October 11, 2018

Failed Provincial Experiment: Faster Highway Speed Limits Double Road Deaths

There’s absolutely no way to sugar coat this: the previous Liberal provincial government’s 2014 decision to increase speed limits on some major rural highways has resulted in a 118 per cent increase of fatalities on those roads.

A comprehensive study published in Sustainability was co-authored by physicians at Vancouver General  and road safety engineers at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan). The study confirms that  “fatalities, injuries, crashes and insurance claims on some B.C. roads are linked to a 2014 decision by the former provincial government to raise speed limits on the rural highways” as reported in the Vancouver Sun.

The study surmises that “communities across Canada, especially those with slippery winter roads or those where roads traverse mountainous terrain, “should learn from this experience and resist pressure from pro speed advocates to raise speed limits without due consideration to road safety.”

Not only did the higher speed limits result in a 43 per cent increase in vehicular insurance claims, there was also a 30 per cent increase in claims for crash caused injuries. Looking at fatalities, injuries and total crashes, the researchers were frustrated that their early data indicating that speed kills was not acted upon.

Gordon Lovegrove, a leader in the study and an associate professor at UBC Okanagan stated  “Waiting three years in the face of our early findings borders on excess. I applaud the ministry’s decision to consider all options but would appreciate if a more collaborative approach were taken, including their B.C. (academic) colleagues, as opposed to taking the additional time and valuable resources to repeat our analysis that has been published in an independent peer-reviewed journal.”

When the increased highway speed was implemented  there was push back from the public health community (including Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall’s excellent 2016 report Where the Rubber Meets the Road) that was largely ignored by the previous provincial  government. Dr. Kendall’s ground breaking report points at speeding as a major cause of death, and famously recommended lowering speed limits across the Province.

The 2014  speed limit increases made some sections in the Okanagan the fastest in Canada with posted speeds of 120 kilometres per hour. No response yet from the Province on how they will address the carnage and injuries. In a Province with a provincially supported motor vehicle insurance, universal health care, and a quest for sustainability, lowering road speeds and enforcing them just makes sense. A poll by Mario Canseco indicated that 70 per cent of British Columbians are supportive of a camera enforcement system for road speed. It’s time to tie in vehicular movement  with road safety, focusing on safe arrival versus speed.

Images: CBC and CTV

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