To Whom It May Concern:
I would like to begin this letter by expressing my appreciation of our excellent 400-series highway system that I use on a frequent basis. Having lived in two other countries before and having visited a great number of large cities around the globe, I must say that our high speed roads are some of the best around the world. What’s unique and in stark conflict with our excellent highway system, however, is its extremely low speed limit of 100 km/h.
As a citizen and driver, I therefore urge you influence the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario to raise the speed limit to 120-130 km/h on 400-series highways across the Province.
This letter will not focus on countless speed and safety statistics. Such statistics are frequently manipulated to win an argument and push forward political agendas. Instead, the objective will be to look at the current practice on Ontario roads and its results and study the practices and trends of comparable jurisdictions with similar road networks around the world.
Driving on 400-series highways today makes the absurdity of the current speed limit bluntly apparent. It is quite easy to observe that most drivers in the GTA prefer to flow at a very comfortable 120-130 km/h. Some drivers will feel comfortable at 140 km/h while some will insist on “obeying the law” and cruise at 115 km/h. Despite the average speed being much greater than the one legally allowed, Ontario highways remain one of the safest in North America, according to the MTO. In reality, however, it shouldn’t be puzzling at all - speeds in the range of 120-140 km/h are generally recognized as the safest and most appropriate for such well-engineered high speed roads.
Below are numerous reasons why the limit should be increased on Ontario’s world-class, well designed, built, and maintained 400-series highways.
#1: The current speed limit of 100 km/h was established for purely political reasons.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the 400-series speed limit was 70mph (112 km/h). The limits were then reduced to 60 mph (98 km/h) in 1976 as a result of the 1970’s oil embargo, political pressure from the USA to ration gasoline and widespread oil shortages. THIS SPEED LIMIT WAS NOT REDUCED DUE TO SAFETY CONCERNS, yet it still remains in place today. The USA, Germany and other countries affected by the aforementioned crisis have all since reverted their speed limits to new, higher levels.
#2: Speed limit in the 1970 = 112 km/h. Speed limit today = 100 km/h.
The technological advances in the cars since the 1970s are overwhelming. If the engineers and politicians 40 years ago had set the 400-series speed limit at 70 mph (112 km/h), then how logically can one justify today’s lower limit given airbags, much improved seat belts, brakes, vehicle crash safety zones, tires, steering systems and many other countless safety features?
#3: 100 km/h is one of the lowest highway speed limits in the world.
The following are some of the jurisdictions with comparable limited-access highway systems:
Germany (about half of all highways)
Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Texas, Utah.
Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Ireland, South Korea, Serbia, Switzerland and most of the Mid-West and Western United States.
It is notable that the limit of 130 km/h is successfully maintained in many EU countries with a much higher population density when compared to Ontario. It is also given a tolerance cushion making it acceptable (with small to no offence) to drive at 140 km/h. Speeds between 120-140 km/h are simply recognized as safe and acceptable around the entire world (with very few countries posting 110km/h on the signs).
#4: Many countries and states are increasing their speed limits.
Many jurisdictions have extensively studied higher speed limits and found little to no negative effect on safety. The following are recent or upcoming changes in speed limits legislations.
70 mph (112 km/h)
75 mph (120 km/h)
75 mph (120 km/h)
70 mph (112 km/h)
75 mph (120 km/h)
80 mph (128km/h) *
80 mph (128 km/h)
80 mph (128 km/h)
*) Texas legislature has approved a new speed limit of 85 mph (136 km/h) where road design permits in 2011.
#5: Higher and socially acceptable speed limit will not significantly change current speed patterns as drivers want to arrive alive.
Current widespread speed violations are largely due to the monotony of driving at low speeds considering the high quality of our roads. Drivers want to reach their destination sooner and arrive alive. Most will not exceed a prudent speed even if such would be permitted by law. The most compelling proof lies in Germany, where no speed limit is enforced on more than half of Germany’s high-speed road network. The official figures have shown an average speed of passenger vehicles to be 140 km/h, with a vast majority travelling around 130 km/h (even though those drivers are allowed to drive at 200 km/h or faster if they choose to).
#6: Ontario drivers feel criminalized by low speed limit, face the risk of ticket fines, demerit points, insurance rate increases or license suspensions on a daily basis.
Even though the police might be understanding of the inappropriately set speed limits on our 400-series highways and generally be quite lenient on most drivers, the motorists never know if they will be ticketed at 115, 120, 125 or 130 km/h. They don’t know whether next month their insurance will not go up by 10 or 20 percent for simply continuing to drive in the same way.
#7: Many more drivers would find themselves in compliance with the posted speed limit.
Compliance would significantly increase with a more natural speed limit set in accordance to the road design and vehicle quality. This would relieve millions of drivers from feeling “criminalized” each time they drive and eyeing police parked on the shoulders, ramps or in the medians, which significantly reduces safety due to unnecessary driver distraction and anxiety. A higher speed limit would be recognized as one set for driver’s safety and not out of politics.
#8: Reasonable limit is respected, unreasonable one is ignored.
The current situation shows an absolute lack of agreement between the legislating bodies and primary road users. By significantly exceeding the posted limit (20-40 km/h), drivers show their demand for higher, more appropriate speed limit legislation. Due to the extremely low compliance with today’s unreasonable speed limit, most drivers view the OPP highway officers as oppressors rather than safety guarantors. It is hypocritical to assume that an officer forced to write a citation to a driver for 125km/h will not choose the same or similar natural highway speed returning home after his/her shift. This is not only sad and unfair to the drivers, it undeniably affects the police officers’ morale as well.
#9: Trucks electronically limited to 105km/h will not pose a safety issue due to speed differentials.
Heavy trucks are required to obey a different, much lower speed limit than passenger cars in many countries around the world today. In Europe, passenger cars are usually limited to 120-130 km/h, while transport trucks and buses must stay between 90-100 km/h. Studies have shown that a difference in speeds between vehicle types does not pose a significant road safety concern. Similarly to EU, in several US states (California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Washington) the posted speed limit for cars versus heavy trucks varies by 10-15mph (16-24km/h). It is unreasonable to limit the speed of light cars down to the same limit required for heavy trucks. In fact, most drivers prefer to pass a truck at a greater speed - and frequently speed up to do so - out of safety (staying next to a large truck for extended period of time indeed reduces it greatly). Ontario drivers are unjustly forced to cruise at speed not so much deemed safe for themselves, but for vehicles 25 times their mass! Speed limit of 120-130 km/h will result in 25-35km/h real speed differential between cars and trucks which is widely accepted and practiced around the world today.
Considering all the presented facts, I urge you to make Ontario a better place to live and influence a freeway speed limit change. I urge you to allow the drivers to respect the established law, lawmakers responsible for enacting it, and police forces charged with its enforcement. I urge you to recognize our driving skills and responsibility as well as the abundant technological safety advancements of the recent years.
I hope that this letter has provided enough information to come to some evident conclusions and expect that you will act on behalf of Citizens of Ontario to bring about the change - in reverting the speed limit legislation which has robbed the Ontario drivers of a fairer driving privilege back in 1976 and one that’s long overdue given some dramatic changes in vehicle technology and safety as well as years of unjust traffic citations and raised insurance premiums that have affected countless people - out of pure politics and not safety.
Let us not remain in a hypocritical situation caused by a political decision made decades ago. Let us legally drive at speeds we already are every day. Let us drive at speeds deemed safe and widely accepted and recognized around the world. Let us take full advantage of our excellent highway infrastructure and not be afraid of using it. Let us drive with a peace of mind and our eyes fully focused on the road. Let us be proud of our roads once again!