Letter: Photo radar not about safety


After taking in all the discussion about photo radar, we all must make our own decision, and mine boils down to one factor. Safety.
I’m not talking about a reduction in speeders. If you change a speed limit from 50km/hr to 60km/hr (as was done on 100 Street by No Frills), you’re going to have a reduction in speeders, but that improvement isn’t due to photo radar.

To evaluate safety, you have to look at accidents. If photo radar was effective in improving safety, you would expect them to set up in areas where there were accidents the previous year, and you would expect the areas where they are giving out many tickets to be the unsafe areas with many accidents.

To evaluate the safety impact of photo radar, I went to the “2013 Annual Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Report”, and mapped out (in red) all the non-parking lot accidents in 2011 and 2012 that were used in the report. I would expect that these trouble spots would be where automated enforcement would be deployed and issuing tickets the next year.

I then mapped (in yellow) the six locations of where 97 per cent of the tickets were given out in 2013.

This map shows us two things. First, photo radar gives out tickets mainly in areas with no history of accidents. Second, when photo radar is being deployed into high-risk area, almost no tickets are given out, yet still these remain high risk areas. This means that photo radar is not an effective safety mechanism in these areas, and that police presence would be preferable. This is a more obvious conclusion when you realize that almost ALL these accidents are caused by things like talking on cell phones, failure to signal, failure to stop at a sign, etc.

Town administration has stated that losing photo radar may mean they have to hire another officer to make up the 35 hours per week that photo radar is active. It seems that administration sees the two as interchangeable, but this analysis shows otherwise. Hiding behind a smokescreen of ‘safety’ while caring only about revenue does NOT make our streets safer. On April 14th, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Cultural Centre, I will be voting YES to getting rid of photo radar, so that we can start to have a discussion about how to actually improve safety in our community.

Sean Strang,

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  1. Funny… Yellow markers indicate areas that receive 97 percent of the photo enforcement focus? Notice that 1/3rd of the locations are school zones. That’s awesome!

    • 1/6 are school zones. The yellow marker you refer to is the cemetery zone which was the first focal point of our contractor when the program started. This cemetery zone was flogged for the first 6 months on a daily basis then was converted back to a 50 zone when the province reviewed and noted it was a still a secondary highway (Old Highway 2) The town collected a large sum from this zone which should have never been enforced as again there have been no accidents at this location. The Mayor continues to elude that this program costs the tax payers nothing. I have a problem with the privatizing enforcement as there is no direct supervision of these civilian operators who only get paid if tickets are generated.

      • To add further to what you just replied the 1 school zone that is in yellow (M414) is the zone where a majority of the complaints of working a transition zone are coming from. The second highly contested spot is M411, the notorious pump house.

        • By the book radar/laser can be worked within the posted signs. I have watched our contractors target drivers only at the last 50 feet of the school zones. They don’t target the vehicle as it is passing by them as the vehicles are doing 30. It is only at the very end of the zone when the contractor raises the gun to tag them leaving. They can target you up to the sign. Regular uniformed RCMP and our bylaw officers do not operate in this manner from my observations. They are trained professionals who work the zones and issue tickets to those who deserve them. Our contractor is enforcing the Poultry Act not the Traffic Safety Act. These tactics would never be tolerated if the Provincial Courts still had trained criminal Judges and Trained Prosecutors in the courts. The reason these contractors are not being challenged here in Morinville is due to our government trying to save money by hiring retired police officers to prosecute cases as the “Prosecutor” and even retired Police officers sitting in place of our former Provincial Court Judges hence the 100% conviction rates the town has boasted. The scales of Justice are tilted in one direction as it relates to Provincial Statutes. Perhaps our Government could save further revenue and have criminals tried by the same provincial court staff we have with 100% conviction rates.

  2. Thanks Sean for all of your work creating the graphic. Of course we know that the same stats can be presented to prove either side of an argument and your findings are no different. While we likely agree that there might be an opportunity to move photo radar to a few other locations (looks like the stretch by A&W could use some time), where we differ is the philosophy of responding to accidents instead of prevention. Many zones in Morinville (total of 9) which presumably include school zones had zero violations after a total of 141 hours of enforcement. There is no way that enforcing a school zone is a waste of time even if there are no accidents.

