Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deaths Prompt Police, Insurers to Target N.L.'S 'Insane' Driving Culture

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deaths Prompt Police, Insurers to Target N.L.'S 'Insane' Driving Culture

Article excerpt

N.L.'s 'insane' driving culture under microscope

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Tom Hickey says he feels safer on the roads almost anywhere else in North America -- Toronto, New York, L.A.

"It's insane," said Hickey, president of Wedgwood Insurance, one of Newfoundland and Labrador's major providers. "And it's not just the speeds at which people drive. It's the aggression and the way they drive."

Nineteen people have died in 12 crashes in the province since Aug. 1, including a 65-year-old man killed Wednesday in a single-vehicle accident on the Trans-Canada Highway southwest of St. John's.

Despite that deadly toll, officers say they still clocked drivers racing up to 173 kilometres an hour during a blitz last weekend.

"You go to a city like Toronto and people merge, traffic flows," Hickey said in an interview. "But here, if you're trying to merge in, the person in the lane is like, no, you're not getting ahead of me. I'm not going to let you in.

"I feel safer in California. I feel safer in New York. I feel safer in Ontario."

Social media updates from traffic officers tracking multiple drivers hitting over 140 kilometres an hour prompted Hickey to send a blunt notice this week to clients across the province.

"While there are many factors that influence accidents, there is one that we see that comes up over and over," it said. "Speed kills. So here is our message to you drivers doing 144 km/h: We don't want your business."

The note goes on to say: "We'll do everything within the rules to see that you end up in Facility Association where the worst drivers belong at the highest prices. Maybe that will slow you down. Why? Because we want to protect our good clients from you."

Hickey has been "bombarded" with calls and messages of thanks since he spoke out, he said.

"I'm sort of shocked at the reaction it has got but obviously there's an undercurrent here of frustration at what's going on on our highways."

RCMP Cpl. Oliver Whiffen has been a crash reconstructionist for 11 years. The past two months have been especially horrendous, he said in an interview.

Four people died in one accident, and two other crashes killed three people each. They are under investigation.

So far in 2017, 26 people have died in 19 incidents, compared to 30 deaths in 21 incidents at the same time last year, Whiffen said.

"So even though we've had a large number of incidents lately, we're still below our numbers for last year. …

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