Published on February 11th, 2015 | by Elliott Silverstein

Ontario Explores Lowering Local Speed Limits

Are the speed limits on local streets too high? It is a question that is about to be asked of Ontarians. Recently, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation announced that they would be seeking public input on whether the default speed limit on local roads should be maintained at 50 kilometres per hour or lowered to 40 kilometres per hour.

In the coming weeks, the Ministry will be seeking input from stakeholders on a series of options for residential streets, including:

  • Maintaining the current speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour on local roads
  • Reducing the speed limit to a maximum of 40 kilometres per hour on local roads in the province
  • Enable local municipalities to set their own default speed limit (either 40 or 50 kilometres per hour)
  • Enable local municipalities to set a default speed limit other than 40 or 50 kilometres per hour

While there have been calls in recent years to reduce the residential street speed limit to 40 kilometres per hour, and in one case even 30 kilometres per hour, Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America. Each year, the Ministry of Transportation releases the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report (ORSAR) which shows the current state of road safety in the province. In 2011, Ontario’s fatality rate was the lowest ever recorded, and for over a decade, the province has ranked either first or second among all jurisdictions in North America.

While most Ontarians respect the posted speed limits, there are some who drive recklessly, putting both motorists and pedestrians at risk. Currently, there are various measures to try and curb excessive speeding on our roads, including roundabouts, speed bumps or speed humps, rumble strips, and police enforcement.

The Highway Traffic Act sets the default speed limit on roads within most Ontario municipalities at 50 kilometres per hour. This means that if there’s no speed limit signage posted in a city or town, the maximum speed allowed is 50 kilometres per hour. In addition, some municipalities have enacted by-laws in their local area to adjust their default speed limit from the provincial standard.

CAA conducted a survey of its Members last fall, and posed a question on residential speed limits. When asked if the default speed limit should be held at 50 kilometres per hour, or reduced to 40 kilometres per hour, 63% of respondents supported the status quo at the time, with 30% favouring a reduction in the speed limit.

What’s next?

CAA actively engages with government on numerous issues on behalf of our Members, and we intend to participate in the upcoming government consultations on speed limits. There are many items that should be considered as we embark on these discussions, including what these possible changes would mean for rural and urban communities, and whether there is value in embarking on a pilot to assess the impact of these changes before instituting widespread reforms.

The next steps are far from a certainty and the coming months will help define whether the default limit remains as is, or whether it is adjusted.

What do you think about this proposal? Are speed limits too high? Have your say below.

Back to Top ↑