The Speed Factor

Fast, furious, deadly: Why do we idolize cars that kill?

Luxury car sales are booming, and buyers tend to like how fast they go. CBC Radio's On the Coast looks at the culture of cars and how we can curb our need for speed.

There's a market for speedy sports cars, despite the dangers of breaking the limit

Speeding is to blame for nearly a third of B.C.'s road fatalities, but that doesn't stop buyers from snapping up luxury sports cars and praising their horsepower. (CBC)

In a glitzy Vancouver showroom, spectators ooh and ahh, eyes and phones glued to the luxury Lamborghini glinting under the spotlight.

It tops 300 km/h, and it fits the whole family. 

The Urus hit the market in December, and it's billed as the world's fastest SUV.

Bystanders at last week's unveiling went so far as to call luxury cars like the Urus, which goes from zero to 100 km/h in a blistering 3.6 seconds, a "necessity" for Vancouver, with its rugged mountain roads.

You can put your kids in the back, but police ask that you don't test the speedometer on city streets. (Lamborghini)

Some were quick to praise the brand's reputation for making some of the fastest vehicles on the market, suggesting a craving for burning rubber.

The Urus could appeal to new buyers in one of the brand's best markets, combining horsepower with the roominess, versatility and entertainment of a typical family vehicle, said Lamborghini COO Alessandro Farmeschi.

"When you buy a sports car, you buy the experience," Farmeschi said.

Alessandro Farmeschi shows off the new family-friendly Lamborghini at last week's unveiling. (CBC)

But as luxury car sales in B.C. boom, a question lingers: Why invest in a turbo-powered vehicle when speeding remains so deadly?

Delta Police Department chief Neil Dubord suggests most drivers push the limit now and then.

"People recognize speed is one of the ingredients into how our roads are safe — or not safe," Dubord said.

"However, most people speed, so it becomes normalized."

Curbing speed

Dubord pointed to busy lives and traffic congestion for encouraging lead feet.

But even though it's common for drivers to creep over the limit, those ignoring speed signs entirely cause the most alarm, he says.

"People going double the limit are the ones who present the most dangers," Dubord said.

Lately, police have been keeping an eye on speeders with photo radar: cameras that capture speed over a short distance.

Get across a stretch of road too fast, Dubord says, and you'll get a ticket in the mail.

Sports cars often market themselves to speed demons, but police warn they're not supposed to reach their full potential on city streets. (Lamborghini)

Officers also keep track of accident-prone areas and work with engineers to install speed bumps or roadblocks, such as planters, to slow traffic.

"The way our roads are engineered impacts how fast we go," he said.

Fast cars still kill

In the past decade, speeding has actually fallen as a cause of death on the roads.

In 2016, it was a factor in 30 percent of fatal accidents, down from 39 percent in 2007.

Despite the progress, Dubord says actually catching speeders, including those behind the wheel of upscale sports cars, remains an uphill battle. 

"Nabbing racers continues to be a challenge," he said.

"There continue to be fast cars and people who want to drive them."

The Speed Factoris a CBC Radio One series taking a closer look at the impact of speed on car collisions in B.C. Tune in to On the Coast from March 12-16 at 5:05  p.m. PT. 

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