Drive for conditions, not speed limit

There’s a large electronic sign on the side of Highway 99 in Vancouver that reads “drive to the conditions,” and after the recent cold snap and the projected sub-zero months ahead, it is great advice.

So here’s a crash course on what the phrase means (no pun intended).

The speed limit is just that — the limit. Speeds are determined by multiple factors including the road’s intended use, condition, grade, surfacing, turns, obstructions and visibility during ideal conditions. Ideal conditions are dry roads, daylight, clear skies and good visibility. The limit, say, for certain stretches of Highway 99 is 90 km/h during ideal conditions. If it is raining, snowing, icy, foggy or the sun is directly in your eyes, then you need to adjust your driving regardless of what the speed limit is.

Your driving should be dictated by the sorts of conditions in which you find yourself. If it’s raining heavily and it is difficult to see road lines, slow down. If it’s snowing or very icy, go easy on the accelerator and make more room between you and the car in front of you. Ditto for when it’s foggy.

Some of you may say that if the speed limit is 90 km/h, then you are going to drive at 90 km/h.

You may question how you could get a ticket for speeding if you are driving at the limit. Well, it’s easy. Section 144(1)(c) of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act is a $167 fine for “driving too fast for conditions (road or weather), and may be under posted limit.”

This means you do not have to drive at or near the limit if it is unsafe to do so. The other day, while driving Code Three (lights and siren) to a priority call, I was well below the speed I would normally drive to get to such a call as the roads were extremely icy. My goal was to make it to the incident, not wrack up while on the way there, and I was driving only as fast as the conditions allowed.

This brings me to another point. A four-wheel-drive vehicle does not make you invincible.

If you doubt me, count the number of 4x4s in the ditch after a snowstorm. I can guarantee you most of them were not driving according to road conditions or to their ability.

Vancouver police constable Sandra Glendinning blogs at Her opinions aren’t necessarily those of the city’s police department or board.

Photograph by: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun