King backs calls for automated methods to control speeds
By Bill Rea

Automated speed control devices, like photo radar, could be making a come back if certain municipal leaders have their way.

York Region is calling on the Province to allow local police services to uses these measures, and King Council last week passed a motion supporting the call.

The regional staff report, which was forwarded to the Township, stated Ontario was the first province to approve the use of automated speed enforcement in 1994.

Its use was halted the following year by the Conservative government of Mike Harris. But Premier Dalton McGuinty indicated about two years ago that their use could be resurrected, if local municipalities asked for it.

The regional report also stated this type of enforcement is permitted in Alberta, although there are strict guidelines to make sure it’s used consistently throughout the province, and that the aim is slowing traffic and increasing safety, and not a government revenue source.

As well, the report said these devices are used a lot in other lands, including Australia, United Kingdom, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. In one part of Australia, this type of enforcement was part of a traffic safety program that saw a 46 pe cent reduction in traffic deaths and 36 per cent cut in major injuries over four years.

Speeding is also one of the biggest policing concerns in York, according to the report, especially in neighbourhoods and school zones. Studies conducted by the region indicate some 94 per cent of motorists exceed the posted 40km-h limits in school zones.

“It is unlikely that a sustainable reduction in travel speeds can be attained with existing law enforcement resources using conventional law

enforcement methods,” the report stated. “Automated speed enforcement allows police to better deploy limited resources to respond to community demands and

complaints. It gives officers a safe, accurate way to enforce speed laws.”

The report also pointed out that this type of enforcement is perceived by some in the public as being a money-maker for government , and staff urged that York would have to follow the lead set in Alberta, where random deployment (as was the case with photo radar in Ontario) is not permitted. It is only allowed in places where safety is a concern.

There will be revenue from this, but there will also be associated costs involving courts, etc.

Councillor Linda Pabst was enthused with the program, stressing the percentage of people driving over the speed limit is far too high, and it’s time to find a tool that could replace the concept of a police officer on every street corner.

Councillor Jane Underhill agreed, adding she’s heard

the program has been very successful in Calgary and Edmonton. Pabst said she was in Calgary four years ago, and noticed there was little passing, so the program clearly does work.

Councillor Cleve Mortelliti liked the idea of enforcement being more consistent than was the case with photo radar, and the thought of drivers knowing they will be caught if they try speeding through King.

There was some discussion about the guidelines in Alberta, but Mayor Margaret Black was reluctant to support them without knowing more about them. CAO Scott Somerville told her the Region was not following a program in Alberta, adding staff at York would be aware of what’s going on in the west.