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Feb 25, 2020

Ontario Highway Speed Limits

By: Donald Barrie

On September 26, 2019, the speed limits of three Ontario highways were increased to 110 km/hr as part of a pilot project initiated by the government. The new speed limit is applied across Highway 402 from London to  Sarnia (90 km), the Queen Elizabeth Way from St. Catharines/Lincoln to Hamilton (32 km), and Highway 417 from  Ottawa/ Cloucester to the Ontario/Quebec border (102 km).

The 400-series highways in Ontario were designed for speeds of up to 120 km/hour. When first opened, the designated speed limit was 112 km/hr but during the oil shortage in 1976 the speed limit was reduced to 100 km/hr in order to conserve energy.

Of the 10 Canadian provinces, British Columbia has the highest speed limit in the country at 120km/hr. While Prince Edward Island has the lowest speed limit at 90 km/hr, speed limits vary in each province.

Speed limits tend to be higher in the U.S. by comparison, with Hawaii having the lowest at 97 km/ hr and Texas having the highest at 137 km/hr. While the average speed limit maintained in most European countries is between 120-130 km/hr, there is no maximum speed limit in Germany, although it is advised that drivers keep it at 130 km/hr.

Though it is too early to know exactly how this pilot project will be implemented, there are some people who advocate the need to increase the speed limits so it can be on par with other provinces. For example, argues that Ontario has the lowest speed limits in the world, and is encouraging a limit increase.

Naturally, increasing speed limits has its pros and cons. The obvious benefit is that drivers will have the option to drive faster, thereby allowing them to get to their destinations quicker, thus benefiting those drivers who already travel at 110 km/hr. The risk is that the drivers who now drive at 110-120 km/hr may be tempted to drive even faster leading to an increased fatality rate. The biggest concern is that it could put more drivers and pedestrians at risk of getting killed.

In 2014, British Columbia adjusted speed limits on 33 sections of highway following a months-long public consultation that showed widespread support for increasing limits. This included increases to 120 km/h on certain sections of divided, multi-lane highways. Many of those increases have since been rolled back after serious collisions were reported along some routes.

It seems reasonable to restore the speed limit to what it used to be, but the pilot project needs to be monitored closely before making permanent changes across all highways.


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