What should the speed limit be on the way to Dawson?

Lynsey Kitching


The speed limits on many rural highways in BC, such as highway 52 have the potential to be changed and the public is invited to give their input. Though the exact highways haven’t been announced yet, one can’t help but wonder if the speed limit should be changed on highway 52.

It’s sometimes hard to stay at 90 kilometres per hour on highway 52 out to Dawson Creek. “If we want people to respect the law, it’s important it reflect reality,” says former Tumbler Ridge RCMP officer Kurt Peats. “There is a discretion zone, and usually there are no tickets written under 100 km/h, which is the speed the majority of people travel, but the posted speed is the posted speed.”

The government of BC is reviewing speed limits on longer stretches of provincial highways between communities, and will be seeking public input starting this November as part of the process. Public input, along with information gathered through a technical review of provincial highways, will be considered to identify areas where speed-limit changes would be appropriate.

Peats thinks the stretches of highway around Tumbler Ridge are ideal candidates for these changes. “The problem with the speed limit on highway 52 is it’s too slow during day and too fast at night,” he explains.

He continues saying that at night or when road conditions are questionable there is a law that comes into play that officers can enforce called driving too fast for road conditions. Even if the speed was increased to 100 km/h, officers could use this section of law to get speeders to slow down.

The initial technical review for the speed limit changes is already underway. This work includes an evaluation of the latest research from around the world, as well as specific characteristics of BC highways, such as travel speed, safety history and the volume and mix of traffic. The review will also consider the feasibility of speed-management strategies such as seasonal speed limits and speed limits by vehicle type.

Fire Chief Matt Treit says, “Of the worst five accidents I’ve been to, four were during the summer on clear summer days. When the roads are good people tend to drive faster. They don’t have as much caution.”

He continues, “People do drive the speed they want to go.”

So far in 2013, the Tumbler Ridge Fire Department has responded to four motor vehicle incidents on local highways. In 2012, the Tumbler Ridge Fire Department responded to seven motor vehicle incidents on local highways. These numbers do not include motor vehicle incidents within the town site.

Along with speed, the provincial review and public consult will discuss wildlife-corridor areas and identify practices that could be implemented to reduce wildlife collisions, and on which highway segments. Examples of key areas for examination include: advisory signs, wildlife-advisory speeds and the use of advanced technologies to detect and deter wildlife.

The review will also include a section on slower vehicles—vehicles impeding other vehicles, (e.g. in the left lane, recreational vehicles, when towing, etc.) reduce the efficiency of the highway system and can cause driver frustration.

British Columbians will be able to have their say on rural highway speed limits at public forums in communities around the province, as well as through social media and online feedback. Forums will be held in Kamloops, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Vancouver, Kelowna and Cranbrook starting in November, with additional communities added as necessary.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone says, “We want to ensure those travelling on our highways can do so as safely and efficiently as possible, and we’re interested in what British Columbians have to say…”

The public input component of the review will happen starting this November, with technical work completed through the winter and recommendations due in spring 2014.