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Speed Kills Your Pocketbook
September 13, 2013 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Speed Kills Your Pocketbook

How speed limits are set in British Columbia.
posted by narcissus_and_ambrosia (49 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
BC speed limits are indeed ridiculously low, noticeably lower than other provinces in Canada.

I kind of like the rural Quebec speed limit system, where the posed limit is basically a dare. I don't think they actually hand out any tickets. Speeders just die.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:25 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I kind of like the rural Quebec speed limit system, where the posed limit is basically a dare. I don't think they actually hand out any tickets. Speeders just die.

I can always recognize Quebec trained drivers by how they will make a left turn just as the light changes in front of oncoming traffic.
posted by srboisvert at 6:51 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is very interesting.

Thinking about applying it in my local area makes me wary though. Many of the arterial roads in my county are four-lane, divided highways but have side-street intersections as well as residential and commercial driveways entering them, so the posted limit is generally 45 mph. However, because they're well-graded, curve-straightened, divided highways people want to go 70 mph or more. I feel like it's dangerous, but perhaps that's because, like Gene Hackman in Target, I'm (now) a very cautious driver. (We'll ride right past when I used to make an 80 mi. crosstown trip door-to-door in under an hour…)

The data says there were 7 speed-related fatalities out of 24,787 traffic accidents in the county in 2011 due solely to excessive speed. The 7,733 injuries aren't broken out by cause, but if the proportions are the same as for fatalities, then 1,083 of the injuries were due to speed.

I'm just not sure setting a 60 mph limit on roads with driveways entering them is safe. Either way, I'd much rather police patrols strictly enforced aggressive driving and tailgating rules than focus on speeding.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:11 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The stereotypes about Quebec drivers just made it even more fun to cheer for Jacques Villeneuve, imagining him driving one handed and chain smoking while he worked his way through the grid, uttering French curses at everyone in his way...
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:12 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't watch the linked video, but I wound up watching the one it links to - a timelapse of the guy behind that video circumnavigating Manhattan in half the time it normally takes.

So mellow and relaxing! And now I want to see this as a side mission or an achievement in a sandbox game. Drive around the whole map, obeying stoplights; bonus for not taking any damage. I'm halfway tempted to start up Saint's Row 4 and just… do something like that. For the heck of it.
posted by egypturnash at 7:14 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speed Kills Pedestrians You Hit

I'd be fine with Autobahn-style speed limits in Canada if it came with protection-from-cars in cities. 30km/h zones, separated bike lanes, etc.

One thing I noticed in Holland was that they were very happy to line roads with trees and otherwise install posts, signs, ditches, etc. right next to rural highways.

They seem to serve a dual purpose: First they provide shade, and are pretty. Second, they protect the people cycling and walking on adjacent paths. The threat of drivers losing control and crashing into them seems to be outweighed by the benefits to non-drivers safety and comfort.
posted by anthill at 7:15 PM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


egypturnash: "I didn't watch the linked video, but I wound up watching the one it links to - a timelapse of the guy behind that video circumnavigating Manhattan in half the time it normally takes."

Man, I really hope that "Afroduck" isn't the musician whose music is playing in the video. Would suck to have the pigs on your door after such an obvious stunt. Rather that someone actually played his music and used his name to claim the drive, because otherwise you're pretty fucking dumb to do such a stunt under your professional name.

Also - at first I was like oh hey, this is better than the fucking dubstep I would be expecting, so I googled 'effed up camel' and saw it was by afroduck.
posted by symbioid at 8:01 PM on September 13, 2013


Well, that was pretty dumb. Just go look at the Wiki article on speed limits instead.
posted by klanawa at 8:02 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


BC speed limits are indeed ridiculously low, noticeably lower than other provinces in Canada.

I really hope that at the upcoming UBCM meeting there is a resolution to reduce speed limits in urban neighbourhoods to 40 km/h. I really do.

