When did being caught for breaking the law become a cash grab?
Earlier this month, Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the province is taking a second look at how law enforcement agencies and municipalities use photo radar.
Starting March 1, 2020, municipalities will be required to submit reports to the Alberta government showing the cameras are making the roads safer.
Municipal traffic safety plans will have to tie photo radar locations to safety and will be audited by the provincial government.
The government will prohibit the use of photo radar in speed transition zones starting June 1. (Incidentally, the new guidelines will, for the first time, define what a transition zone is. The size of a zone varies according to how much a vehicle needs to slow down. For example, a change in speed of 30 kilometres per hour requires a transition zone of 200 metres — 100 metres on either side of a sign. )
Municipalities will also be prohibited from placing the devices on multi-lane highways unless they can back up how they improve public safety through hard data.
It should be noted that conventional traffic enforcement methods will still be allowed.
The new rules come following a $190,000 two-year review on whether municipalities are using photo radar for safety or as a cash cow.
Although the report was commissioned over concerns photo radar was used to generate revenue for municipalities, it makes no conclusions to whether or not this is true. The review found the technology was only marginally successful reducing collisions rates by only 1.4 per cent.
Our first thought about this is that municipalities already have to provide evidence that they believe photo radar will make a particular stretch of road safer.
Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds said as much three years ago when then-mayor Gerry St. Pierre brought up the possibility of bringing photo radar to town, saying the first thing the province does when it receives a request for bringing photo radar into a community is to study the traffic patterns.
Our second thought is: so what? If it is a cash-grab, so be it. The only concern anyone should have is whether or not a person is guilty of the crime that is being committed. We are not talking about a Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hogg, type radar where the fix is in, but if you are speeding, then you deserve the ticket.
Let’s put it another way. Let’s a person stole a package of Milk Duds and no one saw them, except for a security camera. Does it matter if it wasn’t a real person who caught them in the act and not someone from the RCMP, which has been one of the big arguments against photo radar?
Speed is often a major determining factor in accidents, and the possibility of being nabbed by photo radar slows people down. If it just happens to help a municipality provide much-needed services to its residents, so be it.