Wildrose MLA for the Constituency of
|Highway 63 motion passes unanimously -Fort McMurray Today|
A motion proposing harsher penalties on Alberta’s highways has passed unanimously in the legislature.
The motion, proposed by Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo Independent MLA Mike Allen, is an expansion of his June 2012 report on Highway 63, which listed over 20 suggestions for improving safety on the 240-kilometre stretch.
“Fines levied have not kept up with inflation. The cost of changing the oil in your car has gone up with inflation while the cost of burning rubber on your car has stayed flat,” Allen told the legislature. “Too often it is said of and by excessive speeders on Highway 63 that a fine equivalent to four hours’ wages, where there’s no guarantee they’ll be caught, is woefully inadequate. It’s play money.”
While Allen had Highway 63 in mind when he proposed the motion, the document officially asks the province to create and enforce harsher penalties on all highways.
“It is a distressing and disappointing fact that over one in four fatal collisions on Alberta highways involve a driver travelling at an unsafe speed,” he said. “When motorists callously and selfishly disregard speed limits, they put innocent people at risk in addition to themselves.”
Fort McMurray-Conklin PC MLA Don Scott praised the motion, and added revisiting current penalties should be a public safety priority.
“I believe it is prudent to revisit the amounts violators can be fined,” he said.
“We would need to be very clear as to how these harsher penalties would be determined and administered, consulting not only with stakeholders but also with the public.”
Justice Minister Jonathan Denis endorsed the motion, adding the province is examining successful initiatives from other provinces.
In the opposition, Wildrose MLA Pat Stier called the motion “vague,” but welcomed the opportunity for introducing harsher penalties.
“With the automatic court appearance, this could allow judges to actually deliver stiffer penalties, which may be worthwhile to consider. If that is imposed in the amendments that might come forward, they would be something I would be keen to review at that time,” he said. “This seems to be where Albertans are paying a toll to speed these days, and the penalty doesn’t seem to be a good enough deterrent.”
NDP MLA Deron Bilous, however, questioned if higher fees stopped dangerous driving, particularly on Highway 63. He also raised concerns that vehicle seizures skipped due process.
“It seems that the only way to stop people from speeding is to take them off the road completely,” he said.
“While seizing a vehicle or taking away a licence is one way to do it – you can’t speed if you can’t drive – it’s also important that we advocate for mass transportation means, alternative means, whether that’s carpools, trains, HOV lanes, et cetera, which is a way to take excessive speeders off the road.”
During the debate, Allen added he was already impressed with the increased police presence on Highway 63 since a 2012 accident killed six people and a pregnant woman in a fiery head on collision.
Later that year in October, the province announced it would have the Highway twinned between Fort McMurray and Grassland by 2016.
“As someone who drives Highway 63 on a weekly basis, I have seen an overall positive change in driver culture and the pace of construction,” he told the Today in January. “But I do see some elements of dangerous driving, too.”