By on September 16, 2011

Jurisdictions throughout the United States have been dropping the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. On Tuesday, the revolt spread to Strathcona County, Canada where the county council voted 5-4 to replace automated ticketing machines with real, live police officers.

“As far as we can tell, other than British Columbia a few years ago, we’re the first jurisdiction in Canada to remove photo radar,” Councillor Brian Botterill told TheNewspaper in an interview.

In 2001, Liberal Party leader Gordon Campbell campaigned in the province of British Columbia with a promise to ban speed cameras. When election day arrived, voters threw out the incumbent NDP party and handed Campbell 77 out of 79 seats in the provincial legislature. Now Botterill and his colleagues are conservatives opposing a policy originally put in place by conservatives in the province of Alberta.

“We see photo radar as a social experiment that failed,” Botterill said. “It was an interesting attempt, but in the end it didn’t work.”

Instead of mobile speed camera vans, Strathcona County will hire five new enforcement services officers, use radar-activated speed boards to warn drivers to slow down and conduct an engineering analysis to maximize safety. The photo enforcement contract with Affiliated Computer Services expires on September 30, so the county will go month-to-month until the new officers are hired, which could take up to nine months. After that happens, the speed vans will be eliminated.

The goal of switching from unmanned enforcement to manned enforcement is to redirect the focus away from ticketing those driving slightly above an underposted speed limit to going after the egregious violators who Botterill contends are the most dangerous. In Canada, 37 percent of fatal accidents were caused by drunk drivers. One out of five accidents were caused by distracted drivers.

“Photo radar could never stop those root causes, but manned enforcement could,” Botterill said. “Let’s focus our limited dollars on the root causes.”

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report predicted that if the mobile speed cameras were kept they would issue 13,911 tickets and generate $1.2 million in revenue. Of this amount, a $512,000 surplus would be added to county coffers, while five additional officers would cost $270,540 — after taking into account the 8,428 tickets worth $727,010 they would be expected to issue.

“Automated speed enforcement continues to be a significant tool in the long term goal of improving road safety in Strathcona County,” RCMP Sergeant Christian Narbonne argued. “Its use is economical, socially sustainable and environmentally sensitive as per the Strathcona County Strategic Traffic Plan mission statement.”

The majority did not agree with Narbonne. Although the speed cameras will be removed, the red light cameras that generated $237,350 in revenue last year would remain. Instead of removal, the council voted to investigate engineering improvements that would sharply cut down on the number of citations issued.

“We probably shouldn’t be ticketing until the all-red is over,” Botterill said.

The council is also working on a number of other changes to improve safety on county roads. Staff will review and cut on down the number of unnecessary school zones, reducing the current 250 zones to 30 where children actually likely to use the road.


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8 Comments on “Photo Radar Revolt Spreads to Canada...”

  • avatar
    Twin Cam Turdo

    Ontario killed photo radar about 15 years ago.

    It was an election promise that actually got delivered on.

  • avatar

    The BC Liberals did get rid of speed cameras after being elected, but they are now expanding the use of red light cameras.

    It`s primarily to generate revenue. Why else would there be a discount for paying early?

  • avatar

    The removal of the photo radar vans was THE one and only election issue that mattered to me at the time. While I had never had the pleasure of receiving a snapshot of my shitty Mazda 323 in the mail, I was sick of feeling nervous whenever I saw a van parked on the side of the road even though I rarely exceeded the posted limit.

    Best (and perhaps the last good) thing the BC Liberals have done as a government.

  • avatar

    I left the Edmonton region seven years ago. I think Edmontons program started about 12 years ago. They started out with disguised vehicles. A old truck with a trailer with a lawnmower in back, camera in front of truck. It was deemed predatory and it shifted to a van but different colours. Finally to one colour. A few vans have gotten rocks in the back windows but no one seriously hurt. No burning tires on cameras yet. A common occurrence in some countries. They have had red light camera intersections for maybe 3 years as well.

    The spinning bright emergency lights on the cruiser with the speeder pulled over will make ALL drivers in both directions be careful not just for the sign and intersection. They will be more worried about the roaming radar and the possible verbal interaction with the speeder confronting their own actions. There is also the rule to slow to 50kmh and ride to the opposite side of the traffic stop for safety. I’m okay with that regardless of the limits.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in Lethbridge they have a squarish box the same size and shape as a residential garage bin equipped with a photo radar camera that they roll out to the edge of the road. Very hard to see. They now have a cop sitting in a van close by but hidden behind a small hill to make sure no one vandalizes the box since it was beaten a while back.

      A ton of red light / speed camera combos going in lately too.

  • avatar

    Brian Botterill happens to be my daughter’s boyfriend. When he got elected last year to council, he was determined to get changes made to the predatory nature of photo radar.

    So far so good Brian.

  • avatar

    But how will the officers fit up on the poles?!?

    (Sorry, I did RTFA, but couldn’t resist making a smartass comment)

  • avatar

    “The council is also working on a number of other changes to improve safety on county roads. Staff will review and cut on down the number of unnecessary school zones, reducing the current 250 zones to 30 where children actually likely to use the road.”

    I assume 250 zones is supposed to be 50 zones :) They are doing that in areas where I live and I cannot stand it. That is what we have playground zones for. First, a child is not likely to be on the road at 2:00am so why have the speed reduced then? Second, children do NOT belong on the road. When I was a kid I was told to stay of the road and got a good spanking when I wandered onto it. Nowadays parents seem to be entitled and want their kids to have right of way to whatever they want. On my mother-in-laws street there is some guy who lets his kids play on the road and puts out a homemade “Speed limit 30, children playing” sign on the road…which is illegal. My father-in-law told him off once and even took the sign but the guy just made another one. Yesh. Kids do not belong on the road. Address that rather than lowering speed limits everywhere.

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