Life in the fast lane has new meaning in B.C.

From my observations behind the wheel, people make strange choices at any speed.

An old boyfriend’s father was infamous for saying, “It’s a speed limit – not a speed minimum.”

The provincial government’s announcement last week of increased speed limits on three highways in B.C. to 120 km/h got me thinking of his old saying. I was barely out of my teens and carried with me that fearless, immortal outlook that plagues all young people, so we heard it a lot.

I’ve driven a lot of highways in B.C. and manage the Coquihalla at least once per year. I’m no slouch on the gas pedal, but I’m comfortable at the highway’s old limit of 110 km/h. Others aren’t, often blowing by me as if I was stopped to fix a flat tire.

The lure of the open road has always been a strong one for me. I don’t take the Nanaimo Parkway in to work because when the sun shines in blue skies and Tom Petty comes on the radio, I’m not confident that I’ll actually take that Northfield Road exit. So I look forward to the long drives back to the hometown in the Interior, rolling along with the sweeping curves and stunning vistas that make up B.C.’s highway system.

After a traffic study that showed drivers on the Coquihalla averaged speeds of 118 km/h, the government threw up its hands and raised the limits not only from Hope to Kamloops, but also the Okanagan Connector, from Merritt to Kelowna, and the Inland Island Highway from Parksville to Campbell River.

Nanaimo RCMP was out Thursday evening near the Cedar Road-Duke Point interchange reminding drivers that the limits around Nanaimo have not increased – we’re still expected to drive 50 km/h from Needham Street past the Days Inn. But it could be worse – Victoria is still considering 40 km/h as its default speed within the city.

It remains to be seen whether any of this will have an effect on car crashes. I somehow doubt it, because from my observations of the past 14 years behind the wheel, people make strange choices at any speed.

Take Departure Bay Road, for instance. You’ll get stuck behind someone doing 40 km/h up the hill from the beach to Montrose Avenue, and then speed up to 60 km/h once the school zone limit takes effect. That’s a minimum $196 fine, by the way. Or the four-way stops in Harewood, which don’t mean ‘stop’ at all. You only have to log on to Twitter, or read our Beefs and Bouquets section, to see how badly people in Nanaimo drive.

Or it might affect animals and the environment more than people. Some groups are claiming the higher speeds will increase the number of human/wildlife crashes. Or that driving at higher speeds will increase greenhouse gases.

Driving has always been and probably always will be a source of freedom. It used to drive me to distraction to get stuck behind someone doing less than the speed limit. But in my old age I’ve learned to enjoy the drive itself, rather than the destination.

This summer, when I take my annual pilgrimage to the Interior, I might be one of those people – the kind who takes it at her own pace, in the slow lane (or, as I’ve heard it described, the calm lane). I hope you’re not too irritated when you blow by me at 120 km/h.

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