Police want to see ticket cameras on all bridges to slow speeders

By Jeff Nagel Black Press

Aug 08 2007

Automated speeding ticket cameras should be placed on all Lower Mainland bridges to slow dangerous drivers and save lives, according to a group of the region’s traffic police managers.

They are recommending the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police ask the provincial government to pass legislation “to facilitate the use of technology in traffic enforcement.”

The Lower Mainland Traffic NCO Group, a sub-committee of the association that includes RCMP, municipal police and commercial vehicle inspectors, backs cameras to deter speeding at high-volume bridges, according to the group’s chair.

“Bad things happen on bridges,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Beaudoin, who is also area services manager for Fraser Valley Traffic Services.

Beaudoin said he and the group favour automated speed cameras “for the Lions Gate Bridge, for the Port Mann, for any and all bridges.”

The dynamics of traffic movement on bridges often make conventional speed enforcement challenging, he added.

“Electronic enforcement would be the best avenue to do that,” he said. “The ticket’s in the mail.”

Beaudoin said he and other officers also favour using the existing 100 intersection cameras that catch red-light runners in the Lower Mainland to automatically issue speeding tickets as well.

The cameras already measure the speed of passing cars, he said, and enabling legislation from Victoria is the only real obstacle to ticketing drivers who speed through green lights.

Current law specifies their use for red light violations only and all speeding tickets must be served in person, not by mail.

Beaudoin said too many drivers travel on arterial streets at “triple digit speeds” – far above the speed limit.

“That becomes dangerous driving, that becomes criminal negligence,” he said.

Other more distant possibilities include using networked cameras at different sites to detect cars and ticket them if the vehicle couldn’t possibly have covered the distance between measured points without speeding.

“At some point in time we would like to see something like that on the Sea-to-Sky Highway,” Beaudoin said. “That would save a lot of innocent lives.”

The recommendation from the Lower Mainland Traffic NCO Group arose from meetings earlier this year but has not yet been considered by the chiefs’ association.

It’s the most senior policing body yet to make a call for more automated enforcement after local traffic officers in Surrey and New Westminster reaffirmed their support for speed cameras on the Pattullo Bridge.

Repeated calls from TransLink and local city councils to install cameras on the narrow span have been consistently rejected by Solicitor General John Les, who disputes their value and says the province won’t reintroduce photo radar.

Despite that, Beaudoin hasn’t given up on getting clearance for fixed speeding ticket cameras.

“It boils down to political will, it boils down to community pressures,” Beaudoin said. suggesting most residents support the use of technology to ensure safer traffic speeds.

“If it wasn’t for a very few who were contesting for the sake of contesting, we would still have photo radar today,” he said, calling the mobile units disbanded by the Liberals in 2001 a “tremendous tool.”

He said the cost of automated cameras has fallen sharply in recent years and they would free up much officer time to focus on other areas.

“We don’t have thousands of police officers that can babysit these intersections 24/7,” he added, noting there’s a steady flow of speeders at high-crash sites like 88 Avenue and King George Highway.

A 2005 review by the British Medical Journal concluded research to that point “consistently shows that speed cameras are an effective intervention in reducing road traffic collisions and related casualties.”

It found reductions in collision rates of five to 69 per cent in areas after cameras were installed. Injuries dropped 12 to 65 per cent and fatalities fell 17 to 71 per cent in the immediate vicinity of camera sites.

Intersection cameras have already done much to cut red light running and accident rates here, in particular along Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver, Beaudoin said.

“We’ve seen a tremendous change in driver behaviour and collision reduction as a result of that technology being used.”