Strathcona County puts brakes on photo radar

Strathcona County will replace photo radar cameras with uniformed officers to enforce speed laws beginning next September.
Stratchcona County is bidding farewell to the anonymous photo radar operator in favour of more uniformed officers for speed enforcement. (CBC)

Strathcona County will replace photo radar cameras with uniformed officers to enforce speed laws beginning next September.

"Photo radar has never caught a drunk driver; it's never caught a stolen car; it's never caught someone driving without a license; it's never taken away someone's licence for excessive speeding," said Coun. Brian Botterill.

"Officers can do all that so I imagine we'll see a traffic safety increase in Strathcona County."

Strathcona County councillors debated the decision for three hours Tuesday — their  longest debate in recent memory — but, in the end, the motion squeaked through five votes to four.

While photo radar brought in significant revenue to the county, councillors said safety should be the priority.

"We wanted to weigh safety to cost and saftey came up first and so we are ensuring that the streets are still safe and we'll find a way to offset some of the costs," said Mayor Linda Osinchuk.

"Our officers on the street can enforce a whole lot more than just speeding," said Botterill. "They can go after the root cause of the accidents, not just the contributing factor."

The change is certain to be welcomed by motorists. 

"We have the advantage of telling our residents we're no longer doing the random road tax," said Botterill.

Strathcona County was the first jurisdiction in the province to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, something the rest of the province only followed this month.

Still, there seems to be little desire elsewhere to ban the hidden, roadside photo-radar van.

Edmonton's transportation manager Bob Boutilier said photo radar is here to stay.

"A lot of people in Edmonton particularly in neighbourhoods are trying to find ways to slow vehicles down," he said. "Anything we can do to support that, is what they're after."