Photo radar at lights OK'd
Cameras will zero in on all speeders
Jason Fekete And Sherri ZickefooseCalgary Herald
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Lead-footed Alberta drivers will soon face a double whammy: photo radar at inter-sections with red-light cameras.
The Alberta government officially proclaimed Wednesday changes to the Traffic Safety Amendment Act that permit municipalities to incorporate "speed-on-green" photo-radar enforcement at intersections where red-light cameras are in use.
The change will allow red-light cameras to also snap cars speeding through intersections at any time, which means motorists could be tagged with two tickets at once.
The new rule takes effect Jan. 1, but drivers will have at least a three-month grace period, until April 1, before the tickets will be valid, while also giving cities time to modify their cameras to include photo radar.
"If you don't speed, you're not going to get a ticket. It's optional," said Calgary-Hays Tory MLA Art Johnston, a former Calgary police officer who sponsored the bill through the legislature.
"It is to address safety."
A red-light camera ticket costs an Alberta motorist $287,while photo-radar tabs range from$124 for 20 km/h over the limit to $264 for 40 km/h over the posted limit, according to government data.
The Calgary Police Service already has 36 red-light cameras--and 45 intersections set up for their use--which require minor tweaking of software to allow them to identify speeders.
Police would still have to establish at what speed over the limit the cameras would be activated, but officials have stressed they're not interested in nabbing people travelling a few kilometres per hour over the posted limit.
Denis Painchaud, chairman of the Calgary Police Commission, said the group has been supportive of the initiative since bringing it forward for approval.
"This is one we felt very strongly was the right thing to do. Anything that enhances traffic safety out on the roads of Calgary is a positive step," Painchaud said. "The population is growing, the traffic on the road is growing. We have to do everything we can to protect the public."
Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson wasn't available for comment Wednesday, but he's previously said he would like to test the speed-on-green at a few intersections and start out with warnings for drivers.
"I want to be sure if we're going to use them that they're properly tested, properly applied and that they work to reduce collisions in those intersections,"Hanson told the Herald a year ago after the legislation was passed in the legislature.
Several studies have shown that red-light cameras are effective in reducing major collisions at intersections, while others have indicated the presence of such devices cause drivers to slam on the brakes and be rear-ended.
The opposition Liberals aren't convinced the new traffic measure will achieve the desired results.
"This is about revenue generation. It's not about improving traffic safety," argued Liberal transportation critic Hugh MacDonald.
Calgary and Edmonton are the two municipalities that have so far been granted permission to use the speed-on-green cameras, and all of the revenue generated will go to the cities, Alberta Transportation spokesman Jerry Bellikka said Wednesday.
He rejected criticisms the new speed enforcement is simply a cash cow.
"The whole push on these is to discourage people from stepping on the gas and racing through intersections to beat the light because people get killed that way," Bellikka said. "There's a very simple way not to pay the fine: obey the speed limit and save some lives."
Don Szarko with the Alberta Motor Association welcomed the new traffic enforcement, noting more than 80 per cent of Albertans they surveyed support such measures that improve safety at intersections-- often the most dangerous places on the road.
"It's not Big Brother. It's not a cash cow," Szarko said. "What we're doing is really sending a message here. It's one more tool in the enforcement arsenal."
A Leger Marketing poll conducted for the Herald, when MLAs originally approved the bill, found a majority of Albertans--64 per cent--supported using red-light cam-eras to capture speeders at intersections, though many believed the scheme would ultimately become a "cash grab."
© The Calgary Herald 2008