Road speed limits are not just suggestions

Obeying the speed limit

A reader asks: "If the posted speed limits on our roadways are not just suggestions, why are they not enforced? If we are permitted to drive above the posted limit, how far above, and if so, how is anyone ever cited for speeding?"

Speed limits in British Columbia are not suggestions when set by law or posted on a regulatory sign.

Exceeding them is what is known as an “absolute liability offence”—you are either speeding or you are not. Technically, even one kilometre per hour above the limit is speeding.

In traffic court, if that can be proven, the judge may choose to convict you.

Just how far can you push before the ticket book is exercised? Most drivers seem to feel that 10 km/h over the limit is acceptable, but it depends on the officer and the circumstances.

Radar and laser speed measuring devices are highly accurate and the widest tolerance today is probably +/- 1 km/h at 50 km/h. In contrast, your speedometer could be out by as much as 10 km/h and still be considered "close enough" by the manufacturer.

If you've modified the driveline in any way, the accuracy could be even worse. Should this be allowed for?

If you are driving in a school zone at noon and there are children present, would it be better to be more exacting than on a sunny day with light traffic on a straight highway in the countryside?

With so many vehicles out there driven 20 km/h or 30 km/h over the limit, should an officer bother with those at five km/h over in places frequented by vulnerable road users?

B.C.'s original photo radar program ended when voters chose a government that promised its removal, even though the program proved to be effective.

It is returning slowly today as it is incorporated with red light cameras at intersections with high collision rates.

Some of the speeds recorded have been significant, as much as 121 km/h over the limit. But as long as the owner pays the $483 fine, there are no penalty points or vehicle impounds to deter these truly dangerous drivers.

So, in short, no, you are not permitted to drive faster than the speed limit.

Practically however, if you push the boundaries, you take a chances of receiving a ticket. You also take a chance with everyone you share the road with.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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

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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