British Columbia

Despite unpopularity, bringing photo radar back to B.C. a good idea, expert says

The NDP government has rejected the idea of reviving photo radar but one expert says photo radar could be an ideal solution to deal with ICBC's financial crisis.

NDP government has so far rejected idea of reviving photo radar, despite report encouraging revival

B.C.'s photo radar program — which detected traffic violations like speeding through cameras — was scrapped in 2001. (CBC)

One expert says reviving photo radar in B.C. is a perfectly acceptable — if unpopular — way to deal with ICBC's financial crisis.

An Ernst and Young report released to the public this week suggests auto insurance rates in B.C. could go up by 30 per cent over the next two years if major changes aren't made to the public insurer.

The report says one way to deal with ICBC's internal financial problems is to bring back photo radar — something Attorney General David Eby, who is the minister responsible for ICBC, has rejected.

"We're not considering photo radar," he said.

"It is wildly unpopular among British Columbians. They hate it. We've heard that loud and clear."

Attorney General David Eby repeatedly insists his government won't revive photo radar. 0:25

Photo radar cameras use laser or radar technology to detect when a vehicle is speeding. The speeding vehicle is photographed and tickets are issued to the owner of the vehicle based on registration.

It's currently used in provinces like Alberta and Ontario, but B.C.'s photo radar program was scrapped in 2001.

Critics like Sense B.C., a motorist advocacy group, say photo radar is a cash grab that catches drivers at a momentary mistake. They also claim the system could be costly to revive in B.C.

Technology has changed a lot since 2001

Chris Foord, the vice-chair of the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission, disagrees.

He says new technology allows for much more sophisticated, automated and cheaper detection methods.

"Back when photo radar was there [in 2001], someone had to change the film in the camera. There were no smartphones. Laptops were brand new. There were virtually no digital cameras back then. The world is a different place."

He claims there are plenty of people habitually speeding far beyond the occasional mistake.

"I am appalled by what I'm seeing," he said. "I don't know that your right or my right to be that irresponsible and drive at those speeds should go unchallenged."

'Effective road safety not a popularity contest'

Foord pointed to a 2016 report from Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, which said a spike in traffic fatalities after 2001 could be reasonably linked to the B.C. Liberal government's decision to scrap the photo radar program. That report also recommended photo radar be revived.

He says photo radar will help reduce ICBC premiums by making British Columbia roads safer, and even though many British Columbians wouldn't like photo radar, it's worth it.

"Effective road safety is not a popularity contest," he said.

While Eby was firm on rejecting photo radar, he did say the government would consider how additional technologies — like devices consumers can voluntarily install in their cars — can help reduce premiums.

With files from The Early Edition

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