Slow Down, Breathe Easier

ExhaustI’m in a world of mixed messages. Some are real, some are emotional, some are false and some come from the government. The one that I would like to tackle here might be a bit odd for DriveSmartBC but the consequences could be related back to safety. I’m thinking about travel speed and fuel economy because the faster you go, the more it costs, probably in more ways than one.

Whether you believe in global warming or not, I’m sure that none of us would happily breathe sitting next to the exhaust pipes of our vehicles. What comes out of that pipe, regardless of the current technology to reduce emissions incorporated into the vehicle, would harm us. The situation is significant as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Vehicle Emissions Standards) Act Policy Intentions Paper suggests that 40% of transportation emissions come from light vehicles and amounts to about 9.5 million tons annually.

Common sense tells us that doing what we can to reduce what comes out of the tailpipe would be a good thing for our health. Information from both the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Province of British Columbia confirms it.

In 2008 the provincial government enacted the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Vehicle Emissions Standards) Act. By this year, the Act was supposed to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 30% relative to the vehicle fleet current then. The act has never been proclaimed in force.

According to information published by Natural Resources Canada, in terms of fuel consumption versus speed, the “sweet spot” for light vehicle operation is between 50 and 80 km/h. It appears from the graph shown on the page that the most efficient speed to travel is just over 60 km/h.

How does this compare with the recent speed changes on B.C. highways? An increase in speeds above about 60 km/h means an exponential increase in fuel consumption. Increased fuel consumption means both an increase in greenhouse gas production along with various other pollutants in vehicle exhaust. The mixed message I see here is that we want to reduce pollution, but you are now being facilitated to drive in a manner that makes the situation worse.

The manner in which you operate your vehicle, regardless of the speed limit, also plays a significant role in fuel economy. Accelerating gently, maintaining a steady speed, anticipating traffic, avoiding high speeds and coasting to decelerate contributes to fewer dollars spent at the pump and reduced emissions.

Even if we don’t debate how fast we should go when we drive, the other fuel saving behaviours are also safety enhancing tactics for drivers. To use them successfully we have to pay attention to the driving task, anticipate what others are going to do and adjust accordingly. These should be basic driving habits.

The connection between saving money at the pump, breathing a little more easily and being a safe driver might now be a bit clearer. If you don’t like that old hack “Speed Kills!” in relation to maximum speeds, it might make some sense to change it to “Slow Down, Breathe Easier.”


Submitted by E-Mail

Raising speed limits make no sense, since drivers are allowed 19 KPH over with no ticket, So raising the speed limit raised the speed on high way 19 to 139 KPH and many are addicted to this, as are impaired and distracted drivers .

How to change this -vote in 2017, for change. It's a tough sell -many like their I phones , a few drinks or tokes and need to get to places quickly. When there is crash -it is road conditions.

I would feel safer on our roads if it was not the BC Liberals Wild west approach.

Speed limit vs Government?

I must say that you must lead a very dull life if you would vote away prosperity & job opportunities as a means of getting speed limits lowered.

 People have been talking about speed since we discouvered a way to attain any. In every crash since the phrase was initially coined, the reports always included the phrase "speed was a factor." That statement is about as nonsenseical as can be found in any Three Stooges show. Let me elaborate to show a good example. A friend of mine was killed by falling from the 6th floor of a building he was working on, as part of the construction crew. The report said that he had taken off his harness briefly, etc, etc. At no time did they mention that speed was a factor. The reason is simply that they had nothing to prove. However, it is my firm belief that had he hit the ground much slower, he would have picked himself up and gone back to work. Speed killed him.

Before you go off calling me a lunatic, think about the actual facts. The only reason the speed is constantly mentioned in motor vehicle crashes, is because they are trying to sell us an idea. In every accident, there are other signifigant factors. Most likely the most prevalent is stupidity. You will never see an accident report that says "stupidity was a factor." Why? Because the guilty party may take offence. Speed however doesn't complain.

My second point is that no one will ever see a report about how much fuel will be burned, or saved, by driving at any specific speed. Physics tells that the faster you go the more fuel it will take to attain the speed. The one most important factor that is never mentioned, is a simple power to weight calculation.

