Alberta police are calling for legislation that would allow them to seize the cars of lead-footed drivers in order to curb a trend of excessive speeding, although a civil liberties group says the idea raises concerns.
At a news conference last week, Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said excessive speeding is “the big issue” facing his force this year, and a “dangerous trend” across the province. He said officers in the city regularly see speeders clocking 200 km/hr.
The highest recorded infraction in recent months was a motorcyclist travelling 264 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.
Facing much the same scenario, the Calgary Police Service said it supports the call to seize vehicles and are currently installing extra speed and intersection cameras to try and nab speeders.
Edmonton police have been issuing public warnings to drivers going 50 to 100 km/h over the posted speed limit. The highest recorded infraction in recent months was a motorcyclist travelling 264 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.
There have been 25 traffic fatalities on Edmonton roads so far this year, and speed is believed to be a factor in 14 of the deaths. There were 13 deaths at this time last year.
“Excessive speeding places drivers, passengers, and other road users in great danger regardless of whether it’s on a freeway or in a neighbourhood,” said Staff Sgt. Barry Maron of the Edmonton Police Service Traffic Section.
“At excessive speeds, there’s no way that a driver could react and safely stop if something happened. You can’t change the laws of physics, but you can change your driving behaviour.”
Knecht said the vehicle seizures would likely target only the “worst of the worst” offenders—those who speed regularly and dangerously, and not those going only 10-20 km over the speed limit.
B.C., Ontario, and Quebec already have laws that allow police to seize vehicles of dangerous speeders.
But seizing such a move could infringe on personal property rights says Brian Seaman, research associate at the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.
“Any time that state agents are seizing personal and private property, I think we all should be concerned about that, because we do live in a free country, in a free society, and interference with our law of fully owned property should not be something that any of us should lightly pass off,” he says.
Seaman adds that losing a vehicle could be particularly damaging to Alberta drivers and the province’s economy, because so many rely on their vehicles for work, particularly in the oil and gas sector. It would also make things tough for those who live in rural areas, he says.
“It would fall disproportionately on our rural residents, because in the rural areas a vehicle is an absolute necessity to get to and from work, to get to and from school in some instances, certainly to go shopping. So, people in rural areas would not have their access to transportation, like we do in the major cities.”
Seaman thinks a better proposal would be to increase fines for excessive speeders, with consequent loss of points.
“If you had fines sufficient enough to put a dent into somebody’s wallet then that’s going to make them think twice about speeding excessively.”
Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver is currently collecting feedback on ways to curb excessive speeding and make the province’s roads safer. A timeline has not been set on the decision.
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