During the first week of school I think three kids were killed by motorists. Fucking brutal. Motorists do not give two shits. Fuck 'em and their entitled attitude. Fuck 'em all.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:03 PM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


♫ Sounds like someone's just had a speeding fine. ♪
posted by mattoxic at 8:33 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I drove the road from Victoria to Port Renfrew last month, and given how curvy and hilly the roads were, basically logging roads, I didn't think the posted limits were unreasonable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:44 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


BP, someone died on Sombrio Hill (roughly between China Beach and Renfrew) a couple of days ago.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:57 PM on September 13, 2013


I really hope that at the upcoming UBCM meeting there is a resolution to reduce speed limits in urban neighbourhoods to 40 km/h. I really do.

Wasn't there an Esquimalt councilor who suggested this recently? She said she got more hate mail on that single issue than any other, ever.

As a cyclist, I just wish people would pay attention to the existing limits. I already go the speed limit on Foul Bay Road (30km/h; twisty with blind corners), nobody needs to pass me, but nobody doesn't.
posted by klanawa at 9:03 PM on September 13, 2013


Now that the red cloud of rage has subsided, I cannot make heads or tails of the argument that speeds on BC roads are too low. I think Hwy 1 (Trans-Can) in the Lower Mainland has speeds of 110 km/h, which seems pretty reasonable. It's a freeway. Most of the time when I've driven in the Lower Mainland the average speed is about 70 km/h on main arteries like Kingsway. Is that really too slow?

Hwy 17 from the ferry in to Victoria has speeds of 90 km/h, but it's an incredibly dangerous highway with frequent intersections. It's also very crowded.

Hwy 1 over the Malahat has a speed limit of 70-80 km/h, but there are frequent fatal crashes. The Inland Highway up Vancouver Island is a freeway with speeds of 110 km/h. Is that too slow?

The Coquihalla Connector has I think maximum speeds of 120 km/h. Having driven Hwy 1 to Calgary, and driven Hwy 16, I can't say that driving more than 110 km/h is particularly safe. Too many twists and turns, there are also deer and bear on the road.

Like, why are speeds in BC considered slow?

I say this because my son walks to school and people on their way to work do not give one damn about him when he is in a marked crosswalk, crossing properly on the light. Fuck the entitled attitude.

I saw a guy in a wheelchair run down in a crosswalk a block from where I live. He died. I can still see the blood seeping from his head onto the pavement.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 PM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wasn't there an Esquimalt councilor who suggested this recently? She said she got more hate mail on that single issue than any other, ever.

Shellie Gudgeon on Victoria city council.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 PM on September 13, 2013


The weird thing is, while he's whining that limits are too low, and complaining that cops are complaining about speeders, he's showing footage of cars that have been torn apart by high speed. He says, "physics doesn't change!" Well, exactly. That's why everyone survives at 50 and everyone dies at 90.

And I don't really get the argument that people know intuitively what speeds are safe. If that was true, there'd be no speed-related crashes, and the Malahat wouldn't be such a shitshow.
posted by klanawa at 9:29 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem is you have to account for a wide variety of different cars with different features and drivers of relative skill. For instance my sports car with its fresh tyres and well maintained brakes and a decently skilled driver will complete a stop from 60mph in 117 feet. One hundred and seventeen god damn feet. For reference, the UK government thinks that a regular car will only do that at 40mph. So I don't feel so bad when I'm cruising down a 50mph limited access expressway at 65mph when the traffic is clear. I know even when the idiot in front of me decides to hard stop to crawl into a turning lane even with a 20mph headstart I'm still going to stop easily in time.
posted by Talez at 9:58 PM on September 13, 2013


I really hope that at the upcoming UBCM meeting there is a resolution to reduce speed limits in urban neighbourhoods to 40 km/h. I really do.

Thing is, unless the street is clearly and routinely patrolled, that will do nothing. Traffic engineers in my area have finally got wise to this, and generally recommend not lowering speed limits in response to local neighbourhood concerns, due to it being a symbolic and ineffective approach. They have done their empirical research, and know that behaviour will barely change at all.

