Transport minister says he won't support photo radar on highways

Jim MacDonald
Canadian Press

Monday, February 06, 2006

EDMONTON (CP) -- Alberta Transportation Minister Lyle Oberg is putting his foot firmly on the brake when it comes to allowing photo radar on provincial highways.

"I'm against photo radar on highways,'' Oberg said Monday in an interview. "I think that's a non-starter and I think that's something that the public in Alberta simply does not want.''

The minister says many Albertans view photo radar as a method for police forces to raise additional revenues.

"Certainly photo radar is seen as being a cash cow. It is seen as not necessarily being the best safety effort.''

A spokesman for the Alberta Motor Association says recent surveys of its 740,000 members suggest there's growing public support for photo radar in general.

"The level of support has increased over the last six years,'' said Don Szarko, who is with the AMA's advocacy division. "It used to be way down in the 60s and now it's about 78 per cent actually support the use of photo radar to catch speeders.''

But Szarko says there have been no specific surveys by the AMA on whether people support photo radar on highways, which has never been allowed in Alberta.

Oberg says he believes there should be photo radar in intersections. Currently some intersections have cameras that catch people running red lights, but the cameras don't clock the speed.

The transportation minister says having both would help reduce the number of serious accidents at intersections.

"Personally, if we want to truly stop the t-boning accidents and people getting hit in crosswalks, I think the intersection is the place to establish (photo radar).''

Oberg has been looking at a long list of changes that grew out of an independent report completed in 2004 by a committee led by former RCMP commissioner Don McDermid.

Several measures have already been implemented, including doubling fines for drivers who speed in construction zones or don't slow down when passing emergency vehicles on a highway.

Oberg is also considering a mandatory annual medical test for some drivers starting at age 75 to see if they still have adequate reaction to driving in adverse conditions. But he says this wouldn't necessarily apply to all seniors.

"I think the key point here is that not all 75-year-olds are created equal. There are some that are in excellent shape, there are some that are not in good shape.''

The minister says the cost of this annual test could cost as much as $200, but he could not yet say who would pay.

There's also discussion of imposing a temporary licence suspension for drivers with blood-alcohol levels of .05 or higher.

This would be a tougher standard than the existing level of .08, which would still be the cutoff for laying a drunk driving charge.

Oberg says it will take about a year for these changes to take effect, either through legislation or by cabinet order. But first he wants to consult the public.

"We don't necessarily want a huge dog and pony show all over the province,'' he said. "We will probably do small sessions or focus groups to see want the general public thinks about these recommendations.''

Canadian Press 2006