To prove my theory, we only need to take two pick ups for example. One with a V6 and one with a "gas guzzling" V8. Measure a distance of 10 km. Run both trucks at 90kmh for the route. Then run them both at 120kmh. You will notice that both trucks will you different stats. The V6 will give you the best mileage @90 whereas the V8 will gie the best mileage @ 120. In fact @120, the V8 will most likely beat the V6 in fuel economy. Now load the trucks with 1 yd of gravel. Run the same test and be amazed at how much cheaper the big engine is to run. In town, that same truck would be a pig on gas. Yet it is going slower. Go figure.

No one can determine a most fuel efficient speed for one vehicle and expect it to work for all. The less load on the engine, the less fuel you will burn. Each vehicle has an optimum cruising speed. Once that speed is reached, you will get your best fuel mileage and performance.



Last Two Provincial Elections

For both of the last two provincial elections I e-mailed the parties and asked them what was in their platform for traffic safety. None of them had anything and in most cases, I received either a form reply, no reply or was added to a propaganda mailing list.

I had hoped to place the information on this site to help those interested to decide who to vote for.

Hopefully it will be different for the next election, but I'm not holding my breath.

Rationalization 'Rn't Us

Different subjects, different criteria.  Efficient driving and maximum highway speeds, I mean.

I can remember my Dad explaining to me decades ago - before I was old enough to have a license - that the faster you go on a freeway, the worse your mileage would be.

It appears from the graph shown on the page that the most efficient speed to travel is just over 60 km/h.

So, there's an established fact.  But what do we take from this?  Should we be doing our best to travel just over 60 km/h as often as possible - such as on city streets, up back alleys, through school zones, and parking lots?

Obviously, that's a rhetorical question; it would be stupid to try to drive in that 50 km/h ~ 80 km/h 'sweetspot' as a matter of habit, regardless of conditions.  Inappropriate, in the driving environments I just mentioned.

Meanwhile, if our concern is for the atmospheric environment, then why drive? Walk. Cycle.  If in a metro area, take a bus or a tram or a skytrain.  Unless, of course ... these aren't actually efficient, time-wise.  Which is why you drive.

The manner in which you operate your vehicle, regardless of the speed limit, also plays a significant role in fuel economy. Accelerating gently, maintaining a steady speed, anticipating traffic, avoiding high speeds and coasting to decelerate contributes to fewer dollars spent at the pump and reduced emissions.

Probably the major role, all else being equal (which is to say that this applies whether you're riding a 250cc Motorbike or a 5000cc turbocharged SUV).  Not how you see people driving a lot of the time, though.

But let's go back to this 'driving environment' issue.  What is this problem that some people (many of whom seem to be called 'Anonymous' thus granting them the power to vent loudly while hiding from the rest of us) seem to have with the increase (to 120 km/h) maximum speed on the best of our freeways?  Think about it, for pity's sake! A freeway, by it's nature, is effectively a multi-lane one-way street, only without intersections, without pedestrians, without cyclists, without sudden changes in direction or gradient.  Heck, it seems designed for high speed travel.  NO, it IS designed for high speed travel!  Holy Speed Demons, Batman!

For both of the last two provincial elections I e-mailed the parties and asked them what was in their platform for traffic safety. None of them had anything and in most cases, I received either a form reply, no reply or was added to a propaganda mailing list.

Don't ever sign up as a volunteer for the Green Party; trying to get off their mailing list has proven challenging, to say the least.  Yes, that's who I voted for last time around.

'Traffic Safety' is surely a hot topic for politicians to address.  Generally speaking, congestion drives people nuts, makes them angry, and has a strong influence on how they may vote in the future.

So, generally speaking - and although it's an expensive undertaking - politicians often create ever more efficient ways to get around.  The ever-evolving and far-reaching Skytrain is a good urban example, designed to move people around as quickly as possible. The massive Port Mann Bridge is another.

Highway 5 (The Coquihalla) and Highway 19 (Island Highway) are superb roadways, designed to move traffic efficiently and safely.  To those who object to the speed limits on those roads, my advice is: don't use them!  If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.  There are alternatives (frankly, the 'old' Island Highway up the coast is a delightful drive these days, much less fraught) so use them, why don't you?

I'll tell you what, though.  Those sections of 19 running through Nanaimo - from one traffic-light controlled intersection to the next, with high volumes of traffic bunched up from 0 km/h to 90 km/h and back to 0 km/h repeatedly - scare me; as a driver, you're such a target for other driver's errors and inattention.  If I lived in those parts, I would be demanding that the politicos spend the money to upgrade those sections to encourage continuous smooth movement, albeit at higher speeds.

