Signpost Ahead: B.C. Highway Speed Limit and Safety Review

We’ve been talking with you recently about how speed limits are set on BC highways. Sounds like some of you are in favour of an increase in limits, while others feel fine with the speed we are at. In order to get a really clear picture of the dashboard, we are stepping the discussion into high gear with a formal B.C. highway speed limit review, beginning with a public consultation beginning in November (more details on that coming soon).


So, why is the government reviewing speed limits now? The last provincial speed limit review was in 2003, and since that time we have significantly upgraded most of the major corridors in B.C. and newer vehicles have more safety features as well. Setting speed limits to the right level also improves safety and efficiency, not to mention reduces driver frustration!

Wondering how increased speed limits might make highways safer? Well, highways are safer when the majority of vehicles are travelling at close to the same speed, with research showing that as the speed difference between vehicles increases, so does the risk of being involved in a crash.

To make sure we connect with as many of you as possible, we will be hosting public forums in Kamloops, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Vancouver, Kelowna and Cranbrook, with additional communities added as necessary. We will also be connecting with you online. We are going to be asking your opinion on the criteria we use to set speed limits, if speed limits should be based on season or weather, if you think there should be different speed limits for different vehicles and which highway corridors should have their speed limits adjusted. This review isn’t focused on increasing speed limits, rather making sure we have the right speed limits.

We view your speed feedback as a valuable measure of what the public truly feels the speed should be. If your feedback and our technical review are at odds, we will consider both sources, in order to find the right balance of requirements for that particular stretch of highway.

Our consultation won’t just consider speed limits; it will also factor in slower vehicles and corridor use along with areas of where wildlife collisions cause concerns. Safety is our number one priority and there are lots of things to take into consideration during a review like this one. Like usual, we will also work with the BC RCMP and ICBC have input in any recommendations we put forward.

There have been discussions recently around changing the speed limit in municipalities, but it is important to note that this review will only focus on the longer sections of provincial highway between communities.

Hopefully this brings you up to speed on where we are at with our highway safety review. If you have any other questions or comments, please leave a comment below.

Share this page:SharingFacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Text

Page 1 of 28 comments on “Signpost Ahead: B.C. Highway Speed Limit and Safety Review”

Leave a Comment

  1. Police and ER doctors were opposed to higher speed limits. They have to deal with crashes and victims.

    The reality is that most drivers exceed the speed limit. The focus on increased speed has resulted in more crashes.

    Some distracted drivers are not capable of driving at 120 KPH, 130 KPH, 140 or higher KPH. These are the people who are crashing and will continue to do so when conditions change.

    More education though enforcement is needed for these drivers.

  2. Higher speed = more accidents. Everyone knows that, every study ever done anywhere shows that. European roads are different and so are European vehicles. Read John Carsley’s comment above this one – he said it well! Why are you listening to the few who want more speed? They are not the majority, they are just the ones online.

    • Hello,

      Thank you for sharing your concern. The Speed and Safety review is taking all aspects of highway safety into consideration. If a stretch of road cannot have its speed safely increased, it will likely stay the same speed.

  3. I’m all for science over superstition (or, even worse, politics). However, I know from many years as a public health physician that not all policies translate well when uprooted from their original environment. Most folks seem to love the German idea. BC has very different geography, history, road design, signage, driving culture, and weather from Germany (not to mention way many more pick-ups, those exemplars of road handling). What we do know is the severity of injury in a crash increases with the SQUARE of speed. We also should remember how road deaths plummeted in the US when the limit was 55 mph, and went back up when that federal law was repealed. Finally, for those who are thinking the speed on the Coquihalla should rise to 140 on a nice day, dream on. 85% of even 130 is only 110.

    • John Carsley you are the purveyor of false information. The road deaths in the United States DROPPED when the 55 limit ended. Check your facts before you spread lies. You also have no clue how the 85th percentile is used to set speed limits. It is the speed that 85% of the drivers are traveling at. Not 85% of the speed they are driving. Sheesh!

  4. Please, if you raise the speed limit, do something about the signage. It’s already inadequate for drivers unfamiliar with a route. Those signs whiz by so fast. People need time to absorb the information, change lanes, etc. Otherwise they’ll have to slow down!

  5. Hi QJ,

    Thanks for the comment, we will share with the traffic engineering department. Stay tuned to TranBC for the official launch of the speed review and submit your suggestions then too!

  6. Of course, I’d love to see higher speed limits, but how about the fact that they will still be of no benefit when all traffic in all lanes are doing the same speed…people in this Province should not drive faster, they should simply learn to drive. Thank You.

  7. Excellent initiative — please raise the speed limit. And please don’t waste more time/resources in determining if this should happen: almost everyone feels that is reasonable and safe to do so, evidenced by everyone doing just that… the road is designed for higher speeds (eg Coquihalla on a sunny day) and vehicles are designed for higher speeds.

    I have seen many times where travelling the posted speed limit only happened when a police cruiser was in sight… a parade of cars who had dutifully slowed down with an RCMP officer at the lead!

    In addition to support of increasing the speed limit, also implement:
    a) variable speed signs (that change with the road conditions and can alert to incidents ahead, as in Washington state on I5, in Europe etc) as another suggested above.
    b) enforcement of current laws and/or education on good practice: stay right except to pass; slow vehicles (RVs/trucks/etc.) if there are several vehicles behind you, pull over and let them pass.

