London’s Traffic Enforcement Stinks


Three weeks ago, Phil McLeod penned an editorial in The Londoner which concluded that there needs to be more police enforcement of speed limits in London (‘Needed, more enforcement of speed limits.’) Sgt. Tom O’Brien (London Police Services) responded with an article of his own (‘More Enforcement to catch speeders won’t be enough‘). What did we learn?

Phil referred to “red light jumpers at every intersection.” Sgt. Tom admitted that “London drivers are running red and amber lights” and that “London drivers speed.”

Sgt. Tom wrote that because of stepped-up enforcement of aggressive drivers, police had 6,274 speeding tickets Y-T-D vs 5,050 for the same period last year, 446 red light tickets vs 407, and 99 amber light tickets vs 79. What that suggests to me is that police could have laid many more charges for these types of driver behaviours in the previous year if they had been as motivated to deploy their resources toward that end.

Sgt. Tom tells us that “with limited resources police must be selective in where we deploy our efforts.” In other words, we’re being told that there aren’t enough traffic enforcement officers and equipment to properly do the job. One can only guess how many tickets might have been issued had there been sufficient effort. That being the case, the numbers offered by Sgt. Tom are only mildly interesting, and cannot be used to understand the seriousness of the problem of dangerous driving in London.

The fact that fatalities have gone down can only be attributed to dumb luck.

Sgt. Tom tells us that “fines and enforcement are not enough to alter the distracted and selfish behaviour of many drivers.” That’s true. But it doesn’t excuse the lack of sufficient enforcement.

Sgt. Tom tells us that the problem of providing sufficient enforcement continues to increase along with urban sprawl. That’s something that concerned citizens have been saying loudly for years. And it’s not just police services that are negatively impacted. Other emergency services are similarly challenged to meet increased demand, at the same time that local politicians berate them for failing to stay within arbitrarily-imposed budget constraints.

Sgt. Tom claims that “roadside electric sign boards” are employed in the effort to combat speeding. Last time I inquired, I was ignored. Before that, Sgt. Tom told me that LPS only has a single device. Has that changed? I haven’t seen one since I tried to get police/politicians to attend to the dangerous Commissioners/King Edward Ave. intersection.

Why doesn’t LPS use dummy sign boards? For that matter, why aren’t dummy police vehicles being strategically located to slow down drivers?

We’re told that LPS is currently using two “ghost traffic cars which are virtually invisible to inattentive drivers.” In a city of this size and the continually increasing volume of traffic on our roads, that seems like a token gesture, at best. Why aren’t there many more?

London media seldom draws much attention on these subjects, so Mr. McLeod’s editorial was much appreciated by me. But it’s a drop in the bucket. There needs be much more scrutiny by London media before we’re likely to see much real action by local police/politicians. But given the way that they all ignored the way in which my applications to TAC and CSCPAC were secretly ‘handled’ that’s not likely going to happen.

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10 Responses to “London’s Traffic Enforcement Stinks”

  1. John Leschinski Says:

    Speeding tickets are just a way to raise capital. Much like the antiquated parking enforcement system.

  2. Jesse Says:

    Speeding tickets work though. Coming from a city in the UK where cameras are mounted high on nearly every intersection, people don’t speed and don’t jump red lights. It’s not worth it. The cameras aren’t always operational, but they do their job by deterring drivers from breaking the law. The capital raised can be used for useful projects around the city. I was shocked when we first came to London to see how bad the driving is. As a pedestrian, I check and double check before crossing over intersections and still I’ve had several near misses, even when accompanied by my 6 year old on his bike and pushing a pram. London driving stinks, something needs to be done.

  3. idaiki Says:

    I think traffic is a problem everywhere. We are even starting to see more and more problems in our little city in the far reaches of Northern Maine.
    Whats the answer to it? I don’t think any of us really know. Perhaps technology will win out and your vehicle will drive itself. Or at least force you to stop at all stop signs and red lights.

