Why we need higher speed limits in BC.

A recent drive between Hope and Kamloops on the Coquihalla Highway confirmed  that speed anarchy is the norm in British Columbia. During my trip, it seemed  nearly everybody was ignoring rules set by the provincial government and local  traffic authorities. Nobody travelled at or under the speed limits of 100 and  110 km/h, not even the lone RCMP truck that caused the bottleneck behind it at  20 clicks over.

If you say you don’t speed on high-ways, you are likely either not a driver,  a member of a small (sometimes annoying and dangerous) minority, or simply a  liar. Admittedly, some people are neither skilled nor responsible, and we need  laws (plus training and testing) to guide them. However, when the “law is an  ass,” as it clearly is on some highways in British Columbia, the predictable  outcome is people ignore it. Many drivers in B.C. and Canada simply don’t take  speed limits seriously.

Contrary to government propaganda that “speed is killing us,” exceeding the  speed limit on highways is not causing carnage and mayhem – other than the kind  instigated by police actions and government policies. Our government capitalizes  on the ambiguity of what we define as “good” and “bad” drivers. By demonizing  speed, they justify tens of millions in revenue from drivers, most of whom are  travelling at safe and reasonable speeds. In fact, more than half of the $65  mil-lion-plus in annual B.C. ticket revenue is attributable to offences related  to speeding.

How is this positive for driving safety and law enforcement integrity? Even  the B.C. Government Employees Union’s recent proposal to expand the B.C.  sheriffs’ mandate to include traffic enforcement as a “revenue-generating” tool  shows the distrust and cynicism that’s developed on a broad level. If B.C.  Police Association president Tom Stamatakis finds the proposal, as he says  “insulting to B.C. tax-payers,” he might consider addressing the root cause  instead of attacking the symptom.

The B.C government claims speed is a “major contributing factor” in more than  40 per cent of fatal crashes. Yet two-thirds of those are not the result of  exceeding the speed limit. In the catch-all category of speed, the B.C.  government lumps causes such as “too fast for conditions” (such as driving on  black ice, although under the speed limit) and crashes where drugs and alcohol  are overriding factors. A telling statistic – since exposure to risk is directly  attributable to time on the road – is deaths per billion vehicle kilometres  travelled. Canada ranks third from last among countries of the Organization for  Economic Cooperation and Development, including Ger-many, where speed limits and  travel speeds are significantly higher. If there was merit to the argument that  slower is better, it’s not apparent from the evidence.

We have some of the best roads in the world, with automobiles that are  increasingly better engineered for speed and safety than those in decades  past.

The Coquihalla originally cost $848 million and B.C. spends more than $1.4  billion on annual highway maintenance and construction. Why are we spending all  this money building and maintaining highways and buying ever faster and safer  vehicles, only to crawl along at 80 to 110 km/h?

You can travel all over the planet and experience great driving on worse  roads and in worse vehicles than in B.C. You will see teamwork among drivers to  ensure traffic flow and safety: Drivers signal lane changes, keep right except  to pass and pay attention. But come here and drivers are often adversarial. In  B.C., too often our laws protect stupid drivers and punish good ones; as a  result, awful driving is tolerated and some-times encouraged.

Not long ago, I followed a faster driver on Highway 1 who, in my opinion, was  a very good driver, the kind I felt safe being on the road with. I could  anticipate his moves and he was courteous, keeping his distance, keeping right  except to pass and using his turn signals. In fact, my passenger and I discussed  his driving and concluded it was model driver behaviour. Just west of Hope, an  RCMP cruiser, waiting on an on-ramp, apprehended him. It turned out they had  tracked him by helicopter on the Coquihalla at more than 40 km/h over the speed  limit. A charge of excessive speed in B.C. involves not only a fine and points,  but now a vehicle seizure. Those who set and execute the priorities for B.C.  traffic enforcement thought it better to spend thousands of dollars in  helicopter time to nail a safe and courteous driver, impound his vehicle,  forcibly abandon him and his family, and assess thousands in fines, fees and  penalty points.

I frequently avoid road travel in the province because I am more terrified of  law enforcement than I am of encountering irresponsible and dangerous driving.  And I say this as a motorcyclist who twice in the past ended up in hospital and  was once nearly killed, after being struck by two drivers, on different  occasions, who were dangerous for reasons other than their speed.

The problems on our roads have never been as simple as “speed is killing  us.”

There are more than 10,000 vehicles per day travelling the Coquihalla between  Hope and Merritt and more than 25,000 travelling all three segments when  Kamloops and Kelowna are included.

Think how many more people, goods and services could make use of the road if  30 to 60 minutes were reduced from travel time, and better, if the threat of  vehicle seizure was gone for simply travelling as the road was intended.

Until speed limits are set with the principle that the safe actions of the  reasonable majority are considered legal, it appears that politics and good  intentions trump what society is safely doing anyway.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Speed+limits+should+higher/7104107/story.html#ixzz24FUyJXpD

Comments

  1. john barrow

    December 6, 2013

    Excellent article. I totally agree with the author. Who is the author by the way?

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