Toronto: City Denies that Speed Limits are Set “Too Low” to Make it Easier to Issue Tickets: The Fixer

Update: see previous posts – April 1, 2013 Toronto: Police Speed Traps Rake in the Dough When Limits Are Too Low: The Fixer, July 9, 2012 Radar Traps in Toronto, July 3, 2012 Texas Woman Arrested for Warning Drivers About Speed Trap, November 19, 2011 Auto Insurance Increases After Speeding Ticket Conviction (15 km/h over – No demerit points), September 11, 2011 Warning Other Driver’s of Radar Traps is Legal in Ontario, July 20, 2011 Guelph Man Ticketted After Warning Other Driver’s of Police Radar, December 28, 2010 Texas Man Warns Motorists of Upcoming Radar Traps, November 21, 2010 Photo Radar – Ontario Liberals are Re-Introducing it into the Highway Traffic Act, September 2, 2010 Toronto – Radar Trap Central, December 26, 2009 Revealing radar traps to other Motorists, is this act illegal?

Police officer writing up a speeding ticket for the operator of a vehicle that he picked up on his radar unit.. Speed limits are often set 10 to 15 kph lower than they should be, which means drivers moving at the natural speed of traffic are an easy target for a cop with a radar gun, says traffic safety expert James Walker. The city says speed limits are not deliberately set lower than they should be, to make it easier for police officers, like this one clocking vehicles on Dundas Street West., to issue speeding tickets.
Police officer writing up a speeding ticket for the operator of a vehicle that he picked up on his radar unit.. Speed limits are often set 10 to 15 kph lower than they should be, which means drivers moving at the natural speed of traffic are an easy target for a cop with a radar gun, says traffic safety expert James Walker.
The city says speed limits are not deliberately set lower than they should be, to make it easier for police officers, like this one clocking vehicles on Dundas Street West., to issue very expensive (with demerit points attached) speeding tickets.

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Are speed limits deliberately set lower than they should be to make it easier for police to issue tickets as a means of generating revenue?

It depends on who you believe.

The city says no, but it’s unlikely anyone would own up to it, even if they were.

The 85th percentile speed of the natural flow of traffic is used as the benchmark to set speed limits in Toronto, says Jacqueline White, an acting director of transportation services.

Police officer writes up a speeding ticket for a motorist caught in a radar trap.  A transportation services official concedes that setting of speed limits can be influenced by community pressure.
Police officer writes up a speeding ticket for a motorist caught in a radar trap. A transportation services official concedes that setting of speed limits can be influenced by community pressure.

And radar speed traps “are absolutely not a factor” in determining the right speed for any street, said White, adding ticket revenue is never considered.

That doesn’t square with the opinion of traffic safety expert James Walker, who says speed limits are deliberately set too low across North America, to make speeders out of otherwise law-abiding drivers.

Walker, a board member of the National Motorists Association, says speed limits are often set 10 km/h to 15 km/h lower than the natural speed of 85 per cent of traffic, partly to generate ticket revenue.

We’ve been writing about speed trap fishing holes set up by police in places where it is easy to reel in drivers going about 15 km/h over the limit, just enough to qualify for a ticket.

More from thestar.com:

Our online map of GTA fishing holes, as identified by drivers, has been a big hit, and we want readers to check it out and let us know about any locations that we’ve missed, so we can add them to the map.

It raises questions about the considerations in the setting of speed limits, but White said the city usually uses the 85th percentile speed, as identified in traffic surveys, as the basis for setting limits.

Walker says traffic studies consistently show that limits are lower than the 85th percentile speed, which would reduce accidents and make roads safer if it was consistently used to set speed limits.

He notes that in many places, local government is pressured by communities to lower speed limits, which is OK on residential streets but not on arterial roads with more traffic.

In U.S. communities where speed limits have been increased — a rare occurrence — he said the number of accidents has consistently gone down.

White conceded that far more speed limits in Toronto have been lowered than raised, mainly due to community demands, and that she can recall only one instance of where one was increased, about 10 years ago in Etobicoke.

 

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