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‘Blame Newton’: Collision expert says physics is clear on link between speed, crashes

Click to play video: 'Does speed kill? This Mountie says the math is clear'
Does speed kill? This Mountie says the math is clear
WATCH: Does speed kill? This Mountie says the math is clear – Aug 31, 2018

“Speed kills.” It’s a regular mantra from police and insurance agencies, but is it true?

With thousands of B.C. motorists setting out for the long weekend, one Metro Vancouver Mountie is going public with his thoughts on the matter in a bid to lower the annual carnage on the roads.

“In my opinion, it comes right back down to how fast that vehicle is going,” Ridge Meadows RCMP crash expert Sgt. Bruce McCowan told Global News.

McCowan has penned a blog post on the link between speed and crashes, and he argues there’s no getting away from the connection.

WATCH: Newly released dashcam video shows immense speed in deadly crash

Click to play video: 'Newly released dash cam video shows immense speed in deadly crash'
Newly released dash cam video shows immense speed in deadly crash

Speed alone, he says, isn’t necessarily to blame. But virtually, no crash is caused by one factor, he argues, and speed is frequently one of them.

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“There is an old traffic joke that goes, Physics; the only laws that drivers cannot break, he writes. “So… you can blame Newton and all of his science pals.”

McCowan has some experience in the matter. He’s been a Mountie for 31 years, and has focused on crashes for 11 of them. He’s a forensic collision reconstructionist, a Red Seal mechanic and is certified in surveying and computer-aided drafting.

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In his time in the field, McCowan said he’s heard plenty of explanations from drivers justifying their speed.

“[Such as] I’ve been driving for 40-plus years and I never had a crash, or I drive this road every day and know every bump in the road.”

But he says the math doesn’t lie.

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Click to play video: 'Serious crash closes Arbutus Street in Vancouver'
Serious crash closes Arbutus Street in Vancouver

For example, the faster a vehicle is going, the more distance it will take to stop, McCowan explains.

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A car going 50 kilometres per hour can stop in 12.3 metres, while one travelling at 70 kilometres per hour takes twice that, 24.11 metres.

McCowan said that must be coupled with reaction time — at an average of two seconds to react to an emergency, that 70-kilometre per hour vehicle would actually travel 63 metres before stopping. At the speed limit of 50, it could stop in under 28 metres.

The “speed kills” message isn’t universally accepted.

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SENSE BC, an organization that advocates for higher B.C. speed limits, argues the message is overstated, and put in place to justify ticketing drivers.

The group argues excessive speed can be dangerous. But it suggests most drivers caught speeding aren’t doing much more than the limit, and that B.C.’s speed limits are frequently too low for the conditions.

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“If you compare us to Germany… where they have no speed limits on large portions of their highways, our vehicle fatality rate is over double per capita, almost double per 100,000 vehicles, and about 20 per cent higher per billion vehicle miles travelled,” argues a video on the group’s website.

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But McCowan said when it comes to the deadly consequences of speeding, it’s not the driver going five kilometres over the limit he’s focused on.

“The majority of the people that we are having to deal with, they’re exceeding the posted speed limits by anywhere from 50 to over 100 kilometres per hour,” he said.

The message comes as ICBC warns about dangers on the road heading into the long weekend.

WATCH: UBC resident killed in high-speed crash

Click to play video: 'UBC resident killed in high speed crash'
UBC resident killed in high speed crash

According to ICBC, there are an average of 2,100 crashes across B.C. every Labour Day weekend, and 25 fatalities in the last five years.

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On Easter and Thanksgiving long weekends, an average of 17 people lose their lives, while on B.C. Day this year, it was 15 in the same timeframe.

“Consistently, that’s we’re seeing. Every Labour Day long weekend, there are more crashes and more fatalities,” said ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan.

McCowan said he hopes this Labour Day, his warning will be heeded, and he won’t find himself walking through another fatal crash scene, already knowing what went wrong.

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