By Tom Brodbeck ,Winnipeg Sun
There’s no better time than now for city hall to finally put a bullet to the failed photo enforcement program.
With more controversy surrounding the ticket-dispensing, money-making cameras — this time involving allegations of malfunctioning or rigged equipment on Grant Avenue — it’s time to finally wind this program down.
Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) has already declared that he’d like to see an end to the money-making scheme. He told reporters in September that he would like to pull the plug on the program when the contract with ACS Public Sector Solutions is up in less than two years.
The city’s finance chair says he’d like to replace the cameras with real police officers who can enforce all traffic violations, not just mail tickets to vehicle owners for speeding and red-light running.
When traffic cops pull drivers over for speeding, they can also check for infractions such as impaired driving, driving without a licence or driving a stolen vehicle.
They target drivers, not the vehicle, which means demerits and suspensions can be issued for chronic offenders. Photo enforcement allows chronic offenders to stay on the road — no matter how many speeding or red-light tickets the driver of the vehicle receives — because it can’t issue demerits.
How does that make our streets safer?
Real cops doing real traffic enforcement can also be redeployed for other policing emergencies. It allows police resources to be used more effectively.
What would you rather have on the streets, real cops doing traditional policing or cameras snapping pictures of vehicle licence plates? I’ll take real cops any day.
Besides, collisions at most intersections where red-light cameras have been installed have gone up since the program began, according to Manitoba Public Insurance crash data from 2003 to 2009.
We’ve asked for 2010 crash data but MPI says it’s still not available because they found some errors in the statistics. I guess the city doesn’t like the numbers.
Whatever the case, seven years of crash data shows that red-light cameras are not making our streets safer. Nor are mobile photo radar vehicles, including the ones ticketing motorists near Grant Park High School. Photo radar makes the city and the province a lot of money. But there is no evidence that parking a photo radar vehicle on main thoroughfares like Grant Avenue or Portage Avenue reduces collisions.
We have asked for collision statistics where photo radar is used and the city has never produced them, even though they’re mandated by the province to do so.
Those in favour of photo radar say if you don’t speed or run red lights you’ll never get a ticket. Agreed, for the most part. Although our uniform four-second ambers in Winnipeg do result in unfair tickets for many motorists.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether this program has met its objective of making Winnipeg streets safer. The evidence shows that it has not.
Which is why we need to wind down the program and replace cameras with cops. We also need to adopt universally accepted amber times, which means extending amber times for some intersections.
Those steps might not make the city as much money as photo enforcement. But it would go a long way towards making our streets safer.
PHOTO RADAR FACTS
- Collisions have gone up at most intersections where red-light cameras have been installed, according to Manitoba Public Insurance claims data.
- There is no data whatsoever to show whether mobile photo radar vehicles have resulted in a reduction in collisions.
- The city continues to violate its terms of agreement with the province for photo enforcement by failing to make public complete collision data for the program.
- Photo enforcement allows chronic traffic offenders to avoid demerits and licence suspensions because the program targets vehicles, not drivers.
- Photo enforcement has no ability to monitor drivers for traffic violations other than speeding and red-light running. Real traffic cops can bust motorists for violations such as impaired driving, driving without a licence, or driving a stolen vehicle.