B.C. health officer wants lower speed limits, stricter blood alcohol policy
A decreased speed limit in cities and zero-tolerance alcohol policy for drivers under the age of 25 are among the controversial measures being endorsed by B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer.
Dr. Perry Kendall released an in-depth report on road safety Thursday that includes 28 recommendations aimed at decreasing the number of deadly accidents in the province.
“Any preventable death or serious injury is unacceptable, including those that occur as the result of a motor vehicle crash,” Kendall said in a release.
“Though B.C. has seen a notable two-thirds decrease in motor vehicle crash fatalities since 1996, we could still achieve lower rates of fatalities and serious injuries.”
The 260-page report, which was six years in the making, calls for lowering the speed limit from 50 kilometres per hour down to 30 within municipalities and on treaty lands.
Kendall said 30 kilometres an hour is the “survivable speed” for cyclists and pedestrians, meaning they’re likely to live if struck by a vehicle travelling that fast.
Another recommendation that could prove divisive is the return of photo radar, a system of electronically detecting speeders, photographing their licence plates and ticketing them, which was used in the province from 1996 to 2001.
Kendall said the program likely contributed to a decrease in speed-related fatalities over that period, and that its cancellation is probably partly to blame for a subsequent hike in deaths.
Funds made from radar-generated tickets could be funneled into road safety programs, he added.
The Provincial Health Officer also wants to see the strict zero blood alcohol content requirement for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program extended to all motorists until they turn 25.
Drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 are roughly 87 times more likely to be killed while drunk driving with a BAC of 0.08 than a driver 30 or older who’s sober, according to Kendall’s report.
Drivers aged 20 to 29 with that BAC don’t fare much better, at 50 times more likely to die in a crash.
His report also targets distracted driving, which now accounts for nearly a quarter of all deaths on B.C. roads. Kendall said the dangerous habit should be subject to tougher penalties and legal consequences, even akin to those faced by drunk drivers.
The Provincial Health Officer said all levels of government and non-government partners should work together to implement the 28 recommendations, which include expanded educational campaigns, to achieve “the safest roads in North America.”
To read Kendall’s full report, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Reducing the Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on Health and Well-being in BC,” click here.