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Speed limiters on trucks declared unconstitutional by Ontario court

Requiring trucks to be equipped with speed limiters jeopardizes the safety of truck drivers and those near them on the road, an Ontario court said Wednesday in declaring the law unconstitutional.

Truck driver Gene Michaud was charged under the Highway Traffic Act with not having a working speed limiter and he challenged the requirement on commercial vehicles, saying the speed limit of 105 kilometres per hour puts him in danger.

A justice of the peace in Welland, Ont., agreed, and declared that the law violates the section of the Charter that guarantees life, liberty and security of the person.

“Inability to accelerate, or not accelerate fully places a driver in a less-than-safe situation because we have taken some of the tools required to drive properly away from the driver,” justice of the peace Brett Kelly found.

“Mr. Michaud needs to be able to take certain precautions in the execution of his job that will take him out of harm’s way and keep him and those around him safe.”

Because the challenge happened at the provincial court level the law is not struck down across the province, but Michaud’s lawyer said he intends to fight similar cases using this decision.

“I would hope that the government sees what’s real in this case and that is the fact that these speed limiters don’t promote safety but rather discourage it,” lawyer David Crocker said in an interview.

“I hope the Ontario government realizes that the legislation, it doesn’t do what they want it to do and withdraws it.”

Michaud argued that not ever being able to drive faster than 105 kilometres per hour is unsafe because it means he is often not able to keep up with the flow of traffic.

The speed limit on the major highways in Ontario is 100 kilometres per hour, but Crocker said there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that people regularly drive 20 kilometres per hour over the speed limit.

“Particularly on the 400-series highways because the experts once again say people drive at the speed they are comfortable,” Crocker said.

An expert witness testified for Michaud that a greater difference in the rate of speed of vehicles on a highway will mean a greater number of collisions.

“In a nutshell, if all vehicles travelled at the same speed the amount of friction, and interaction between them, is minimized and the accident rate will be minimized,” Kelly wrote.

The ability to pass slower vehicles is hampered by the speed limiter, Michaud said, and it causes him to impede traffic when doing so. He also described a time when his vehicle began to jackknife and the only way to manoeuvre out of it was to accelerate.

The province argued that forcing vehicles to travel more slowly results in fewer fatalities and less severe collisions.

However, Kelly said, the government provided him no research papers to show the use of speed limiters has resulted in increased safety and a decrease in collision rates in jurisdictions that have implemented them.

Kelly also suggested the speed rate of 105 kilometres per hour was arbitrary, saying he could find nothing in the Hansard from when the legislation was introduced to scientifically support the number.

“When directly asked by this court how the government arrived at the 105 kilometre-per-hour number the answer was that they did not know,” Kelly said of the government lawyers.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General said the province is reviewing the decision. They would have 30 days to appeal.

The Canadian Press

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