Almost two years ago in Ontario we saw the introduction of a law that significantly raised the penalites for any driver found guilty of exceeding the posted limit by over 50km per hour. In addition, at the time of the infraction, the Police had the right to suspend the drivers licensce and impound the vehicle of the speeding driver for seven days. The new law making these provisions available to the Police and the Courts were suggested by Commissioner Fantino as a method of increasing safety and reducing collisions on Ontario roadways.
Recently, at various events, the Commissioner has stated that this measure was in part responsible for an over 30% decline in fatalities on Ontario roadways in 2008 versus 2007. The other factors he stated were increased vigilance by police, and other measures related to police initiatives.
Interestingly, in 2007 I clocked just over 100 000 kilometres on my van and spent approximately $12 000 on fuel to do so. I also drove just over 50 000 kilometres in my van in the first six months of 2008, and spent over $8 000 on fuel (roughly a one-third increase).
In the entire time driving, I did not significantly change my style of driving or driving habits (I was a courier, in case you were wondering - so speed was important, with safety paramount). I did notice that for most of 2007, my driving speed and style left me driving generally a bit faster on the highway than the majority of vehicles, and at similar speeds in urban areas. In 2008 I noticed my speed left me driving significantly faster than the majority of other vehicles. In 2007 I would estimate one half of all drivers on the freeway travelled between 110 and 125, with roughly one quarter either faster or slower than that. In 2008, I would estimate that half drove between 105 and 115, once again with a quarter either higher or lower. I also noticed a reduction in traffic volumes as the price of fuel increased.
So were tougher laws and increased traffic enforcement by the OPP solely responsible for the reduction in fatalities on OPP patrolled roads in 2008 over 2007? Or did the high price of fuel make the faster drivers slow down and consequently drive a little safer. Did the high price of fuel also mean drivers were making fewer trips, reducing overall traffic volumes? Interestingly enough, there seems to be a suspicious correlation between the percent decline in traffic fatalities as the increase in fuel costs.