NEWS - Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review

BC FlagDid you notice a new, higher speed limit on one of B.C.'s rural highways this week? Changes have been made in response to the review and 1,300 km of highways have been posted with higher speed limits because of it. Perhaps the most interesting of these changes is the testing of variable speed zones on the Trans-Canada, Coquihalla and Sea to Sky Highways.

The keep right except to pass portion of the review promises changes to the wording of the Motor Vehicle Act to better define the situation and allow police to effectively enforce this requirement. New signs and pavement markings will be used to remind drivers and hopefully increase voluntary compliance. A pilot project on Highway 4 will require vehicles to give way if more than five vehicles are following.

Wildlife collision mitigation will see an increase in warning signage at problem areas along with a pilot of a wildlife detection system on Highway 3 between Cranbrook and Sparwood.

Finally, the definition of winter tire will be clarified along with changes to studded tire and chain regulations, a change in dates where winter tires are required and promotion of the Shift into Winter campaign are promised.




The controversy has begun!

The Victoria Times Colonist is reporting that Transport Minister Todd Stone went his own way on raising speed limits, despite opposition within his own government.

Quotes from the article by Lindsay Kines:

  • The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles favoured lowering speeds, and warned that even with the safety technology in new vehicles, “there are still new and older drivers who are more likely to crash at higher speeds.”
  • The road safety unit within the Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, expressed concern that raising speed limits would erode safety gains.
  • Allan Lamb, associate director of the Justice Institute of B.C., said the government’s decision flies in the face of research that shows the severity of crashes increases with speed. “Physics applies to this,” he said. “The faster you go, the more likelihood there’s going to be an injury or a fatality.”
  • Dr. Jeffrey Brubacher, an emergency physician at Vancouver General Hospital, sees the results of crashes every day. He said it’s “wishful thinking” to argue that increasing speed limits will make roads safer.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Brubacher, an emergency physician at Vancouver General Hospital, sees the results of crashes every day. He said it’s “wishful thinking” to argue that increasing speed limits will make roads safer. - See more at:


Speed Kills Your Pocketbook

Folks who have seen my posts and read my opinion on this subject will probably not be surprised to learn that it's my belief that the speed limits on those highways that are currently at 110 km/h, and being raised to 120 km/h, should actually be raised further - 130 or even 140 km/h would not be unreasonable for the conditions, given the excellent quality of these highways as they have been engineered for it.

Limits are just that - nobody is required to travel that quickly if they don't want to, or uncomfortable doing so.  And for sure,  drivers wishing to pass others ahead, needing to change into the left lane to do so, would certainly have to be far more attentive to their possible speed differential with the cars that may be coming up behind instead of mindlessly moving over without properly thinking about it and executing the maneuver safely - as required by law, always has been.  Let's be clear, folks; if a driver on Highway 19 (present limit 110 km/h) in the right lane, travelling at 90 km/h, realizes that the gap to the Winnebago ahead of him at 80 km/h is closing, and decides to change lanes in order to pass ... and the driver coming up at the speed limit in the left lane is forced to brake, or even lift off the gas, in response - or worse, gets forced off the road - then the fault lies 100% with the driver who changed lanes unsafely; and yet it happens all the time, without penalty.

I do think that people offering opinions - particularly if they're against the increased limits - should take an open minded moment to look at the video and poll that almost certainly triggered these legislative changes.  It might help them see things from a different point of view, and reconsider.


I can not believe ...

... that these supposedly intelligent people focus only on the facts of physics.

Yes, we know that the faster you go, the harder you hit.  And we know that your ability to stop is negatively affected as speed is increased.

But it's a faulty leap of logic to conclude that higher speed limits will result in more crashes!

Besides, if the Superintendent believes that newer and older drivers are more likely to crash at higher speeds, then he has the authority to make changes to the Class 7 License Restrictions to curtail newer drivers' speeds.  Older drivers will generally self-regulate, they don't need baby sitting.  Quite often they will voluntarily quit using freeways and highways if they're not comfortable on them.

But the one concept that all of these outspoken spokespeople don't seem to be able to get, is that the more space vehicles have around them, the less likely they are to collide.  Lower speed limits, along with excessive law enforcement, compresses traffic; everybody's risk goes up.  Higher speed limits, with law enforcement directed to the real sins - tail-gating, improper lane changing, failure to signal, blocking the left lane - will reduce the likelihood that there will be collisions.  This is not a difficult concept.

