Editorial: Photo radar should be seen and less heard about

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There are two kinds of laws society observes – the written and the unwritten, the enforceable and the unenforceable. Unwritten and unenforceable laws include stuff like letting those exiting an elevator do so before we pile in. Unwritten and unenforceable laws include holding the door for someone if they are within three paces behind you. Added to that list is letting someone with only one item go ahead of you and your cart full of groceries at the checkout. Written laws include stealing, assault and speeding.

Let’s be clear. Stealing something small is still stealing. Punching someone in the face only once instead of forty times is still assault. Driving 10 kilometres over the speed limit is still speeding. So we have no sympathy for petty thieves, minor beatings or people with lead feet.

Automated traffic enforcement tickets were down 63 per cent in the last quarter of 2012 and down again in the first quarter of 2013. In both quarters, the majority of tickets were issued in school zones, primarily the one by Morinville Public Elementary School. In the first quarter of 2013, Integrated Traffic Services issued 335 tickets in that zone, the result of spending a lot of their time there.

We’ve not heard one single person who is upset about ITS setting up shop in school zones. In fact, many residents have told us they ought to put a lot of focus there and in our residential neighbourhoods.

Where people get upset is when the photo radar vehicle is parked at Morinville’s east end, behind a pump house, as some recent photos sent our way seem to reveal. That is when we hear the words cash cow and unethical used in conjunction with photo radar. The discussion has come up in Council in the past and came up again May 28 in response to our question on the matter.

Statistics collected from the 100 Avenue and 102 Street speed sign indicate not only is traffic through Morinville increasing, speeds are as well. Roughly 14 per cent of the 284,000 drivers who passed the signs from January to March were speeding. The situation at the eastern entrance to town showed 20 per cent of motorists were speeding. The top speed at the east boundary sign was 127 km/h in the 50 km/h zone.

This is not acceptable. Driving into or out of town at more than twice the posted speed limit is not a matter of failing to observe the posted speed limit or even being a little heavy on the gas pedal because your mind was wandering. It is a blatant disregard for the law that is emboldened by the absence of law enforcement at that moment.

A speed sign will correct the behaviour of those who would ordinarily obey the speed limit. A reading of 53 km/h in a 50 km/h zone would likely cause 80 per cent of drivers to pause and reflect on their behaviour by immediately applying their brakes to reduce their speed. But it does nothing for the driver doing double plus the speed limit. They simply do not care.

Exorbitant speeders need tickets and a few demerit points, but if the goal is to slow people down as they pass through town in order to improve traffic and pedestrian safety, we need to have enforcement seen. Whether that’s a Peace Officer parked occasionally at East Boundary Road or photo radar doing a shift there, both should be clearly visible to motorists to have an affect. There is nothing like being followed by flashing red lights to make someone do a quick reality check.

If you speed past a clearly marked enforcement vehicle, you deserve a little skinnier wallet. You deserve the ticket if you speed past a hidden photo radar vehicle, too. The difference is a clearly marked vehicle gives the driver a reminder to do the right thing before passing the clearly marked vehicle and speeding into town. A hefty photo radar ticket, as deserved as it may be, does absolutely nothing for the poor sod that gets t-boned a half-kilometer up the road because the speeder never saw the guy that just photographed his license plate.

-SD

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12 Comments

  1. I love how much credit Town Council gives those speed signs coming in to town (and on main street near Town Hall). I dare a law enforcement official to go on record about those signs and their accuracy. Off the record more than one has told me about how inaccurate those signs are. Based on those conversations I find it laughable that these signs are used as a measureable statistics to validate the use of Photo Radar in town.

    In the words of former mayor Lloyd…. “Hurry through Town because we are in a hurry to pay for our Cultural Centre”.

    Not sure why someone hasn’t used an information request under the FOIP act to determine how much the Contractor makes off of his time spent in Morinvlle. I have heard it is upwards of 60% of the tickets issued. If I made 60% off of each ticket issued in Town I too would be going out of my way to maximize my revenue using any means possible (Ie. Hiding behind the pump house).

  2. Well said Stephen, it is about safety and the well being of our community members.

    Though I don’t always agree with your editorials I do really enjoy reading them.

    Thanks!

  3. Julie, Cliff and I did pay $25.00 and filled out all the FOIP forms requesting a copy of the ITS contract. It was amazing at how much was blacked out due to the issue of certain information being confidential and of course the amount that ITS receives as their portion is not available. If you are interested in looking at the contract (not the most recent one) you can contact me and I will show it to you.

    Contact me at lindaly@telusplanet.net
    Thanks
    Linda

  4. My Comment re: this editorial is also basically repeated as another comment to Stephen’s 29th of May article on the same topic. If you haven’t checked that piece out yet, I strongly urge you to do so, as there are a number of reader comments worth perusing.

    First of all, I find it rather amusing – and a whole bunch sad – that the closer we come to the October Civic Election, the more our present Council members (and potential future candidates) appear to take notice of issues which many constituents have commented on and/or complained about over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, our present Council appears to lack the intestinal fortitude to simply TELL Administration what to do about any given issue. This applies not only to the ongoing photo radar situation, but also to a number of other hot-button topics such as playgrounds for the kids. What our elected officials are quite clearly demonstrating is a distinct lack of anything remotely resembling leadership… What a pile of crap!!

