Saanich police respond to criticism after speeding centenarian let off with a warning

Though some comments supported the officer's judgement, many people questioned why a ticket wasn't given

Saanich police last week took the unusual step of defending one of its officers, following a flood of criticisms received about the story of a 100-year-old driver who wasn’t fined even though he had been caught speeding.

The Saanich News first ran the story in our Friday, March 9 edition. The traffic safety officer was conducting speed enforcement on Cordova Bay Road March 6.

An incoming vehicle was clocked travelling 50 km/h in a school zone. When the car was pulled over, the officer found that the driver was a centenarian with a spotless driving record.

He was let off with a warning.

The story was picked up by other news outlets across Canada, including the Toronto Star.

Sgt. Dean Jantzen said the incident garnered a lot more public attention than expected.

Police received comments in support of the officer, but they also heard from many people who questioned why a ticket wasn’t given, even though the senior was clocked speeding in a school zone.

“We are always, always mindful that each and every officer on the streets has discretionary authority in situations such as that,” Jantzen said. “It’s difficult to armchair quarterback that when you’re not there in the moment.”

The News received a number of letters and comments about the story.

“Being a grandfather, I expect drivers to respect the speed limit within my granddaughter’s school zone. Equally, I expect those drivers that exceed the limit … to be severely reprimanded, charged and fined,” wrote one Uxbridge, Ont. resident, who read about the incident in the Star.

The police department’s response, posted on its website, stated that the officer has to “weigh the totality of the circumstances and establish an effective means of correcting or preventing similar behaviour.

“Likely taken into consideration in this case was the driver’s 84 years of clean driving, and the officer’s recognition that a ticket with a fine was perhaps not required to correct the driving behaviour,” Const. Matt Cawsey wrote on the website. “The purpose (of traffic enforcement) is not punitive, but preventative and corrective.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com