If you want behaviour to change, you must change the design speed: narrow the roadway (with curbs or paint), add trees, bollards, medians, pedestrian crossing islands, bump-outs, on-street parking, etc. As opposed to with easy-to-change speed limits, the trouble with these changes is you may have to fight traffic engineers who are counting on moving X number of cars through, neighbourhood be damned. And you have to fight Fire/EMS, who will complain if you want to narrow a road. (The result being an always-wide, fast-feeling road so that fire trucks can barrel through occasionally, but everyone else does so all the time.)
posted by parudox at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


The problem is you have to account for a wide variety of different cars with different features and drivers of relative skill... a decently skilled driver will complete a stop from 60mph in 117 feet... I'm still going to stop easily in time.
posted by Talez at 9:58 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


It may well be within the machine's capability to stop in ideal circumstances, but the human at the wheel is an extremely flawed instrument. Given that your reaction time is 1-2 seconds, that's up to 55m at 100km/h (60mph). Worse if you're distracted. Doesn't do you much good if your car comes to a tight stop 117ft after you've hit somebody. Never mind that drivers are terrible judges of their own skill. You have no way to determine whether your continued existence is due to skill or luck.

As for the "skilled driver" trope, it's intuitive but not supported. Mindset is far more important than skill.
posted by klanawa at 10:40 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I feel like we (in North America) might have a better shot at actually using speed limits to change behaviour if the police themselves (and penalties) considered them to be limits. Here in Ontario, you sometimes see signs on provincial highways listing the penalties for going 20, 30, 50 km/h over the speed limit; the very clear implication is that simply exceeding the limit does not result in meaningful or any penalties. If drivers knew that it was a hard limit with no uncertainty, I bet we would see some attention paid to speed limits again, even holding design speed constant.
posted by parudox at 10:42 PM on September 13, 2013


Thing is, unless the street is clearly and routinely patrolled, that will do nothing.

I wonder if one of the reasons there's so little enforcement is because we use the police to do it. They're busy and expensive. If there were some kind of dedicated, second-tier traffic enforcement brigade, it might be cheaper and easier to "remind" people to slow down.
posted by klanawa at 10:44 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the subject of busy and expensive I found this interesting. I wonder if we would say the same thing about, say, money spent treating breast cancer which, apparently, kills more often but results in substantially fewer person-years lost to premature death.
posted by mce at 11:06 PM on September 13, 2013


ceribus peribus: STEROTYPE? You know what the diffrence between Quebec drivers and BC drivers is? I'll tell you. I lived in Montreal (Well, Kirkland/Point Claire) for 2 months in 2010, and being a pedestrian there was HELL. Drivers didn't slow down, drove right by the curb, the stop lights with cross walks were put at the bottom of large hill people tore down, and in fact, one of them was across the off-ramp for the freaking transcanada. The drivers would tear right by someone obviously waiting to cross the street, and generally scared the hell out of me. Then I moved to BC for a summer in 2011 (Burnaby, though I spent a fair bit of time in Vancouver). When I came home from gaming each week, I'd usually just miss the bus, and it was about a 30 min walk home if I took the fast way, and the bus only came every half hour, so I'd normally just walk it. One section of the fast route went across a bridge with no sidewalk, but a very wide paved shoulder. Terrible design, no better then in Quebec, but whereas in Quebec drivers whip along as fast as they damn well please, with no respect for pedestrians, in BC they would typically either slow down, pull into the centre lane or both. I loved it, and it felt a lot safer.
Plus MOST of the roads around here are better: Overhead walk ways, good sidewalks, etc. Damn, Quebec drivers and there terrible road design (from a pedestrian perspective) can bite my ass.
posted by Canageek at 1:21 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notwithstanding the obvious digs at the police, the video does make a valid point in that speed limits should be set by technical data, not at the whim of a city council or the like.

