B.C. doctors warn of increased road trauma since introduction of higher speed limits

WATCH: BC’s doctors believe the province’s higher speed limits are to blame for a spike in serious accidents. Elaine Yong reports.

B.C. doctors are warning that more people have been injured on the province’s highways since speed limits were raised last year.

Back in July, the speed limit was raised to 120 km/hour–the highest in the country–on the 1,300 kilometres of highways across the province.

Since the change was made, the number of serious or fatal crashes in B.C. has increased.

According to a study published in the BC Medical Journal, the number of ambulance trauma dispatches to highway crashes fell by 6.5 per cent after the province enacted changes to impaired-driving and excessive speeding laws in September 2010.

But when the speed limits were raised last July — those type of ambulance callouts jumped by more than 11 per cent.

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READ MORE: B.C.’s tougher drinking and driving laws have saved lives

Vancouver Coastal Medical Health Officer Dr. John Carsley says he had concerns when the changes were made because “there was no particular reason to increase any of the speed limits. Everybody–and I say everybody–remotely involved with road safety except for the Ministry of Transport said they shouldn’t be raised. A bit of a puzzle.”

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone says only 1,300 kilometres of road saw speed increases, while the BC Medical Journal study takes into account all road trauma calls across the province.

“Unless that data was extracted and looked at as a subset, we don’t really believe that these statistics paint an accurate picture,” says Stone.

READ MORE: British Columbia’s 12 deadliest highways

“It’s too soon after the fact, you need to have a least a year or two of data to be able to draw any conclusions,” says Ian Tootill of SENSE BC. “It’s not taking into account the amount of volume on the highways in question.”

The coroner is planning a review of the effect of speed limits. And medical health officers also believe a more detailed analysis needs to happen as quickly as possible.

-with files from Elaine Yong

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