Coquihalla Highway safer 1 year after speed limit raised, says transportation minister

It's been one year since B.C. raised the speed limits on highways across the province and Transportation Minister Todd Stone insists the move has improved safety despite concerns raised by a recent tour bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway.

Minister says despite increase in speed limit, people are not driving faster

This June 27 tour bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway sparked a provincial review of motor coach safety announced Thursday by Transportation Minister Todd Stone. (CBC)

It's been one year since B.C. raised the speed limits on highways across the province and Transportation Minister Todd Stone insists the move has improved safety despite a recent tour bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway.

A total of 38 people were injured, with two people suffering life-threatening injuries after a tour bus slammed into a tow truck, June 27.

Stone said an investigation is ongoing, but anecdotal evidence from other drivers who witnessed the collision suggests speed was not a factor.

In fact, he says, despite the higher speed limits, people are not driving faster than they were a year ago.

"People are driving the same and in some sections of the highway they're driving a little bit slower," said Stone.

"The changes were all made from a place of making our roads safer and they are safer as a result of these changes."

British Columbians not driving any faster

Last year, B.C. raised the speed limit on some multi-lane highways, including the Coquihalla, from 110 kilometres per hour to 120 km/h.

Stone says since then the ministry has been tracking on a weekly basis the speed at which up to 85 per cent of the traffic is moving. Known as the 85th percentile, it's generally regarded in the traffic engineering world as the safest speed on a section of highway.

Before the speed limit was raised a year ago, the 85th percentile on the Coquihalla was 127 km/h against the posted limit of 110 km/h.

Today, he says, it's 126 km/h.

"That tells us very definitively that British Columbians and motorists are not driving any faster."

He says he has no data on whether the change in speed limits has changed the number of collisions happening on B.C. highways.

"We don't have a good year's worth of data and you can't point to new trends that have developed based on three or six or nine months of data," said Stone, adding that investigations into collisions can take time and slow down the data gathering process.

He expects to have statistics on collisions by September or October.

"If we determine that indeed there are safety concerns as a result of these changes on any of the highways. we'll take another look at it."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Todd Stone

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