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Photo radar – a look at "safety efforts" in "Edmonton" and "Calgary"

July 24, 2018
Photo radar – a look at

Governments often claim that they hand out photo radar tickets because drivers are committing unsafe acts and the tickets help deter such “dangerous” behaviour.

Let’s go with that argument for a minute.

If a city is truly concerned about speeders, then shouldn’t it carefully identify areas where there’s a high incidence of tickets each year and develop strategies to improve safety at those “dangerous” locations?

Perhaps a city could put up extra signage at a location where a high number of tickets are handed out to ensure motorists are well aware of the speed limit.

Alternatively, a city could use electronic sign boards that shows a driver their speed … or maybe even have real police patrol locations with high ticket counts to pull drivers over (and show a visible presence in the area). You can probably think of a few other options to help reduce the number of tickets.

With these ideas in mind, we recently asked the City of Calgary and City of Edmonton for the following information:

“…documentation on photo radar locations that were deemed to have a high incidence of tickets in 2016 and 2017, as well as information on measures taken by the city to improve safety at those locations.”

The responses from the two cities are quite different.

The City of Edmonton provided a response that included a table that outlines the top ten locations for each year and a short statement about what was done to improve safety at those locations. 

You can see Edmonton’s response if you click here.

We can question whether Edmonton’s response is sufficient in explaining actions taken and whether or not the city’s tactics were actually effective … but at least Edmonton responded with some information.

The City of Calgary on the other hand, outright refused our response – they suggested the information was confidential.

The city indicated release of the information could harm the effectiveness of investigative techniques and procedures currently used, or likely to be used, in law enforcement.”

To see Calgary’s response – click here.

But given Edmonton had no problem releasing the information, I would argue it’s clear the details aren’t really confidential. I’ve since filed a request for Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to review Calgary’s response so we'll see what happens. 

But if you stand back and think about the whole situation, shouldn’t the two cities both want to release reports proactively each year that boast about how their photo radar “safety” tool has improved safety?

One would think so … unless safety isn’t the real goal.

Alternatively, shouldn’t we see a story once a year about council members in both cities grilling staff at a committee meeting to make sure photo radar is actually improving safety in locations where speeding was deemed to be high?

Maybe it happens, but I haven’t seen it. I’m guessing many municipal politicians don’t want to interrupt their significant revenue stream. (This story notes 73 per cent of ticket revenues flow to the local municipality)

While municipal politicians don’t appear to be raising too many concerns about photo radar, it’s nice to see the provincial government is reviewing photo radar in the province. It’ll be interesting to see what the report concludes and what actions the government takes...

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