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Driver worries about on-ramp speed trap

Published November 16, 2012
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Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: To get to Hwy 401 westbound from the Hwy 404 southbound HOV lane, you travel through a curved underpass. My beef is that this on-ramp has an artificially low speed limit of 40 km/h because they force you to the outside radius of the road, in order to create a shoulder area in the inside radius.

Many drivers will drift into the inner portion of the curved road so they can drive faster. However, police are often hiding on the inside shoulder, where they can’t be seen around the curve by approaching traffic.

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I feel this is a blueprint for disaster. If I drop to 40 km/h, high-speed traffic comes screeching up behind me, barely able to slow down in time. A driver can come around that blind curve for too quickly, crash into police, and hurt someone or worse.

Yes, drivers aren’t “supposed” to speed, but most do. Frankly, setting up a police radar trap there, with the artificially low limit, borders on entrapment and is just plain wrong.

A: Police enforcement at that location is likely for seatbelts or single occupant vehicle in HOV lane, not speeding, as the speed limit on Hwy 404 and Hwy 401 is 100 km/h (black letters/white sign). The black on yellow sign with the 40 km/h ramp speed is an “advisory limit” only. It’s a good idea to follow it, particularly in bad weather or if loaded, but the actual limit on the on-ramp is still 100 km/h.

While there are HTA charges of “fail to drive in marked lane, drive — off roadway, and pass — off roadway,” there are some recent legal decisions in relation to driving onto the shoulder and crossing the “bullnose” (converging shoulder area where a through lane and ramp lane meet) that concern enforcement of those sections.

Stephen Parker of Pointts (www.pointts.com), a ticket-fighting paralegal firm, adds:

In 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by York Region in relation to HTA S. 154(1)(a) “Fail to Drive in Marked Lane” and “bullnose” crossing. (Here, the appeal court upheld the lower court’s acquittal of a driver ticketed for passing other traffic by crossing through the bullnose.)

There was also a Provincial Offences Act appeal by the City of Mississauga in 2005 under S. 150 (2) — “Pass Off Roadway.” This too, was dismissed in relation to the bullnose, so that’s why the police started charging under S. 154(1)(a).

But, in the situation you’ve described above, drifting onto the shoulder could result in a conviction under 154(1)(a). The police are usually in this particular location for HOV lane offences (i.e. only one occupant).

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