Last week, on the Wheels Smackdown feature at wheels.ca (that’s where Mark Richardson and I look at each other and shout: “You’re wrong!”), I argued for the retention of the 100 km/h speed limit on Ontario’s 400-series highways.
(I know, I know – what does this have to do with auto racing? Which is what I usually write about? Please, bear with me . . .)
I started my argument by saying that if people want to drive really fast, there are places to do it — like in race cars on the road circuit at Mosport International Raceway, or on the drag strip at Toronto Motorsports Park (see, I told you this was about racing . . . ).
I went on to say that, in my opinion, many of the licensed drivers on Ontario highways are not capable of driving safely at speeds above 100 km/h and that the debate really centres around safety: higher speeds means more accidents.
In any event, I lost the argument, big time. When readers’ votes were calculated this week, Richardson – who argued that the limit should be raised to at least 120 km/h – received 83 per cent of the votes cast (5,789, to be exact) and I only got a paltry 17 per cent (1,207).
But this discussion is not confined to Canada.
Case in point: the government of South Africa is conducting research into the possibility of reducing the legal limit there to 100 km/h from 120 km/h in an effort to reduce that country’s highway death toll.
On average, up to 40 people are killed on South African roads every day, which translates into more than 1,000 every month.
Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele said on Monday that while there had been an outcry against reducing the speed limit, the idea should not be dismissed outright.
“Let us have this debate about reduction of speed, from 120 km/h to 100 km/h.”
The minister claims high speeds were a major factor in 1,200 crashes during the Christmas holiday season.
Besides speed, drinking and driving is also a problem in that country. About 2,400 people were arrested for drunk driving during the holidays. (The legal limit for alcohol consumption in Ontario is 0.08; in South Africa, it’s 0.05).
Now, you will never see a Smackdown about drinking and driving, because that’s a no-brainer.
But the debate about speed limits on the public roads will continue, here and elsewhere, as this story from South Africa illustrates.