When the US Federal limit was raised from the old double nickel 55 to 65 mph, 'everybody said' that the crash rate and carnage would go up.

Didn't happen.

When it was later removed entirely, leaving it to individual states to set their limits, 'everybody said' that the crash rate and carnage would go up.

Didn't happen.

And other than Hawaii, US State maximums vary between 65 mph (105 km/h) and 85 mph (137 km/h) which oughta put the allowed increase from 110 km/h to 120 km/h now taking place in BC in perspective.

Now, if the RCMP could be told to knock it off with their 'doom and gloom' arguments (entirely self-serving, to try and defend their zealous speed enforcement for all these years - which seems to always take place on the safest, fastest sections of roadway) and start cracking down on the real culprits out there, we might see some progress in the crash rates and some demerit points piling up on the licenses of the truly bad drivers.

Just my opinion, of course ... cool


Who are "the real culprits out there?"

I'm always interested in what others believe is not being enforces vs what I have experienced.

To the point of the real culprits

IMHO, "the culprits" are the drivers who don't drive like Romans do when in Rome.
Anyone maintaining a lesser following distance than is appropriate for speed and traffic.
Anyone going dramatically higher or slower than the traffic.
Anyone swerving/switching lanes for no good reason (not using "eyes up")
Anyone over-driving: using brakes for no good reason, speeding up beyond available front space.

Case and point:

Westview Drive entrance on Hwy1

2 days ago, merging onto HWY 1, avg speed 110, limit 80, I observed a newer M3, travelling at about 180 when he caught up with traffic, broke to 150, swerved right, swerved left, settled on the 110 once the density was too thick.

1 day ago, "Snow cap" ( truck and trailer, lic plate 6025 4B, travelling around 6:50pm. Going empty (I'm assuming). Same spot as the M3. Came barreling down the highway at ~140, slowed down to traffic speed. Remained in the left lane all the way to Willingdon in Burnaby, average following distance 1.5 cars, continued swerving through lanes after Willingdon, reaching 130km/h through heavy traffic, maintaining disastrously small following distance.

I don't usually call people in, and I haven't called in the M3 - because I know the car, conditions and it's curving/braking ability - driver was going at 70% of the car's ability. The truck'n'trailer I had to make an exception for - he was driving that thing at 95% of it's ability - completely deranged.

3 days ago, Entering onto Alex Fraser from Nordel Way: got passed by a Crysler van - on my right - van almost had to take the shoulder to pass and then sped away, only to slam the brakes at a yield couple of hundred meters after, then switched to the middle lane on the bridge and continued travel with a following distance of 1.5 cars. I drove the exact speed limit and go ahead just by staying static. OFC the van passed me again at speed. Passed twice by the same speeder while I was driving the limit - "the culprit"

Here's the video:

Proper speed limits are a good thing - those numbers on signs should reflect the road as closely as possible. Ideally the number should be matched to the maximum speed an average car with average tires and an average driver skill is able to round the curve in ideal road conditions. Otherwise the speed limiting signs are counter productive and a source of nuisance.

Submitted by E-mail

Regarding the new 120 limit I have to say out hwy 19 has fallen into a state of disrepair that I feel wont handle the 120. SENSE (Safety through Education Not Speed Enforcement) has had a jammer at my current views having been with them touting higher limits since the days of photo radar but honestly I dont feel safe even at 110 on HWY19 in its current state of repair.

The problem with HWY 19 lies in the lack of upkeep, lets face it road maintenance for profit isnt working. Channelization in the right hand lane, and basically not being able to see the deer fence due to the growth of bush along side the road. Tied in with the upcoming keep right except to pass legislation takes away the option of the left hand lane for safe travel at night or during rain. Interestingly enough there has been several kms of hot in place recycling done south of cumberland (which happens to be a liberal riding) as we get tar strips that fill the cracks some of which came from poor engineering decisions over the years. As much as im happy about the speed limit that is 10k closer to the 85th percentile how do we get HWY19 Back into shape without ruts and a vegetation free buffer for wildlife?

Your thoughts?

My thoughts? Well, if you insist ...

As I use that highway quite often (relatives in Courtenay who we stay with quite frequently) and have done so for many years, this is what I believe.

