Inspired by an unwelcome speeding ticket in his mailbox, Benjamin Lavin came with a novel solution to keep his driving in check and avoid the flash of the photo radar camera.
The Edmonton university student created Photo Radar App for smartphones.
Relying on public city data, the new app tracks current photo radar locations and notifies drivers when they're approaching a camera location.
When a driver comes within a few hundred metres of a photo radar or red light camera location, the app emits a loud warning sound.
Designed with 'safe driving in mind'
The app is available free through the App Store and Google Play.
"The app picks up photo radar locations and red light camera locations from various city websites and puts them all onto a map for you," Lavin said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "And then, as you're driving around, it will alert you with a nice, loud, audible alert if you're coming up to camera.
"I wanted to design the app with safe driving in mind, so the idea is that you have the app running in the background, you don't have to look at it and you're good to go."
Lavin is a computing science student at the University of Alberta. He started working on the app after the city began making photo enforcement locations public last summer.
"It was just a personal challenge that I set out for myself to take this information and put it into a more usable format for people," Lavin said.
"Really what the app is doing is taking that [information] and putting it into a more usable format for people."
What started as a fun personal challenge has become a booming enterprise. The app has expanded from Edmonton to most major cities across Alberta, and will soon make the move into B.C. The app has been downloaded more than 47,000 times.
"It started with Edmonton but I got lots of requests of people throughout the country, asking if I could expand the app to their city," he said.
Lavin said the app has made him a bit of a folk hero in Edmonton, where there is a big contingent of drivers vehemently opposed to photo radar enforcement.
Lavin hopes the app makes local roads a little safer, and maybe helps put the brakes on the growing frustration over photo-radar traps.
"I'm aware that it's a pretty big problem and hopefully this helps a little bit.
"I get lots of emails every day from people thanking me for making it, and saying that it really helps them."