Driving in Montreal

Note: This blog weas originally posted on my web site on July 9, 2009. Since it is a bit of old news, I’ve decided to disable comments.

While this topic may apply to Montreal, a good chunk of it applies to just about every city.

The Montreal Gazette newspaper today had an editorial article on reducing the speed limits in residential streets from 50 km/h to 40 km/h (school areas will stay at 30 km/h). According to one study, cutting the speed by 10 km/h will reduce the number of deaths to a third. That’s probably true. Not in the article but mentioned elsewhere (previous Gazette issue or on TV), that the city is asking for provincial approval now but won’t take affect until next fall. Why the long wait? As well they will need $2.5 million for the project with $2 million going to purchasing new signs.

I am sure that most residents will be happy with the change. Better safety for their children, a bit quieter, etc. But the biggest question is enforcement. As the editorial comment points out, that’s easier said than done. The city is expected to give out less parking and moving violation tickets than last year (this even though another report a while ago said that moving violation quotas are going up maybe 20%. Yes, there are quotas. Does this mean less police giving out tickets?

So it really comes down to enforcement. I have always stated the following: if you get stopped for a moving violation, you are having a bad day. There just aren’t either enough police patrolling or citizens just don’t care and take chances.

It seems that the police tend to watch an area for maybe a week and then move on, thinking no one will do anything there. This past spring, I was on a street called McLynn in the Cote des Neiges borough of Montreal. That street has a park and a 30 km/h zone. I noticed a car behind me with the driver talking on the telephone (holding his cell phone). As you may or may not know, Quebecers can’t talk on the telephone unless they are using a hands free device.  As I got to the next corner, I stopped (of course) and I noticed a police officer with a speed gun. I was (of course) within the limit and so was the guy behind me. But as soon as I turned the corner, the police officer came out of his spot and told the driver to pull over. The guy got hit with a ticket for talking on the cell phone while driving. Something like $350+ plus 3 demerit points. He was lucky. If I wasn’t in front of him, I’m sure the guy would of been caught speeding as well. This was a “rare” case when someone was around, but no police were around the following weeks.

In the same edition of The Gazette was an opinion article by a columnist who stated that it’s been six years of having the “right on red” in Quebec but outside of Montreal and accidents are going up. The first year had 59 injuries and 211 vehicles with damages but no life lost. In year five it’s up to 95 injuries, 297 vehicles with damages, and a death. When they had a test run prior to the law going into effect, 62% of the drivers failed to stop at the red light before turning. Nine months later in the trial, that jumped to 78%.

Once again, it comes down to enforcing the rules.

To make things even more interesting, I’ve seen drivers on the island of Montreal making a “right on red”. I guess they either feel discriminated or maybe the “right on red” applies to the island of Montreal. Montreal along with New York City are the only two cities in North America that don’t allow “right on red”.

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