Sorry Officer, no lives saved today

The author, Chris Klimek from Oshawa Ontario, is a software engineer and the founder of – group demanding Ontario 400-series highway speed limits match globally recognized limits of 120 and 130 km/h.

Is there anybody who appreciates OPP cruisers parked on the medians and shoulders of provincial 400-series highways? Is there anybody who feels a great sense of safety and joy upon passing one? It’s for safety, we’re told. However, is it really?

Most of us dislike police presence on the roads, especially our world-class multilane highways. Given the artificially low speed limit of 100 km/h when compared with many US states and, indeed, most industrialized countries, it’s no wonder, really. Most of us drive faster and break the law the moment we merge onto a highway. In fact, we typically hit our brakes when we see a police cruiser, and that’s hardly safe. It’s also rare to see the OPP nailing that left lane hog which seems to add insult to injury.

So what exactly are police doing on our fine freeways? Scientifically speaking, not much of anything useful, and often quite to the contrary. The “speed kills” mantra, which has been used to justify highly paid OPP traffic patrolmen handing out expensive, painful and humiliating speeding citations on our roads, was conceived in the early 70s during the oil embargo era. Many countries reduced freeway speed limits to save fuel and simultaneously observed lowered fatality rates. That time also coincided with other factors including the growing adoption of mandatory seat-belts, which undisputedly saved many lives and with global recession and significantly reduced travels caused by quadrupling of oil prices by OPEC.

Al Gullon from Ottawa, a Traffic Safety expert and former Transport officer for the Canadian Armed Forces, has spent a good part of his life travelling and studying traffic patterns and fatality rates in Canada, Europe and around the world. He says countries which did not reduce speed limits also saw dramatic drops in fatalities during the 1970s. Gullon says, ”scientifically speaking, that which happened in all countries, cannot be attributed to that which occurred in only some of them”. In other words, if reduced speed limits were the main cause of lower fatality rates, wouldn’t countries which did not bring their speeds down observe a continuing high crash and fatality rate? Perhaps reduced speeds had nothing to do with saving lives after all?

In search for the truth, Gullon recounts, “I just followed the sign saying ‘Police next exit’.” The Ottawa resident found himself in Germany talking to police officers responsible for the unlimited-speed sections of the world-famous Autobahn. What he heard from the officers confirmed his many years of research: that speed, contrary to the popular opinion influenced by the “speed kills” industry, has no impact on freeway safety. Low autobahn fatality rates, ranking better than the US and Canada averages, seem to confirm that.

“So what causes accidents?” Gullon asked and before the last word was out of his mouth he heard in a loud tone of voice: “Inattention!” And that’s from none other than the autobahn polizei, who see vehicles orderly “flying by” their unmarked cruisers at well over 200 km/h at times! Given proper lane discipline, Gullon was told by the German police, cars can travel as fast as they want as long as the driver pays full and undivided attention and remains entirely focused on the road ahead. Not surprisingly, high speeds subconsciously require full concentration and a firm grip on the steering wheel. Low velocities, on the other hand (such as those thoughtlessly suggested by the 400-series speed limit signs), invite complacency and boredom which can cause distraction, possibly resulting in a crash.

”We […] have absolutely no problem with higher speeds. We’ve discussed it often, and very often the discussion was that it was unsafe. But our statistics show this is not the case,” Dr Ulrich Mellinghoff, a German safety expert confirms.

The state of Montana also did not post numerical speed limits from 1994 to 1999 on its highways. Following a legal turmoil involving the vagueness of the “reasonable and prudent” speed limit which existed at the time, the state was forced to impose a general speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph) in 2000. If the proponents of “speed kills” were right, one would expect the reduced speed limit would have resulted in less fatalities. So what happened to the fatality rate? Absolutely nothing. The numbers remained unchanged and fluctuated year-to-year as they’ve done before.

If “speed kills,” as our home-grown “highway safety experts” suggest, due to the frequently cited laws of physics, stopping distances and exponentially magnified impact forces, the concept of unlimited roads in Montana or the German Autobahn would never work. Yet it has worked and still does; and has for decades in the case of Germany, with insultingly low fatality rates.

