A provincial push to lower the speed limit on residential roads across Ontario could backfire without enhancements to enforcement, said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. 

Vrbanovic was responding to a proposed amendment to the Highway Traffic Act floated by the provincial government. If implemented, the default speed limit on residential streets would either go down to 40 km/h from 50 km/h or municipalities would be allowed to set their own limits, as long as they are posted.

The proposal was put forward in the fall by Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, who told the CBC News that the issue of speeding is one that comes up often when he speaks with his constituents in the Ottawa Centre riding. 

"We live in denser communities, cars are getting faster, our population numbers are much higher now,” Naqvi said. "Scientific research has shown us that even a reduction by 10 km increases the likelihood of a person surviving [a collision] and reduces injuries as well."

Without enforcement, lower speeds could backfire

Vrbanovic agreed that speeding was a top concern, both among residents and among members of council, but he was not convinced that lowering the default speed limit in Kitchener would solve the problem. 

Berry Vrbanovic

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic spoke to Craig Norris, host of the Morning Edition, about the province's new plans for marijuana legalization. (Tiffany Pope / CBC)

"When you lower the speed on a street that's designed for 50 or 60 km/h, people will...still travel that speed."

Vrbanovic said the only way to make a reduced speed limit work in the city would be to enhance traffic enforcement, otherwise the 40 km/h streets could end up being worse than their 50 km/h predecessors. 

"If...we're going to create a scenario where there is more opportunity for enforcement without necessarily the resources to actually have that enforcement in place, it could, in fact, have the opposite effect and make things more dangerous."

As the province considers amending the Highway Traffic Act, Vrbanovic hopes it will consult with municipalities about alternative traffic calming measures, such as red light cameras and speeding cameras. 

The province has said that it will speak with communities and municipalities about implementing a slower default speed limit.