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Behind-the-Wheel

Speed signs ignored

Sign, sign everywhere a sign - and, if it's a speed sign, it's probably ignored.

The article that I wrote two weeks ago concerning solving your own road safety problems prompted an inquiry from the East Kootenays.

The writer complained that a section of Highway 31A leaving New Denver was marked with a 50-zone-ends speed sign and the next kilometre or so of the road had many driveways, some intersections, a pedestrian crossing for a public trail and was regularly used by cyclists and pedestrians.

Some drivers, with motorcyclists singled out for special mention, regularly travel here at speeds as high as 120 km/h.

Would I please have a sign put up limiting the speed to 50 or 60 km/h here?

I wish it were as simple as posting a sign to have drivers behave safely. From my policing experience, I suspect that speed signs are probably the most commonly ignored traffic-control device on our highways.

A quick “drive” of this segment of highway using Google Street View does find warning signs for deer, cyclists, equestrians and narrow, winding road marked with a double or single solid yellow line.

The last 24-hour roadway summary available online from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is for July 15, 2012. It shows 575 vehicles passing the counting station with a peak of 63 vehicles at 3 p.m. It is not exceptionally busy here.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, rural highways are automatically limited to a speed of 80 km/h unless there is a sign posted to permit something different.

The use of a 50-zone-ends sign without the indication of a different speed is unusual. I wonder if it was intended to leave a small doubt in the driver’s mind as to what the speed limit might be and result in a more gradual increase in speed here?

The MOTI has a blog article titled How Speed Limits are Set in BC: The Ultimate Guide.

There are many considerations taken into account before a speed limit is chosen, including local land use, highway geometry, traffic volume and speeds, collision and use history, as well as how the current highway is constructed.

At the end of 2013, B.C. began a province wide Highway Safety and Speed Review. Speed limits were adjusted following internal review and input from the public.

It does not appear that Highway 31A was included in either the initial review or the post implementation update. New Denver is not mentioned in the Consultation and Engagement Summary Report.

Perhaps this person does have a valid concern that has not been addressed. However, a simple letter to the MOTI or appropriate MLA requesting a speed sign is likely going to be ineffective.

A well researched document showing a before and after comparison for a reasonable period of time that addresses the MOTI’s speed zone setting criteria would be difficult to brush off.

The information is available to the public but is not a simple matter to obtain.

Rather than shoulder the responsibility (and the work involved) alone, you could consider forming a community action group, even if it only includes your neighbours.

You all have a stake in what happens where you live and a collection of voices is more difficult to ignore.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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