British Columbia

How average speed cameras could make B.C.'s roads safer

'These cameras save lives,' says transportation minister in Scotland where technology has had dramatic effect

February 05, 2018

Scotland has made use of average speed cameras since 2005. (Transport Scotland)

Amid the financial crisis at ICBC, policymakers are looking for ways to improve road safety and reduce claims. 

One idea that has been floated is the implementation of average speed cameras.

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The mayors of both Squamish and Lions Bay are advocating for the use of average speed cameras to reduce speeding on Highway 99 through their communities.

Average speed cameras track the speed of a motorist at multiple stations over a stretch of road or highway. 

A car can enter or exit anywhere along the route and, upon exiting, the average speed of the vehicle travelled is calculated and compared to the speed limit. Drivers who go over are automatically ticketed.

It's a system that Scotland has had in place since 2005.

"The impact of them is really quite incredible," said Humza Yousaf, Scotland's minister for transport.

"People in Scotland now very much accept that they work."

Proof in numbers

Yousaf says that numbers of speeding incidents have dropped dramatically.

"When we had them on the A77 [highway] back in 2005, fatal and serious casualties dropped by 74 per cent within a really short period of time," he said

"But the real interesting one is the route that we've just done in October 2017 of last year. The first few months of data previous to the cameras, three in five vehicles were speeding. Now it's one in 100 vehicles."

Scotland currently uses the cameras in three problem areas in the country.

"These cameras save lives and all we're asking people at the end of the day is to observe the speed limit," Yousaf explained.

'Political courage'

Yousaf says that moving forward with such a system does take "political courage."

"If they were going to be introduced for example in Vancouver or anywhere else, I suspect that there'd be some backlash," he said.

At first, average speed cameras received a lot of negativity in Scotland, Yousaf added.

"There was a real outcry from people demanding these things don't go on and all sorts of reasons why average speed cameras were a terrible thing," he said.

"If you compare the reaction to when we put the average speed cameras on last year ... they were welcomed almost universally."

Closer to home, others agree with the concept.  Werner Antweiler, a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, has written about the benefits this type of camera system could have for our province.

"It has been proven to be a very effective system to regulate speeds and make sure people are sticking to it, in particular in sections that are known to be risky and have high rates of accidents," he said.

Antweiler says the results in Scotland are impressive.

"I would fully expect that people would be opposed initially because any new regulation is always unwelcome, especially if it sounds like more speed control," he said.

"Once people realize the benefits that accidents are down and people are acting more responsibly on the road. People start to embrace it."

With files from The Early Edition

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Average speed cameras — which have dramatically lowered speeding and casualty rates in Scotland — have been touted as one way of improving road safety in B.C. and reducing the burden of claims on ICBC.  7:04

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