Our public authorities seem reluctant to acknowledge that fact, while happily ticketing innocent drivers. Inconvenient truth?

So, sorry speed trap operating officer, odds are you did not save anybody’s life today. In fact you likely pulled over a reasonable driver travelling at a safe speed. Montana used to call them “reasonable and prudent” speeds for a reason; those words were to remind drivers to carefully choose their optimal travel speed by themselves. And so they did with success, just like the Germans do every day, while carefully watching the vehicles in front of them, rather than the police cruises hidden on either side of the road. So not only have you not saved anyone, you have inflicted financial pain on yet another driver whose only sin was to drive at a “reasonable and prudent speed” that unfortunately does not match the one posted on our speed limit sign.


  1. bugaboo

    July 27, 2013

    there will always be people who don’t like the laws where they live and want to change them to suit each person. the definition of civilization and civilized includes living by a set of common rules. Those rules are set by authorities who are given the authority through an election process (in the free world). If you don’t like the rules(laws) of the civilization you live in, feel free to pull over at the next exit and drive to another civilization where you are happier. I for one have seen the carnage by stupid drivers who think they can travel at high speeds like race drivers, but who not have the driving skill to adjust to road conditions or changing traffic patterns. So give us a break, and move off the road if you don’t like the 100 hmh speed limit. Keep my family safe and alive by keeping yourselves off the road and buy a plane.

  2. Dave

    June 5, 2013

    There’s plenty of advocacy for this on U.S. Freeways & interstates as well. I compare it to the gun control issue. Freedom at any price.
    There’s one very good reason why it doesn’t make sense. It’s called fuel conservation. Fuel consumption & GHG emission goes parabolic above 100 km/h. We will soon have a climate crisis if we don’t start doing something about it. Higher speed limits are certainly not environmentally friendly.

    • Ian

      June 5, 2013

      That’s a rationalization and not a justification. You might drive an economy car flat out at high speed, consume less fossil fuel and emit less GHGs than someone driving a light duty truck at 60 or 70 mph.

  3. Mark

    January 18, 2013

    What a bunch of idiots. Drive faster eventually you will kill someone, hopefully only yourselves.Your arrogant selfish selves.

    • Ian

      January 18, 2013

      Mark, we (SENSEBC) are not advocating people drive faster. Speed limits don’t determine travel speed. Understand we are advocating highway speed limits based on the actions of the safe, current and reasonable majority and the upper end of safe travel speed.

  4. Korry Zepik

    January 17, 2013

    Isn’t driving over 90 – 100 kph inefficiently putting excess green house gasses into the air. Science tells us that if we continue like this we will wipe out humanity including killing our own offspring. Wouldn’t that be immoral? Maybe we should relax more. Live closer to work. Stay at the cottage longer and drive there less often.

    We all can’t get a job in cottage country. There are only so many jobs for squirrel counters but if we kill the planet the squirrels will look at us as if we are nuts.

    • Ian

      January 18, 2013

      Korry, we are not debating green house gases here. DRIVING puts green house gas in the air. For that matter HUMANS put green house gases in the air. No debate from us.

  5. Celia

    January 16, 2013

    Hi it’s me, I am also visiting this site regularly, this site is really fastidious and the users are actually sharing good thoughts.

  6. Noone

    December 5, 2012


    Don’t ask WHY. see how people drive. most want to go faster because :

    a) they don’t mind being home while you’ll still be in your car
    b) they reduce severe fatigue by getting places sooner and reducing time in the car
    c) they drive the way highways were designed (120-130+++ kmh)
    d) they love driving in itself. Ie. if you want to understand that concept, next time do us a favour, go on an empty 80kmh road outside of the city and drive at 50kmh. see how long you’ll last before you…. step on the gas and driver FASTER! (then ask yourself: “why did I just step on the gas since I am in no rush to get anywhere?” Do the same on an empty freeway, if the limit is 110, drive at 80 for a while and you’ll understand why your question is plain dumb.

