U.S. research data shows raising highway speed limit could be dangerous

The Ministry of Transportation is looking at reviewing highway speed limits in Ontario, but a U.S. organization warns higher speeds could mean more deaths.

Ontario is planning to review speed limits on provincial highways

A U.S. organization's research shows tens of thousands of deaths over 25 years are associated with increases of speed limits. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

While Ontario is looking to raise the speed limit on provincial highways to 120 km/h, research from 25 years of U.S data shows that it might be a deadly move.

"We estimate that over the last 25 years in the U.S., we've seen 37,000 additional deaths associated with increases of speed limits," said Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There used to be a national maximum speed limit in the late 80s in the U.S., which was repealed in the 1990s.

Cicchino said they compared the fatalities before and after speed limit increases, accounting for other actors like distracted driving.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is hoping to review speed limits on provincial highways, potentially raising them to 120 km/h. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

However, a Windsor truck driver said increasing the speed limit will alleviate traffic on the highway. Part of the reason why is with the types of speed trucks are able to go depending on the weight of the trailer.

Even though his truck can't go that fast because of the weight of the trailer, Ali Arnous said he notices a difference in the traffic when he crosses the border.

"We are slower, but with the higher speed they have, they have less traffic than the Canadian side," said Arnous.

Natalie Hearfield drives a passenger vehicle. She does worry about how the speed will affect drivers in the winter when there is snow, given not everybody has winter tires in the province.

"However, in the summer, I think it won't be so much of an issue, because people are already speeding," she said.

High speed in the culture

According to Cicchino, research also shows that when the speed limit is raised, people tend to speed even more.

There is also more variation in speeds on the roadway, because some people don't feel comfortable going faster, while others will speed over the limit.

Going fast is part of the culture and it will be difficult to change, said Cicchino.

However, she wants to remind people that even in a long road trip, speeding will only save a driver several minutes.

But with that, the risk of being injured increases and it's "less likely that people are going to be able to survive a crash," said Cicchino.

"It's kind of a trade off here. Do you want to trade a few minutes, or do you want to save a life?"

With files from Amy Dodge and Jonathan Pinto


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