British Columbia

BC Coroners Service wants higher speed limits reviewed for safety

Vehicle crashes - many involving speed - are the top killer of young people between the ages of 15 and 18, finds service's child death review panel.

Coroners service says car accidents leading cause of death in teenagers 15 to 18-years-old

Michael Egilson, chair of the child death review panel, discusses the panel's recommendations on Feb. 11. (CBC)

The BC Coroners Service's child death review panel is recommending a review of speed limit increases, and questioning a B.C. government initiative to let drivers go faster.

That was one of four recommendations from the panel — including experts in health, law enforcement and driving safety — who reviewed the deaths of more than 100 young drivers in crashes between 2004 and 2013.

Vehicle crashes are the top killer of young people between the ages of 15 and 18, said panel chair Michael Egilson on Wednesday.

The drivers who died were primarily male, and 17 and 18 years old, the panel found. Many of the crashes involved impairment, lack of seat belt use, inexperience — and speed.

"One of the serious contributing factors to that is speed, and if there are ways we can get people to think more about speed and reducing speed that is the intent," he said.

Speed was a factor in 30 per cent of the 106 deaths, said Egilson. Distracted driving was a factor in only one death, despite earlier ICBC reports that it was a top cause of collisions injuring youth.

Coroner not consulted in speed limit changes

The chief coroner of B.C. said she was surprised her office was not consulted when the B.C. government began reviewing — and increasing — speed limits last year.

"We are now collecting data on those roadways where speed was increased to see if there is any impact," said Lisa LaPointe.

The child death panel is recommending safety and injury prevention be the top criteria for any further changes in speed limits.

In response, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the BC Coroners Service could have sent a letter to his office as part of the public consultation on speed limit changes in 2013, but didn't.

Speed enforcement, graduated licensing

The panel is also recommending the Ministry of Justice conduct a pilot project of automated speed enforcement strategies, which could include monitoring speed in high risk areas.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said her office would review the recommendation, but would not consider photo radar as a possible solution.

The panel also asked for ICBC to review its Graduated Licensing Program. Deaths of young drivers have decreased since the program was introduced in 1998, noted the panel.

With files from Richard Zussman


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