VICTORIA — Former B.C. transportation minister Todd Stone maintains there is good news in a Ministry of Transportation report this week that showed an increase in serious collisions on highways where his government increased speed limits four years ago.
As transportation minister under B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark in 2014, Stone okayed speed limit increases on 33 segments of highway across the province.
Yesterday's report found an overall 11.2 per cent jump in serious collisions on those 33 sections.
But Stone says about half of those segments actually saw collisions decrease.
"The Coquihalla is a good example of one of the 16 segments that saw an increase in speed — it went to 120 km/h back in 2014. Over the three years since, the Coquihalla today has the lowest crash rate it's seen in the past 12 years," said Stone.
"There are 15 other segments of highway across the province that have also seen a corresponding decrease in collisions over the last three years, since the speed limits were increased on those segments."
Stone questioned why the NDP government will revert to pre-2014 speed limits on certain sections where the highway seemingly became safer.
"If I'm surprised about anything... it would be that there are eight segments where speeds will be rolled back, and on these eight particular segments, the average speed being travelled has actually decreased. In some cases, the speeds decreased quite significantly."
Stone notes the 2014 increases were made after the ministry's engineers performed "extensive data analysis," and after a broad public consultation.
He maintains engineers have the final word on recommending speed limit changes, not elected officials.
"The bottom line here is, it's the job of the engineers in the ministry to pore through all of this data and do all of the analysis and determine what is the most appropriate speed for any particular segment of highway in the province, and then to recommend to politicians any adjustments to those speeds based on that analysis and to recommend any other mitigating strategies that the ministry feels would help make segments of highway even safer," said Stone.
Stone also says it's distracted driving and failure to drive to road conditions that are the biggest factors in serious crashes, not excessive speed.
"Exceeding the speed limit was a top contributing factor in only two per cent of collisions. In most of these 15 segments that had an increase in collisions, the increase was very modest — in some cases, we're talking about going from two collisions in a particular year to three or to five."
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