Speeding: Highway to the Danger Zone!

From Issue: 
July 2016

Speed kills. 

When it comes to driving, the seriousness of a collision and the resulting injuries is often directly proportional to the speed at which it was going prior to impact. For example, a driver crashing into a brick wall at 20 km/h will necessarily suffer much less damage to their vehicle and their person than the same car going 80 km/h.

Every so often, the debate is raised: should speed limits be raised? Typically, these discussions revolve around highway driving, where it is argued that drivers already go over the posted speed limits anyway. This is a very slippery slope, however, as studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown that travel speeds increase once the limit is raised. 

Traditionally, many police enforcement efforts have a tolerance in the neighbourhood of 20 km/h over the limit before pulling over a driver. This tolerance has resulted in drivers mentally adding 20 km/h to any posted speed limit, meaning that raising the posted limits from 100 km/h to 120 km/h, for instance, would simply result in drivers going 140 km/h.

The general idea of raising posted limits isn’t a bad one – if drivers are going to go that speed anyway, and the infrastructure is in place to make it reasonably safe, there’s no harm in making the behaviour legal. 

The caveat, however, is that raising any posted limits would have to mean a zero tolerance approach for enforcement. The posted limit should be just that: a limit. Many Canadian communities are lax on strict enforcement, but if the discussion is being had, it has to be to raise the limits and not the actual speeds.

The roads are at their safest when drivers are all travelling in the same direction, at the same general speed, and with a proper amount of space between themselves and the next vehicle. Having one universal speed as both the speed limit and the line after which police intervention is done can only help keep traffic consistent and flowing.