My state recently looked into raising the rural Interstate limit from 65 to 70.
They ultimately decided not to, but the decision was based largely on empirical data, on traffic studies and on emissions concerns.

Similarly, if you advocate for a drastically lower speed limit on a particular road, the city engineering department will contact you and explain the rational behind the current speed limit. The state itself sets minimum speed limits for certain road types (arterial, local collectors, etc.) and the town isn't allowed to "adjust" them for revenue collection.

The other thing that should be noted is that "excessive speed" is a sort of catch-all phrase in traffic accident.
If the driver wasn't obviously drunk, and won't cop to texting, then excessive speed is the cause of the accident, even if it really had nothing to do with it.
posted by madajb at 2:29 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm not going to watch a 15-minute video that probably rehashes arguments I've heard a dozen times before, no matter how convincing the incoherent Jalopnik guy insists it is. I mean, what is he saying here?
I don't want to ruin the crux of the story and the evidence, but the use of actual facts and logic to get rid of the notion that lower speed limits is mind blowing.
Anyway, can somebody summarize what "actual facts and logic" are in that video - in other words, ruin the crux of it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:10 AM on September 14, 2013


So mellow and relaxing! And now I want to see this as a side mission or an achievement in a sandbox game. Drive around the whole map, obeying stoplights; bonus for not taking any damage. I'm halfway tempted to start up Saint's Row 4 and just… do something like that. For the heck of it.

Go to Steam and download the demo for Euro Truck Simulator 2, right now.

I am deadly serious.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:31 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad, Talez, that you can stop on a sixpence. It's the junker behind you with no shocks and the mere memory of brake linings I'd be worried about.
posted by scruss at 3:46 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, can somebody summarize what "actual facts and logic" are in that video

The discussion in the video is specifically about highways with no pedestrians or intersections; and particularly about a wide divided highway called Marine Drive which has a 50 kph (31 mph) limit.

The key arguments are:

2m53s: Canada has some of the lowest highway speed limits; but higher accident rates than Germany, which has unlimited autobahn speed limits.
4m27s: The "soloman curve" means driving at the average speed of traffic is safer than driving slower or faster than average.
9m50s: Reports by the government's own engineers say speed limits should set so about 15% of people speed, rather than the current situation (7m50s) where 100% of people speed.
11m04s: Marine Drive, which has a high rate of speeding and of ticketing, is not a dangerous road as it has one of the lowest accident rates in the city.
12m10s: A similar stretch of road in a nearby legislative district has a higher 70 kph (43 mph) speed limit but no more accidents.
13m00s: Experimental evidence from US highways indicates that when done right, increasing speed limits has little effect on average driver speeds, but does reduce accident rates. Evidence from trials in BC corroborates this (13m21s).
14m14s: The government's own engineers recommended raising speed limits on several roads; this advice was ignored for political reasons.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:50 AM on September 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


klanawa: I wonder if one of the reasons there's so little enforcement is because we use the police to do it.

This. And I don't think it's because it's too expensive, it's because the police hate doing it. They've got better things to do, like fighting gang-related crime on the internet and getting their helicopter washed. I accept that it's a dangerous and unpleasant job to be standing out on the road handing out tickets to people who hate you, but somebody has to do it. Unfortunately, right now it's their job, and as far as I can see they're not doing it. We've driven over a lot of southern Alberta and BC this summer, and just like last year, we saw practically no enforcement. At the same time, general driving behaviour is worse - more speeding, more tailgating, more passing on double lines, etc. (I'm not a perfect driver either, btw.) Without at least the appearance of enforcement, people think, "I'm a great driver and I've got a nice new truck - no question I've got the skillz to drive at 130 through here. Plus it's a free country - who's going to tell me I can't drive like I want?" Dude, you've been playing too much GTA.
posted by sneebler at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2013


The claims he actually makes in the linked video is a lot more reasonable than the ones being attacked in this thread. I'm guessing maybe 40% of us watched this before commenting.
posted by a birds at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was a pedestrian hit by a girl in an SUV outside our building this thursday. My boss had already left for the day. So friday he comes in and gets a description of what happened (no one saw what happened) and his first statement was "Oh, the pedestrian must have been jaywalking, serves him right."

