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Vehicles impounded under new Newfoundland and Labrador speed law

Traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway near Paddy’s Pond on Thursday
Traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway near Paddy’s Pond on Thursday - Joe Gibbons

At least nine drivers’ rides taken from them roadside

Changes made to the province’s Highway Traffic Act in late 2017, including new penalties for driving at excessive speeds, came into effect on June 7.

On Thursday, RCMP in Happy Valley-Goose Bay reported a 35-year-old woman caught driving 115 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Her vehicle was impounded and she was issued a $520 ticket.

At this point, police have also clocked drivers at speeds of 170 km/h and more, but the hope is the new penalties — including the impoundment of vehicles — will start to sink into the public consciousness, and slow down at least some speeding drivers.

For the speeds reaching 51 km/h or more above the posted limit, drivers lose their vehicle for at least three days to a local impound. Practically speaking, it becomes a week-long issue for a first-timer, with a seven-day suspension of their driver’s licence.

A first-time offence at this speed results in a minimum $400 fine, reaching up to $850 minimum with multiple offences.

There could also be additional fines if a driver is, for example, found to be driving without due care and attention, or involved in stunt driving or speed racing.

Beyond the base fines, the driver will lose demerit points, insurance costs can go up, there is a reinstatement fee of $100 for a suspended licence, motorists have to pay for the tow job on their vehicle and there is a $10 to $20 per day impoundment fee.

RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland said the RCMP has record of at least four cases involving extreme speeds in the less than two months since the Highway Traffic Act amendments came into effect, not counting the one reported Thursday.

The RNC has a separate, ongoing count of cases. While reports come in daily, Service NL has an official count so far of nine vehicles impounded due to dangerously excessive speeds since June 7.

Garland said the RCMP agreed with the changes to the Highway Traffic Act relating to speeding and were consulted in their development.

“It gives us a new enforcement tool,” she said, asked specifically about the impoundment of vehicles. “We’re also hoping, with the penalties, the fines, the punishments in the licence suspension, the impounding of the vehicle, that this will deter motorists from driving with excessive speeds.”

While the new enforcement measures are of note, speeding and reckless driving look unlikely to overtake other Highway Traffic Act offences as a leading reason for impoundments. Driving without insurance and driving while disqualified, or with a suspended licence, still lead the pack.

From June 7 to July 17, those two categories accounted for 123 vehicles towed away and held at the owner’s expense, versus the nine on record for excessive speeds.

Records issued by Service NL for the Northeast Avalon for all of 2017, posted online following an access to information request, show 421 vehicles impounded in just that region in the year. Of those, 217 were being driven by people disqualified from driving or with suspended licences, 174 vehicles were kept for lack of insurance, 20 were held based on an alcohol-related roadside suspension and 10 vehicles were considered not roadworthy.

Service NL vehicle impound counts

July 2018 (provincial, to date)

Disqualified/suspended: 16

Uninsured: 21

Driver screens 80 mg or greater alcohol: 11

Driver screens 50 mg or greater alcohol: 2

Excessive speeding: 5

Not roadworthy: 0

Failure/refusal of testing: 4

Driver under 22 with greater than 0 mg of alcohol: 0

Driver under 22 impaired by alcohol and/or drug: 0

Novice driver with greater than 0 mg of alcohol: 0

NOTE: Exact counts may change as some reports may not yet be submitted by law enforcement.

June 2018

Disqualified/suspended: 47

Uninsured: 39

Driver screens 80 mg or greater alcohol: 22

Driver screens 50 mg or greater alcohol: 11

Excessive speeding: 4

Not roadworthy: 2

Failure/refusal of testing: 5

Driver under 22 with greater than 0 mg of alcohol: 1

Driver under 22 impaired by alcohol and/or drug: 1

Novice driver with greater than 0 mg of alcohol: 1

NOTE: Exact counts may change as some reports may not yet be submitted by law enforcement.

(Source: Service NL, statistics provided upon request.)

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