Emergency crews respond to an incident on Eric Road in Saanich. (Black Press File Photo)

Lead Island Health doctor backs Saanich push to lower provincial speed limits

Chief Medical Health Officer backs the bid to drop residential speed limits to 40 km/h

The Chief Medical Health Officer at Island Health supports the Saanich mayor’s call for the provincial government to lower residential speed limits.

READ MORE: Saanich mayor urges premier to tweak road speeds in an ‘epidemic of road crash fatalities’

Dr. Richard Stanwick agrees the province should reduce residential speed limits to 40 km/h from the current 50 km/h.

This comes after Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes’ letter to Premier John Horgan – asking the province to lower residential speed limits from 50 km/h – was endorsed by council and sent to all other B.C. mayors.

Stanwick said other major cities have demonstrated lowering residential speed limits to 40 km/h decreases the number of crash-related deaths. For example, New York reduced default speed limits from 50 km/h to 40 km/h in 2014. The city recorded a 15 per cent decrease in traffic deaths and a 27 per cent decrease in pedestrian deaths, according to the 2016 Moving to Vision Zero report.

As road speedincreases, so does the likelihood of fatality.(World Health Organization)

The World Health Organization’s road safety manual said research indicates the most vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians and cyclists) will survive if hit by a car traveling at 30 km/h, but most will not if hit at 50 km/h. The likelihood of survival goes down as speed goes up.

Stanwick said this is a matter of simple physics. “If you reduce speed, you reduce the likelihood of fatalities as well as the likelihood of that crash happening in the first place.”

He warns, however, that seniors and children fare worse in crash statistics than the average adult. He said children are closer to the road and more likely to be hit by hard parts of the car, while seniors are almost 100 per cent likely to die if hit by a vehicle traveling at 65 km/h or over.

The time it takes for a car to come to a complete stop increases as speed increases.

ICBC’s road safety website says speeding is a major contributor to car crash fatalities in B.C. Every 5 km/h over 60 km/h doubles a motorist’s risk of being in a crash. The risk increases to six times when traveling 20 km/h over the speed limit.

ICBC notes that a driver needs time to see an obstruction and react before braking to slow the vehicle. Each time a motorist doubles the driving speed, the braking distance required to come to a full stop is multiplied by four. In icy or wet conditions, even more time and space is needed.

READ MORE: Velocity expert testifies SUV sped up to 90 km/h ahead of crash that left Saanich girl unresponsive

Stanwick said just lowering the blanket residential speed limits would be a good start, but more than that needs to be done to make roads safer. He said Saanich could look at other evidence-based traffic policies it could implement to encourage good behavior on its roads.

“This is probably one of the best evidence-based areas to play with in terms of speed limits and getting the desired results, but it’s going to take some political courage to say ‘we might not get it right the first time and that’s OK’,” Stanwick said.

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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