What the hell! People are literally dying because cars are to rushed or are not paying attention. Unless they throw themselves into you, it's the cars fault, period.

(all we know is the care was turning left)

Montreal
posted by Napierzaza at 8:37 AM on September 14, 2013


Thanks, Mike1024.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:49 AM on September 14, 2013


I watched the video in its entirety, have lived in Vancouver, driven Marine Drive and the Sea to Sky highway (before and after upgrades) and have just driven the Calgary to Vancouver return trip last week, so my data points are recent.

The video is a crock, he mixes points up in his righteous fury (I agree, someone just got a speeding ticket), using endless Simpsons quotes and mocking the policeman's name does not help his case. He could have conveyed his points more effectively in a 3-5 minute video without the need to shout "look at me, I'm cleverer than the Police".

Could the speed limit in Marine Drive be increased? Likely yes, and without any increase in risk. However, it's a crowded route with traffic to Richmond and to the airport (lots of trucks and tourists). I'd rather the police focused on aggressive driving and penalised that instead of speeders. That section is also not that long, about 3 km between traffic lights (Boundary traffic lights to Kerr St.) (Google Maps link), so it is not as though they're putting hard limits on a proper freeway.

Currently no-one goes faster than the speed limit on Highway 1 from Abbotsford in to Vancouver because of the roadworks. Once they are done though, I'd expect the limits to be increased as they've been further West past Hope.

I'd encourage everyone to do the drive through the Rockies, not only are they spectacular, but the upgraded roads are a delight and the limits have indeed been raised there to 110 km/hr which makes for a really nice drive.
posted by arcticseal at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The key arguments are:

As mentioned above, I've driven on many of the roads in this province, and the speed limits do seem about right. It's ridiculous to compare British Columbia to Germany, by the way.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if one of the reasons there's so little enforcement is because we use the police to do it. They're busy and expensive.

There's relatively little enforcement of speed limits because rigid and universal enforcement of speed limits at their current levels would be pitchforks-and-torches unpopular, at least on highways.

It's hard to see how it could be because police are expensive, given that traffic enforcement is typically a money-making exercise for the political entity doing it.

Here in Ontario, you sometimes see signs on provincial highways listing the penalties for going 20, 30, 50 km/h over the speed limit; the very clear implication is that simply exceeding the limit does not result in meaningful or any penalties.

It's also a recognition that the Ontario-wide speed limit of 100 km/h, even on the flat, straight expanse of potato farms between Sarnia and London, doesn't really have any technical justification.

If drivers knew that it was a hard limit with no uncertainty...

...the elected officials who made or allowed those decisions would likely lose their next elections. If you wanted to do something like this without seeing heads on pikes, you'd have to pair it with limits closer to the technical limits of the highways.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on September 14, 2013


Saying "excessive speed" causes accidents is kind of a tautology, yes? If you're an incompetent and careless driver, excessive speed would be anything over zero.
posted by meowzilla at 10:43 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's ridiculous to compare British Columbia to Germany, by the way.

Why?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:47 AM on September 14, 2013


You can't get a decent currywurst in the Lower Mainland.
posted by arcticseal at 10:58 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


4m27s: The "soloman curve" means driving at the average speed of traffic is safer than driving slower or faster than average.

It's a theoretical model, though, the traffic-safety equivalent of the Laffer curve. It doesn't account risks other than the relative speed of cars and it's not supported by the data.

11m04s: Marine Drive, which has a high rate of speeding and of ticketing, is not a dangerous road as it has one of the lowest accident rates in the city.

