Friday, September 3, 2010

Speed Trap Capital of the World

Wow, what an amazing amount of attention Toronto got this week after it was revealed on a website that we are the Speed Trap Capital of the World!!

It was a very busy 24 hours after that news broke, but what exactly does it mean? 250 locations (give or take) on the list, crowd sourced information, not really verified and what do they class as a speed trap?

Lets kick this off by talking about traps:

a device in which something (usually an animal) can be caught and penned

drain consisting of a U-shaped section of drainpipe that holds liquid and so prevents a return flow of sewer gas

something (often something deceptively attractive) that catches you unaware; "the exam was full of trap questions"; "it was all a snare and delusion"

a device to hurl clay pigeons into the air for trapshooters

place in a confining or embarrassing position; "He was trapped in a difficult situation"

ambush: the act of concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise

catch in or as if in a trap; "The men trap foxes"

informal terms for the mouth

a light two-wheeled carriage

So I guess we can agree that there is no way what we are doing can be considered traps.

Posted speed limits, uniforms, equipment, cars, motorcycles...any decent driver that is

observant and scanning their route of travel surely has to see the police enforcement. Often times, other stopped cars can even be a clue. One prominent driving advocate even stated he has seen as many as eight officers at a location…not much of a ‘trap’.

Who is in control of the speed of a vehicle? The passenger? The other cars? The pedestrians? Nope…it’s the driver. Gas pedal for faster, brake pedal for slower. What is the incentive for the drivers to speed? Tickets, possible insurance rate hikes, demerit points, loss of license, etc. Or is the incentive to avoid tickets? By doing something crazy like, I don’t know…travelling the speed limit.

Road safety is based on three simple tenants.

  • Education
  • Awareness
  • Enforcement

(You can add in engineering but that’s not in law enforcements hands).

Folks, we do enforcement based in one simple principal…safety. We educate and raise awareness so that we can avoid the enforcement. But, there will always be some people who choose to risk all our safety in one manner or another. We will always be there to address them appropriately.

If you combine all other crimes committed you would not come close to devastation and societal impacts that traffic related incidents have on us. You are far more likely to be in a collision than you are to be the victim of violence. Go to any community meeting, town hall meeting and you are sure to find that traffic related matters (speeding and parking in particular) top the list of concerns of the community.

Two of the main ways we determine locations are:

  • Community generated concerns reported to us asking for our help making their neighbourhoods safer
  • Crash analysis that has indicated a need for enforcement/education/awareness

One of the things this list indicates to me is how plugged in and tech savvy Toronto is. You have given that site more locations that New York, LA and Montreal residents combined. Way to go.

I can’t believe how many of those locations I’ve actually stood in ‘beaming’ the traffic. Some of them though…don’t think they were actually speed enforcement locations, bit more likely officers sitting at the side of the road doing reports and passerby’s have fed the locations as a radar spot.

So, thank you Toronto for helping us spread the word and show the world how committed the Toronto Police Service is to road safety. We have made it a priority <-(PDF) for several years now in an effort to reduce collisions, injuries and death in Toronto.

Interesting fact…Los Angeles is about 2X the size (population) of Toronto and has about 2X more sworn officers. According the Speed Trap Site, we have about 2X more locations than them.

In 2008 (last published numbers for LA) they had 234 fatalities…Toronto had 54.

So let me know are there any areas that you particularly like? Any locations you would like to add to the list? Let me know. Love to hear from you.


  1. I'd argue actually that engineering, while not in your hands, is still something you influence. Over time you may come to realize that you're expending significant resources at a particular location, and when you're not there, crashes still happen... and many seem to be of similar mechanics.

    At that point, you're in a position and even have a duty to approach public works to see if something needs to be changed. Is there a blind spot? Does a traffic light need to be installed further up the road for better visibility? Should there be another road that can take the burden off a congested intersection?

    Otherwise, you're spending taxpayer dollars that might otherwise be spent at other locations... it becomes about short-term vs. long-term costs.

    BTW, I was caught once by a very well-concealed officer. He was well-concealed because I missed the speed limit sign. Had I been paying attention and doing 30mph, I'm sure I would have seen him long before the blue lights came on!

  2. Hey Christa, thanks for the comment.
    Sorry, I didn't mean to say that we aren't involved in the engineering aspect at all. We do consult with the engineers on a regular basis and offer our recommendations. I just meant to say that the other three we have an immediate and full control impact.
    Engineering and environmental assessment is always part of our reconstruction reports for major collisions.

