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BC's top doc recommends lowering speed limits to help save lives

Last Updated Mar 31, 2016 at 8:07 pm PDT

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Dr. Perry Kendall thinks lowering limits to 30 km/h will help reduce deaths on local roads

Five of the six fatal traffic collisions in Vancouver this year were pedestrians

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Would you support speed limits in your city dropping to 30 kilometres an hour? That is just one of many recommendations by our province’s top doctor as he aims to reduce deaths on the road.

A cyclist or pedestrian can survive an accident when a car is driving at that speed, but Dr. Perry Kendall says anything above that gets risky.

“The data on which this is based of survivability looks at pedestrian fatalities and the vast majority of them happen in urban areas and the vast majority of them happen in that 30 km/h to 50 km/h gap.”

“Your chances of surviving a direct impact at 50 km/h are about 15 to 20 per cent, but your chances of surviving an impact at 30 km/h are about 80 to 90 per cent,” adds Kendall.

His report called ‘When the Rubber Hits the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-Being in BC” also recommends the return of photo radar and zero blood alcohol content rules expanded to include drivers up to age 25.

As it stands, that zero per cent restriction is based on whether a driver has an “L” or an “N,” not based on age.

“The key thing is you have to notify people that we are going to be monitoring your speed and that’s the way it’s a deterrent. There is a whole variety of strategies that have risen around the world,” adds Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The report also suggests using any profits made from radar to reduce deadly traffic collisions and promoting road safety.

LISTEN: Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks live on NEWS 1130 about the medical health officers’ report

Don’t expect to see speed limits in cities lowered

BC’s transportation minister isn’t signalling there’s much interest in the idea from the province.

Todd Stone says the government wouldn’t consider even studying the possibility of lowering the speed limit without strong support from municipalities. He says a recent UBCM vote to lower the limit to 40km/h shows there isn’t.

“We’re certainly going to review it, like we will all 28 recommendations, but there will be no movement on this from our perspective, unless there is a really strong endorsement.”

Stone adds a flat speed limit of 30km/h may not be the safest on all roads.

As for other controversial ideas in the report, bringing photo radar back is also being soundly rejected.

SENSE BC slams report recommendations

A group that argues that lower speeds do not necessarily improve safety on the roads is calling the idea of a 30km/h city speed limit unrealistic.

“If there’s any exception to [that limit], it has to be posted. Imagine Vancouver, for instance — the default speed limit for Granville Street would now be 30km/h. How ridiculous is that?” says Ian Tootill with SENSE BC, which also campaigned against photo radar in the past.

“It doesn’t work. It doesn’t apprehend problem drivers. It’s an invasion of privacy. There’s a number of arguments that make photo radar not something we want to deal with,” says Tootill.

He’s also criticizing the fact BC’s top doctor came up with the report in the first place.

“I have a problem with somebody who’s employed as a provincial health officer who is making a broad interpretation of his job to include commentary on things that should normally be left to the task of engineers.”