More Reasons to Rethink the “Right” to Drive

In a curious release a couple of weeks ago, the Guelph Police Service reminded local drivers that Victoria Road is not, in contrast to how they were treating it, a “speedway.” In a 24-hour period, the police had stopped six vehicles along Victoria Road for speeding, including one driver who was doing 102 kilometers per hour. For the record, the speed limit on that portion of Victoria Road was 50 kilometers per hour. As a 31-year-old Guelph man faces charges for drive motor vehicle-perform stunt-speeding by 50 or more km/hr and speeding under the Highway Traffic Act, a very public act of road rage should be making us all think about how much nonsense some drivers are getting away with on the roadways of the country.

By now you’ve probably seen this video:

It’s of Manuel Delisle, 37, a resident of Saint-Jérôme, Que. who was charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly brandishing a chainsaw to a family of four after a road rage incident. After Delisle cut off the family minivan, they blocked him in a parking lot at which point, Delisle… Well, you know.

The Quebec Chainsaw Non-massacre was captured on a cell phone by Karine Cyr, who was the mother of the two children who can be heard crying in the video. She posted it to Facebook and the whole thing became an instant social media sensation.

Now a case can be made here that the father, Alexandre Hermenier, probably shouldn’t have tried administer some Old West Justice by bringing this guy in himself, and the local police have said as much. “Instead of getting into a car chase or trying to play the hero,” said Saint-Jérôme police spokesman Robin Pouliot, “write down as much information as possible, such as a description of the vehicle, plate number and colour.” Fair enough, but is the response by becoming the Quebecois Leatherface equal to the reaction of Hermenier trying to citizen arrest-ish Delisle at the scene? Hardly.

Both the local and Quebec incidents, in my estimation, are examples of an increasingly toxic culture amongst those who drive. Even other drivers seem to be noticing that there’s a lot of aggression out there on the roads, and despite a recent conversation I had with a member of the Guelph Police Service regarding a particular stretch of Silvercreek Parkway North, I don’t think that layout and planning can be entirely to blame for it. Nope, there’s an attitude out there that says the driver of the single-occupant vehicle has the right to get to where they’re going as fast as they wish, anyway they wish, above the consideration of all other people on the road be they drivers, bike riders or pedestrians.

As a walker, I’ve seen driver aggression all over Guelph, even in the downtown where the former scramble at St. Georges Square has drivers that blatantly turn nearly right into pedestrians crossing the road. I realize that there are some people not entirely aware of their surroundings, but those that are aware have every right to be frightened of just how hard some drivers are leaning on people to get across that street quickly lest they be roadkill. It’s menacing, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, in the battle of car versus pedestrian, car always wins no matter how aware the pedestrian is.

The solution is as simple as it is difficult to achieve. You can’t legislate behaviour, but it can be modified by the collective nagging of the community. We need to push everyone around us to take it a bit easier out there on the roadways. We, or rather those of us behind the wheel, need to think about our actions and how we would feel if we were the one walking through the crosswalk, or being narrowly missed by a car doing twice the legal limit. It’s a dangerous world out there, and we all have to realize that we’re all culpable in its continuation, or destruction.

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