Ontario to Increase Speed Limits on Three Highways to 110 km/h

Aug 23, 2019 | Car Accidents, Initial Consultation

Moussa Sabzehghabaei

Personal Injury Lawyer

Towards the end of the year, drivers on select 400-series Ontario highways will be allowed to drive at speeds slightly higher than the current highway limits in the province. Transportation minister, Jeff Yurek, who made the announcement early in May, said the higher limits were part of a pilot program that would run for two years.

Common Injuries in a Pedestrian Accident
The three highways chosen for the program are Highway 417, between Ottawa and the Ontario-Quebec border, the Queen Elizabeth Way from St. Catharines and Hamilton, and Highway 402 between Sarnia and London. There is also a yet-to-be-identified section of highway in Northern Ontario that is expected to be included in the program which will begin in September.

The highways, according to Yurek, were chosen because there is not much adjustment that will need to be done to them to accommodate the program. The government is, however, looking to increase signage on the pilot highways.

The current limits were set back in the 1970s when there was an oil crisis and speed limits had to be lowered as a fuel conservation measure.

From 100 kilometers per hour, the province looks to increase the limit to 110 kilometers per hour on all 400-series highways in the foreseeable future. The limits for a street-racing charge will, however, remain 150km/h or 40km/h above the posted limits.

Why is the proposed speed limit increase on Ontario 400-series highways a good thing?

While many experts and personal injury lawyers are dead set against the idea to raise speed limits on Ontario highways, there are upsides to the move and they could outweigh the downsides.

For one, road engineers believe that higher speed limits are more likely to reduce than increase accidents on roads. The theory behind it is that when there is a large speed range on a highway, whereby fast and slow vehicles travel at drastically varying speeds, the probability of accidents goes up. This usually happens where speed limits are low. A case study is when British Columbia raised the speed limits on its rural highways from 90km/h to 100km/h. The province experienced an 18% decrease in serious crashes in the following five years – a period over which traffic in the country increased by nearly a third.

What’s more, some of the fastest roads in the world have been shown to be the safest. Autobahn – a famous German roadway with completely no speed limits in some of its stretches – for instance, doesn’t stand out as a deathtrap when compared to other regular highways in Europe. Germany, as a whole, has a road death rate of 7 per 100,000 vehicles while Canada has 13 – an affirmation that other factors such as bad weather, car quality and safety, quality of highway, and poor driving skills may bear more weight when it comes to road safety. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that high speed collisions are more deadly, which is what many personal injury lawyers have a problem with.

Another factor that discredits the “speed kills” mantra is the proven positive correlation between the amount of traffic and collision rates on a highway. It is for this reason that insurance companies charge higher premiums for cars that operate in urban centers and highly populated areas.

Generally, people wrongly tend to look at drivers with a penchant for high speeds as the culprits behind collisions. Slow drivers have been shown to be a big problem too. If you are driving at a slow speed, you are more likely to be easily distracted and to be more indecisive. You have probably experienced or heard of a situation where a driver had to swerve or hard brake after another car turned into their lane at a snail’s pace. There are no laws that prohibit slow driving in Ontario, but an officer can give you a ticket for it if they deem your driving to be a danger to others.

Ontario is not the first province to increase highway speed limits

In 2014, the government of British Columbia raised speed limits on more than 30 sections of highways across the province. This was following consultations with the public, which showed immense support for the proposed limit increase. Some sections of multi-lane highways received increases to 120km/h, which is the highest speed permitted in the country.

How do Ontario’s limits compare with rules in other jurisdictions?

Maximum speed limits across Canada vary by province, with Prince Edward Island having the lowest at 90 km/h. Nova Scotia and B.C sit at the other end of the spectrum at 110km/h. In the US, Texas has the highest limits at 137km/h , while Hawaii has the lowest at 97km/h.

In much of Europe, 120km/h and 130km/h are the common speed limits, with a conspicuous exemption being the autobahn system in Germany, which has no maximum limits in some sections.

Consequences of Speeding in Ontario

Until the government raises speed limits in Ontario, it is wise to try not to exceed the current limits. If you go 16-29 km/h above the speed limits anywhere in the country, you will be fined 3 demerit points. 30-49 km/h over the limit will be fined 4 demerit points, a 30-day driver’s license suspension, and 100% insurance increase. 50 or more kilometers per hour above the limits is considered street-racing and the consequences of it are significantly direr. You risk being hit with 6 demerit points, vehicle impoundment for seven days, an immediate license suspension of seven days, a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000, 100% insurance increase, and a jail term of up to six months.

If you are caught up on the receiving end of a car accident in Ontario, consider hiring a car accident lawyer to help you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance. No matter the extent of your injuries or of damage to your car, you are entitled to monetary compensation for any injuries or property loss that is no fault of your own.