  • The state of repair of that section of highway is absolutely adequate for 120 km/h or faster.  Ask the Highway Patrol cops who frequently need to rocket way beyond this in order to pull over the speeders, and I'm sure they'll assure you that it's not an issue.
  • If you don't feel safe even at 110 km/h on that highway then you don't need to drive that fast - it's a maximum, not a minimum.  But maybe try increasing your tire pressures and replacing your shock absorbers if your car doesn't 'feel' right at that speed on that road; along with an alignment this could make all the difference to your comfort zone.
  • Whether or not 'road maintenance for profit' is, or is not, working is not the issue under discussion here.  This is about driving, not personal politics.  In my experience, private companies can be way more sensitive to criticisms or complaints than certain government workers.  No system is perfect or guaranteed to be so.
  • Channelization - I'm not sure if that's a word in the dictionary, but if not it should be - is a phenomenon you'll encounter on any heavily travelled highway.  An inevitable result (unless it's made from concrete instead of asphalt) of more traffic, and heavier traffic, using the right hand lane.  Such as Trucks, and RVs and people who aren't Left Lane Bandits.  The majority, in other words, even those who drive fast.  If it becomes too severe, they'll resurface it.  Either way, it's less of a danger than the road camber falling off in each direction from the dotted white line up the middle (which is a partial cause of many vehicles ending up in the centre median in inclement conditions).  Vehicle alignment isn't set up for left camber on this continent, and drivers can be very sloppy with their steering and unaware of how good their adhesion is.
  • According to the 'Keep Right unless passing' law, well OK electing to travel in the left lane or when its raining will be illegal.  But on an empty highway, who's gonna care?  Who's going to jump on you with a ticket?  Heck, in tough conditions I'll drive that same empty highway straddling the lanes in order to have the greatest safety margin - this is something that the British Advanced Motoring experts recommend.  But I truly doubt that the county mounties are going to be writing tickets for it; they will be far too busy writing up the paper on those Winnebago drivers with ten cars jammed behind them, obliviously cruising along admiring the scenery.
  • Hot in-place recycling (where the machinery essentially re-manufactures and levels the asphalt road surface as it moves slowly along) is still in the experimental stage in BC, so far as I'm aware.  I seriously doubt that they're limiting it to Liberal ridings ...
  • And as for the vegation-free buffer, it's July for pity's sake.  Spring in this part of the world has been a remarkable combination of rainfall and sunshine; everything is bursting out all over!  It's freaking green, man, and unless you expect them to start spraying Agent Orange or other defoliants, that takes a while to cut back.  But if you think that the Elk are going to suddenly start using the brambles and fireweed to scale the 3 metre fences in a diabolical attempt to scamper the next 80 metres while hiding behind the long grass so they can dash into your windshield - well, I'm sorry, but the likelihood seems pretty minimal, in my opinion.

Submitted by E-mail

I was surprised to read of the speed increase on some highways, including our Inland Island Highway. Aside from past news of hydroplaning when it was wet, I am not able to understand why the speed needed to be increased on any of these highways. Just how much time would this increase save from Parksville to Campbell River – a few minutes? If speed kills, I have to wonder why the government would increase speed limits.

What if the limit was 50 km/h on Hwy 19, then?

That would certainly answer any concerns you may have about hydroplaning, and be a response to the 'speed kills' mantra.  And it would allow drivers much more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery between Parksville and Campbell River.

Can't think why they didn't think of this sooner ...

Submitted by E-mail

The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP), an initiative of the BC Conservation Foundation, works to reduce wildlife collisions in BC through research, public education, collision mitigation activities, and public awareness. WCPP made 12 specific recommendations to the Speed and Safety Review panel. MoTI adopted two of these recommendations, and they are implementing parts of several others.

A major success is that MoTI has publicly committed to a $1.5 million dollar project to test an advanced technology wildlife detection system along Highway 3 between Cranbrook and the Alberta border. This type of technology has proven to be reliable in other jurisdictions and devoting resources to testing its applicability to BC’s highway conditions is very appropriate.

MOTI did not lower night time driving speeds in the winter, in areas at high risk of moose collisions, nor did they indicate any changes to the way that wildlife collision data is collected by the highways maintenance contractors.

In addition to testing advanced wildlife warning signage, MoTI will also:

  • Install gateway signs at the entrance to highway corridors with higher instances of wildlife collisions.
  • Increase the use of flashing LED warning signs in high crash locations.
  • Increase the use of wildlife fencing in high crash locations.

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