Is slower safer?

People like ‘common’ sense ideas, and surely ‘speed kills.’ So ‘all cars must go slower’ seems like common sense. However if 50 is safer than 60, then surely 40 is safer than 50 and following this to its absurd conclusion, stopped is safer than 10. But I am quite certain this is not so.

First of all 60 is not very fast. If you cannot maintain ‘care and control’ on good pavement in normal conditions at 60, perhaps you should not be driving at all.

A lighted sign warns me every day that I am going too fast on Fairall St. Fairall/Station St. is a secondary road connecting two major arteries through an industrial area. It is the connection between downtown Ajax and the GO Station. That stretch of road is now signed 50, which, regardless of what Ajax decided, is clearly not democratically what almost anyone using that road agrees to. It could be worse though. There is a similar connecting road north of the 401 signed 40. No one using that road goes 40.

But Ajax is once again on about speeding and safety. This is absurd for many reasons.

The expected stopping distance for vehicles is based on tests from decades ago. Actual stopping distances for cars today can be less than half the regulatory standard.

Both roads and vehicles, here at least, are far better designed and safer than they were when speed limits were significantly higher. So the gap between what equipment and infrastructure is designed for and regulation is getting wider, speed limits less reasonable. That governments express concern that there is more speeding should not be surprising when traffic laws do not reflect what most people actually do and more importantly, what is actually safe.

Collisions between vehicles and anything else are more likely where there is more congestion. Consider reducing traffic speeds from 50 to 40. While no modern vehicle on a modern road in normal conditions is significantly safer to drive at the lower speed, traveling 20% slower increases trip time by a quarter. If every car on the road is out there 25% longer then there are 25% more cars on the road. This is certainly more dangerous.

Finally there are the two great hypocrisies of conflating traffic safety and ever-lower speed limits. One is that while municipal and provincial governments like to affect road safety policies, it is cheaper to just go on about speeding than it is to do anything useful. For instance changing speed signs is easier than requiring everyone to get drivers training. Second is that while reducing speed limits is unlikely to reduce accidents it is a large source of revenue in the form of speeding tickets. So lowering speed limits rather than being a safety measure could be viewed as increasing yield on traffic fine farming.

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I am an experienced freelance graphic artist and sometime canoeist. I feel strongly about the quality of professional work and like sitting by a remote lake on a sun-warmed rock.

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