The automotive enthusiast community in Southern Ontario has been in a bit of a tizzy over the past 24 hours about the story of a convoy of MINI drivers that was pulled over on Sunday afternoon north of Toronto.
This is a story of driving, questionable journalism and even more questionable policing. It affects each and every driving enthusiast in Ontario.
Late last night I received an e-mail from Leighton Irwin asking if I had heard anything about how the OPP had “nailed a whole convoy of Minis on #11 North of Barrie on the weeekend. From the footage shown there were several cruisers pulling out and pulling over a lot of the convoy of Minis (new version) Supposedly nailed several for 50 over and seized cars etc. Also apparently 11 cars (not sure if they were all Minis) had children in them and the OPP are involving the Childrens Aid Society.”
I found and watched the news report on A Channel, which were there for the event. As I listened carefully, I was astonished to find that the news coverage had been scripted in such a manner that it sounded like the car siezures, 50 overs and CAS involvement had applied to the convoy of MINIs. I decided a bit of digging was in order.
The news report with the offending verbiage was removed from the A Channel web site at some point earlier today. So much for the accountability of traditional media vs. new media, but that is another topic. Sort of. Another time perhaps.
Through the power of the interwebs, I have been speaking with one of the MINI drive event organizers. He has done such a great job outlining the day’s events that I have no choice but to respect his request for anonymity:
The “Rattler Cruise” Background:
We hold a cruise up in the Muskoka area in the Spring and the Fall called the Rattler (My wife and I came up with the name because of the effect that the run has on both your body and cars and the fact that Torrance Barrens is one of the last strongholds of the Massasauga Rattle snake). The cruises are designed as family friendly days out and pretty much mark the beginning and end of the ‘cruising’ season. This is the 5th running of the spring event which started out with only 20 or so Minis. The spring and fall cruises now attract some 40 and 60 plus Minis respectively.
2010 Spring Rattler (25th April 2010)
Approx 2 weeks ago I informed the OPP (web site message) about the cruise as a courtesy because our numbers had reached 30 plus. I informed them of the route, timings and approx numbers and passed on a link to the Rattler Cruise thread on our site. I’ve always figured that it is better to work with the law rather than against it. I did not receive a reply, nor did I expect one as it was an informative message, not one requesting any input.
On the morning of the event at The Colossus (Highway 400 and 7), those attending from the Toronto area and beyond met to form a convoy up to the cruise start point. All was well and they even got a visit from the OPP who informed them that it should be a nice driving day and that there was only one other patrol on the 400 Northbound. Regardless of this, cruisers are always reminded that they should keep to the speed limits because a line of Minis always attracts attention from everyone.
The Colossus group was joined part way up the 400 by an OPP motorcyclist, who did not seem in any way concerned with the driving behaviour of those in the convoy. No one saw any ‘ghost’ vehicles or aircraft (the cloud base was low anyway).
When the convoy approached the Memorial Avenue junction with Highway 11 the convoy noticed flashing blue and red lights approaching from the right and naturally assumed that it was emergency vehicles responding to an accident. They were totally surprised to realise that they were the focus of the OPP’s attention. Some pulled to the left to allow the emergency vehicles to merge onto the highway; some had to brake hard to avoid hitting the car in front and those in the front, aware of the reality pulled over immediately closely followed by OPP cruisers.
In short it was a badly executed exercise, which could so easily have been avoided. The news cameras were already set up and the OPP seemed to be ‘playing to the crowd’. I cannot understand why the offenders were not ‘booked’ when they reached Webers as the OPP knew that was where they were heading. In all 4 cars were pulled over, three received tickets for 121-123kph in a 90kph limit and one received a warning. They were caught just as the 400 turns into 11, where the limit goes from 100-90kph. One other individual was stopped for operating a radar detector (idiot) and had his equipment confiscated and received a fine.
We saw several OPP cruisers and ghost vehicles on the Rattler (Southwood Road) and Highway 169 to Gravenhurst. There were also a couple of cruisers that pulled into the car park at Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst whilst we were having our lunch.
The speeding fines are the responsibility of the individuals, but the whole operation seemed to be planned. Why did the OPP not inform us that they intended to increase their surveillance of the highway that day? I know that when you are driving a cruise you should expect to draw some attention , but this seemed a little excessive. Maybe we should consider requesting an escort on future cruises? (it would be cheaper for the OPP) It makes me second guess the value in informing the OPP of the cruises that I plan in the future.
I would like to see better cooperation between the OPP and ALL motoring clubs. To this end I have contacted the OPP, but have not as yet received a reply.
There are so many issues to address here that I’m not sure quite where to start.
Perhaps a break in the story would be a good idea, as this is too long already!