The key point that I would be trying to make, here?  If you believe that speed should be relative to conditions in your neighbourhood, then it should be relative in every neighbourhood.  Be it a Playground Zone - or a Freeway.


Let's not forget the impact of emissions when idling. They may be low compared to emissions while traveling at highway speed but often they are unnecessary. The most common example is the drive thru. The length of these lines at Tim Horton's and McDonalds has me shaking my head at times. Why not park and go inside? Of course these people probably also complain about the price of gasoline.

A Comment on Speed --Slow Down Breathe Easier

 There is far more to this speed issue than is presented.

1/. I am somewhat tired of the babbling about how much more it costs

to drive faster--which is bullshit

 Do the numbers

400 mi /or km trip whichever you prefer

at 50 mph / km  would take 8 hours

at 70 mph /km would take ~ 5.7 hours

2.3 hours of anyones time is worth far more than a slight increase in gas consumption--or do all you people work for nothing? (you pay your employees $10.00 and up to several $1000.00 per hour - yet your time is worthless-duh!!)

2/. Every time you slow traffic down, you increase congestion, which slows traffic even more and increases traffic risk of issues, not regarding the fact that 700 vehicles running at once makes more pollution than 500--give your head a shake

3/ Using your reasoning--the best thing to do would be go sit in your car-start it and not go anywhere-ha!



Speed Kills doesn't work, sooooo

Tim, you and many of the haters of higher speed limits often launch objections which are predicated by a false assumption which is that speeds will rise with a rise in limits. I'll give you that average speeds may rise a bit, but 85th percentile speeds will not. You can see this proof in other jurisdictions and on BC highways where limits have been raised in the past. Remember that the idea is to set speed limits at the upper end of safe travel speed which is determined by observing speeds which are already being travelled. Further, remember the desired outcome is to reduce speed variance (the difference in travel speeds) which creates more uniform flow of traffic (along with some left lane discipline). I'd argue that smoother flowing traffic will reduce fuel consumption. Do you disagree? Then there's another little issue that bears discussion and that is that most in BC really don't care about the fuel they consume as you can see from the vehicles they drive. My latest vehicle does somewhere between 5.5 and 7 ltrs per 100 kms. I could drive that vehicle flat out (almost double the speed limit) and still get better fuel economy than my truck gets. So it's an argument that doesn't wash with many, seeing as we still allow people to make choices when it comes to their chosen vehicles.

Sort of...

Where I tried to head with this article was to divorce the thoughts of speeding from road safety and equate it with health, greenhouse gasses and fuel consumption instead. Like you, I chose to buy a lighter vehicle, and my Toyota Tacoma has averaged 10.2 litres / 100 km as of my last check. That's not nearly as good as you, and something that I have been considering personally for reasons of both health and personal economy.

I'm not necessarily opposed to higher speeds, just the continual incidence of inappropriate speeds on our highways. Depending on your point of view, the new speed limit of 120 km/h in the province could be interpreted as inappropriate for reasons other than speed alone. The balance of fuel use, time expended to travel, emissions, safety and responsibility is a difficult one, yet one that we do need to consider. Just because we can afford to choose our convenience now does not mean that we should continue to do so.

This is going to be a difficult choice that is made confusing by our current government policies. We have greenhouse gas reductions on one hand and raised speed limtis which creates more of it on the other. My driving affects your ability to breathe clean air, so I have a responsibility to you as well as everyone else.

I won't agree that raising the posted limit does not result in an increase of the 85th percentile speed, but I will agree that the rise is not a great as, if it occurs, as the increase made to the limit.


Speed & economy


Very well put! I kind of got lost & off topic, but yes. What you said.


Submitted by E-Mail

I was absolutely floored this week to learn from a friend that a segment of diesel pick-up drivers are CHOOSING  to spew enormous clouds of black smoke by way of a computer control chip installed by an aftermarket customizer.  On a recent trip through the Rogers Pass, one of these polluters left enough thick, dense smoke in the tunnels to effectively blind the rest of us. 
Before this jaw-dropping revelation hit my ears I simply assumed that the black-smoke drivers were just lazy and cheap in avoiding engine tune-ups.  I, myself, drive a 2002 VW diesel that I keep in top shape, including engine tune-ups.
Is there any type of movement among environmentalists to ban these engine control chips from the market?  Are any laws in place that would allow for RCMP to pull over and fine a driver observed to be spewing clouds of filth?


