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Sense and speed limits

Memorial to Highway 99 victim Shannon Archer.  Photo courtesy of the Whistler News

Memorial to Highway 99 victim Shannon Archer. Photo courtesy of The Whistler News

Ian Toothill runs Sense,  an organization which started by fighting photo radar and is dedicated, so it says, “to traffic safety through education not controlling speed”. Somehow these two terms are supposed to be mutually exclusive.

Dr. Perry Kendall is a BC Health Officer, who has that rare combination of information and common sense. He and Toothill have been conducting a public debate which Kendall has won hands down.

As far as I’m concerned there is no debate. What’s got it started was the raising of speed limits on many of the highways in British Columbia. Well, Toothill can claim a great deal of influence in this decision but it was in fact made by higher-ups in the Transportation Ministry and by the Minister and they should all be hanging their heads in shame.

Toothill  has been on about this subject for years and talks as if the real problem on our highways is the slow driver. Frankly, the only advantage I can see to raising the speed limits, is that it allows Toothill and his ilk to drive as fast as they now drive but do it legally.

The concerns raised by Dr. Kendall and others make a lot of sense.

What makes even more sense is the old phrase “common sense“ – does this decision either extend a benefit or cure an evil?

Toothill is a throwback to most males including myself. It was always the slow driver hogging the middle lane; it was the woman driver who, while not getting into accidents herself, caused them by getting everybody else angry at her; it was the recent arrival in Canada who took his/her driver’s license later in life and evidently did not possess the driving gene. There were legions of reasons for accidents but somehow, high speed was never one of them.

As time went by, most of us learned something. I live on the Sea-To-Sky Highway where high-speed crashes into medians or into the side of the road are common. Even after much of the highway has been expanded to four lanes we still see these accidents on a regular basis – last night coming home from dinner at about 8 o’clock being one of them. We have lineups going up to eight or 10 hours when there is a fatal head-on collision which is far from rare even with the partially improved highway. Every day we only have to look out our window and watch the drivers go past Lions Bay through the 60K-per-hour zone at anywhere between 80 and 110K.

The difficulty always has been and always will be assigning a precise cause to a precise accident. It’s sort of like the old story – if you’re drunk as a skunk and get rear ended, the accident wasn’t your fault yet it involved alcohol. Figures don’t lie but liars can sure as hell figure.

What this means is one has to apply solid common sense and the lessons of life. We all know that if the speed limit on the highway is 80 K, it will be driven anywhere from 80 K to 100 K plus. If, as with some highways, the speed limit has been 100 K, it is customarily driven at 120 K plus and when it goes to 120 K, Toothill and his friends will do 140.

It only follows that if you increase the maximum speed limits on these highways, the same margin of excess will be practiced by the same drivers.

Let me pause here to say that I am no prissy  goody two shoes. Certainly in my younger days I drove far too fast. I assumed that I was an exception to the rule and had the capability of driving faster than other people because I was just that much better a driver. Unfortunately, this erroneous notion was and has been held by hundreds of thousands of mistaken drivers to the sorrow of so many homes and families so badly affected by the results.

It is in the nature of the beast to consider oneself an exception. Moreover, I suspect that there are a great many like me who don’t like being told what to do and doubt very much the wisdom of the person telling me.

There is a further factor that Toothill doesn’t consider. Cars are far more dangerous to drive today than they ever were. At this writing, over 23 million GM vehicles have been recalled for 2014 for various mechanical failures. Many of these are pretty serious such as weak axles, ignition switch kick out and things of that sort.

We have, then, a combination of increasing the speed that dangerous cars can be driven.

Does that make a lot of sense?

What the hell is the hurry? Does it really help us reach our destination in significantly better time to drive 120 K than 100 K?

This  leads to the final question which I would like to see answered.

What is the advantage to the general public of the speed limit being increased?

This seems like a pretty absurd question until you think about it. Laws are changed in order to cure an evil or confer an advantage on society. How does this accomplish either?

The fact of the matter is that the faster one drives the longer it takes to stop. That, and that alone, is the deciding factor.

This is a bad law which should be repealed forthwith.


4 Responses to “Sense and speed limits”

  1. islandpapa says:

    I fall into that older and wiser category as well. Thankful I am not a statistic or caused one.
    Today, I toddle along at the posted speed in the right lane, passing slower traffic when necessary and getting to my destination a few minutes later.
    Just hope, the idiot weaving in and out doesn’t involve me in their folly.
    Enjoyed your previous post and have been waiting(yawn) for some main stream reporter to write about the overflow meeting regarding the Gambier Island woodlots last Thursday, at St Francis in the Woods of all places. As you probably know Gambier is served by a private ferry to a small community on the SW corner. The rest of us have to take a small boat to mainland to attend a meeting that went from 7pm to 10pm…yet there were at least 250 people there.

  2. Cocoabean says:

    Not once did you mention the essential point: even though burdened with socialized medicine and the potential “shared” costs of caring for victims of auto mishaps, it should remain the prerogative of the individual driver to decide how to drive.

    How “dangerously” or “safely”, what type of car, whether to use seatbelts, how “well”- or “poorly”-maintained the vehicle is, and how fast. IF and WHEN someone is injured, THEN by all means prosecute. Not before: if we wish, long-term, to build a society in which individuals learn to take serious responsibility for their own actions we cannot continue to impose the oral hazard of regulation.

    You’ll no doubt pooh-pooh philosophical arguments, but the alternative here is literally the continuing advocacy of state coercion. Without taking a moral stand we risk having what little liberty we still have pregressively taken away.

  3. Rafe Mair says:

    Nonsense. Can we select which side of the road we will drive on? Show drivers decide what it is a safe speed to go when approaching a crosswalk of schoolchildren in the school district?
    A society by definition has its citizens making common sacrifices of liberty for the common good. These sacrifices should be only those that are necessary to have peace and order.

    If you take the extension of your argument to its logical conclusion, there is no law and order.

  4. admin says:

    Coacoabean, did you see the picture at the top of this article? You wrote, “IF and WHEN someone is injured, THEN by all means prosecute.” All the prosecution in the world will not bring Shannon Archer back to life.
    Yes, I will pooh-pooh your Losertarian arguments. Use of our streets and highways is regulated for good reasons.

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