With the upcoming provincial review of speed limits on rural highways, and the comments from the province about efficiency, I wonder if our local highway corridors might be considered for higher speed limits. I know some sections of highway between Valemount and Prince George might seem like good candidates for higher speed limits on a clear sunny day. And maybe some of our visiting neighbours who are used to speed limits of 110 km/h would like that, especially if that means they won’t get their car impounded for going 149 km/h. Or maybe they’ll just go faster.

In my opinion, most of northern BC is not a good candidate for higher speed limits.

Across Canada, there are a lot of highways that have a limit of 110 km/h, but it’s not standard, and I recall crossing provincial borders and wondering why the same quality and size road, same terrain, has a higher limit on one side than on the other. Apparently speed limits in Ontario used to be 113 km/h in the 1960’s, but were lowered during the energy crisis of the 1970’s.

Some in Ontario even argue that speed limits should be raised to 130 or 140 km/h, and from what I remember of Ontario roads, that might be suitable (and at least I could get out of Ontario quicker).

Alberta too, with its wide, mostly straight roads, many divided, and warnings of upcoming hills and curves that I barely notice, might be a good candidate for speed limits above 110 km/h.

There have been many articles and opinions recently in Alberta news outlets about how many cars, and specifically how many Albertans’ cars are impounded for seven days for excessive speeding in BC (for going more than 40 km/h above the posted speed limit). There has been backlash from British Columbians who say they should slow down, or stay home, which some Albertans have taken offence to, especially since they claim they spend a lot of tourism dollars here. There are some that point out that the issue is not about speeds or Albertans’ ability to drive, but the fact that the police leave them stranded on the side of a highway, with no opportunity to defend themselves. And I agree, that is certainly an issue, but I know that our local taxi is called to pick up those folks on occasion, no matter where they are from. I wonder if they know that Ontario and Nova Scotia both have similar laws (except it is 50 km/h over the posted limit). They call it “street racing,” which can lead to fines, demerit points and suspension, but they do the same thing – impound your car for seven days, and potentially leave you on the side of the highway.

Yes, getting left on the side of the highway is certainly a concern, but it is far more of an issue if you are injured and crawling out of a damaged vehicle.

Maybe speeds aren’t the contributing factor to most accidents in Ontario, but here in BC, slippery roads, corners, wildlife, tourists, transport trucks, blinding high-beams from trailer-laden sledders, weather and elevation changes are all so unpredictable.

And it is clear, the faster you are driving, the less response time you have to any of these factors.

One article in the Calgary Sun says that British Columbians are using it as an excuse to lash out at Albertans, and ignoring the fact that the same thing is happening to far more British Columbians, like a Chilliwack family with young children that was left on the roadside over the summer. Of course those headlines grab attention. But I’d rather see that headline, than one saying they were all in the hospital, or worse.

The issue IS about speed, and whether you are prepared for driving these roads, no matter where you are from. Someone from Vancouver is likely to be just as inexperienced with our rural highways as an Albertan, but in this area, I’ve seen a lot more Alberta license plates than British Columbia ones go zipping by on a flat stretch, only to slow traffic down at the next corner, or be spun off in a ditch. And I saw that a lot in Alberta when I lived there; just imagine how those drivers react here. If the threat of the many unknowns on our local highways is not enough to slow a driver down, then maybe the threat of losing your vehicle for seven days might do it.

The upcoming review is expected to look at wildlife and slower traffic as well as speed limits, so it is probably just as likely that lowering the speed limits are considered for some areas, which could potentially lead to even more impoundments. I’ve been stuck behind a travel trailer going slowly before, and maybe more pull-outs might help that situation, but I’ve also been stuck behind a travel trailer at an empty intersection, wondering what this person is doing. I guess that is always going to happen.

What do you think of our highway speed limits?

By: Korie Marshall