Speed limit rising on another section of 401 in Chatham-Kent

Highway 401 is shown in Tilbury, Ont., in a 2023 file photo. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)
Highway 401 is shown in Tilbury, Ont., in a 2023 file photo. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)

Another stretch of Highway 401 in southwestern Ontario will be getting a new speed limit. The provincial government announced Wednesday that the 110 km/h zone from Windsor to Tilbury is getting extended by seven kilometres.

The area is one of 10 sections on 400-series highways that will see speed limits go up by 10 km/h. Highway 403 from Woodstock to Brantford is also on the list.

The provincial government started raising 401 speed limits in some areas about five years ago through pilot projects, and announced in 2022 that the speed limit increases in effect would be permanent.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria says that most highways in the province were already built to handle speed limits of 110 km/h "and the data from our changes in 2022 shows they do just that."

"These evidence-based increases are a common-sense change to make life more convenient for Ontario drivers while bringing our highway speed limits in line with other Canadian provinces," he said in a media release on Wednesday.

University of Windsor civil engineering professor Chris Lee says he doesn't think the change will make much of a difference because many were driving in the range of 110 and 120 km/h before it was legal.

"So I guess these new speed limits will not really affect their behaviour of speeding and it actually increases the compliance rate of the speed limit," he said.

Driving at higher speeds means drivers have less time to react and avoid collisions, Lee says. But the speed limit rising could have the effect of reducing variation in speeds between vehicles, which could ultimately be beneficial.

"Less variable flow is much safer for the drivers because drivers do not have to change speed (as) frequently. But if the variance is larger, then drivers are more likely to reduce or increase speed frequently, so then they can make errors more frequently," Lee said.

LISTEN: Mark Ferguson joins Afternoon Drive 

Mark Ferguson is a senior research associate at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics in Hamilton. He says that the rising speed limit comes with potentially reduced travels times but also "some elevated risk."

"It's a trade off I guess," he said.

Asked whether people who normally go 120 km/h will simply adjust their behaviour and go 130 km/h, for example, Ferguson says, "It's definitely a concern."

"Certainly have to be vigilant about making sure that people are not going excessively fast," he said.

The changes take effect on July 12 for most of the sections, with others following suit before the end of the year. Here's the full list of changes.

  • Hwy 401, Tilbury, extending the existing 110 km/h zone further east by 7 kilometres.

  • Hwy 401 from Hwy 35/115 to Cobourg.

  • Hwy 401 from Colborne to Belleville.

  • Hwy 401 from Belleville to Kingston.

  • Hwy 401 from Hwy 16 to Quebec boundary.

  • Hwy 403 from Woodstock to Brantford.

  • Hwy 403 from Brantford to Hamilton.

  • Hwy 406 from Thorold to Welland.

  • Hwy 416 from Hwy 401 to Ottawa.

  • Hwy 69 from Sudbury to French River.