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LETTER: Reduced speeds key to road safety

In light of a number of news stories about drivers having their vehicles impounded for travelling at excessive speeds through Saanich (see: Driver going 178 km/h on Pat Bay Highway slapped with hefty fine, week-long impound), it’s clear that we must continue our work towards achieving Vision Zero, including reducing speed limits on residential streets to 30km/h.

Vision Zero is a road safety strategy that seeks to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. A key component of Vision Zero is reducing speeds, particularly on residential streets where people and vehicles mix.

Right now, the default speed limit on residential roads in Saanich is 50 km/h, which is dangerously fast. Council has been pursuing a pilot project that would seek to reduce speed limits to 40km/h on streets without a continuous yellow centre line. This is progress, but it is ultimately a half measure that does not sufficiently prioritize the safety of all road users, and it will not be sufficient to achieve Vision Zero.

In a Nov. 2, 2020 letter to community associations, advisory committees and interested groups, Mayor Fred Haynes accurately noted that “research has shown that a pedestrian hit at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of surviving, while at 50 km/h or greater, they have only a 20 per cent chance of surviving.” He further cited research from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children that “found measurable safety gains after Toronto lowered speed limits from 40 km/h to 30 km/h on a number of residential streets, including a 28 per cent decrease in the number of collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles and a 67 per cent decline in the number of fatal and serious injuries on streets with speed limit reductions.”

This is part of a robust and growing body of evidence that points towards 30 km/h being the optimal speed for residential streets. As Saanich goes to the effort of reducing speed limits, it should select the speed limit that is most likely to save lives and keep road users safe.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff

Saanich