2/26/2019Canada: Government Report Questions Speed Camera Motives
Alberta Transportation releases report showing speed cameras had little positive effect on traffic safety in the Canadian province.
The primary impetus behind the installation of speed cameras in Canada may not always be safety. That was the finding of an independent report released on Thursday by the government of Alberta on the use of photo radar in the province. Brian Mason, the province's transportation minister, proposed an updated set of usage guidelines that he hopes will curb abuses at the municipal level.
"Our goal is to eliminate photo radar as a tool for revenue generation," Mason said at a news conference.
Alberta is the top province when it comes to the number of automated ticketing machines and photo citation revenue. The devices have been in use there for thirty years, but other provinces, such as British Columbia, have rejected speed cameras after fierce public pushback. Despite their differing stance on cameras, Alberta and British Columbia both saw accident rates drop by about a third over the past decade.
The report analyzed the numbers and found "weak" evidence of any correlation between safety and photo radar. The report suggested cameras could be responsible for one percent of the 29 percent reduction in the collision rate over ten years. Much more clear was the increasing revenue that the cameras bring in -- up twelve percent since 2013. Cameras in Alberta now generate $220 million annually, more than any other province.
"Despite this high intensity of use, collision rates in Alberta have decreased at similar levels to other jurisdictions," the report explained. "Collision rates for Alberta municipalities using automated traffic enforcement have decreased at similar levels for non-automated traffic enforcement jurisdictions."
The devices are used in 28 municipalities, with Edmonton and Calgary raking in the largest haul, at $51 million and $38 million respectively. Sixty-three percent of Albertans told pollsters believe these programs are focused on profit, not safety.
Mason argued that safety outcomes might be improved if provincial guidelines were improved. For example, more than a third of cities justify the installation of speed cameras at a particular location by citing a single factor -- usually a high volume of speeding, rather than a history of accidents. The report also identified deficiencies in the way red light cameras are tested for accuracy every thirty days. In practice, this just means pushing a button and waiting for the system to complete an automated self-test.
"There are cases where the automatic computer testing could fail, leading to lower confidence in [intersection camera] accuracy than manual independent verification," the report noted. "There has been at least one incident in which a municipality's [intersection camera] testers were not properly appointed. The program was suspended pending resolution, but situations similar to this can cause large potential risks for the province."
A copy of the report is available in a 3mb PDF file at the source link below.