    Julie, with respect to your suggestion about “FOIP-ing” for photo radar contract information, I regret to inform you this has already been tried, twice. I also regret to inform you that what was gotten back was so redacted as to be TOTALLY useless. One FOIP request was submitted to Morinville’s Administration respecting the ITS contract itself and a second to the Provincial Government requesting information on an audit supposedly conducted on the ITS Morinville operation.

    Stephen, I know we have not always seen eye-to-eye on issues but, once again, I wish to congratulate you on a well-written piece… Please keep it up!

  5. One way that Ontario worked on solving their excessive speeding problem (they call it stunting) a while back was three automatic measures if you were caught going 50 km/h or more over the speed limit: immediate 7 day loss of licence, immediate 7 day vehicle impoundment, a $2,000-10,000 fine, plus you lose 6 demerit points. They increased their minimum fine from $200 to $2,000 and maximum from $1,000 to $10,000 which quickly got people’s attention. From what I have read and seen, Albertans don’t mind paying fines of $173 or more for distracted driving, driving without a seatbelt on or photo radar speeding tickets, so cranking up the fines five or even ten-fold might gain their attention.

    I agree that the photo radar needs to be seen to be a visual reminder, but having increased tickets for excessive offences would also help.

  6. Unfortunately Brent, while this might be a good idea you must first convince our wonderful Provincial government of its value. Perhaps you should contact our local MLA to carry this cudgel on our behalf…

    Oh yeah – she doesn’t swing much weight with our Premier, so that’s probably not going to work

    Good luck and have a nice day!

  7. Brent, I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure those tickets you speak of in Ontario are only happening if someone actually pulls over the offender. We have similar laws here just as not as “harsh” ( I personally believe they are still too lenient) but they only apply if you are pulled over by an officer. Photo radar doesn’t do anything other than take your money.

  8. Here’s my two cents on the whole speeding/education thing. We here in North America need to change our mindset. Driving is not a right nor should it be considered one. It is a privilege that if abused should be revoked. Now I’m not talking about pulling a license if someone gets caught going 10 km over the speed limit. I’m talking about excessive speeding, drunk driving… those sorts of things. If the law was more strictly applied in dangerous cases we might see less problems. I highly doubt “educating” speeders by having photo radar or police vehicles visible even makes a bit of difference. It only ever works on those who would already be inclined to obey the laws in the first place. Of course, maybe I’m wrong.

  9. Christian: re your “two cents”: You’re NOT wrong!

    In fact, much like our good old ‘National Firearms Registry’, the application of existing laws respecting various motor vehicle offences really only targets those who are usually law-abiding citizens. Hundreds (and even thousands!) of examples are out there where drunks KILL and MAIM innocent folks, and suffer no REAL long-term hardships. Unlike the families of the victims, the perpetrators usually get a pass. Not the fault of the police, but definitely a problem with our wimpy, left-leaning, hug-a-thug judiciary.

    Hell, these days the penalty for mistreating an animal is far more severe than that for killing another human being – what kind of society have we become?

  10. Thanks Stephen for another well thought editorial. Like everyone else I’m strongly in favor of the photo radar in areas were it does good. (school zone, ect) As far as the statistics for speeding that 127km/hr figure always seem to pop up whenever the photo radar is brought up.
    Was that an actual radar catch or is it from those unreliable signs?
    I drive by those twice, sometime more everyday and while holding a steady 50Km/hr I’ve seen those jump from 46 to 58. Keep in mind that police and emergency vehicles also drive by these while responding to calls.
    I commute through St Albert every day and,you always see brake lights flash on when the radar van is sitting on the side. I’m am amazed however that even with the speed fine double signs in the construction zones traffic is still moving at 75-80 km/hr. ( I have yet to see a photo radar or police in those locations)

    Back to the main subject, the photo radar vehicle should be seen, just like police or bylaw and, yes even those unreliable signs, it does cause one to do a double check on their speed.

  11. Yes, you have to be pulled over to get the big tickets/fines in Ontario. Photo radar has always been a “freebie” because you can’t always prove who is driving the car. Now if they had a front and rear camera…you never know.

  12. The technology already has existed for the past 20 years and is in place in Germany for commercial vehicles. It’s a serialized box that fits under the dash and it records speed like a black box in a aircraft. If there’s an incident or when they go for a new registration on that vehicle, the disc in the box can be examined with a simple laptop and if the vehicle is exceeding the speed limits on a regular basis fines are levied on the spot.

    Another technology I encountered was in United Nation’s vehicles where this box is on the dash. You need to swipe your ID card before you can start the vehicle. If you exceed the speed limit it sets off an audible alarm and will only quite down when you reduce speed. It also records the length of time and speed you were travelling for the vehicle’s owner to monitor.

    Both of these technologies are dirt simple and not expensive. If people can’t learn, it will only be a matter of time before it gets legislated here.

    Perhaps this may be the answer; if you receive two or more tickets a year you should be ordered to get this installed (at your own costs) by law for a one-year probationary period. Failing this period, your license is revoked and you are free to start all over again beginning with your written tests and probationary driving privileges.

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