Photo Radar Needs To Be About Safety, Not Money

radar.jpg

I do not support how Edmonton currently operates its photo radar program.

First and foremost, traffic enforcement should be about safety. Correcting those unsafe actions, in the moment, that threaten the safety of other motorists, cyclist and pedestrians should be the primary motivation of our traffic enforcement system.

I understand that, to enforce our traffic laws, on our ever-growing roadway network, requires a corresponding ever-increasing number of enforcement resources. We simply do not have the resources to have police constables do all of our traffic enforcement, so we need to augment the resources of our Edmonton Police Service with peace officers and automated enforcement. Photo radar does not provide immediate feedback that would otherwise correct an unsafe action.

Further, recent media reports indicate that the application of automated enforcement - photo radar - does not correspond to the locations where the highest frequency of collisions occur. We are not concentrating our enforcement resources, where safety is of highest concern - so where are we concentrating it? On high speed roadways, with large traffic volumes. This implies that the primary focus of photo radar is revenue generation, not the correction of unsafe actions.

City administrators point to reduced collision statistics to justify their photo radar strategy. However, the City of Edmonton’s take over and expansion of photo radar enforcement coincides with their reconfiguration of major intersections to include dedicated left turn signals – a reconfiguration that was very much about increasing safety. The city has eliminated left hand turns which cross opposing traffic at major intersections. I am concerned that safer intersections and the resulting decrease in accident rates is being used to rationalize the current photo radar program. I think there is a lack of transparency in this respect.

I am also concerned that speed limits are unjustifiably low in places. The potential combination of a lack of transparency and purposely low speed limits might be a further indication that the current photo radar strategy is more about revenue generation than it is about safety. At the very least, it leads to that perception amongst motorists.

Again from a safety perspective, the City of Edmonton has recently introduced speed zones at schools and playgrounds, on the basis that reduced speed improves outcomes when pedestrian collisions occur. While this might be true, motorists question whether we are providing a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Have we properly considered the potential unintended consequences of residential roads where the speed limit is changing every block? Where there is another sign on every lamppost? Where you are constantly looking at your speedometer, and not at the road in front of you? And if the intent is to enforce those school and playground limits with photo radar, are we truly creating a safer environment for children – or a combination of a less safe environment and more revenue?

I do not advocate breaking the law. Speed limits are set to keep drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and children safe, and the best approach to speed limits is to obey them.

On that basis, if photo radar is to be used as a safety tool, to reinforce safe behaviour, then it should be obviously displayed for all to see, so as to actually modify unsafe behaviour. Hiding behind trees and bushes or up on overpasses is not consistent with this perspective.

When we use photo radar in a disguised way, the perception that it is about revenue generation more than safety is reinforced. It concerns me that, as this perception develops and persists, drivers adopt an attitude that not only is photo radar not to be respected, but that the speed limits being forced are not worthy of respect either. And in this way, our photo radar operation philosophy actually makes roads less safe.

So let’s use automated speed enforcement in a transparent way, and actually increase safety on our roads.