Speed limits to drop on some highways after increase in crashes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is rolling back speed limits by 10 kilometres an hour on 15 sections of B.C. highway, including three on Vancouver Island.

The move partly reverses a 2014 decision by the former Liberal government to increase speed limits on 33 sections and 1,300 kilometres of rural highway.

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A Transportation Ministry analysis concluded that the decision to increase speed limits led to a rise in crashes in which people were killed or injured.

“Some highways have seen an alarming increase in speed-related accidents,” Trevena said. “On Highway 19 between Parksville and Campbell River, serious speed accidents have jumped by a third.”

The government plans to lower the speed limit on that section of Highway 19 to 110 km/h from 120 km/h and reduce the limit on the Bloedel-to-Sayward section to 90 km/h from 100 km/h.

The speed limit will drop to 80 km/h from 90 km/h on Highway 1 from Cowichan Bay to Nanaimo.

“I know people want to get around quickly, but as the minister it is my fundamental job to make sure they also get there safely,” Trevena said.

The former Liberal government increased the speed limits in 2014 despite widespread opposition from police, physicians and road safety officials.

Former transportation minister Todd Stone said at the time that the move would improve safety. “When speed limits are set appropriately, they encourage safe driver behaviour,” he said.

The Transportation Ministry’s analysis, however, found that safety declined on 17 of the 33 sections where speed limits were increased.

There was no substantial change in safety on the other 16 sections.

Overall, the analysis found an 11.2 per cent increase in crashes where people were killed or injured on the sections where speed limits increased.

The Liberals had already reversed the speed limit hikes on two stretches of highway in 2016. Trevena’s announcement Tuesday reduces the speed liimit on the remaining 15 problem sections.

Speed limits will be unchanged on the other 16 routes, including the 90 km/h stretch of Highway 19 from Campbell River to Bloedel and the 100 km/h section from Port McNeill to Port Hardy.

On Tuesday, Stone defended his 2014 decision to raise the limits, saying he relied on the work and advice of professional engineers in the Transportation Ministry. “Speed limits are not set by politicians,” he told reporters at the B.C. legislature. “Speed limits are set based on the recommendations that flow from the professional engineers in the Ministry of Transportation.”

He said the decision to raise the limits followed a “rigorous, science-based, data-driven analysis” by the engineers.

As well, a public consultation process at the time found that people in most regions supported increasing the speed limits, with 55 per cent of participants on Vancouver Island backing the changes.

Stone argued that the latest analysis shows that on some of the sections where crashes increased there was a decrease in the speeds being travelled. “That tells you there’s more going on than the speed that people are travelling,” he said.

The analysis found that the top three contributing factors to crashes were driver inattention, road conditions and driving too fast for conditions.

The B.C. Trucking Association welcomed Trevena’s decision to roll back the speed limits.

“Overall, our members are always concerned first and foremost with safety, so any time government takes thoughtful steps to address that, we applaud them,” president Dave Earle said. The association warned back in 2014 that increasing the speed limits would burn more fuel, boost greenhouse gas emissions and increase the risk of crashes.

Police, meanwhile, will be boosting enforcement on highways affected by the latest changes, the government said.

“For those who wish to tempt fate, police will be there, trying to convince you to obey these new speed limits — one ticket at a time,” said RCMP Insp. Tim Walton of Island District Traffic Services.

Highway speed limits: What will change, what will stay the same

Based on the recently completed review of three years of data, the speed limits are being rolled back by 10 km/h on the following 15 highway corridors that have seen any increase in collisions:

  • Highway 1: Cowichan Bay to Nanaimo – 90 km/h to 80 km/h
  • Highway 1: Whatcom Road to Hope – 110 km/h to 100 km/h
  • Highway 1: Boston Bar to Jackass Mountain – 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 1: Tobiano to Savona – 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 1: Chase to Sorrento - 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 3: Sunday Summit to Princeton – 90 km/h to 80 km/h
  • Highway 7: Agassiz to Hope – 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 19: Parksville to Campbell River - 120 km/h to 110 km/h
  • Highway 19: Bloedel to Sayward – 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 97A: Grindrod to Sicamous – 90 km/h to 80 km/h
  • Highway 97C: Merritt to Aspen Grove – 110 km/h to 100 km/h
  • Highway 97C: Aspen Grove to Peachland – 120 km/h to 110 km/h
  • Highway 99: Horseshoe Bay to Squamish – 90 km/h to 80 km/h
  • Highway 99: Squamish to Whistler – 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • Highway 99: Whistler to Pemberton – 90 km/h to 80 km/h

The following 16 corridors showed no reduction in safety, and speed limits will remain the same:

  • Highway 1: Salmon Arm to Revelstoke – 100 km/h
  • Highway 1: Revelstoke to Golden – 100 km/h
  • Highway 3: Hope to Coquihalla – 110 km/h
  • Highway 3: Sunshine Valley to Manning Park East Boundary – 100 km/h
  • Highway 5: Hope to Kamloops – 120 km/h
  • Highway 5: Heffley to Little Fort – 100 km/h
  • Highway 6: New Denver to Hills – 90 km/h
  • Highway 6: Summit Lake to Nakusp – 100 km/h
  • Highway 19: Campbell River to Bloedel – 90 km/h
  • Highway 19: Port McNeill to Port Hardy – 100 km/h
  • Highway 33: McCulloch Road to Black Mountain – 100 km/h
  • Highway 33: Rock Creek to Westbridge – 100 km/h
  • Highway 97: Cache Creek to 100 Mile House – 110 km/h
  • Highway 97: Swan Lake to Monte Creek – 90 km/h
  • Highway 97A: Armstrong to Enderby – 100 km/h
  • Highway 99: Lillooet to Cache Creek – 100 km/h
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