Unhaggle | Why Raising Maximum Speed Limits in Canada is a Bad Idea

Written and researched by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | June 02, 2014 |

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The speed limits for major cities in Canada lie in a gray area, with law enforcers and commuters being keenly aware that few drivers actually obey the rules. Most tend to exceed the speed limit in order to keep up with the flow of traffic. Whether you’re driving a sports car like a Viper or a hatchback like a Yaris, you are probably driving “too fast.” Therefore any vehicle has the potential of violating the limit without firm conviction that they have done anything out of the norm.

And that is what causes frustration for the majority of drivers, especially those that get pulled over.

An ambiguous law or a law enforced without consistency is not only a nuisance, but also a blemish on society. Determining and understanding the thin line between acceptable and criminal is a large step toward mitigating accidents, recklessness and ignorance. But should the speed limit actually be increased?

Speeding or excessive speeding?

Although speeding is a major problem, most drivers generally follow the pack. If the pack travels safely at 70 km/h in a 50 km/h max zone, it is not the drivers who need to change; it is the law that should be reconsidered. Right? Not necessarily.

It seems that a speed limit is a very subjective thing. When it comes to the comfort of a driver, many consider it safer to drive a bit faster than to drag behind on a freeway. It’s important to note that police understand this phenomenon as well, and often only pull drivers over who are “excessively” speeding; that is not just keeping up with traffic, but aggressively challenging it—changing lanes and slipping through—trying to break ahead of the pack.

To raise the limit to 70 km/h in a former 50 km/h zone may give many less-skilled drivers anxiety, while bumping up the excessive speed limit to 90 km/h, instead of a steady 70 km/h. The excessive speeders will simply go faster, causing an even riskier outcome.

What other countries are doing differently?

Many developed countries have reputations for being safe places to drive, including Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden to name a few. In 2009 rankings done by the World Health Organization, Canada was ranked 25th out of 178 countries with the least amount of traffic-related fatalities. Why aren’t we number one? What can be changed?

The countries ahead of Canada in the rankings don’t fine drivers more or have an unreasonable speed limit. Instead, those countries are stricter when it comes to drivers’ skill evaluations. Countries that enable drivers to operate a vehicle with minimal skill requirements tend to have the higher percentage of accidents. Safety features and road safety also play a major role, but if Canada would like to be ranked higher, we would not only need to change the behaviour of our drivers, but our educational standards as well. You can view the full list on this site.

Are there alternatives to adjusting the law?

Regulating traffic has changed a lot since the dawn of the automobile. Cameras and speed traps are often used to enforce the law. With the advances in technology, the Province of British Columbia, for example, has installed induction loops and speed counter-classifiers into the streets to measure traffic patterns. These additions record the speed of all the vehicles passing by, accumulating data such as traffic volume, daily speeds and the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit. This information is then used for research.

Some believe that examining the problem is not good enough to solve it, however. Many indications show that with a consistent implementation of traffic laws 3,000 daily deaths worldwide could be avoided. Those who were caught speeding and suffered a severe fine or a light sentence are at a lower risk of being involved in a fatal accident.

Other researchers deem that going slowly and following the rules is the best way to advocate safety. SENSE BC, an organization built around the premise of educating drivers and not simply regulating them, considers a more liberal approach. On a graph entitled “Speed Variance and Crash Risk,” the stats show that collisions are actually more common at a slower speed. Most accidents are minimized when drivers are 10-15 km/h over the speed limit, which contradicts a lot of popular beliefs.

Are there other factors to consider?

Are low speed limits the real problem then? Or should we blame bad drivers, low-quality roads and poor weather conditions? Many factors come into play when an accident occurs—so it’s not simply the speed. Weather, time of day, negligence, etc. are all worth considering when an accident occurs. Having the speed limit where it offers room for flexibility is probably the best option at the moment.

Perhaps highway maximum speed limits can be adjusted based on factors like time of day, weather conditions or the driver’s skill level—like in the case of school or park zones. For example, we can have an 80-km/h limit during peak rush hours, a 100-km/h limit from dusk to dawn, etc.

When safety is at play, we shouldn’t take anything lightly. It’s natural for some to say that the speed limit should be raised, but there are too many drivers of different skill levels on the road to determine whether the implementation will actually improve the roads for some without hindering others.

Unhaggle | The World’s Most Spectacular Roads

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | March 25, 2014 |

The world is full of spectacular roads that wind and stretch, extending from our boring highways and traffic-congested cities to majestic mountains, sea coasts and the far reaches of exotic lands. These roads remind us of the joys of owning a vehicle that go beyond the grind of paying off your Impala or getting that 4Runner checked up again. Sometimes you just want a vessel and the freedom to explore, which is what these roads are all about.

Icefields Parkway: Alberta, Canada

Scenic Mountain Views

Cutting through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Icefields Parkway is a perfect road for northern travellers seeking untouched wildness. Connecting between two of Alberta’s tourist hotspots and national parks, Icefields Parkway offers those passing by a permanent memory of the vast landscape of mountains, lakes and glaciers, as well as occasional encounters with moose, elks, caribous and bears. There aren’t many roads in Canada that offer such a variety of photo opportunities and breathtaking views, which truly capture the essence of being Canadian.

Lombard Street: California, USA

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Eight hairpin turns lead you from the top of Hyde Street down to Leavensworth Street in hilly San Fran. World famous for forcing travellers to slow down and enjoy its narrow complexity, Lombard Street reminds drivers to indulge in the novelty of the mundane. Cars venturing down this one way street become participants of this obstacle course of a road as spectators watch on with fascination. And upon completion, drivers will be sure to breathe a sigh of relief, having achieved the thrill of that suburban challenge.

West Coast of the South Island: New Zealand

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This six and a half hour road trip along the scenic coast of the Middle Earth replica allows drivers to appreciate the majesty of land and ocean and the convergence of the two. Slipping through small towns and farmlands, and up into the great heights of New Zealand, one could only image the exhilaration of being a trail blazer, setting eyes on the pristine world for the first time.

Trollstigen (Troll’s Path): Norway

Trollstigen

Road tourist will need to take a trip to Norway and experience the serpentine road eerily named the Troll’s Path. The steep mountain side road will test the driver’s tact as he or she pilots the vehicle towards a plateau overlooking a waterfall and the navel of Scandinavia. During the height of tourist season, Trollstigen receives over 2,500 daily visitors, but the roads are subjected to close during unruly weather conditions and during the winter months.

Guoliang Tunnel Road: China

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Considered to be the most dangerous road in the world, Guoliang Tunnel Road in China is a free-for-all path that hangs off of a mountain ridge. Twisting and turning through the tunnel as pockets of light seep in from stone windows and blend with the sudden darkness of the burrow, drivers narrowly dodge each other as they make their way through the prehistoric road of the Taihang Mountains.

Los Caracoles Pass: Chile to Argentina

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Choosing the Los Caracoles Pass to cross the vast Andes Mountains of South America takes you through a topographically diverse landscape, from the vine yards of Argentina up to the rocky and icy desolation and down to the green valleys of Chile. Truly such a trip makes even the largest vehicle seem insignificant in comparison.

Orchard Road: Singapore/Las Vegas Strip: Nevada, USA

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Not every great road needs to be carved into a mountainside or branched off into the ocean. Orchard Road in Singapore and the Las Vegas Strip incorporates all the urban wonders that make night time driving so exhilarating. Neon and marquee lights dance down the avenue as you pull into a snazzy place for a meal or just a little spot to rest up and prepare for the next leg of your trip.