Covid-19 is a science experiment that no one wanted, but once it’s over, we will ask some large questions about how it affected road safety and transportation in general.
An article published by CP24 News in Toronto today reported that “Police report thousands fewer collisions amid pandemic but see nearly 600 per cent rise in stunt driving charges”. The article indicated that, since March 17, 2020, Toronto police fined 222 stunt driving charges which is where this “600 per cent” increase comes from. With respect to the stunt driving the article also reported “Toronto police previously told CP24 that they saw a 195 per cent increase in stunt driving charges in the last two weeks of March so the updated numbers would seem to suggest the practice is becoming even more prevalent”.
While there may be an increase in speeding, is it believable that drivers have suddenly changed their driving habits so dramatically in just two weeks? Does this mean that drivers have become far more dangerous or is there another explanation?
In the article police had indicated that 1,535 collisions were reported “since the province issued a state of emergency and ordered the closure of many businesses on March 17”. The article then added “That is down 79 per cent from the same period in 2019 when there were more than 7,300 collisions”.
All this information talks about police activities but does not say anything about the actual number of drivers travelling at the noted speeds. While we assume that the increase in police charges are proportionate to the increased number of speeders, we do not actually know that. The City of Toronto continually monitors the speeds of vehicles much like all jurisdictions in Ontario. This data should be publicly available yet it is not. And the authors writing news articles on this subject do not mention this important issue. Why rely on the activities of police when the true test of what the public is doing lies in the objective data on vehicle speeds that is continually being collected but is being held secret?
Gorski Consulting has been making videotaped observations of traffic throughout this pandemic and has compared those data to recent testing dates when the pandemic was not in effect. This data was recently reported in detail in articles posted on the Gorski Consulting website. One of the tables from our research is reproduced below. For clarification, note that the Clarke Road site is an S-curve and the percentages refer to the number of drivers travelling above the advised speed, not the maximum posted speed. The data for the rest of the sites refers to the percentages travelling above the maximum posted speed.
Our data indicates that average speeds have increased during the time of the pandemic effect. However there have been no stunt driving incidents recorded during our testing. The incident that came closest to stunt driving involved a northbound motorcycle that was travelling at 149 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on the Highbury Ave expressway at Commissioners Road in London, Ontario during our April 7, 2020 videotaping session.
Yet, the speed increase has also been observed on Hamilton Road in London, even though the volume of traffic had increased, not decreased, during the Covid-19 pandemic. So not all sites appear to be the same.
This is the kind of data that should be provided by the City of Toronto, the OPP and all other official agencies that are providing news releases to the news media. When this data is not provided it is the responsibility of the news media to raise the question: Why not?