehicles.

The city’s history helpfully reminds us that “the law is intended to discourage distractions because they lead to serious injuries and death.” He adds that between 2017 and 2021, “there were 79 fatal or serious injury collisions in Ottawa related to distracted driving.”

I know what you’re thinking: but Brigitte, distracted driving is illegal. How can it still happen so often?

Indeed. Speeding and running red lights are also illegal. And yet.

In Ottawa, we have 85 intersections equipped with red light cameras. This is a driver’s ed course, not a math lab, so I’ll refrain from asking what small portion of a percentage of all intersections in the city this represents, but let’s say it’s not much.

New data on red light cameras shows that during 2023, our 85 cameras together resulted in the issuance of 56,472 tickets representing more than $18.3 million in fines. That’s an increase from last year’s 45,723 entries. It represents an average of $215,294 and change per camera in 2023. The speed camera figures are no better, in case you were wondering. And they too continue to get worse.

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It’s almost as if people don’t care to respect any of the traffic rules. Or maybe they don’t know them? Hence this course.

First step: Do you know why it is illegal to speed or run a red light?

Yes, you can Google the answer. But not while driving. That’s illegal. I know a lot of people do it anyway, although there is a fine of up to $1,000 and three demerit points and a three-day license suspension when they get caught. Just don’t commit a crime in the middle of my column, okay?

Speeding and running red lights are illegal because they are dangerous and harm and kill people. Camera or not, when the light is red it means “don’t go” because it’s other people’s turn. This applies even when you’re in a hurry. This may be the first time you’ve heard this suggestion, but you should only continue when the light is green. No, not if it’s yellow, unless you’re already so close to the intersection that stopping would be unsafe.

The next step is to remember that the digits on roadside signs are more than just decorative. They indicate the maximum speed at which you are allowed to travel. That’s why it’s called “limit.” It is to indicate its legality contour.

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After that, we’ll move on to the intermediate level where you’ll remember to look both ways (not just left) when you turn right. There are pedestrians and cyclists on the sidewalks and bike lanes – on both sides! I run, walk and bike a lot and every time I go out, I have to yell at the driver who only looks in one direction.

I know they are difficult rules to remember but I trust that with a little effort we will achieve it. In one piece.

And you might avoid a fine. You probably have other things to spend money on.

Brigitte Pellerin (they/them) is a writer from Ottawa.

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