It's called "Coal Rolling". Considered cool by the neanderthal crowd.

Don't hold your breath

Perhaps I'm in a cynical mood today, but I suspect that this will be hard to combat.

Is there any type of movement among environmentalists to ban these engine control chips from the market? 

I would guess that laws already exist prohibiting owners from screwing around with the vehicle's existing emissions systems, which would surely be sufficient to prevent them from being imported legitimately into Canada and sold here. But the internet makes virtually anything obtainable by anyone.

Are any laws in place that would allow for RCMP to pull over and fine a driver observed to be spewing clouds of filth?

If nothing else exists on the lawbooks, Section 144 (1) (b) should cover it.  Solid penalty there, too.  But seriously, do you think our Highway Patrol officers are actually going to put away their radar units and actively monitor traffic, looking for moving violations?  Let's not be silly, here.

Proper Speed Limits

Everybody has got an opinion about what a speed limit should be. Drivers do too and they all vote with their right feet.

Most of them will agree on a range of speeds and the top end of the range is referred to as the 85th percentile. That's where limits should be set and that's where North America, and BC lately have been heading after years of insurance industry and special interest, and I include law enforcement in that group, meddling.

The slower is better crowd fall all over themselves rationalizing their opinions.

DriveSmartBC, if the root of your bias is really curbing greenhouse gases lately, I take it you don't eat meat? You do realize the biggest cause of greenhouse gases on the planet is the consumption of meat I hope? Rhetorical question, no need to answer.

I also find amusing the comments coming from the same people which are usually something along the lines of  "there's no need for speed" or "what's an extra half hour of drive time"? These comments are laughable when one considers virtually everything we do in modern society is tied into the ability to do a task FASTER or more EFFICIENTLY.

And we confiscate many millions each year from citizens and drivers in BC to do the same for better transportation. BETTER is FAST, EFFICIENT and SAFE.

The best short attention span booklet I have seen on the subject of proper speed limits is put out by the State of Michigan and can be found here. Here's my favourite paragraph:  

"Isn’t a lower speed limit always safer? No, lower speed limits do not necessarily improve safety. The more uniform the speeds of vehicles in a traffic stream, the less chance there is for conflict and crashes. Posting speed limits lower or higher than what the majority of drivers are traveling produces two distinct groups of drivers - those attempting to observe the limit and those driving at what they feel is reasonable and prudent. These differences in speeds may result in increased crashes due to tailgating, improper passing, reckless driving and weaving from lane to lane. Inappropriately established speed limits also foster disregard for other speed limits, traffic signs and signals, and contribute to driver frustration."

Slow down - Beathe easier

I think there is a bit of an error being distributed by slowing down being better, even though I do agree that accident damage can increase with speed. That is only a small part of the issue

Pollution is directly relative to the number of vehicles running.

When you slow traffic -you increase the number of vehicles on the road at any one time plus the time that they are running--hence the pollution will go up dramaticly  probably on the order of 200-300% .If you need an illustration-go for a drive in Kelowna on hwy 97 in the mid afternoon going from downtown north from Capri to hwy 33 --Is posted 60kmph -actual speed is about 15kmph or worse and the pollution stench is almpst unbearable--slow is nice???

So from that angle slow is not cool.

Then when you factor in the value of time wasted, it become even less nice.

Also factor in the fact that many drivers consider 1-2 car lengths a resonable following distance at highway speed, less in town--problems can escalate rapidly.--I personally consider it vehicular intimidation--a part of road rage

Think about it.



Speed & Safety

It is a known fact that the more time you spend behind the wheel, the more likely you are of getting into an accident. The slower you go, the longer you are on the road with other traffic. This amounts to increasing your chance of getting into an accident. The best situation is to drive at a speed at which you feel most capable of controlling your vehicle. If that speed is slower than other traffic, keep right. Driving isn't complicated. Pay attention and think. Good Luch & stay safe.


breath easier

Many interesting comments. Driving faster may be more cost effective if you are in the business of travel or transportion, but there is no doubt that emissions increase with increased speed.Even if the trip is shorter the decreased fuel ecomony increases emissions.(read the June issue of Car and Driver)_

That was the subject -and there are many interesting observation on GHG's.

