The November 6, 2018 Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review: Our Analysis

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff did an excellent job of implementing the recommendations of the July 2014 Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review and establishing baselines for future analysis and review. There is valuable and well presented information contained within the 2018 Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review Three Year Post Implementation Update [and the 68-page 60 MB technical report] which was presented this week by MOTI Minister Claire Trevena.

This data both casts doubt on, and even refutes the Minister’s conclusions, as well as those suggested recently by some in media. These media stories were based on a recent report in Sustainability, called Road Safety Impact of Increased Rural Highway Speed Limits in British Columbia, Canada leading one to believe that the adjustments (upward) in speed limits resulted in across-the-board increased crashes.

The good news is that 16 – just above half – of the affected segments showed no reduction in safety and instead saw a 14% decrease in collisions.

While 15 of the 33 highway segments where speed limits were raised did show a reduction in safety, many of those appear to show no correlation with an increase in vehicle speeds. Of those 15 segments, the 85th percentile speeds remained the same or dropped in 7. The 15 segments saw only modest increases in actual terms. Three of the segments where speed limits were rolled back actually saw the serious collision rate either reduced or stay the same.

Noteworthy is that two of the 33 segments had already had a rollback to pre-2014 speed limits (from the earlier review) and they saw the largest increase of all collisions at 72.9%.

In summary, approximately half of the measured segments of highway saw a 14% decrease in collisions. And, while the other half saw an increase in collisions, only half of those segments saw an increase in travel speeds; in fact some even saw a reduction in travel speeds.

This information is NOT an indictment of principled engineering based decisions. On the contrary it proves the basis for our position that politicians, social and professional lobbyists should butt out and leave speed limit setting to the professionals who work in MOTI.

Yet the Minister, who doesn’t appear to know a lot about the file she’s overseeing, chose to bend to pressure and lower speed limits for any reason, without establishing causes or establishing the appropriate remedies. The position she took on Tuesday was that any roadway which saw an increase in crashes, for any reason, no matter how small, saw a speed limit cut by 10 km/h across the board. Some of the road segments had ONE bad year, which does not represent a trend.

We are mystified as to why the Minister would roll back speed limits on roads where motorists were travelling at lower speeds even after the speed limits were increased. Further, why reduce the speed limits on affected segments where the serious collision rates dropped after the speed limits were increased? This indicates to us there are other factors at play which have little to do with speed limits.

It’s fair to say the Minister did motorists, professional Ministry staff, and their processes a real disservice on Tuesday.

Speeding over the limit is clearly a minor player here and drivers will see limits revert because of an outlier year or factors unrelated to speed.

In fact, only 4 segments had exceeding speed limit as a top contributing factor which was at 2% of serious collisions. Instead, top contributing factors included Driver Inattentive (Distracted Driving) 25%, Road Conditions 15% and Driving Too Fast For Conditions 13%. It’s important to note the last category – although speed related – is generally driving under a posted speed limit in poor conditions.

As a result of the Minister’s apparent pandering to special interests on Tuesday; motorists, who were previously traveling at safe and legal speeds, will now encounter increased police presence to support and enforce some arbitrarily and politically set speed limits. This will mean more wasted police resources spent enforcing against minor violators of offences that aren’t the root problem, increased costs for vehicle travel, and frustrated (poorer) motorists.

October saw announcements by the NDP of ICBC rate hikes, dramatic increases to traffic fines and Driver Point Premiums and this cynical move by Claire Trevena will ensure drivers will be stuffing the coffers of the provincial treasury.

See charts below to illustrate our points – look for “Exceeding Speed Limit…”

Analysis of some of the rolled-back segments:

Highway 99- Whistler to Pemberton

Previous Speed Limit 80 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 102 km/h

New Speed Limit 90 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 90 km/h

Change in 85th Percentile Speed –12 km/h

Serious Collision Rate (Pre-implementation): 0.18 MVK; (Post-implementation): 0.28 MVK

Drivers are driving much slower, obeying the new limit.  Yet crashes are up +51.8%.  The Minister has ordered the speed limit back to 80 km/h and drivers will ignore that unreasonable limit and perhaps return to driving faster.  This is likely weather and/or other issues.

Highway 99 – Sea-to-Sky Highway (Squamish to Whistler)

Previous Speed Limit 80/90 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 105 km/h

New Speed Limit 100 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed. 107 km/h

Change in 85th Percentile Speed +2 km/h

Serious Collision Rate (Pre-implementation): 0.12 MVK (Post-implementation): 0.15 MVK

This represents a modest change in crashes  – however this occurred ONLY in 2016/17 (an outlier, perhaps weather).  The speed limit is being rolled back. Why?

Highway 1 – Abbotsford to Hope

Previous Speed Limit. 100 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 116 km/h

New Speed Limit 110 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 111 km/h

Change in 85th Percentile Speed –5 km/h

Serious Collision Rate (Pre-implementation): 0.08 MVK (Post-implementation): 0.11 MVK

Vehicle speeds are slower, greater speed limit compliance; yet crashes went up.  The Minister’s solution? Lower the speed limit.

Highway 5 – Coquihalla (Hope to Kamloops)

Previous Speed Limit 110 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 127 km/h

New Speed Limit 120 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 127 km/h

Serious Collision Rate (Pre-implementation): 0.21 MVK; (Post-implementation): 0.18 MVK

The Coquihalla Highway has been the most newsworthy road. Yet at 120 KM/H the highway had no problem, collisions are down and speeds stayed the same. The speed limit will remain unchanged.

Highway 97A – Vernon (Grindrod) to Sicamous

Previous Speed Limit 80 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 95 km/h

New Speed Limit 90 km/h; 85th Percentile Speed 95 km/h

Change in 85th Percentile Speed 0 km/h

Serious Collision Rate: (Pre-implementation): 0.29 MVK; (Post-implementation): 0.25 MVK

Speeds UNCHANGED, serious collision rate DROPPED; yet the Minister has rolled back the speed limit. Why?

Comments

  1. Ian

    November 10, 2018

    Robert: Ian here. Thank you for your comment. I don’t want to come off sounding entitled like the authors of the recent Post Media editorial but I do want it on record that there have been several ministers in the past, both NDP and BC Liberal, who’ve ignored us or simply refused to meet with us. Claire Trevena is one of them. In hindsight it always turned out to be for one or two of two reasons; either they have something to hide or they don’t have a clue what they are doing and they don’t wish to confront either of those issues. Transportation is one of those files where the Minister needs to be on his/her game, be passionate and intelligent. There’ve been several in that role in the past who I suspect I would not want to be in the passenger seat with.

  2. Robert Pestes

    November 10, 2018

    Minister Trevena really needs to sit down with her own officials without any lobbyists in the room, because her speed limit rollbacks are not based upon the data available to her, which makes clear speed limit increases were not the cause of modest increases in crash rates.
    It appears that safety lobbyists who don’t truly understand road safety now have the ministers ear, and we’re all going to be worse off for it. Minister Trevena should be sent to the back benches and replaced with someone who cares about the MOTI.

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