Knight St. and SE Marine has the second most crashes in BC. That intersection is within the circle he draws on his map. If his thesis revolves around the notion that low speed is dangerous, and the limit on Marine Dr. is too low, how is it that the parts of Marine that are not intersections are so safe? Is he suggesting that the limit increase to 100 in the few hundred metres between intersections, then fall to 50 near them?

12m10s: A similar stretch of road in a nearby legislative district has a higher 70 kph (43 mph) speed limit but no more accidents.

At which point he shows footage of a 100m section of each road, with no intersections in view (nor any traffic), as evidence that they're "identical." Unfortunately, most roads are longer than 100m and Marine Dr. and Lougheed Highway are by no means identical.


It's ridiculous to compare British Columbia to Germany, by the way.

Why?


I can think of a couple of reason: First, "British Columbia," in the numerical sense, is "Vancouver." Vancouver is a big, messy metropolis with a lot of internal highways and thousands of controlled intersections, even on the Trans-Canada highway. Second, Canada's highways are littered with intersections, rather than interchanges. The Trans-Canada highway turns into an arterial road as it passes through each city. It doesn't bypass anything.


BTW: My argument here isn't that speed limits are correct by definition. It's that this video illogical and misrepresents what evidence there is. And, making fun of peoples' names? Christ...
posted by klanawa at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


> the argument that people know intuitively what speeds are safe

In rebuttal, the Dunning–Kruger effect. If we have driving license exams like Germany ($1500 cost, over 12 months), and deny licenses to people that are dangerous drivers (~20%) then I'm OK with having speed limits like Germany (which is to say 30km/h in cities, unlimited km/h on flat, straight expressways).
posted by anthill at 11:25 AM on September 14, 2013


KokuRyu: "
The Coquihalla Connector has I think maximum speeds of 120 km/h. Having driven Hwy 1 to Calgary, and driven Hwy 16, I can't say that driving more than 110 km/h is particularly safe. Too many twists and turns, there are also deer and bear on the road.
"

The Coq limit is 110, at least between Kamloops and Merritt and at that is ridiculously under posted in the summer. The design spec for the road (ramp lengths, curve radiuses etc.) was 140km/h and it is a very limited access freeway with full animal control and no development encroachment. You can travel much of the road at a 160 no problem. Luckily there is low rates of enforcement too.

Kirth Gerson: "Anyway, can somebody summarize what "actual facts and logic" are in that video - in other words, ruin the crux of it?"

Most of the video orbits around a couple streets where data both from police and the video producer tells us that no one is obeying the posted limit. And for at least one of the streets (I don't know where the reporter and cop with the laser was) the accident rate is lower than basically anywhere else in the municipality.

He also touches on the Sea to Sky which went from curvy narrow two lane rural highway to four lane freeway without a change in limits. I haven't driven it since the improvements. Is that actually true? If so it's inane; of course people are going to be speeding.

klanawa: " he suggesting that the limit increase to 100 in the few hundred metres between intersections, then fall to 50 near them?"

No, the curve would have the speed limit change to somewhere in the 70 range and would likely have little effect on safety (as this is the average speed people are travelling any ways). The big effect would be merely on revenue generation by the province and enabling cops to go seine netting whenever they need to goose their enforcement numbers.

klanawa: "I can think of a couple of reason: First, "British Columbia," in the numerical sense, is "Vancouver." Vancouver is a big, messy metropolis with a lot of internal highways and thousands of controlled intersections, even on the Trans-Canada highway. Second, Canada's highways are littered with intersections, rather than interchanges. The Trans-Canada highway turns into an arterial road as it passes through each city. It doesn't bypass anything."

If by numerical you mean population density sure. Per capita miles traveled is probably higher outside the lower mainland and certainly long expanses of uninterrupted road is larger outside the lower mainland. The trans canada in a lot cities is a freeway in whole or in part; highways has been doing a lot to improve this road particularly.

