POLITICS, NOT SAFETY, IS THE PROBLEM
Our major highways would be safer if we could drive faster legally. The experts say so, but too many politicians keep their foot on the brake when it comes to such change.
There is no doubt that the 400 series of super roads in Ontario and similar roads elsewhere would be safer if the speed limit was 120 km/h (or 75 mph.)
In fact, most of the public have taken the law limiting us to 100 and shaken it by the neck until it was dead. It died years ago. After all, it is common knowledge that such roads were built to handle vehicles at speeds of 120 or 125.
The limits were reduced or not increased because politicians believed that would help the environment and reduce the use of fuel. Turned out they were wrong.
The consensus in the transportation world is that fast is the new goal in road safety. If the rest of Canada follows what has just happened in B.C., and some states, it would reduce the great differences in the speed of vehicles which is the major cause of accidents because it would reduce the number of slow vehicles holding up the traffic flow.
I used to campaign regularly on this subject, irked by the fact that the dubious top legal limit turned me into a scofflaw anytime I drove more than 10 kilometres on a big highway.
In addition to my daily column, I sat on the venerable Ontario Safety League, an advisory board on safety, particularly on roads, and wrote articles and editorials for the motor league magazine before it became a limp travel promotion.
Because of this work, I had plenty of opportunity to question transportation ministers and top cops about what they though of a real speed limit like 120 on major highway. I never had one disagree that was not sensible....but they did so off the record.
In fact, I had top politicians, from premiers to mayors, confess that they just couldn't do their job if they or their drivers didn't drive between cities at 120.
The problem is, green lobbies and some police associations are opposed, although they can point to no major evidence that says the increase would be a terrible thing.
An editorial in Maclean's, which continues to be a better magazine that it was just a few years ago, suggests that it is only sensible to have speed limits set by the opinion of the masses, to study how they drive now on the road under question.
Imagine that! Majority rule actually working in a democracy.
The magazine also suggested a sensible measure that I have advocated, that if 85% of the drivers obey the new higher limit, enforcement could be increased to catching and punishing the 15% who now will drive much fasfer.
Opponents always cite this argument, that if we are allowed to drive 20 k faster, then the speeders will just move up another 20 k higher than their present speed. And the super roads are dangerous at 150.
There isn't a day on 400 or 401 that many of us aren't annoyed at the very slow vehicle, or a car blocking the passing lane, or the distracted driver, or the motorist cutting back and forth.
They cause the accidents, not the driver doing 116 to 120 (because we know most police will allow this in good conditions) or doing 90 on other roads where the limit is 80.
The very fact that there is this hidden truce allowing us to go up to 120 now just demonstrates that the cops have agreed with the experts, that when it comes to their laudable goal of reducing accidents, there are more things to worry about that some guy driving 120 in a peaceful way.
If you are a politician or a cop who disagrees with that, then you have to allow the installation of a gadget that records the speeds that you drive.
Anyone who insists they always drive only 100 on a big highway is really not the saint they think smugly that they are but more a sinner putting the rest of us into more danger.
The present situation where cops can ding you at 115 if they feel like it, which creates some of those slow drivers, has more to do with cash register law enforcement than serving and protecting. It smacks of the speed trap thats only purpose is to collect a lot of money for the politicians to waste.
Something like 80% of drivers tell pollsters they would like to drive 120 on super highways and not worry about how cops are feeling that day. Queen's Park owes us an explanation of why our wishes of how we use our roads is ignored.