Increase in crashes leads to reduced speeds on two B.C. highways

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The province of British Columbia is rolling back speed limits on two highways following an increase in crashes after the provincial transportation ministry introduced speed increases in 2014.

The speed limits for Highway 1 from Hope to Boston Bar are being rolled back from 100 km/h to 90 km/h and on Highway 5A from Princeton to the junction with Highway 97C from 90 km/h to 80 km/h. Ministry officials told Land Line that ministry engineers determined that reducing the speed limits on these sections is the best solution to reduce the crash rate.

On the remaining sections where the crash rate has increased, the province will invest in added safety features like improved road markings, better signage, new rumble strips, and wildlife safety measures.

In a report issued June 28, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure noted that crash rates have dropped or remained unchanged in 19 of 33 sections of highway where increased speed limits were implemented in 2014. Traffic engineers reviewed crash data from Nov. 1, 2014, to Oct. 31, 2015 and compared results to data from the previous three years. According to the ministry’s findings:

  • On seven sections, the rate of speed decreased and crashes decreased.
  • On 12 sections, the rate of speed increased and crashes decreased.
  • On seven sections, the rate of speed increased and crashes increased.
  • On the remaining seven sections, the data shows that the crash rate increased, despite motorists traveling slower than they did before the speed limits were increased.

“Of particular interest, the data shows that we saw the crash rate increase on seven sections of highway where people were actually traveling slower,” Minister of Transportation Todd Stone said in a statement. “This suggests again that there are many different factors that can lead to crashes and speed is only one of them.”

The ministry’s release notes that distracted driving, rather than speeding, remains the leading cause of crashes on the province’s highways. During the study period, roughly 28 percent of all crashes were caused by distracted driving, according to the ministry. Driving faster than the posted speed limit was cited as a contributing factor in only 2 percent of all crashes. 

“Once again, this data serves as a reminder for the public to put your phone away while you are driving,” Stone said. “We continue to see a rising number of people being killed or injured while using their phones and driving a vehicle. A text message, a phone call, a Facebook post is not worth your or someone else’s life.”

According to ministry officials, the province of British Columbia does not have speed differentials between passenger cars and commercial trucks, nor does it require speed limiters. Kate Mukasa, public affairs officer for the ministry said because the bulk of the province’s roadways are two-lane, undivided highway, “speed limiters are not ideal on two-lane infrastructure, due to concerns about passenger vehicle and heavy truck speed differentials.”

Mukasa said the ministry will continue to monitor crash data over the next few years and will prepare another post implementation update when three years’ worth of data is available.

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