An ‘Excessive’ Fix

Constable Gillespie of the Squamish RCMP DetachmentConstable Gillespie of the Squamish RCMP detachment has built to the denouement of the ticket issuing procedure, the mandatory tale of cleaning up a motorcycle accident on the Sea To Sky.

“The rider was on the new section and clipped a vehicle’s mirror.” The Constable starts moving into the phantasmagoric gore of details, and I preempt, suddenly seeming to channel David Tennant’s version of ‘Doctor Who’.

“I know it’s horrible I’ve ‘attended’ more than a few and it’s only going to get worse. I mean look at it, you’ve got four lanes to Lions Bay, SUVs clocking 130 and the moment they actually have to drive any real road, the narrow stuff, it’s chaos. You’re going to have more faster accidents than ever, not just bikes.” The detour from the “ticket script” catches both of us off guard, but the affable young man is still a fresh RCMP and able to cope.

From my perspective our shared underlying philosophy seems that this is more a business transaction for road usage than a real legal issue. The Constable may or may not have enough to make the ticket stick, but I’d be gambling on court and a judge who could ramp “excessive” up to 1 year of prohibition from driving and a fine up to $2000.00? I do have a few questions though…

“How does the radar differentiate? How many objects does it track?”

“It has a 24-degree spread,” is the surprisingly forthcoming response. “The radar itself tracks two different objects, the fastest… you, and the largest, in this case the car behind you.”

“Ooooh really?” I say bending into the cruiser over his shoulder. “That’s good to know. How different were the speeds? Can I take a picture?”

“Er… no… About 2kms. You were accelerating though.” I doubt this is within the devices margin of error.

“Can you call ahead? He, she, it, the driver was right on my tail every time I slowed.”

“It was a man.”

Logically, if some of the world’s finest sportbike technology isn’t “safe” for public roads, then the tuned and elderly import piling along feet off my rear wheel as I waft though the corners shouldn’t be either. Not to touch on the issue of why a Constable would choose to U-turn in a construction zone with a speeding car in front of him to track down and ticket a bike.

Continuing the tour the Constable pulls a Velcro affixed remote from the dash indicating direction controls, “It will do the front the back and the sides too.” Great, nabbed by a 20 year-old VCR remote with dodgy fitment.

“I followed the car until realized there was no bike ahead of the it.” The implication is that I’d pulled a bit of a runner. True, once the constable whipped by I could have waited a fraction of the time it took to pull off my helmet, walk down the beach a ways and snap a few pictures. Opting instead to head north and use one of the multiple side road’s safe havens. Blame it on a well-spent youth but I’m not that swift at evasion, and the GSX-R 1000 is fast but it won’t outrun Motorolla.

Regardless whether Constable Gillespie can establish continuity for the court, laws have been tightened in British Columbia. Its now at the officer’s discretion whether speeding can be classified as “Street Racing”, which comes with a 15-day roadside suspension and a 2-day impound of the vehicles in question.

Having writer’s block the past few days I’d intended to not take notes this ride, so caught without pad Constable Gillespie is kind enough to laboriously print it all out for me. He’s candid, “We’re trying to get the word out.”

Today’s word then, to steal a Colbert’ism, is “racing” defined by a nebulous legalese that could describe any protracted SUV-to-SUV overtaking attempt.

A hefty amount of roadside power has been handed to officers for a threat of questionable statistical significance, which ICBC, and the rest of Canada for that matter, doesn’t bother keeping statistics for, according to a recent CBC article.

Indeed one of the few solid statistics quoted was from a 2004 Richmond News Article, “Since 2000, according to ICBC statistics, 86 people between the ages of 18 and 21 have been killed in car crashes, most involving high speed.” Note, the statistic doesn’t state those average 21.5 fatalities per year were racing related, and is unclear on the composition of victims; drivers, passengers, innocent bystanders or a combination there of.

In ICBC’s most recently available grim reading for 2005, 28 fatalities were reported amoungst 18-21 year olds in the “Victims killed by victim age and road user class in speed related collisions” data, including two motorcycle deaths. That’s 6.08% of 2005’s 460 collision fatalities in total, 176 of which are speed related.

Now based on a minute fraction of those 6.8% who are racing, civic virtue and a handful of lamentable deaths, we have laws that say if you’re nicked passing, going for a “spirited” group ride, or putting some space between yourself and a tailgater best hope for a level headed officer. Today, relatively speaking, I’m in luck.

“Ah well. I may as well get something good out of this. Maybe for both of us. Can you flip on the lights and pose with the bike?”

Constable T. E. Gillespie, agrees.

“Say ‘Incarceration’!” Speeding is an offence, but one wonders about the sense behind of vastly varying punitive actions that can be carried out roadside “at an officer’s discretion.” What happens when that discretion fails? More importantly where are the checks and balances in this system to prevent profiling and abuse?

The young constables smiles, the camera clicks. The writer’s block is gone, but what an expensive fix, for myself and so many other users of the road. No one is guaranteed to “get off lucky.”

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