Safety professionals allways have a challenge of keeping safety high on the list of Prorities.The posts on this topic demonstrate the challengs.Going faster improves producitivity but increases risk and impact on the enviroment. If 75mph is good , then 87mph is better-why not 100 mph, if time is the only issue? Productivity seems be the reason for increasing speed limit, with lower priority given to safety and the environment.. 

And No, I'm not staying off high way 19 just because I do the speed limit. I try to be resposnsible.

Look at Fort Mac fires-climate change is here and it's not going away-ever.

Speed vs safety

Many are motivated to speed to save time.The intent of the article was to reduce impacts on GHG, but time seems always the motivation to push the limits on safety, and the environment,which is a far more complex issue.

One of my own examples of time vs safety is going up on the roof to clean off fir needles and inspect after winter storms. I have a safety line and harness, but it takes an extra 10 minutes to get set up. If it is a small job, I really have to think about the time it takes to follow the rules and be safe. So- I completly understand why people speed.

In my former work place, safety lines and harnesses became a habit after much educataion and some enforcement ,for the few who said it took to long.

On the road , there are the same peope who think that driving near the limit takes too long. Or the limit is too low.

Excessive speed is involved in most fatal traffic accidents.There is need for more enforceemnt and more education to prevent fatal accidents on BC roads.


Drivesmart, is that you using a Nom De Plume? LOL  Look, what we are discussing here are reasonable speeds for the reasonable majority. This is not rocket science and it doesn't need intellectualizing too much. It's pretty obvious when one drives in some / many places in BC, the sign on the side of the road has no bearing in reality. When that happens, the question becomes (or should become) is everybody an ass, or is the law an ass? We are not talking about Autobahns here, or even country roads in the UK. We are talking about multi lane divided / non divided roadways which encourage and can handle higher speeds, than are legal in BC, by the reasonable and safe majority of drivers. Look, if you want to be the odd man out and drive 20% slower than everybody else because you drive a VW Bus, a collector's car, or your perception of speed is different, or you mistakenly believe that your unnecessary vacation trip will somehow produce less GHGs for the planet because you drive slower.... have at 'er and keep right. Just stay out of my way because I WILL be passing you safely on the left in my fuel efficient vehicle with Z rated tires, airbags, ABS and 40 plus years of (more or less) crash free driving experience.

I Did Consider it...

...but decided it wasn't appropriate. Anything that I have contributed to this site is marked as DriveSmartBC. I'll take my lumps if I deserve them.

Actually, until I figured out how to assign comments to the anonymous user, a lot of posts marked "submitted by e-mail" are attributed to DriveSmartBC as well. These are comments that I received via e-mail from people who wanted to say something but did not want to bother with a user account.

I was kidding....

I do appreciate your candor. 

Keep breathing

Somewhat of a compliment to be Tim's ghost writer-the only advocate for road safety in BC. Nice to be accident free in BC for 43 years and still breaking the rules. Me too , 53 years. Good luck is  a big  part of this and wife of 47 years who keeps an eye on me and the "cop cars"-and other drivers.

I could not do the job that Tim and others did, and do in policing -too many nasty and difficult people to deal with, daily.I'm Thankfull that many choose this profession.As an Accident Prevention Supervisor ,I worked with many very competant managers and supervisors and even difficult union reps _I was not very welomed at times -"the bad news bear"-keeping the focus on safety.

New cars are safer, but not drivers. Some years go ,I was a passenger with friends  who could drive fast at above the limit and those who could not- those who could not -crashed. Luckily Iwas not injured as a passenger. I have made some mistakes but never crashed.

When I see Fatal crashes on divided high 19 , I know our leadership has made some mistakes. I know some driver can't drive fast without crashing-been there. This isn't Germany- it is BC -the Wild West.Licenceses in 11 langauges, Photo radar outlawed.

Allways a car enthusiast -I still drive a sport car. Lucky to only have one ticket in my driving history of 340 Dart , 5. 0 and 4.6 Mustangs and now A Corvette.Fast cars-slow driver-mostly.

As an Accident prevention supervisor ,I never celebrated our good safety record , but the efforts to get there.I know beyond any doubt -that fatal accidents are preventable.

I know that my 53 years of driving with one ticket and one minor accident are  mostly good luck and healthy respect for the laws of the land-and my wife, my radar detector .

I'm concerned that the BC Liberals don't get it on excessive speed.

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