With more people working from home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, there are fewer drivers on B.C. roads. While less traffic means fewer crashes, it also appears some speed demons are taking advantage of the open highways.
“In the last few weeks to a month, we have seen an increase in excessive speeding,” Const. Markus Anastasiades of the Saanich Police Department told Global News.
Saanich officers impounded a total of 16 vehicles for excessive speeding in the last three weeks of March and first week of April, compared to just two impounds during the same 30-day period in February and March.
All were going at least 40 kilometres over the posted speed limit, including two clocked at 151 km/hr and 153 km/hr in an 80 km/hr zone.
Anastasiades can only speculate on what may have fuelled the brief 700-per-cent spike in drivers pushing the pedal to the metal.
“Perhaps the fact that the roads were more open and people were taking liberties with less traffic and deciding to speed, unfortunately,” he said.
Greater Victoria’s Trans-Canada and Pat Bay highways are not the only major arteries being used as racetracks during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
In recent weeks, police agencies across the province have been highlighting excessive speeding incidents on social media.
“It’s really quite shocking,” B.C. public safety minister Mike Farnworth told Global News.
During the first two weeks of April, Coquitlam RCMP towed the vehicles of 12 alleged excessive speeders, one of whom was clocked at 118 km/hr in a 70 km/hr zone and another, a new driver, was caught going more than 40 km/hr over the speed limit.
“Less traffic volume is not a valid reason to drive faster,” read an April 7 tweet from the detachment.
On April 16, Abbotsford Police nabbed a driver doing 142 km/hr in an 80 km/hr zone on Highway 11.
Later that same day, Ridge Meadows RCMP towed an SUV after the person behind the wheel was clocked at 132 km/hr in a 60 km/hr zone, which is 72 km/hr over the limit. According to a tweet from the force, their excuse was “being late for your tee time.”
Burnaby RCMP saw a 162.5-per-cent increase in excessive speeding year-over-year during the first two months of the pandemic. Officers issued a total of 21 excessive speeding tickets in March and April compared to the eight excessive speeding fines handed out during the same two month period in 2019.
In four separate incidents this month, Burnaby RCMP caught nine excessive speeders – including one who was allegedly flooring it at 113 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone, another who failed to produce a driver’s licence or “N” sign, and a third who is also accused of distracted driving.
Squamish RCMP & Sea to Sky Traffic Services have impounded at least 17 vehicles for excessive speeding this month.
From April 7 to April 13, 11 vehicles were taken off the road – including a Lamborghini clocked at 154km/hr in an 80km/hr zone, and a Toyota Corolla that was allegedly being driven at 145km/hr in an 80km/hr zone.
“Had either of these driver’s crashed their vehicles, they almost certainly would have killed themselves, if not others,” Const. Christine Robinson said in a news release reminding drivers of continued enforcement during the pandemic.
Two supercar drivers are accused of flying the curve instead of flattening it on the Sea to Sky Highway on April 20. Squamish RCMP posted photos of the Aston Martin and Audi parked on a flatbed tow truck after their drivers were clocked at 163 km/hr and 188 km/hr in an 80 km/hr zone at Porteau Cove.
“We will have to ask the experts if a side effect of the COVID lockdown is bringing the inner race car driver out,” read a tweet from the detachment.
On April 26, Sea to Sky traffic officers had four excessive speed impounds on Highway 99 with speeds of between 160 to 175km/hr.
Squamish RCMP say excessive speed on the Sea to Sky Highway has been a continued concern for many years, and enforcement never seems to slow or stop.
“It does come with extensive risk when we are seeing vehicles travelling in excess of 100 plus kilometres over the speed limit, which sadly isn’t uncommon,” Sgt. Sascha Banks told Global News.
In Victoria, police seized a motorcycle after its rider was busted for cruising at approximately 140 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone on Blanshard Street on the evening of April 20. The alleged offending motorcyclist was slapped with more than $1,300 in violation tickets for excessive speed, no insurance and no licence.
“Some drivers seem to think the rules don’t apply to them,” said Farnworth.
“They think that they’re better than everybody else.”
Farnworth, who also serves as the province’s solicitor general, promises excessive speeders will not be tolerated.
“They will get caught and they will get tickets and the fines have been significantly increased.”
Driving 40 kilometres over the speed limit in B.C. will net you a $368 fine and three penalty points on your driving record. Motorists caught doing more than 60 kilometres over the maximum allowable speed are subject to a $483 fine plus three penalty points.
All excessive speeding offences come with an immediate impoundment of seven days for the first offence, plus towing and storage costs. A second offence within two years will see offenders lose their rides for 30 days and be on the hook for approximately $700 in towing and storage costs. Any subsequent speeding incidents within the same two-year period will be punished with a 60-day impound, and towing and storage fees will soar to more than $1,200.
After their recent full-throttle COVID-19 crackdown, Saanich police say traffic is trending back to normal – with drivers starting to slow down again.
Public safety remains a top priority, and for anyone hightailing it down an open highway, don’t expect police to put the brakes on enforcement during the pandemic.
“We’re not, you know, changing our normal procedures in dealing with violators that choose to speed,” Anastasiades told Global News.