Empty roads enticed more Manitobans to just floor it: MPI

THE number of people driving at least 50 kilometres above the speed limit skyrocketed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba.

There were 148 speed-related serious driving offences reported to Manitoba Public Insurance’s registrar of motor vehicles from April till the end of June.

That’s a 60 per cent jump from the 93 speed-related serious driving offences recorded in the same period last year.

MPI has never recorded such an increase in speeding, said spokesman Brian Smiley.

He attributed it to fewer vehicles on the road because people stayed home during the pandemic.

“In some situations drivers were, I suppose, taking advantage of the lack of other vehicles on the roadways, picking up their speeds significantly,” he said. 

The most serious case of speeding during that period involved a driver going 98 km/h over the limit. The motorist was doing 178 km/h in an 80 km zone. The average serious speeding incident for the three-month period was 59 km/h over the posted limit. 

Although more motorists are back on the road, the high-risk speeding continues, Smiley said. 

“There are far too many drivers who have absolutely no regard for the safety of themselves, their passengers or other innocent motorists,” he said. 

MPI’s data show serious driving offences aren’t exclusive to a specific region of the province — they occur across Manitoba and at all hours of the day. 

"Drivers, for the most part, are not equipped to travel at these speeds safely,” Smiley said. “Police officers, ambulance drivers — these are people who are professionally trained to drive at high speeds. The ordinary citizen does not have that training, nor should they be going that fast.”

People get serious driving offences after being pulled over by police. Photo radar installations only capture licence plates, so those tickets don’t count as offences.

After receiving a notice, drivers have five business days to schedule a show cause hearing with MPI. About 90 per cent of those hearings result in licence suspension, MPI statistics show. The suspension is based on the speeding ticket and the plaintiff’s driving history.

Drivers are more likely to get into a collision while driving at high speeds, Smiley said. Speeding increases the risk of losing control of a vehicle and affects reaction time and stopping distance.

Speed contributed to about one in five deaths on the road in Manitoba last year, MPI said.

“(Chronic speeders) need to do a self-evaluation and adjust accordingly, not only for their own safety, but the safety of everyone on the roadways,” Smiley said.

He said collision rates in Manitoba are normal now, but that’s not surprising since there’s no ice or snow on streets.

Passengers play a role in keeping roads safe, especially when they’re in a vehicle with someone who’s speeding, Smiley said.

“Do not be afraid to speak up,” he said. “Tell that driver to slow down.”