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Is There a Need for Speed?

In any given motor vehicle crash analysis, whether or not speed was a contributing factor is rudimentary. Even where vehicle speeds are found to have been within the prescribed limits, situational appropriateness is relevant— both for the legal consequences for the parties involved, and the benefit of general traffic safety knowledge.

But apart from being an important crash factor, speed can also stir up a hornet’s nest for crash-free drivers caught exceeding the posted speed limits. Here’s a summary review of the costs of breaking the speeding laws in BC from the Road Safety page on ICBC’s website:

For speeding up to 20 km/h over the limit in your community or on a highway, the fine is $138; … [for] more than 60 km/h… $483.
For speeding up to 20 km/h over the limit in a school, playground or construction zone, the fine is $196; … [for] more than 60 km/h… $483.

Vehicle impoundment
For speeding 40 km/h or more over the limit, in addition to the fine, your vehicle can be impounded immediately for seven days. For repeat offences … 30 or 60 days. Retrieving your vehicle costs towing and storage fees.

Driver risk premium (DRP)
One or more tickets for excessive speeding (40 km/h or more over the limit) incur a driver risk premium based on convictions over a three-year period. For one excessive speeding conviction, for example, the premium is $320. This premium is over and above the cost of insurance. Drivers assessed a DRP who fail to pay it invalidate their current Autoplan insurance coverage, incur ongoing interest charges, and cannot renew their license or Autoplan insurance until they have cleared their debt.

Because of these costs, because most speeding tickets involve no actual damage, because it often seems that other people drive over the speed limit, and because habitual speeders often find ‘getting away with it’ more the norm than the exception, getting caught is a great time for grappling with our personal definition of speeding —and usually absolving ourselves —and for the ‘blame-game’.

Some reported studies show three ways of defining speeding: technical—driving any amount over the posted limit—the most conservative and rarely self-applied definition; relative —driving too fast for conditions—the definition that most closely approaches dangerous driving and hence also rarely self-applied; and absolute—driving a specific amount over the posted limit, e.g. 120 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.

When it comes to blaming, we may try to fault the police, criticize the rules, and look down on slow-poke drivers. Feeling deserted by good fortune may be as close to home as some of us will ever get in their ‘thinking’ about their speeding ticket or tickets.

The simplicity of the basic rule in BC about speed limits—50 km/h within cities and towns and 80 km/h outside cites and towns unless otherwise posted—belies the complexity behind the interplay between speed and road design, speed and vehicle design, and speed and human factors such as skill and behaviour. Thankfully, in a reflective moment, the majority of drivers may appreciate that speed is a critically important factor in road safety, and that enforcement efforts are necessary and beneficial.

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