Judge: Speed limiters are unsafe, violate rights

Speed limiters are unsafe, arbitrary and violate the principles of justice according to a recent precedent-setting ruling by an Ontario trial judge.

The decision came down this week in a case involving owner-operator Gene Michaud, of St. Catharines, Ontario. He filed a constitutional challenge last year against the province over the law that requires heavy trucks 1995 and newer to have a working speed limiter set no higher than 65 mph. The court ruled in his favor.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association provided some funding for Michaud, and in a statement said it agrees with Judge Brett A. Kelly, who said that a law requiring speed limiters on trucks violates a truck driver’s right to personal safety.  He also ruled that it violates the principles of fundamental justice because it does not make the roads safer as the province claimed, but instead creates more danger.

Michaud testified that the speed-limiter law violated his right to security as a person under Canadian law because his vehicle speed was capped below the flow of traffic in many jurisdictions. He recalled numerous situations in which he felt “bound and unsafe.”

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said the Association took on the case because the precedent is important to owner-operators on both sides of the border.

“This case will impact our Canadian members and also our U.S. members, both those who travel in Canada and those who may be subject to similar types of regulations in the U.S.,” Johnston said.

Other testimony presented also included research showing that uniform speeds are safer than when vehicles travel at different speeds. A forced speed differential, therefore, creates increased danger of collisions.

The judge agreed and said in his written ruling: “His ability to have full care and control of all aspects of the vehicle and therefore safety is impaired as opposed to improved, and the situations described by Mr. Michaud – while they may be at times examples of poor driver practice – they are directly and indirectly the result of the regulation. Mr. Michaud has reason to be concerned for his security of person as he is being placed in a dangerous situation.”

The judge also said the speed-limiter law violates the principles of fundamental justice because it is arbitrary and does not do what the province said it would do in making roadways safer.