The politics that brought photo radar to a halt in Ontario in 1995

The police liked photo radar, but some drivers in Ontario didn't.

Enough drivers disapproved of system for PC party to promise to kill it -- which it did

Ontario scraps photo radar

28 years ago
Duration 1:33
Featured VideoIn 1995, the Ontario government scrapped the use of photo radar.

The police liked photo radar, but some drivers in Ontario didn't.

And those disapproving motorists provided the impetus for Premier Mike Harris and his government to scrap its use in the province back in the summer of 1995.

"No evidence has been presented to us that photo radar has made our highways safer," said Harris.

Harris had led the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to a majority win at the polls the previous month, on a platform that included ending the use of photo radar.

And less than a month after that election, the PCs killed it, as they promised to do.

Slowing down, at first

Screen showing car on  highway
A photo radar is seen being used in Ontario in July of 1995, just before its use was scrapped by the provincial government. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

On July 5, 1995, the CBC's Havard Gould was reporting on Prime Time News about what that pending change would mean for Ontario.

"The available evidence shows Ontario drivers did slow down when photo radar was first introduced," Gould told viewers.

"The government says speeds have started rising again as the novelty wears off and as people figure out how to dodge the photo radar vans."

Gould said Ontarians were basically split on the technology, with polls showing that "a small majority" approved of its use.

Police officers favoured its use, as well.

"I think [Harris] is taking away one of the best tools that the OPP has ever had for police enforcement," said OPP Const. J.R. Harvey.

Used 'all over the world'?

Magazine page with article about photo radar
Prime Time News showed viewers an article the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had published proclaiming that photo radar was working in the province of Ontario. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

Among experts, there was a belief that it was too early to make a call on the system's effectiveness in Ontario.

However, as Gould reported, the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had declared in a publication that photo radar was "working in Ontario."

IIHS spokesman Chuck Hurley said photo radar was at that time used "all over the world as an effective means to control speed."

Hurley added: "We are concerned any time when a measure that's proven by research to work is repealed just for the politics."

Gould said that over the 10 months the system was in use, more than 200,000 drivers had been caught speeding.

In turn, the tickets being issued had generated more than $1 million a month in revenues from the fines drivers paid.

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