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Self-Driving Cars on the Prairies? Hurry Up, Google

June 7, 2014 9:26 AM | Columns

By Roger Currie

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Memo to the folks at Google, please hurry up with getting those cars that drive themselves on the market. I say that because scarcely a day goes by without further evidence that not only is driving not as much fun any more, it also isn’t very safe, for a variety of reasons.

In Saskatchewan, the government is dedicating 60 police officers to enforcing driving laws. New legislation will hike up the penalties considerably higher for driving impaired, driving distracted , and of course driving too fast, also known as speeding.

The traffic police will have more power to seize vehicles, and the government says license suspensions will last longer. Enforcement will be stepped up on highways that are known to be dangerous such as # 39, the two lane road with no paved shoulders that carries heavy trucks to and from the Bakken oil fields in the southeast.

Close to 200 people are killed each year on Saskatchewan roads, and all of those deaths were preventable.

In Winnipeg, after considerable delay, a maximum speed limit of 30 kph will finally be in effect near elementary schools. Again, fines will be much higher, but will the streets be any safer? Winnipeg is big into photo radar and red light cameras. Last year, the total take from those tickets was more than $11 million, but the number of accidents continues to rise. Begs the age old question, is it about safety or fundraising?

Whatever it’s about, it seems we have yet to reach the threshold where fines make all that much of a difference. In both provinces, talking on a cellphone or texting behind the wheel will get you a ticket costing $200 or more, plus demerit points that boost the cost of your license and insurance.

Pedestrians and cyclists are part of the whole picture as well, and we all need to do a lot better.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.