The Trans-Canada Highway 1 near Chestermere has seen some significant speed limit changes. What used to be a consistent 110 km/h has been changed to 80 km/h between Garden Road and just east of Rainbow Road. The highway 791 intersection speed limit was also reduced to 80 km/h.
Hadyn Place, Acting Chief of Staff for the Office of the Minister of Transportation, says these changes were made to keep the roads safe.
"Lowering the speed limit on this section of the highway will improve safety overall as well as when vehicles merge from the intersection onto Highway 1," he said in a written statement.
While the move has been met with significant backlash, Executive Director of Operations for Rocky View County Byron Riemann says Alberta Transportation made the change because people requested it.
"Ultimately the decision came from Alberta transportation. The request to consider the decision came through Rocky View County residents who used and our impacted by the intersection," he said.
"They (Rocky View County Residents) wanted Alberta Transportation to reconsider that speed limit based on what has been occurring at that intersection in terms of severity of accidents and near misses."
Some people have found the changes concerning since they believe lowering the speed limit to 80 makes things less safe because of cars speeding by them. However, Staff Sergeant Mark Wielgosz, Detachment Commander for Strathmore RCMP, says he expects this will not be as big of an issue as time goes on.
"I can tell you in the past when the speed zones changed from highway 791 west through just after Range Road 281 that there was a bit of an implementation phase and it took some time for people to get used to that speed zone. I think it's just a matter of time before people start getting used to these changes. Whenever there's any change that may appear to be an inconvenience or may give the perception of a lack of safety there's always some apprehension, but I think over time the general commuting public will get used to it," he said.
If you're concerned about safety, Wielgosz added that you can contact the RCMP to help them address some concerns you may have.
"I would ask the public to report aggressive driving along those areas to help inform us on where we should be directing our resources."
While safety is a big concern for some, there are others that believe the changes were made so that the RCMP could issue more speeding tickets. Wielgosz says this is not true at all.
"Speaking for my detachment, we don't conduct road safety as a 'cash grab'. Our goal is to make sure that we're maximizing road safety for all users of the road, particularly for those who obey the rules of the road. They're there for a reason, to make sure that we're ensuring safety. And for those who we may be stopping, certainly, there's a long-range of latitude that the officer has with respect to whether or not they choose to issue a violation or not."
Wielgosz understands that there may be a learning curve at first, so he said that tickets may not always be the end result of getting pulled over.
"Unless the driving pattern is overtly unsafe, if it's just a matter of the implementation period, our officers, depending on the circumstances, may choose to educate the motorists rather than conducting enforcement on the infraction. But again, that's done on a case by case basis and it depends on the circumstances of why they were stopping the vehicle."
While the speed limit change has seen strong opinions on both ends, the end result is that drivers will have to adapt to the changes and learn to handle the different speed limits.
"It's about learning. drivers have to be aware of the situation and adapt. Anytime you drop a speed limit you're going to have some potential new learning that people just have to learn to adapt to so that it makes it safe for all users."
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