Tim Schewe

Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Speed limits are not suggestions

Just how far can you push before the ticket book is exercised?

By Tim Schewe

A reader asks: “If the posted speed limits on our roadways are not just suggestions, why are they not enforced? If we are permitted to drive above the posted limit, how far above, and if so, how is anyone ever cited for speeding?”

Speed limits in British Columbia are not suggestions when set by law or by posting a regulatory sign. They are what is known as an absolute liability offence; you are either speeding or you are not. Technically, even one kilometre per hour above the limit is speeding. In traffic court if that one over can be proven, the justice may choose to convict you.

Just how far can you push before the ticket book is exercised? Most drivers seem to feel that 10 over is acceptable, but it depends on the officer and the circumstances.

Radar and laser speed measuring devices are highly accurate and the widest tolerance today is probably +/- 1 km/h at 50 km/h. In contrast, your speedometer could be out by as much as 10 km/h and still be considered “close enough” by the manufacturer. If you’ve modified the driveline in any way the accuracy could be even worse. Should this be allowed for?

If you are driving in a school zone at noon and there are children present would it be better to be more exacting than on a sunny day with light traffic on a straight highway in the countryside? With so many vehicles out there being driven 20 or 30 km/h over the limit, should an officer bother with those at five over in places frequented by vulnerable road users?

B.C.’s original photo radar program was ended when voters chose a government that promised its removal, even though the program proved to be effective. It is returning slowly today as it is incorporated with red light cameras at intersections with high collision rates.

Some of the speeds recorded have been significant, as much as 121 km/h over the limit, but as long as the owner pays the $483 fine there are no penalty points or vehicle impounds to deter these truly dangerous drivers.

In short, no, you are not permitted to drive faster than the speed limit. Practically however, you push the boundaries and you take your chances with receiving a ticket. You also take chances with everyone you share the road with.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca