British Columbia's transportation minister is cool toward some recommendations in a new road safety report, including a speed limit of 30 kilometres an hour in urban areas to reduce deaths among pedestrians and cyclists.
The report released by the provincial health officer on Thursday says deaths and injuries among those two groups have not substantially decreased compared to drivers and passengers.
Dr. Perry Kendall said the chance of a pedestrian surviving a crash in a 50 km/h zone is about 15 per cent to 20 per cent, versus 90 per cent if the speed is lowered to 30 km/h.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone reacted cautiously to the recommendation on speed.
"Any change on this would only come about after a tremendous amount of engagement with local governments," he said.
Neil Arason, manager of the B.C. Road Safety Strategy, said evidence from other countries shows that lowering speeds in urban areas saves lives on busy roads shared by pedestrians and an increasing number of cyclists.
"When you reduce speeds you exponentially reduce stopping distance and even if a crash happens, you exponentially reduce the amount of moving energy released.
"All throughout the world there's massive evidence of it working, particularly in urban areas."
Dr. Kendall said drivers who pose a danger on the road by mixing marijuana and alcohol are another concern, particularly because there aren't any reliable ways to measure impairment by pot.
The deputy provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, suggested a return to photo radar or a similar program to nab speeding drivers.
"The key thing is that it has to be overt," she said. "You have to notify people that we are going to be monitoring your speed and that's the way it's a deterrent."
The province eliminated the controversial photo-radar program 15 years ago, and Mr. Stone said there's no chance that it would return.
Some of the key recommendations from the report:
- Make it illegal for new drivers under the age of 25 to drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
- Establish a university-based centre for excellence for road safety, which would work to change driver behaviour to prevent crashes.
- Increase the safety of imported vehicles by requiring those up to 25 years old to meet safety standards, up from the current 15 years, and eliminating the importation of right-hand drive vehicles into the province.
- Boost awareness about seat belt use and safe driving among First Nations communities to reduce the disproportionate number of motor vehicle fatalities among Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia.
- Continue to promote programs to fight distracted driving.