ALBERTA

Alberta police chief supports extreme speed law, says look at success in B.C.

05/29/2012 03:12 EDT | Updated 06/18/2013 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - The president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police says allowing officers to seize the vehicles of people who drive at extreme speeds would save lives and reduce injuries.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht says British Columbia and Ontario both have such laws that have cut down on excessive speeding.

Knecht said it's time for Alberta to debate the issue again after turning down a 2009 request from the chiefs for similar speeding legislation.

"Seizing somebody's vehicle in a province where you need a vehicle to get around in sends a pretty clear message to somebody that isn't willing to follow the rules of the road," Knecht said Tuesday from a police conference in Colorado.

"At the end of the day it is about saving lives, it is about creating fewer victims, family members, children without parents."

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver has said the government will review giving police the authority to make immediate vehicle seizures, but hasn't made a decision yet.

McIver is expected to make recommendations to Premier Alison Redford by the end of next month to improve safety on Highway 63, the main link between Edmonton and the oilsands region around Fort McMurray.

Knecht said he and the chiefs of some of the major police services in Alberta will discuss excessive speeding at a meeting in a few weeks. He said the problem is bigger than just the single lane portions of Highway 63.

He said the association, which represents all police services in Alberta including the RCMP, may also draft a new resolution on the issue this fall for presentation to the government.

Their 2009 motion called on Alberta's solicitor general to allow on-the-spot seizure of vehicles belonging to drivers caught speeding more than 50 km/h over the limit, and impounding them for seven days. The government turned it down.

At the time the chiefs wrote that police were continually ticketing people for excessive speeding and the change was needed in the interest of public safety.

A similar policy brought in by British Columbia in 2010 for people caught driving more than 40 km/h over the speed limit has resulted in 10,387 vehicles being seized and temporarily impounded.

Within one year, the number of fatal and injury-related crashes related to speeding was cut in half to 105 compared to the previous five-year average, according to the B.C. Ministry of Justice.

Knecht said such results can't be ignored.

"I certainly support it and I know a lot of my colleagues would as well. You look at what has happened in British Columbia and how they have dropped the number of people killed due to excess speeds on B.C roads every year, quite significantly since their law came into effect," he said.

"The proof is in the pudding. Seizing vehicles does seem to work."

Under Alberta's current traffic laws, speeders who drive more than 50 km/h over the limit are fined, given six demerit points and have to make a court appearance.

Knecht said immediately taking away vehicles from people in such cases would do more to deter bad drivers than a speeding ticket.

Alberta police have issued more than 4,000 speeding tickets in recent weeks, including more than 500 on Highway 63.

In one case earlier this month Edmonton police ticketed a motorcyclist who was driving 264 km/h on Anthony Henday Drive, a freeway around the perimeter of the city.

Knecht said the man simply drove away on his motorcycle after being charged with speeding.

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