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Province to upgrade red light cameras to catch 'fastest vehicles'

Last Updated Mar 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

Province says new technology will identify and ticket 'the fastest vehicles'

BC gov't distancing upgrading of red light cameras from previous photo radar program

'This is about slowing down the fastest drivers at intersections' says BC's public safety minister

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The provincial government is planning to tweak existing red light cameras to target and ticket speeders.

It says in the coming months, it will look at crash and speed data and decide where these upgrades will happen.

The province says the new technology will identify and ticket “the fastest vehicles,” adding signs will warn approaching drivers about the upgraded cameras. However, the province has not given a speed threshold that would trigger the system.

The ministry says, “Enforcement will focus on the fastest drivers at these locations, whether they are passing through on a green, yellow or red light. However, the speeding threshold for this ticketing has yet to be set.”

It is distancing these upgrades from the previous photo radar program.

“This approach is more transparent than the provincial photo radar program that ended in 2001,” reads a news release. “It used unmarked vans in random locations, issued tickets at low speeding thresholds and tied up police resources with two officers staffing each van.”

With many unanswered questions about the upcoming changes, NEWS 1130 legal expert Michael Shapray says the devil will be in the details. He is worried about how this may impact the courts as people challenge tickets from a machine.

“The challenge to them become more difficult because it’s a human being challenging photographic evidence, which may or may not be accurate. It may or may not tell the whole story,” says Shapray.

“Those type of situations always raise interesting issues, with respect to the ability of someone to defend themselves and also the ability to uphold these types of tickets, if there’s a legitimate defense to them,” he adds.

In the written release, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says this move is about “slowing down the fastest drivers at intersections where we know that speed is a factor in causing accidents, so everyone on these busy corridors will be safer.”

“There is very little public sympathy for those who flout the law and speed excessively through known, high-crash intersections. The signs will be there to warn you. If you ignore them and put others in danger, you will be ticketed,” he adds.

A map of the existing “Intersection Safety Cameras” in BC:

Not everyone thinks the speed cameras are a good idea.

Ian Tootill with the driver advocacy group SENSE BC is worried the cameras are less about safety and more about money.

“Automated speed enforcement only works if you’ve set speed limits properly in the first place. And it only works, from a business perspective, if it continues to bring in revenue,” he argues.

Tootill also questions the province’s claim the cameras are more transparent than hidden police vehicles. “There is no transparency when it comes to automated speed enforcement. That kind of enforcement has a chilling effect on people. It’s not terribly positive, in many cases.”

According to the province, reducing crashes at intersections will have a positive impact on ICBC’s claims costs, which is a factor in what Attorney General David Eby has called the public insurer’s “financial dumpster fire.”

The province says an average of 84 crashes happen at each Intersection Safety Camera (ISC) site every year. It also says an average of 10,500 cars go at least 30 km/h over the posted speed limit at each of those sites annually.

The province says speed is the top contributing factor in fatal crashes, adding 60 per cent of all collisions happen at intersections.

Automated speed enforcement is already used in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec.