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May 20th, 2006

Here's my rant on speed limits, as promised yesterday.

The government of nearly every jurisdiction in North America and much of the rest of the world has some law or another restricting the speed at which one can drive on public roads.

In most cases, at least around here, city streets have a speed limit of 50 km/h, country roads are limited to either 60 or 80 km/h, depending on the municipality, and major highways are limited to 100 km/h.

My contention is simple: speed limits are not honest.

No police officer, government official, or driver honestly believes that people are going to get in their cars, get on the 401, and drive at 100 km/h. So accepted is this that it is rare for a vehicle to even be pulled over while travelling under about 130 km/h on highway 401, and demerit points are not even assigned to a driver's license until 15 km/h over the limit.

If the government can't be honest about the speed limits on our highways, how can we expect them to be honest about other speed limits?

No-one really goes at 50 km/h on most city streets. 60 km/h is closer to normal, except on roads too narrow to do so safely. So why do we have these absurd speed limits?

If legislators start being honest about speed limits, drivers will start taking them seriously. If the speed limit on highway 401 was 140 km/h, strictly enforced, it would make sense. A limit is supposed to be a boundary you cannot exceed, not a recommendation, and if highway speed limits were honest and country roads were limited to speeds appropriate to visibility and road conditions, low city speed limits would seem more meaningful, as drivers who would be used to conforming to speed limits because, well, they'd be logical. We would be in the mindset that a speed limit truely is a limit, not just a suggestion, and that it exists for a reason and are set where they are actually meaningful.

Until then, I will continue to view enforced speed limits as nothing more than government fundraising, as evidenced by the SQ union's 2001 pressure tactics where they refused to hand out speeding tickets on Quebec highways as part of contract negotiations (since police cannot strike), resulting in large amounts of lost income for the province.

Posted at 10:00 on May 20, 2006

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May 19th, 2006 | transit | May 21st, 2006

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