by Stephen Dafoe
Two years after the province began stakeholder discussion on photo radar, municipalities will soon have to justify each location where photo radar is used. The change is one of several to the province’s Automated traffic enforcement (ATA) rules, taking effect in April of 2022.
“We are taking action to tighten up the rules around photo radar. These changes respond to public concerns requesting the elimination of ‘fishing holes’ or speed traps while maintaining high levels of safety standards,” said Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney in a media release Wednesday. “Municipalities will be required to collect and provide data to support current and future site selection for photo radar. This is all about enhancing safety on our roads.”
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said photo radar should be used for traffic safety and not as a cash cow to squeeze extra money from Albertans. “Our government has worked with police services and municipalities to implement changes that will ensure photo radar technology is used only to ensure our roads remain safe,” the minister said.
Another change coming into effect in 2022 includes restrictions on photo radar use in transition zones and on residential roads with less than 50 km/h speed limits. These restrictions do not apply in school, playground or construction zones.
Additional changes include the elimination of, double ticketing within five minutes, mandating all photo radar enforcement vehicles be clearly visible, and requiring rationale and data for sites to justify the use of photo radar.
NDP say photo radar should be scrapped
Alberta’s NDP was critical of the UCP for not scrapping photo radar altogether. Prior to the UCP taking power, then NDP Transportation Minister Brian Mason vowed to “kill the cash cow” of photo radar tickets. At that time, a study showed photo radar reduced traffic collision by 1.4 per cent.
“Our NDP government committed to ending the use of photo radar as a revenue stream,” said NDP Critic for Transportation Lorne Dach. “After two years of dithering, the UCP has decided to keep picking the pockets of Alberta drivers, who are already paying soaring costs for gasoline and auto insurance.”
After the election the UCP increased the province’s share of photo radar revenue, before putting a freeze on new tech and new sites in 2019.
“In the overwhelming majority of cases, photo radar is not a traffic safety tool, it’s a way to extract money from drivers, plain and simple,” Dach said. “The UCP is making it more expensive than ever to drive in Alberta.”
The province says both Alberta Transportation and Alberta Justice and Solicitor General will work directly with municipalities and law enforcement agencies on the requirements taking effect in April of 2022, and municipalities will have roughly one year to enact the changes.
The province initially froze photo radar for municipalities in December of 2019, prohibiting new locations and gear. That freeze will remain in effect for another year until Dec. 1, 2022, allowing municipalities to implement the new guidelines before any expansion would be permitted.
In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, ATE generated $203 million, which includes the surcharge for the Victims of Crime Safety Fund.