Photo radars should be used to improve safety, not act as cash cows for municipalities, says Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason.
To make sure they’re not being misused, the government has launched a review into Alberta’s photo radar guidelines.
Mason admits he has received a few tickets from photo radars — his reaction is usually “Doh” combined with chiding himself for speeding — but said Thursday he has heard from a lot of groups that decry the use of the much-maligned machines.
Mainly he hears concerns that photo radar has gone beyond its intended role of enforcing traffic safety.
The joint review between the infrastructure and justice ministries will examine policies in other jurisdictions, and look at how photo radar sites in Alberta are picked and evaluated.
Mason pointed to Edmonton as a municipality that took over control of photo radar, and saw income to the city increase significantly.
Wildrose justice critic Angela Pitt also singled out Edmonton.
The city has around 1,000 more photo radars than Calgary, she said, but there’s no evidence the increased monitoring has decreased accidents.
“I think there are some situations where they are cash cows, some where they’re used for safety, but there’s just no consistency,” Pitt said.
“It seems to be getting out of hand.”
Safety the top priority
While he takes the point that avoiding speeding will also avoid a ticket, Mason argues that photo radar is supposed to be at targeted locations to reduce crashes and deaths on the roads.
“This is a question of priorities and focus,” he said.
“Safety is our top priority, so if people can show (photo radar) is improving safety on our roads for pedestrians and cyclists, then we’re going to be OK with that.”
There is no firm timeline for the review, which started about three months ago, but Mason hopes it will be done by fall.
Mason will consider reaching out to Albertans, many of whom have passionate opinions about photo radar.
“But first I want to see the data, because that can inform me and inform the public,” Mason said.
Pitt would like to see the review completed and released publicly by Sept. 15 to help inform voters during upcoming municipal elections.
She would like to see greater oversight of the photo radar program if it continues, possibly in the form of radar evaluations or ultimate sign-off on their locations from the justice minister.
Where the money goes
All automated traffic enforcement ticket fines are currently forwarded to the Alberta government and disbursed from there.
The province gets 27 per cent, but the rest goes to municipalities.
Municipalities can use the revenue as they see fit, but the intent is for cities to use the photo radar cash to offset the cost of policing and traffic safety initiatives.
A 15 per cent levy on top of each ticket goes to Alberta’s Victims of Crime Fund.