Highways/Government has actually been addressing this. Many of the rural highways around here have seen speed limit bumps to as high as 100km/h which is good but also highlights the absurdity of the artificially low limits on rural divided freeways.

I'm a big proponent of stricter licensing. Much stricter licensing. Shit like driving in rain without your lights on; not signalling correctly when entering and exiting a roundabout; stopping for no reason whatsoever when sign-age indicates you have a free lane; not stopping for crossing pedestrians; not coming to speed before merging onto a freeway; impeding the flow of traffic; etc. should be 6-9 points and heavily enforced. Police should be aggressively enforcing burned out brake lights. If you can't manage the basic rules of the road and keep your vehicle in repair you shouldn't be driving.
posted by Mitheral at 12:26 PM on September 14, 2013


I put together a research paper on speed limits (in the US) in college that probably would make a better argument that this guy's video.

IIRC, my main points were:

-Speed makes accidents worse, no question, it's physics.
-Differences in speed are more dangerous than high speed.
-More than differences in speed, people driving like asses will both cause more accidents and make those accidents worse.
-The Solomon curve is basically the speed range that 85% of drivers will drive on a given stretch of road.
-The posted limit has almost no affect on the Solomon curve.
-The entity setting the speed limit often sets the speed limits on the low end of the Solomon curve, especially when you get away from major metropolitan areas.
-Traffic enforcement is basically about generating revenue and not about promoting driver safety.

I had found a transcript from some meeting where speed cameras were getting pitched to a state (I think) government. There was a lot of talk about what the cameras would cost and how much revenue they'd generate. There was no mention of increasing safety, none at all. I was kind of blown away by that. I would have thought that one of the state's lawmakers would ask about it or mention it or something.

There were a couple of cases in California where the limits on a certain stretch of road were increased. Local law enforcement could then focus on enforcement in other areas and the end result was that the number of accidents went down significantly.

I found a couple of engineering reports with range of speed that they expected people would drive (usually about a 20mph range) for some roads here in Minnesota. Not only were the speed limits that ended up getting posted there on the bottom end of that range but the fine schedule is pretty low for the 0-5, 6-10, 11-15, and 15-20 mph over the limit fines. It then takes a BIG step up from there. So basically, they want you speed a little bit so they can write you a ticket whenever they feel like it without actually changing your behavior. It's not until you're outside of the Solomon curve (the posted limit +20 mph) that they actually want to discourage you (outside of the Twin Cities metro area anyway).

Germany gets away with no limits on much of the Autobahn because getting a license is expensive, they take driving seriously (it's kind of a joke that cup holders in many German cars suck. Why would you be drinking anything while driving?), they maintain the hell out of the roads, they require you keep your car well maintained, and the police enforce poor driving behaviors instead of speed.

If someone was in the far left lane and someone else followed too closely to get them to move over BOTH drivers would get fined.

If the goal was really to have safer roads, we'd increase speed limits on a lot of the interstates, enforce poor driving behaviors other than speed (unless it's way outside the average that people are driving on that road), and work to change driving culture.

That's most of the important stuff that I can remember off-hand. I can dig up the paper and hope that the citations are still good if I need to.

I think the idea that law enforcement gets some or all of the revenue from the tickets they hand out is stupid and creates some messed up incentives. I'd rather that we gave out bonuses for increases in safety and empowered the police and state highway patrols to enforce poor driving rather than just speeding. Then we could adjust budgets based on need. Increase the cost of renewing license plates based on a progressive percentage of the vehicle's value to make up the difference.
posted by VTX at 1:11 PM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


-Differences in speed are more dangerous than high speed.

Where I'm coming from is from the perspective of a pedestrian, a cyclist, and the parent of children who walk to school. So yeah, the difference in speed between a car and a pedestrian absolutely makes a difference.

I think people here are just thinking about accidents between motor vehicles.

On top of that, when we talk about the Autobahn, we're talking about a freeway or an expressway which has a limited number on-ramps.