    Finally, go ahead and ask the cops for a ticket next time you feel like getting home faster and in a more enjoyable way. We are fighting for your LEGAL right to do it whenever you want to or have a need to (since it does NOT affect the fatality/crash chance rate in ANY way), even if most of the time you prefer to drag along at a much slower pace (which would also remain your legal right). I can guarantee you that if we raised the speed limit to 130 on those safest stretches, you’d be the first one to set your cruise at that speed and enjoy the heck out of it and all the advantages that come with it. Unfortunately by that time, you will NOT have helped us get there. And we need everyone to get it done, even confused sceptics such as yourself. Happy motoring! (below the posted speed limit!)

  7. Dylan

    December 5, 2012

    What about when you work a job like I do where I only get to go hone every two Weeks and I have to drive over 500Kms to get home? That extra 20Kms/hr ends up saving me over an hour.and like wise for my friend whom does the same thing but travels 1200/Kms!
    And only getting six days of, I like to enjoy EVERY hour of my time off!

  8. James C. Walker

    December 5, 2012

    IF the purpose of posted speed limits were safety, which is NOT the case in Ontario, then posted limits would be set at the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions. This is the method that almost always produces the highest safety, the smoothest traffic flow, and the fewest accidents. On rural Ontario 400 series highways the limit would be 130 kph in most places. Urban 400 highways would be 100, 110, or 120 kph depending on the particular areas involved.

    This change in philosophy to post speed limits for safety would reduce fatalities and improve safety province-wide. But the only way Ontario voters will get these safety improvements is to replace all the officials who operate the transport department on the “fear and superstitiion” principles that have been in place since the early 1970’s. Most of the USA has moved toward science and safety in traffic laws. Ontario is stuck in the “fear and superstition” era and will stay there until voters DEMAND change.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  9. Carew

    December 5, 2012

    Kevin, 10 minutes is probably about what people would save each way to and from work. Add it up and see how many hours every year you get not spent sitting in your car wasting time and money-time that could be spent more usefully, not to mention the billions of dollars that would be saved in time and gas from those that use our roads for their livelihood.

  10. Kevin

    December 5, 2012

    I have to ask an important question(or more). Why do you (or anyone) NEED to drive faster than posted limits? What is the purpose? Theoretically yes, you will get somewhere faster, but why do you need to? I can understand more time at home etc, but if you need to be somewhere, is there really a problem, in the grand scheme of things, missing out on a few minutes?
    Isn’t there something to be said for planning, instead of leaving things until the “last minute”? “Plan your work, and work your plan”, is something we should all strive for. Driving faster, just to save a few minutes time really isn’t worth it. The extra costs in fuel, and the extra wear & tear really aren’t worth saving 10 minutes on a commute are they? You repeatedly reference other countries laws and studies. What about studying the areas you are complaining about? Look at the population and traffic of the GTA. Most times its impossible to drive faster than posted limits. Look at the lower mainland of BC. The infrastructure and again, population, makes it impossible to drive faster.
    Regardless of your opinion the current laws are just that, laws. There are put there for a reason. If your opinion differs there are appropriate ways to deal with that other than speeding, and subsequently complaining about the tickets/fines you get from disobeying these laws.

    • Ian

      December 5, 2012

      Kevin: I’ve not heard too many people remark that slower is preferable for many things, particularly transportation. We build new bridges, high speed roads and all kinds of infrastructure to move goods, services and people efficently. In BC we spend over a billion dollars a year on new roads and maintenance. If your theory is correct, that we don’t need to save time with our commutes, then we probably don’t need to spend the money… right?
      To answer your questions directly, people DO drive faster than posted limits, only when the posted limits are not set properly. We have some very good roads in BC that are engineered for speed. And, no surprise, people will naturally, intuitively, and by the way safely, drive them as intended. The areas we’ve been complaining about have been studied and you can see them referenced here:
      Do you believe that people should just blindly follow laws, or do you believe that laws in a democracy should be based on science and empirical evidence? The law is what is being questioned as it should be. The methodology utilized in BC needs revision and politics need to be taken out of speed limits. You’ll find more on that assertion in the link above also.

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