    The fact there are few accidents at major enforcement sites (which many stayed consistent year to year) could also mean that photo radar actually reduces collisions in those areas! Same stats perceived a different way. The problem is we can’t create a graphic of “prevented accidents”. You know those times where someone saw photo radar enforcement, or an RCMP vehicle, slowed down, and that prevented a tragedy…

    The other issue that I take with your results is that not all collisions are due to speed. We know that speed can increase the severity of a collision for sure. Many of the collisions appear to be at intersections (four way stops in particular) which might be due to incomplete stops or other reasons. Photo radar enforcement does nothing for rolling stops and will not fix everything. It is but one tool in comprehensive strategy to help make Morinville safer for everyone. Let our well trained RCMP officers focus on domestic violence, drunk drivers, and property theft by freeing up some of the responsibility to enforce speed by allowing photo radar.

    I will be voting No to the proposed Bylaw to support photo radar enforcement in Morinville.

    • Thomas, I totally agree. The upcoming Morinville Chamber of Commerce Trade Show (April 11-13) as this is an excellent opportunity to get information and to ask questions at the Town of Morinville’s booth about photo speed enforcement. It is important for all to remember that Morinville’s photo enforcement program is ONE component of the overall traffic safety program, and locations are NOT based on where collisions have occurred. For those that are ‘well versed’ on the Alberta Traffic Enforcement Guidelines, it is common knowledge that “Traffic Safety Criteria” or “high risk areas” for photo enforcement locations are determined and based on ANY of the Site Section Criteria that is indicated in those guidelines, see link:

      Most collisions are more typically intersection related and need to be enforced differently. Red light and Stop sign cameras would be an option. In the last six months, Morinville has had five pedestrian/vehicle incidents at the 100th & 100th traffic lights. A Red Light Camera is a “tool” that would help to assist with intersection traffic enforcement and it has been proven to reduce intersection incidents in the region.

      The fact is, photo enforcement is an important “traffic safety tool’ and it is meant to enhance overall traffic enforcement. It is NOT intended to “replace” RCMP or CPO enforcement, or to imply that human enforcement is no longer needed. Perhaps the individuals who frequent the comment section of the local media should have taken the opportunity to speak with the Town’s Director of Corporate Operations, our Community Peace Officer Supervisor, AND the Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant or Sergeant, who sit on the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, and were available at the Photo Enforcement Open House. They are experts on this subject matter and they would have responded with FACTS to questions/concerns and dispelled any misconceptions some might have. As for the argument that too many drivers are receiving photo radar tickets in school zones, that is not in dispute. This is just one initiative meant to help reduce the number of drivers who speed there. It was never suggested that it was meant to resolve this issue but rather to work in conjunction with human enforcement to keep our youngest residents safe.

      The majority of residents do comply with speed limits as evidenced by photo speed enforcement data. Average speeds in town have been reduced and that directly impacts the severity of collisions and injuries. There is a significant difference between the stopping distance at 30km/hr and the stopping distance at 50km/hr and that FACT could be the difference between life and death. PERIOD.
      Thomas, I also will be voting “NO” to the proposed bylaw to support photo radar enforcement in Morinville.

      • “In the last six months, Morinville has had five pedestrian/vehicle incidents at the 100th & 100th traffic lights.”

        And just what kind of a statement is THAT to use to support photo radar? Could you PLEASE, in your infinite wisdom, tell us mere mortals exactly how ANY kind of radar could have prevented such incidents?? Hells bells, even a living, breathing law enforcement officer standing right on the corner may not have prevented these from taking place! Shake your head woman and at least acknowledge the correctness of what Mr. Strang is saying.

        We ALL know that photo enforcement is not an important “traffic safety tool’ as YOU have stated. Rather, it is an important REVENUE GENERATING TOOL!

        You are, of course, entitled to your opinion but I really cannot understand WHY you refuse to pull your head out of the sand and REALLY examine the facts!

