VICTORIA _ The British Columbia government is rolling back speed limits on sections of more than a dozen highways where crashes have climbed since 2014, when the highest speeds in Canada were permitted.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said Tuesday a three-year review of crash data from 33 routes shows the top three factors for increased collisions are driver inattention, road conditions and driving too fast for those conditions.
Serious crashes jumped significantly after speed limits went into effect, said Trevena, citing an “alarming” increase on several routes, including Highway 19 between Parksville and Campbell River, where speed-related accidents jumped by one-third.
Fifteen sections of highway will see speeds cut by 10 km/h. Stretches of Highway 1 and Highway 5A in the southern Interior were already rolled back in 2016 when crash rates jumped after the speed limit change.
Speeds on sections of 16 routes, including the Coquihalla Highway, won’t be changed because they haven’t shown higher accident rates over the last four years, Trevena said.
Nearly half of all serous accidents over the three years were caused by driver inattention and road conditions, she said.
“The combination of those factors, along with wildlife and people driving too fast for conditions, were responsible for 43 per cent of all highway collisions on B.C. highways.”
RCMP Insp. Tim Walton, who is in charge of Island District Traffic Services, warned at the news conference that police will be boosting enforcement on all corridors where collisions increased to ensure drivers are respecting the new limits.
Walton said he decided four years ago that he’d wait to respond to the hike in speed limits until the research was completed.
‘Slowing down can significantly reduce the impact of any collision and reduce the chances that you’ll be severely injured or killed,” he said, adding that as winter driving conditions approach, Mounties are reminding motorists to obey speed limits, drive sober and free of distractions.
Trevena said there were no statistical increases in accidents after the first year of higher speed limits but the subsequent two years have shown “shocking” jumps, prompting the government to respond to a study released last month showing a link between higher speed limits and crashes leading to injuries and fatalities.
“Nobody should die on our highways,” she said. “It’s horrible, the fact that there have been serious accidents and there have been deaths.”
The study, published in the journal Sustainability, was led by Vancouver General Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Jeffrey Brubacher and road-safety engineers at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia.
The study, funded by the federal government, concluded fatal crashes more than doubled on roads with higher speed limits, affected roads had a 43 per cent increase in total auto- insurance claims and a 30 per cent jump in auto-insurance claims for injuries.
“Other jurisdictions, especially those with harsh winter climates or with highways that traverse mountainous terrain, should learn from this experience and resist pressure from pro-speed advocates to raise speed limits without due consideration of road safety,” it says.
Gordon Lovegrove, an associate professor at the university’s school of engineering, called the speed-limit increases a “failed experiment.”
However, Ian Tootill, co-founder of the group Safety by Education Not Speed Enforcement, said lowering the limit is based on oversimplified data by an irresponsible group of academics and health-care professionals.
“The whole group of people that have input on this, that are in the so-called stakeholders’ group, are all people with a dog in the race,” he said.
Truckers don’t want people driving faster than them and police are writing speeding tickets for the profits of municipalities, Tootill said.
“We advocate traffic engineering and enforcement decisions that legalize safe and reasonable actions of the reasonable majority of motorists so they don’t get used as money bags.”
Highways where speed limits will be cut:
_ Two stretches of Highway 19 on Vancouver Island.
_ Sections of Highway 1 on Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and into the north Okanagan.
_ A portion of Highway 3 outside Princeton.
_ Highway 7 from Agassiz to Hope.
_ Highway 99, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, from Horseshoe Bay to Pemberton.
_ Portions of highways 97A and 97C through the southern Interior.