November 20, 2019
Broderick Visser
Photo by Geoff Robins / Freelance photojournalist

The Ontario government is hoping its new pilot project on select sections of three 400 series highways will help improve traffic flow.

The three stretches that saw their speed limit  increased to 110 km/h on Sept. 26 are:

  • Hwy 402 from London to Sarnia
  • QEW from St. Catharines to Hamilton
  • Hwy 417 from Ottawa/Gloucester to the Quebec border

But won’t this just make things worse? 

Accidents are common on Ontario highways and are usually caused by many factors such as: fatigue, distracted driving, driving under the influence, travelling at an unsafe distance in relation to another vehicle or, in a lot of cases, excessive speed. 

Some people say “speed kills.”

In British Columbia, 33 rural highways were increased to 120 km/h in 2014. That decision was reversed on 15 of those rural highways after deadly crashes more than doubled in certain areas. 

Gordon Lovegrove, an engineering professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of a report that led to B.C.’s speed-limit reversal, said in an article in the London Free Press, “Speed does kill, because the human body is what’s inside those cars and our heads, heart, bones cannot take significant impacts.” 

Also noted in the article is the fact humans notice changes in road conditions within two and a half seconds and then decide what to do. 

At 110 km/h, a vehicle travels about 30.5 metres per second, meaning the higher the speed, the less time a driver has to react.

A lot of drivers typically drive over the speed limit on many of Ontario’s 400 series highways, usually anywhere from 110 to 120 km/h — if not faster.

In an article by the CBC, Baher Abdulhai from the University of Toronto’s Transport Research Institute said 120 km/h is already the “de facto speed limit” on highways in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Won’t the rise in the speed limit just “allow” drivers to add an extra 10 to 20 clicks onto their speedometers? This could result in even higher speeds being driven. Where is the unofficial limit really set?

110 km/h?

120 km/h?

130 km/h? 

 If that’s the trend for our highways already, then we need stricter enforcement to ensure safer roads. For example, in Europe, they have speed cameras just about everywhere. 

According to the European Commission, speed cameras have resulted in a crash reduction of 15 to 20 per cent. The most common speed limits in Europe are 120 and 130 km/h. The German autobahn has no maximum, although a suggested speed limit of 130 km/h is posted. 

According to an article by Narcity, in Toronto, photo radar cameras have been installed as an effort to curb speeding. The government is buying 700 of these cameras to eventually spread out all across the province. The cost to set up just one of these is $100,000 — and the cost to eventually install all of these is a whopping $70 million. 

British Columbia has already rolled out these cameras and according to a video by Narcity, in just one year of having the cameras, they made back $38 million in fines.

The only problem with these cameras is although a fine is issued via mail, demerit points cannot be given and your licence cannot be suspended because a police officer would have to be present in order for that to happen. 

The reality is, we need safer roads and that starts with better enforcement.

According to the Preliminary 2018 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, there were 67,580 vehicles involved in fatal and personal injury collisions and 578 people killed on Ontario roads in 2018. 

Without better enforcement by police, speed limit increases are a bad idea. But with better enforcement, we could see safer roads, fewer accidents and better traffic flow, all of which could result in a happier commuter. 

But until this happens — Ontario is simply not ready.

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