      • Charmaine,

        In your first paragraph you state that photo radar is NOT put where the accidents are.

        Then, in your last paragraph you praise how reduced speeds at the photo radar locations have resulted in less severe accidents, even though it’s been already pointed out that there are no accidents around the photo radar locations.

        Additionally you point out that photo radar is not intended to replace CPO’s, but town administration is on the record saying that CPO’s would have to be hired to do the work of photo radar. That sure sounds like a replacement to me?

        I am doing what I feel is in the best interest of safety for my kids. I think the additional CPO’s are going to make this town and my kids much safer than photo radar, but it’s okay to disagree on this, especially if you’ve done some analysis of your own rather than relying on the opinion of those paid by photo radar revenues.

        • Well said Sean…

          But – if I’m not mistaken, this Charmaine is one of the Town’s infamous “Talking Heads” and on that basis, I sincerely doubt that SHE has done some analysis OF HER OWN!

          The inconsistencies in the whole Town approach to this issue are now becoming a tad tedious – they can’t seem to even get their OWN stories straight.

          I firmly believe that the majority of our citizens are not as dumb as our Mayor, Council and especially our Town Administration seem to think. Should photo radar in this community be shown the door, it will be EXTREMELY interesting to see exactly HOW these people deal with it!

  3. Mtown Resident,

    I did notice that, and it seems greatly concerning that photo radar seems to be issuing tons of tickets in school zones year after year! For the 35 hours per week that photo radar spends in Morinville, I would suggest that positioning an officer in school zones for that time would have a much better effect than photo radar does.

    Town administration has stated that removing photo radar will mean more police presence in our school zones, I think that’s a great thing!

  4. Thomas,

    I agree you and I are looking at the same thing, but coming to a different conclusion. There are many zones in Morinville where photo radar is deployed but there are zero tickets issued, but my point is that there are still accidents in many of those zones.

    For example, you specifically mention the A&W, but photo radar IS deployed there often (location M408), with very few tickets. This tells me that photo radar isn’t good at fixing the problem that we have.

    The town has said that getting rid of photo radar means that they will use more police time for traffic. I understand that you are saying photo radar may be preventing speeding in school zones, but I bet that officers will be even better prevention and will ALSO work better in troubled zones like the A&W.

    Thanks for the well-reasoned response.

    • Sorry Thomas, I realized I didn’t address your last point at all.
      You are right, there are accidents that don’t involve speed. All of the accidents that occurred in parking lots have already been removed. However, your observation is correct in that almost NONE of the accidents in the graphic were due to speed.

      If the floors in your house were covered in wet mud, and somebody handed you a broom to fix the problem, what would you do? Would you try and use the broom on wet mud, or would you go get a mop? Of course, you’d get a mop.

      It seems photo radar is the same thing. We have many accidents in this town, and an infinitely small percentage of them are speed related, yet we keep suggesting photo speed radar as a solution. My small children walk and drive this town with me, I’d rather look at something that solves the problem causing accidents.

  5. THomas, Sean has come out and shown us an accurate map of statistical data from information he has gained freely and easily from listed sources. The conclusion he has made is quite justifiable. He has used accident data from 2011 and 2012 and compared it to accual photo enforcement locations in 2013. If both sets of data were from the same year, I might be inclined to agree with you. However, the results are still perfectlly clear, photo enforcement has not worked to keep our streets safer. Well done Sean, I also will be voting yes.

  6. Oh how I wish I could put my vote in today! As a Cardiff resident, your town affects us greatly. I too would vote yes to rid of the radar. Sherwood Park got it done, Morinville you can do it too.
    Please, take note: “I do believe that we have some work to do in order to re-evaluate the program so that it is used properly,” Holmes said.
    Oh, so it’s being used incorrectly. Thank you for clearing that up Holmes! That’s a great first step, admitting. Now for people to really open their eyes and see this system is useless at making Morinville more safe. I’d like to know, were people kicking and screaming as much to bring photo radar in as they are to get it out? I think not.

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