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BC: Speeding, Excessive Speed, and Speed Unsafe for the Conditions...

Mike A. Winnett. "A Review of Speed Camera Operations in the UK." PTRC Paper, (1994), p. 269.
"Accident reports will often suggest that the cause of an accident is traveling too fast for the conditions. However, it is important to bear in mind that traveling too fast for the conditions is not the same as exceeding the speed limit."

If you are involved in an traffic accident in British Columbia, a police officer will likely complete what is known as an MV104 Motor Vehicle Traffic Accident Police Investigation Report. These reports are compiled into the statistics published by the government and used for many purposes including the promotion of photo radar.

For each vehicle involved in a crash, up to three contributing factors can be assigned (e.g. alcohol, extreme fatigue, and driving on the wrong side of the road). In BC there is only one category relating to speed: Unsafe Speed, code number 31. The MV104 forms and resulting statistics do not differentiate between travelling too fast for the conditions and exceeding the speed limit - two very different conditions.

  • 'Speed Excessive For The Conditions'

  • would apply, for example, if you are travelling at 50 km/h on black ice on a highway with a 110 km/h speed limit. This designation is subjective depending upon road condition, vehicle condition, driver abilities, etc.
  • 'Speeding'

  • generally refers to exceeding the posted speed limit, and bears no relationship whatsoever to the current conditions.
  • 'Excessive Speeding'

  • (in British Columbia) means that you are travelling 40 km/h or more above the posted speed limit.
    It is very important to note that you may be 'Speeding' or 'Excessive Speeding' but not be travelling at 'Speed Excessive For The Conditions.' Conversely, and significantly more important, one who is travelling at 'Speed Excessive For The Conditions' may not even be 'Speeding.'

    British Columbia statistics used by the government and ICBC to promote photo radar lump all the above infractions together. An unskilled driver who causes an accident by misjudging his or her abilities and travelling at 'Speed Excessive For The Conditions', is interpreted to be 'Speeding,' while a competent driver who may drive at levels considered to be 'Speeding,' and thus receive speeding tickets, is considered to have the same accident potential as the unskilled driver.

    Furthermore, while many other traffic infractions may involve speeding in the commission of the offense, to attribute all accidents involving some aspect of speeding as speeding-related accidents is poor methodology, and grossly overstates the accident potential of a typical speeder but works well to promote photo radar. Some examples:

  • While it is estimated that about 57% of all fatalities in BC involve alcohol and/or drugs, and many of these involve unsafe speed, the vast majority of speeders would never drink and drive.

  • An oblivious driver who accelerates through a red or yellow light may (or, in many cases does not) exceed the speed limit in doing so, but may perceive this infraction as having a relatively low risk, whereas a competent speeder, cognizant of the risks would never perform this maneuver. See SENSE's press release on this subject.
  •  Rev: 1998.09.29 contact SENSEtext map of SENSE web siteback to SENSE home pageback to top of this page