Speed Limits

70 km/h Speed SignA 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 kilometer per hour above the limit is speeding. In traffic court if that one over can be proven, the justice may choose to convict you.

I'm now going to don my flameproof suit and observe that like young children, many drivers push the boundaries and the speed limit is probably the favourite boundary to push. Just how far can you push before the ticket book is exercised? 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 5 over?

I suppose that if you held the pen and ticket book you would be legally correct to start writing at 2 km/h over but in our social climate you would probably be lynched after a month on the job. You would also hold the record for the most cases in traffic court and I doubt that the justice would convict many at that speed.

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.

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