It's time to review speed limits on provincial highways, minister says

Ontario's transportation minister announced on Wednesday that the province plans to review highway speed limits but it will consult the public first.

OPP sergeant, however, reminds the province that high speeds can cause death

The Ontario ministry of transportation is planning to roll out a pilot project to review speed limits on provincial highways, minister Jeff Yurek says. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Ontario's transportation minister says the province is planning to review highway speed limits with an aim to raise them but it will consult the public first.

Jeff Yurek told the Toronto Region Board of Trade at a downtown hotel on Wednesday that the limits were set years ago. Yurek said the review will include a pilot project and consultation with the public.

"If you look back on the history of why speed limits were set where they were, back in the 70s, there was an energy crisis. In order to conserve fuel, they lowered the speed limits on our highway system and it stayed that way ever since," he said.

"I've heard lots of stakeholders mention that maybe it's time to take a review of how our speed limits are in the province."

Yurek said he plans to release more details about the pilot project next week.

Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek says it may be time to raise highway speed limits. (CBC)

An Ontario Provincial Police sergeant, however, reminded the government that drivers operating vehicles travelling at high speeds on highways can cause crashes that lead to death.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the OPP's highway safety division, said the OPP enforces provincial highway speed limits set by Ontario's ministry of transportation. He said the OPP does not lobby or advocate for any change in speed limits.

But Schmidt added that it is a well-known fact that aggressive driving at high speeds can cause crashes that result in death and serious injuries. 

"The OPP, our role, is to enforce the rules of the road. And those rules are established by the Ministry of Transportation. If the MTO determines that they want to change the maximum speed limits, that is their mandate to do so. We will enforce the laws as they are legislated," he said.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police highway safety division, regularly goes to the scene of fatal crashes to update reporters. He says it's a fact that aggressive driving by people operating vehicles at high speeds can cause crashes that result in death and injuries. (CBC)

"I can tell you right now that aggressive driving and speeding is one of the leading causes of death and injury on our highways," he added.

The higher the speed, the greater the chance of death: OPP

"The faster vehicles go, the more potential there is for serious injury and death on our highways."

Schmidt said OPP officers patrol highways because drivers in vehicles on those roads are already travelling at high speeds. 

He added: "If they determine that a change in speed limit is appropriate, once that is established, we would endorse and support that legislation and enforce the rules of the road as they are legislated."

Yurek also told the Toronto Region Board of Trade that the government will hike some fines for people who drive too slowly.

"With the changes to our regulations, we are going to increase fines for slow-moving drivers that travel in the left-hand lane — because when people drive dangerously slow — the safety of others is put at risk."