An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
A NEW STUDY on the Coquihalla is enough to make you stay home or maybe take the old five-hour drive down the Fraser Canyon to get to the Coast.
The study, led by road safety researcher Dr. Jeff Brubacher and published in the journal Sustainability, claims there’s been a 118 per cent increase in fatalities since the speed limit on the Coq was boosted from 110 to 120 kmh in 2015.
It says there have also been more injuries and total crashes and declares “a marked deterioration in road safety.” All the pro-speed arguments used for increasing the speed limit have been disproven, it concludes.
This has some, like former transportation minister Todd Stone and the Sense BC speed advocacy group, skeptical to put it mildly.
Stone says the speed limit was increased on the recommendation of highways engineers. He says the Coquihalla was designed to accommodate the higher speed and that the new report doesn’t take into consideration such things as weather and impaired driving.
The Coquihalla is a place where drivers take full advantage of the opportunity to drive fast no matter what the season. The Coq in winter, however, is especially challenging, and all the modern highway design and automobile technology won’t stop anyone from ending up in a ditch or over a cliff if speed isn’t appropriate for the conditions.
So, saying the weather, or impaired driving for that matter, should be blamed instead of speed doesn’t compute.
Certainly, the Brubacher study should be rigorously examined and whatever shortcomings challenged. But its warnings should also be taken seriously.
The big question is, what evidence is there, if any, to contradict the Brubacher findings?
The provincial government is in the midst of a three-year review of its own. The sooner Transportation Minister Claire Trevena gets her ministry to wrap it up and release it, and decides what to do about Coquihalla speed limits, the better we’ll feel about getting back on the road.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.