  3. What's interesting about that site is that a "trap" is also located in my backyard ( I will have to one day throw out a lawn chair and observe these folks they enforce speeding (as cars come down the hill) to see first hand how hard they work to promote safety.

    Of your nine definitions of a "Trap" - at least five of them are perfectly descriptive of what officers do each and every day to motorists.

  4. Thanks for the comment Kevin.
    I'm sure you'd agree that even downhill drivers have the option to control their own speed and children/elderly/parents would appreciate the extra time they would be afforded crossing a street by a car moving slower towards them as they move between the schools, parks or residences in the area.
    Just curious...which 5?

  5. Hi Tim,

    "a device in which something (usually an animal) can be caught and penned"
    Yes, if caught, you are corralled (often dangerously) by an officer into a location off the road that certainly could be likened to a penn by some.

    "something (often something deceptively attractive) that catches you unaware; "the exam was full of trap questions"; "it was all a snare and delusion""

    Yes, the basic tenant of speed "enforcement" is to hide in a location a driver is LEAST likely to see and to catch him at his/her worst possible moment. The essence of a "trap" is that you don't know it's there.

    "place in a confining or embarrassing position; "He was trapped in a difficult situation""

    Yes, if you have ever been stuck on the side of the road while getting a ticket (and the officer looks DOWN on you), you understand the dynamic of embarrassment. They will tell you that's on purpose because you are "evil" for speeding.

    "ambush: the act of concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise
    Yes, this one goes without saying. If you've ever driven around a bend only to have a man/woman in uniform STANDING in the middle of the road, you might start using the word ambush too"

    "catch in or as if in a trap; "The men trap foxes""

    Yes, Officers looking to catch speeders will set elaborate traps to catch them. Watch as officers hide behind abutments, other other sides of hills, place their cruises in incredibly illegal locations and positions to hide the vehicles from their intended targets. I tend to enjoy more how officers that chase flagrantly break all the laws they preach about when in the process of "snaring" the bad speeders.


    But, I think we all need to cut the "elitist" bull and understand everyone shares the road. There are all sorts of situations that I would GLADLY break laws if I felt it would save a person from imminent danger. Laws are not the de-faco standard for what's right or wrong.

    If you have ever driven in January on snow-covered highway, you know the posted limit doesn't mean much. You're lucky to get above 30km/hr while trucks are going by at 80km/hr. Laws don't do anything to protect you in those moments because life is RELATIVE. Not ABSOLUTE and ELITIST.

    Let's be real folks - if a cop were to stop you right now with all the laws he has - YOU WILL GET A TICKET FOR SOMETHING. And, if he really doesn't like you - he'll pull out one of those lovely "subjective" laws like Careless Driving. It will get thrown out of court, but he caused you enough pain in the process.

    See, this is the essence of the Over Bureaucratic system we are faced with, that creates a sort of Game that needs to be played with Officers. My advice, you see a cruiser - be sure to steer VERY clear of the guy because he is more of a danger to you than any car/truck on the road.

  6. Hey Kevin,
    If nothing else, some of your trap comparisons gave me a smile.
    Naturally I can't agree with some of the statements you made but thanks for your input again.
    One point I will make though, laws are the de-facto standard for what is right and wrong.

  7. Thanks again Tim taking the time to at least hear me out. I know that we disagree on a number of things - and hey, that's what life is all about. It's important that we bring things to the table that are intelligent and thought out (well, in my case, maybe not always).

    At the end of the day, however, I'm sure we agree on the importance of responsible driving and road safety. It's a top priority for me to get anywhere I go in a car, truck or motorcycle as safely as possible for me and everyone else on the road.

    Oh, and just a small story.

    A day some years ago I drove a friend to her home at the time to pickup clothes (as she was leaving an abusive boyfriend). As we were leaving and driving north, he came around the corner into the middle of the road and stood in front of my car. As I stopped he jumped on my hood.

    While I should probably had run him over (oh, boy would that have been nice!). More likely would have been me hopping out of the car and beating the shit out of him (I'm a big guy, it probably wouldn't be pretty). I decided in that moment to break the law and reverse into oncoming traffic. He hopped off the hood and while I reversed pulled out his keys and threw'em at my car. He cracked my windshield in the process. When I reached the end of the road - I turned and continued away from the scene and cooler heads had prevailed. No fights, no one hurt. This is the outcome I look for in every dicey situation. Laws or no laws, we are all responsible for the space we inhabit.

    PS, That's on the books (as they say), some of the names have changed, but you could look it up Tim :)