Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Driving too fast is dangerous -- that much is clear

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Todd Dube's quixotic campaign against photo radar hit a roadblock Wednesday.

Dube and two supporters of his WiseUp Winnipeg anti-radar group were in traffic court to appeal tickets a mobile photo-radar unit parked near Grant Avenue and Nathaniel Street issued this fall. Dube argues the tickets are inaccurate because of the off-road radar location and the presence of light standards and other stationary objects. His claim has the backing of hundreds of drivers who argue they were unfairly ticketed near Grant Park High School.

He lost the argument.

Dube's main problem in court, other than the fact he's debating accepted local traffic-control wisdom, is he's not a lawyer. He brought along an expert witness, former police radar specialist Nick Kokil, to testify, but neglected to inform the court in advance. Kokil couldn't participate. Craig Sinkwich, one of the drivers appealing a ticket, promptly had his case adjourned. He'll be back in court in March when Kokil can testify.

Recent Israeli immigrant Ilan Harel bowed to Dube's persistent urging and went ahead with his case. Dube acted as "a friend of the court" and spoke for him. Harel didn't testify.

Because Dube isn't familiar with court proceedings, he missed his only opportunity to present evidence. Harel was found guilty of going 65 kilometres an hour in a 50 km/h zone. Dube says there will be an appeal.

Outside the hearing room, Harel said he had just dropped off a child at daycare on the morning of the offence and doesn't believe he was speeding.

Traffic court is an interesting place to spend a few hours. Anyone who doesn't think a ticket was justified or who wants to offer an explanation can tell their story. They hope for a break.

One guy got nabbed for driving an unregistered vehicle. He told court he was going through a divorce, had no fixed address and didn't know the bank account his automatic payments came from had been cancelled. He got a reprimand and court costs of $55.

A woman with limited English appealed a ticket she got when she blew through a red light. Police officers were sitting at the same light. She didn't testify, perhaps because the proceedings confused her. She shook her head vigorously as the officer told his side of the story. She was found guilty. The crowd favourite was a senior citizen clocked doing 77 in a 50 km/h school zone. She'd been nabbed at the same spot two weeks earlier.

She told court if she had a driving flaw, it was likely going too slow. She's a senior citizen after all, she shrugged.

Her main concern was she couldn't understand how the costs of tickets are calculated. They seem so high, she said. But she was easygoing.

"My city wants my money, I will help," she told the court.

Her fine was reduced from almost $400 to $208. She also got a stern warning to stop speeding if she doesn't want to pay the price.

A uniformed police officer at the back of the room expressed frustration during a court recess.

"The bottom line is she's speeding in a school zone. It irritates me when we lose sight of that."

That is the bottom line, but Todd Dube doesn't agree. In an interview Monday night, he argued against red-light traffic cameras. He says he has evidence that extending an amber light by one second would virtually eliminate red-light runners.

As for people who are caught speeding on camera, Dube blames what he perceives as Winnipeg's poor signage and erratic speed limits.

But Dube's argument that faulty radar, fast ambers and poor signage are to blame for most tickets hasn't been proven here. People do speed and they get caught. They deserve their tickets.

As for Dube's proof the Nathaniel Street and Grant Avenue tickets should be thrown out, he's got another chance to submit his evidence. Craig Sinkwich will be back in court March 22. This time, expert Nick Kokil will testify.

We'll see what the judge says.

In the meantime, let's try another approach. Slow down.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2012 B1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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