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Highway speed limit signs are not a suggestion

It seems rare to see anyone driving under the posted limit
OUT ON A LIMB. Campbell River Mirror

If actions speak louder than words then my actions behind the wheel would tell you that while I’m not a lead footed speeder, I will get going a little faster than the posted speed limit.

That’s why I rely on cruise control. Without it, my speed tends to get faster and faster and soon I’m overtaking the posted limit. I don’t slam the accelerator to the floorboards and rocket down the highway as some do but the speedometer needle tends to inch past the posted limit. If I let it.

With cruise control, I can just set it for the speed limit or a hair below and I can cruise like that for endless miles. Or kilometres, sorry. It’s great, it takes away the need to constantly lift up on the gas pedal to slow back down to the limit. And at the same time, keeps my speed at a consistent level because sometimes you slow down for a curve or some other reason and you have to remind yourself to get back up to the flow of the traffic.

That, however, is not what I came here to talk about. What I came to talk to you about is the fact that while I watch my speed, nobody – and I mean, nobody – else does. Okay, there are probably some, I just don’t see them that often. I meticulously set my cruise control for the speed limit and I am constantly being passed by everybody else on the highway. Everybody.

You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. This first started to bug me a few years ago for some reason while passing through Sacramento, California. It was during the morning commute with lots of traffic and the posted speed limit was something like 40 or 45 mph. Nobody was doing 40 or 45 mph. Nobody.

Well, I was. For a while. But there is also the principle that by going significantly slower than the majority of traffic creates a hazard in itself. So I sped up to match the mass of vehicles zooming off to work.

But that incident pinned this issue to my consciousness and I’ve been aware, ever since, of how the vast majority of drivers do not obey the speed limit.

I’m just back from a two week trip up to northwestern B.C. and through the central and Interior part of the province doing that big circle route from Campbell River to the Port Hardy ferry up to Prince Rupert and around through Prince George and back through Vancouver and Nanaimo.

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I have a co-pilot who is very conscious of the speed limit and so while I have the family in the car, I drive carefully, watching my speed.

Nobody else does. Like flippin’ nobody.

And it’s not a moral issue. I don’t care if people are flexible with interpreting the rules of life, we all do at one time or another, but speeding is a safety issue. For yourself. And for everybody else on the road.

But, I don’t know, for some reason the fact that nobody else on the road is going as fast – or should that be as slow? – as me kind of annoys me. Cruising along the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) between Prince Rupert and Prince George, I was constantly being passed. I think the speed limit varied between 90 and 100 km/h for the most part. I accelerate to the 90 kmh mark, set the cruise control and relax. And get constantly passed by everybody else. Everybody.

There’s lots to take in on B.C.’s highways. Such a gorgeous province. That stretch of Highway 16 along the Skeena River between Prince Rupert and Terrace is the most beautiful stretch of highway I’ve ever seen in my now-many kilometres of driving. In fact, National Geographic named it the third-most scenic stretch of road in North America, as one proud Prince Rupertite told me.

It would be nice if my fellow highway travellers slowed down a little and took the time to enjoy it as much as I do.

But, back to the topic, nobody follows the limit on that stretch of highway or any other in the province. Does it matter? Well, yeah, despite the cliché, speed does, in fact, kill.

And the worse thing about it is it kills people other than the driver going faster than the speed limit. If you’re an idiot and die in a fiery crash, well, that’s your fault but losing control and sliding into the opposing lane and wiping out a travelling family is just cruel. And selfish.

But we all know that selfishness is a right in this country! Right?

Hey, I can get as frustrated as anybody by how low the speed limit is set in some places but I kind of thought there would be more like me out there – you know, grudgingly following the rules. Didn’t appear to be. With one exception, I did notice that on Vancouver Island there were more people driving at or under the speed limit than I saw anywhere else in the province. More, not all. Not even most, in fact. I don’t know what that says about anything, you can interpret it whatever way you want.

So, anyway, despite that highway speed conundrum, I do love driving long distances and motoring my way around this great province and country (and our neighbour) admiring all the great scenery.

But maybe we could all slow down a little and enjoy it a little more.

RELATED: Drivers issued 80 speeding tickets in Yoho National Park to reduce bear collisions


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BC Highway 16 follows closely along the shore of the Skeena River between Prince Rupert and Terrace. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

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