The province of Ontario has the lowest speed limits in North America for major highways. We also have some of the lowest speed limits for all other roadways (80 km/h) then other Canadian provinces and US states. There are more than 60 countries and states worldwide that have a maximum speed limit of the 120 km/h or more for their major highways. But here in Ontario, we are stuck with a maximum limit on all major highways of only 100 km/h. This number is arbitrary and not based on safety concerns. When the 401 Highway was open more than 50 years ago the speed limit was 113 km an hour. It was reduced in the 1970s not for safety concerns but because of the Arab oil embargo causing gas shortages. Accordingly, the government lowered the speed limit in hopes to save on gas consumption. However, when the oil embargo ended and ever since the government has not raised the speed limits. It should be noted since the 1960s vehicles are much safer as a result of better brakes, tires, steering systems, airbags and seatbelts. The major highways are also much safer now with concrete mediums, paved shoulders and an increased number of lanes for traffic. There is no objective scientific basis for keeping the speed limit as low as it is, a speed limit that's virtually ignored by all drivers on all 400 series highways. Similarly on local roads a speed limit of 80 km an hour is not necessary or even safer than a more reasonable limit in the 90 km an hour range. This range being what is the norm in most other provinces and US states.
In Ontario, local municipalities receive the income generated by speeding tickets. It's this income that is subsequently used to help pay for policing costs. It would seem that artificially low speed limits are not safety driven but serve as another form of taxation to generate income for municipalities. The reality in today's world with today's vehicles and excellent roads the speed limits should be at least adjusted up to reflect this new reality. These changes have been made in most provinces and virtually every US state without an increase in accidents it's about time Ontario caught up to the rest of North America.
Shawn Swarts is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice. For more articles, visit the Library page at www.cobbjones.ca.