LETTER: Is it time to lower highway speed limits?

I understand that the Department of Transportation is currently reviewing the speed limits on highways in British Columbia.

I understand that the Department of Transportation is currently reviewing the speed limits on highways in British Columbia. This is a good time to lower the highway speed limits throughout our province.

Anthropogenic climate change is on us, but there is still a chance to slow it down. Lowering speed limits on highways would save fuel, thus reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we are emitting.

Another conservation measure would be to expand our public transportation system. An efficient and fast passenger bus and train network could take many motorists out of their cars and reduce the increasing congestion on our highways.

With higher gas prices and more interest in alternate travel, commuting and touring by bicycle have  increased considerably in recent years. I have much experience cycling on our highways and around municipalities here in BC as well as in Germany.

Where wide shoulders with good pavement exist, there are few safety issues although slower vehicle speeds would increase the safety margin. However, many sections of highway are being repaved in the driving lane only, sometimes leaving the bicyclist no option but to peddle in the traffic lane. A plan for incorporating shoulders when improving rural roads, along with slower speed limits, would increase safety for bicycles and pedestrians in the more populated areas of our province.  Ideally, separate bicycle lanes would be available.

I am old enough to remember the 1973 oil embargo, when speed limits throughout North America were lowered to a maximum of 55 miles per hour. This not only conserved oil, but also saved many lives which would have been lost in automobile accidents.

We had a friend who was working as a nurse in the emergency department of a large city hospital when speed limits were raised back up to 70 miles per hour. He said that it made life easier for him because now instead of the car crash victims coming in maimed and broken, they just came in dead.

Now this might save our health care system money on one level, but I think most people would prefer a chance at survival. I do not buy Keith Morgan’s  argument  that the technology of both cars and highways has improved; if you raise the speed limit, people will just drive 10 to 20 km/hr over it anyway. People’s reaction times haven’t improved. Distracted driving using electronic communication devices has now surpassed drunk driving as a major cause of traffic accidents.

Signage, new technologies, and infrastructure such as barriers and access tunnels and bridges are all useful, but we know that speed determines the effectiveness of reaction time when the unpredictable happens.

The hilly, winding mountain roads in BC are dangerous enough without excess speed. There is no reason that speed limits should be raised, except to provide extra profits to the oil companies, car manufacturers, and funeral homes. The push for an ever faster pace of life is creating all kinds of stress to both people and the environment. Please lower speed limits throughout the province.

 

Ursula Lowrey Aule

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