    Until then we can only watch our own driving and try not to add to the problem.

  4. John Leschinski Says:

    Speeding is encouraged, that’s why it generates so much money. Want to change it, eliminate speed limits and design roads better.

  5. josh Says:

    @ John (1:53pm) : Well stated. I am aware that academic and industry journals on transportation exist. I would like to see their findings being applied (for example, in the continuing sprawl of new pavement).

    @ Jesse (8:12am) & Sgt. O’Brien: How should we encourage safe, respectful, defensive driving? I feel that setting a good example is just part of the solution; Please fill me in on the rest.

    @ Greg (main post): The ghost cars are fairly pretty. Do we want to instill (in much of the population) the fear which follows once we begin to assume each vehicle on the road carries our friendly neighbourhood patrol officers?

  6. fowgre Says:

    Josh: That’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think? People yell and scream now at the prospect of having to pay for more uniformed officers, so what chance is there that they’ll ever have the budget for more than a handful of ghost cars? Besides, I don’t buy the argument that most law-abiding drivers would be afraid, any more than I think that people are afraid to walk down the sidewalk because they might encounter an officer out of uniform. The bottom line for me is that there’s way too much craziness on the road these days and something has to be done to dissuade it. Before we start to see the numbers of fatalities here that have been commonplace in Toronto and elsewhere for so long. And whether you’re uncomfortable with it or not, the fact is that ghost cars, red-light cameras, etc. do cause people to moderate their behaviour.

  7. Jesse Says:

    “How should we encourage safe, respectful, defensive driving? I feel that setting a good example is just part of the solution; Please fill me in on the rest.”

    Good question. When you stop at an amber light, you get beeped at; you stop properly at a stop sign and get gesticulated at; you leave safe space between your car and the one in front and someone pulls in to fill it; you pause while turning to allow a pedestrian to cross on their green light and someone pulls around you. In my opinion, penalising some bad driving will lead to some better defensive driving. It’s a start.

  8. josh Says:

    @ Greg (5:43pm) : I think I agree with you in spirit.

    My experience and (subjective) observations make me believe that many automobile drivers do not belong to the category of drivers you are talking about: law-abiding.

    I mean law-abiding primarily in the sense of moving violations to the Highway Traffic Act through actions like: coming to a full stop where so signed or signalled; making turns into the corresponding lane on the target road (e.g. left-most into left-most); and entering intersections only when able to fully cross so as not to block intersections.

    Automobile drivers are not the sole category of road user who contributes offenders. I believe there are bicycles riders, LTC bus drivers, and pedestrians who disregard our Highway Traffic Act. I focus on motor vehicle drivers because, in comparison to human-powered modes of transportation, those travelling by motor and surrounded by a protective metal cage are more capable of harming others (such as an errant or a lawful pedestrian who crosses their path) without risk of injury to themselves.

  9. John Leschinski Says:

    When is the LPF going to seriously start enforcing laws pedestrians and cyclists break daily?

    The majority of drivers do so in an acceptable manner, there is a minority who are too aggressive, and even more who simply impede the free flow of traffic becuase they don’t know any better or are too afraid of their vehicles power to properly use it. London drivers are more like small town drivers the Torontoists.

  10. fowgre Says:

    John: As London’s most publicly outspoken pedestrian rights/safety advocate I wholly agree with you that there has to be more enforcement of illegal behaviour by pedestrians and bicyclists. Some of the blatant stuff that I witness really makes me cringe, because it brings disrepute on both groups and makes the job of advocating so much harder. At the same time, there needs be greater focus put on what’s legal and what’s not. I believe that’s the reason certain people at City Hall went out of their way to stop my appointment to the Transportation Advisory Committee … because they knew that I’d be pressing for those answers. Now I find out from the City Clerk that my application to CSCPAC has also been stalled while they pursue the same secretive process instead of vetting the application in a public hearing.

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