In the video, Fryer gets pulled over for speeding by a Vancouver police officer and his Nissan R34 GT-R is impounded. Fryer maintains he was just driving at the speed of other traffic, but the cop charges him with excessive speed, which in British Columbia is anything faster than 40 km/h over the speed limit.
The details of the charge, or whether he’s innocent or guilty, really don’t matter here. Fryer will get his day in court and he can argue his case then. What matters is that whatever happens, the car was towed away and impounded, and Fryer was left without a vehicle for a week and an invoice for almost $500.
That’s the law in British Columbia and several other provinces, and now, as of Canada Day, Ontario has stiffened its own penalties for excessive speeding. It’s doubled the length of the roadside impoundment to 14 days, and more than quadrupled the roadside licence suspension to 30 days. Yes, this is a car video, but these new rules will no doubt have a severe impact on motorcyclists and their insurance rates.
I wrote about this back in April and argued that such power in the hands of police beside the road is unreasonable – by all means, throw the book at speeders in court after a fair hearing, but do not allow such harsh punishment to be meted out beside the road by a single officer at his or her sole discretion. It is excessive, and it is an abuse of legislative power.
Now this DDE video helps prove my case. The police officer is clearly rattled by being filmed, and who knows what was included and what was removed from the final cut, but Fryer insists he was never told what speed he was being charged with driving, or given any details of how he was caught. The cop pulls him over, tells him his car is about to be taken from him, and literally throws his ticket at him through the window. Fryer is very polite and asks the officer for information about the radar gun he used, but he’s only told “you can request it by the proper method.” Which is from the court, while his car is impounded.
Cops are only human and they perform a difficult job. I respect and appreciate most of them for what they do and how they represent themselves. Once, I was pulled over for speeding and the officer was so polite and professional when he gave me a well-deserved ticket that I wrote to his chief to commend him. Another time, the cop used his discretion to give me a huge break that was far more constructive than any penalty.
However, I’ve also been pulled over by cops who are obviously having a bad day and who used their discretion quite differently. Once, I was charged with speeding when I know I was not speeding, but it was my word against the digits on the radar gun (presumably another vehicle) and I had no way to prove my innocence; I paid the ticket and put it down to karma. Another time, I was charged with two separate speeding offences when I rode my motorcycle from a 60 km/h limit into a 50 km/h limit. Again, I know I was not speeding at the time.
One of the best of them was when I was hauled over on Hwy. 401 by a police officer who wanted to know why the licence plate on my press fleet Kawasaki was blue, and who told me to sit down beside the highway and be quiet and wait a long time while he checked my lack of paperwork – he ended up giving me a lights-flashing escort to my appointment with his Commissioner.
The point is, I’m old enough now that while I respect the police as a force, an individual officer has to earn my respect for the job that he or she performs, because I’ve seen so many who don’t deserve it. It’s the same for doctors and teachers. Just a couple of bad apples can ruin the entire profession.
Now, in Ontario, such exchanges beside the road between police and drivers and riders will only become more heated. More suspected offenders will run from police, who they know to have even greater power to change their lives whether they’re guilty or not.
So place yourself in that YouTube video. Imagine that you weren’t actually speeding, or at least, travelling no faster than 85 per cent of the rest of the traffic. Imagine the pickup truck in the lane beside you was guilty of the excessive speed, but the police officer thought it was you. Now imagine that you’re in Toronto and not Vancouver, and that cop just pulled you over and took away your motorcycle for a month and your licence for two weeks, and it’s all his word against yours.
You’ll have your day in court and justice may or may not prevail, but one thing’s for sure: your bike’s gone, your licence is gone, and you’re on the hook for thousands of dollars, all because a police officer made a mistake, or simply because he was having a bad day. That doesn’t sound like justice to me.