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In September, speed limits on stretches of three Ontario highways went up to 110 km/hour as part of a pilot project. Here’s everything you need to know about the change including why it was introduced, where it applies, and how to stay safe while zooming along the highway.

Why increase the speed limit?

According to Ontario’s transportation minister, Caroline Mulroney, the province is changing speed limits for two main reasons:

  1. Consistency in Canada: Six other provinces in Canada have speed limits of at least 110 km per hour. In fact, some B.C. highways have speed limits of up to 120 km per hour! This change will bring Ontario in line with its provincial peers.

  2. Blast from the past: Ontario’s highway speed limits didn’t always sit at 100 km per hour. Before 1975, they were faster. The government lowered them in the face of rising oil prices and fewer fuel-efficient cars. 

The pilot was announced in May and began on September 26, 2019. The ultimate goal is to raise speed limits across the province. During the pilot project, the province will be monitoring safety and holding consultations with law enforcement and the public to bring speed limits in Ontario up to par with other provinces. 

Which highways will have changed speed limits?

Before you put your pedal to the metal, remember that this is a pilot project, and only applies to specific stretches of the 400-series highways. Speed limits on these highways may be changed once the pilot is complete. They include:

  • Highway 402: From Sarnia to London (90 km)

  • Highway 417: From Gloucester (east of Ottawa) to the Ontario-Quebec border (102 km)

  • Queen Elizabeth Way: From Hamilton to St. Catharines (32 km)

The government is also mulling over whether to add a fourth stretch in Northern Ontario. 

So, why were these sections chosen for the pilot? They were deemed the most suitable when taking into account safety and infrastructure reasons for standard Ontario speed limits. As part of the pilot project, the government will be adding more signs along the routes so drivers are aware of and understand the speed limit changes.

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How does this affect driving laws?

All driving laws under the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada still apply; which means that stunt driving laws still come into effect at 150 km per hour. Usually, drivers who go 50 km over the speed limit can be charged with stunt driving, but this arithmetic won’t apply to the new speed limit. On these stretches, Ontario highway speed limits will still be 150 km per hour, not 160 km per hour. 

How can I stay safe while driving at a faster speed?

Driving on the highway can be stressful for some drivers because of the higher posted speed limit than on city streets. With the increased speed limit, highways can become even more intimidating for some drivers. 

Fortunately, we have tips on how to stay safe on Ontario highways: 

  • Check your blind spots regularly: The Ministry of Transportation recommends checking all your mirrors every five seconds. You should also check your mirrors every time you’re slowing down or changing lanes.

  • Use situational awareness to set your speed limit: Be aware of your surroundings and adjust your speed to account for factors like traffic or inclement weather. 

  • Maintain a safe distance: You should keep at least 2 seconds worth of distance between your car and the car in front of you to maintain a safe speed limit. Tailgating is extremely dangerous; if the car ahead of you needs to come to a sudden stop, that buffer room can make the difference between a near miss and a collision. 

Enjoy Ontario’s new speed limits safely 

For many seasoned highway drivers, the new speed limits will be welcome news. And assuming everything goes smoothly with the pilot, the mandate will be spreading province-wide after some time. By focusing on safety, staying alert, and being mindful of fellow motorists, you can enjoy the new speed limits safely.

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