    • Hi Duane. Happy to hear your thoughts. I hope you take part in the consultation when it kicks off in November across the province. We’ll share those details (when/where) when they’re confirmed.

  8. Thanks for announcing this consultative process. And for considering moving to the 85th percentile. I do have a concern that even if things do get recommended to change, that nothing will be done. This seems to be the track record for a majority of studies. Why bother to spend money for the study if you don’t plan to undertake the recommendations ?
    And as Greg mentioned, driver licensing in BC is a joke. Much more comprehensive road testing should be included. Graduate from less busy roads to busier roads/traffic as the learner progresses and is capable of. Include rush-hour traffic, driving at night in the rain, etc., etc. And, implement 5 year mandatory re-testing. The way things are now, a person gets their license at age 16, and can then drive for the next 50 years without being re-tested. Many things can change over that 50 years which affect a person’s judgement, ability, physical capability, etc. Having a Drivers License is a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT.

    • Hi Greg, thanks for the comment. I’ve passed on your driver licensing feedback to the Ministry of Justice as they hold the authority on that one.
      As to the implementation of the study, a lot has changed since the 2003 review and analysis of posted speed limits and speed limit setting practices. The ministry has invested in highway upgrades and vehicle technology has improved, so we’re taking a new look. We’ll keep you up to date on progress and decisions as we know them.

  9. ICBC and RCMP need to stay out of this study, their interests are incredibly biased and not in line with science.
    Only when science and facts dictate and political interests are left out will you have a chance of doing the right thing. Europe is a great example, and most highways should be at the 120 to 130 mark, maybe higher for coquhailla can probably do 140. Semis could be less. Germany has solved this problem let’s learn fr them.
    Driving tests and driving theory tests must be made more comprehensive, it is still too easy to get a license. I feel strongly that licenses are still purchased in many cases.

  10. “If your feedback and our technical review are at odds, we will consider both sources, in order to find the right balance of requirements for that particular stretch of highway.”

    Why? If an engineer tells me that a bridge wires have to be 6″ thick to accomodate the traffic, but the population “feels” that that’s too thick, would you come to a “consensus?” Or, would you just do what the engineers say?

    Similarly, if everyone wants to do 150km/h on a stretch of highway, but the engineers say it’s only safe to do 110, would you actually put the speed limit higher than what the engineers say is safe?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think we should have limits that are much higher than they are now, but I think the feedback from people should be weighted on how well-trained we are in traffic engineering principles. So, for most of us, very little. What NEEDS to happen, which is what didn’t happen in 2003, is the government has to actually PAY ATTENTION AND IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE ENGINEERS.

    • Disagree with the analogy. A bridge’s support aren’t limiting the traffic its limiting the total weight, whether it be one vehicle or one hundred. How do you relate that to speed.

      If everyone wants to do 150 where the engineer says 110, everyone will do 150. What is in the design of american or european roads make them “safer” considering their speeds are generally higher?

      A highway is safe at practically any speed. The problem is usually the driver and other traffic, not the highway.

      Graduated licensing is part of the answer. Make everyone take an advanced driving ed course. Learn your vehicle and your limits. Driving is a privelege, not a right for every incompetent fool.

  11. Thanks you for doing this.

    In many cases when I drive the speed limit I feel at greater risk than if I were driving at the same speed as the rest of traffic.

    There are a few roads in the lower mainland where I am passed by close to 100% of the other drivers when I drive the limit. 50 kmh isn’t safe in these cases.

    How do I sign up for notification of the public consultation meetings?

  12. Thank you for finally getting on board with this. I am fully in support of higher speeds on provincial highways. I grew up in Europe where the distances are much shorter than here and the speeds are far higher. If the speeds are increased for everyone then the roads will feel more comfortable to drive on and there will be less frustrated drivers.
    With the new graduated drivers program there are better drivers on the road. There are better cars with better tires, suspensions, ABS brakes, better head lights and so on. The problem with any of these public forums is that people who come normally are older and have time to spare to come and complain against changes to anything. I have posted support onto my Facebook page and one friend an Ex-cop is against it and another friend who is older, ill and cannot see well is against it because she doesn’t understand that it is not higher speeds in town, but on the highways. People need to be informed. Let’s get with the rest of the world and have our speeds set at the 85percentile. Thanks.

  13. This is GREAT NEWS! I am so glad that BC government is looking at our highway speeds in a scientific way and listening to actual experts, instead of probably biased RCMP or ICBC (who make money off speed tickets).

    I think most highways can easily accommodate 20Km/h+ increase. Basically speed limit MUST BE what 85% of the drivers travel at. This is PROVEN to be the safest speed.

    One other option is to have a dynamic speed limit. This is done in Germany, while most stretches has unlimited speed, during traffic, bad weather, or closer to intersections, they decrease the limit via digital speed limit signs. This obviously is a lot more expensive and needs infrastructure, but maybe it should be considered in phase 2 of this project.

  14. Thank you very much, this is very appreciated. I hope we can get all of the speed limits posted to the 85th percentile of drivers speed as recommended in the 2003 report. Kind regards