Higher speeds contribute to a higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities by reducing driver reaction time, increasing the vehicle stopping distance, and inflicting more severe blunt force trauma on victims upon impact.

The City of Toronto is currently reducing speed limits to curb speeding on our roads. This is part of a holistic Speed Management Strategy as outlined in the City’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan.

Higher speeds contribute to a higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities in three ways:

  1. Higher driving speeds reduce drivers’ field of vision as well as peripheral vision and consequently, situational awareness, which is crucial for anticipating and reacting to unexpected events or sudden changes in road conditions.
  2. The higher the speed, the greater the stopping distance required when braking, and as a result, the increased risk of a collision.
  3. Should a collision occur, an impact at higher speeds inflicts more severe blunt force trauma on victims as more kinetic energy must be absorbed. The effect is most pronounced for vulnerable road users who do not have protection.

The table below shows the rate of killed and serious injury (KSI) collisions in each Community Council area per 100 km of roadway between 2014 and 2018 by road classification. The overrepresentation of KSIs on arterial and collector roads has informed the prioritization methodology of the Speed Management Strategy.

(2014–2018)  Killed and Serious Injuries (KSI) by Road Class per 100 km
Road Class Scarborough North York Toronto and East York Etobicoke York Overall
Local 2.1 2.1 3.9 3.2 2.8
Collector 13.0 16.1 19.1 20.0 16.5
Arterial 136.9 125.7 161.3 116.3 135.7

The City’s Speed Management Strategy aims to reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities associated with speeding through short and long-term measures, which include revised speed limit setting practices, road design improvements, automated speed enforcement, enhanced police enforcement, proactive deployment of Watch Your Speed signs, and public education and engagement campaigns.

Speed limit reduction is considered a shorter term initiative that can be implemented quickly but is not as effective as some of the longer term initiatives such as modifying the design of the roadway, which take several years to plan, program, design and implement.

More details about the City of Toronto’s Speed Management Strategy are in the June 2016 Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Update staff report to City Council.

Considerations of speed limit reductions were made for all minor arterial roads with current speed limits over 50 km/h and all collector roads with current speed limits over 40 km/h. Each segment was evaluated and exceptions to speed limit reductions were made based on the following criteria:

  • Sections just off of Highway 401 (typically between on/off ramps),
  • Sections through industrial areas,
  • Sections with limited number of driveways present and/or very large boulevards with setback sidewalks, or
  • Sections with wide, open streetscape.

The criteria is intended to exclude road segments where lower speed limits would be artificially low for the existing road environment and that create significant speed differentials, which would be a safety concern. However, exceptions were not made in the following situations:

  • Near schools or where appreciable pedestrian/cycling volumes are expected,
  • Locations with history of speed-related collisions, or
  • Locations with narrow or missing sidewalks.

The “Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Plan” report, as adopted by Council, set out the plan for speed limits on all local residential roads to be reduced to 30 km/h.

The current plan for installation of the signs on local roads will be a data driven process on a ward-by-ward basis, with priority going to wards with higher rates of pedestrian and cyclist collisions.  This process began in 2021 with all wards planned for completion by 2025. Investigating or implementing local road speed limit changes outside of this systematic program would be less efficient and divert resources away from the program, extending the time it will take to implement city wide and increasing the total cost.

The speed limits will be implemented using an area-based approach. With this approach the City is no longer required to sign every individual street within that designated area but only the entry and exit points. The intent of the Vision Zero 30 km/h neighbourhood speed limit reductions is to not put signs on every street, but rather only at neighbourhood gateway points or entry and exit points, to/from local roads to roads with a higher speed limit.

With this new style of signage placement, residents may initially feel there is a deficiency of signage but the intent is to eventually get to a point where gateway entrance and exit sign placement is consistent across the city and the nature and look of our local roads will make it clear that the speed limit is always 30 km/h on local roads.

EYCC decision: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.EY24.21

NYCC decision: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.NY24.20

SCC decision: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.SC24.15

TEYCC decision: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.TE25.20

The table below summarizes the approach to lowering the posted speed limits in arterial, collector and local roads.

Road Classification Proposed Change Process Implementation
Major Arterial 60 km/h to 50km/h Vision Zero 2.0 Report 2020–2021
Minor Arterial 60 km/h to 50km/h Future reports to appropriate Community Councils by end of 2019 2020–2021
Collector 50 km/h to 40km/h Future reports to appropriate Community Councils by end of 2019 2020–2021
Local 50 km/h or 40km/h to 30km/h Future reports to appropriate Community Council 2021–2025

The first phase of the Speed Management Strategy, from November to December 2019, saw the speed limit on approximately 250 kilometres of major arterial roadways reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h. The second phase was completed in 2020 and saw the speed limit on approximately 250 kilometres of minor arterial and collector roadways reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.

The third phase of the Speed Management Strategy, beginning in 2021 with planned completion in 2025, is currently reducing the speed limit on local roads and public lanes in Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough to 30 km/h to bring the rest of the city in line with a consistent 30 km/h speed limit on all local roads. (Speed limits on local roads and public lanes in the Toronto East York Community Council area were approved in 2015 and 2016 and have been since completed.)

You can use the Vision Zero Mapping Tool to view where the speed limits have been changed in Toronto.

There’s little evidence that the proposed speed limit reductions will impact travel times.

Studies have shown travel time is more dependent on congestion, roadway design and geometry factors than on the posted speed limits. Under medium congestion levels (where traffic is periodically able to travel at or near the speed limit), a lower speed limit may actually reduce overall travel time by allowing a smoother traffic rhythm because lower speeds reduce safe space required between vehicles.

Additionally, unlike in freeway conditions, the average speed for a typical trip is well below the posted speed limits of arterial roadways in the urban road environment

The average speed is more dependent on the nature of stop-and-go traffic as a result of congestion, roadway design and geometry factors than on posted speed limits

The City, alongside the Toronto Police Service (TPS), identify high-risk locations at which traffic enforcement officers can be strategically deployed. Based on collision data, these locations are identified as hot spots for speed-related injuries or areas with a high risk of collisions.

Targeted enforcement in the these locations (usually on arterial, minor arterial and collector roadways) is paired with automated enforcement through red light cameras at high-risk traffic signals and Automated Speed Enforcement in Community Safety Zones near schools.

The City will be continually running an education campaign to inform residents about speed limit reductions in the city. Messages will be featured in out-of-home advertising spaces (bus backs, transit shelters, etc.), print ads, digital ads and social media in addition to radio spots. The below is an example of most recent campaign about speed limit reductions in the city.

Heads up, Toronto. We're reducing speed limits on major roads in the city.

We're reducing speed limits on major roads in Toronto. Slow down. Obey the sign.

We're reducing speed limits on major roads in Toronto. Obey the limit.