by Cedric Hughes, Barrister & Solicitor with regular weekly contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.B.   

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Speed Kills

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It was never meant to be a grocery-getter.  Generally, no motor vehicle with its own Wikipedia page is anything but a ‘high performance’ machine with an impressive price tag and a corresponding long list of specifications and measurements.  The ‘it’ is, of course, the Audi R8, an exotic, brilliant sports car much in lower mainland news recently.  Only 1,436 sold here since they were first available in 2007.  And there is a recent news report about one exploding on the Burrard Bridge after a devastating collision with a taxi.

And just to be clear: first came the R8 doing its thing, namely, driving at the high speed which its 540 to 610 horsepower—depending on the model—engine was capable of generating, then the loss of control that resulted in a collision with the oncoming taxi, then the explosion that killed the driver and shattered the R8.

The death of the R8 driver was Vancouver’s eleventh road fatality of 2017.  The 68-year-old taxi driver and the 30-year-old taxi passenger, both Vancouver residents, increased the seriously injured list.  Both were hospitalized after being rescued by witnesses who responded bravely, with haste, to remove them from the badly damaged taxi.

What hasn’t been said already about expensive sports cars driving at excessive speeds on lower mainland bridges?  In previous Road Rules articles addressing this high risk driving behaviour, the issues were the illegality and the corresponding punishment, and, implicitly, whether or not the existing laws are a sufficient deterrent.

Owners of high powered expensive vehicles—roughly $200,000 (Canadian)—are likely undeterred by fines even in the thousands of dollars range.  These were the benign cases though: no loss of life, no serious injury. Just a sad little high-performance sports car locked up in a cold uncaring impoundment lot, quite the contrast to its usual heated garage and custom-designed dust cover.

At the time of the R8 catastrophe Vancouver had just experienced, its first serious snowfall of this winter season.  The roads were slick, some still snow-covered.  And every lower mainland driver knows that bridge decks can be particularly slippery in freezing temperatures.  Testing high performance capabilities in these conditions borders on outright self-destructive wish fulfillment, to say nothing of the disregard for the risk posed to other road users.  At the time of writing, however, the driver has not been identified, and no causation beyond speed as a factor has been offered by investigators.  We should not speculate.

 Luxury cars driving at top speeds on scenic roadways, always clear of other vehicles, also bring to mind car advertising and the persistence of this meme, despite the many car advertisements that do not resort to it, and perhaps because of the extra effort made, rank amongst the ‘best in the business’: for example, Honda’s Cog, Volkswagen’s Ya Ya Ya, Nissan’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, all original, captivating, informative, and fun.  With all the talent, experience, and resources available in the car advertising world, we are well past the need for any reinforcement of the high-speed-empty-road meme. 

Cedric Hughes

huges & company law corporation vancouver


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