In much of British Columbia, there are no freeways, with frequent intersections, and these roadways are inherently more dangerous than the freeways many American MeFites may be accustomed to.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


>It's ridiculous to compare British Columbia to Germany, by the way.

Why?


Mountainous terrain, winding roads, hilly roads, bear, deer and elk on the roads, rockfalls and avalanches, extreme and extremely changeable weather conditions that make driving dangerous...

On top of that, most urban areas have been built for the car and are not pedestrian-friendly.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:46 PM on September 14, 2013


I think that, the video in the article aside, when we're talking about increasing speed limits, we're talking about the speed limits on the interstates or your country's equivalent (the Autobahn in Germany's case). Those are the roads that people use to travel the kinds of distances where 5 or 10 mph can make a big difference.
posted by VTX at 5:35 PM on September 14, 2013


Mountainous terrain, winding roads, hilly roads, bear, deer and elk on the roads, rockfalls and avalanches, extreme and extremely changeable weather conditions that make driving dangerous...

Have you ever been to Germany?

And note that Swiss traffic laws are very similar to German ones.
posted by 256 at 7:00 PM on September 14, 2013


Which is not to say that I don't agree with you on many point in this, KokuRyu. But one thing that is acknowledged in the linked articles is that, for safety reasons, it is just as important to have speed limits reflect practical road speed, as it is important to expect motorists to conform to speed limits.

The speed limit on the 401 in Ontario is 100km/h for, I'm pretty sure, its entire length. There are big stretches of the 401 where the median speed of traffic is more like 130km/h. In these circumstances, a motorist driving 100km/h is a bigger safety risk than a motorist driving 130km/h.

There was a case a few years ago where a guy got a speeding ticket going 120 on the 401 and then, in protest, arranged for a group of friends to drive along the 401 in a phalanx at 100km/h. The resulting traffic snarl was terrible, and these people, driving the speed limit, were cited for dangerous driving.

The counterargument to raising the speed limit to 130km/h, of course, is that then people will drive 160. I think it's reasonable, in this case, to look at Germany and Switzerland as case studies and note that, on high quality freeways with NO speed limit, the median speed tends to settle around 140km/h.

So, yes, I'm quite comfortable with the idea that Canadian speed limits are, in many cases, too low.
posted by 256 at 7:08 PM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I must be one scared-as-hell driver because driving from Seattle to Vancouver (the one to the north) is dramatic change at the border. IH-5 is 70mph almost the whole way up--except through cities, where it falls to 60mph--but that feels a lot slower than 100kph right before White Rock where the directions of travel are closer together and on ramps seem very short. I grew up driving in Texas with its wide medians and huge right-of-way, but 85mph just gives me the creeps. I can't possibly imagine going 140kph anywhere in North America and I've terrifyingly driven IH-10 in west Texas where the legal limit is 80mph and most people were right at that.

I'll take Metro, thanks.
posted by fireoyster at 5:19 AM on September 15, 2013


As someone who drives both semis and cars, I completely agree with the point that it's delta-v that causes problems. Sure, absolute speed will worsen accidents if they happen (because: physics) but the majority of accidents aren't caused by the speed itself, it's because of lousy driving coupled with vehicles traveling at differential velocities. It's because of one worried person driving 30mph slower than anyone else, or talking on a cellphone, or failing to use indicators et al

All this is kinda the point of the video, sure, he could have presented it better, but in many places (in the US at least) freeways are designed very well (token appeasement, yes there are places where this isn't true, yeah, that's when we need to make the limits lower). 140kph is eminently achievable on many freeways, and safe.

What he's arguing for is actual science and accident data being used to determine limits, it's supposedly being ignored wholesale in the examples he's citing. I don't know those roads, but the data looks compelling, and since the government had the data produced, they ought to pay attention to it.

No, 140kph is not safe on my street, but he's not suggesting increasing limits on all roads, just the application of science to the debate. When did we all come to hate science and actual data?
posted by Sportbilly at 10:29 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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