British Columbia

'This is photo radar': Red light cameras at high-risk intersections to begin ticketing speeders in B.C.

Red light cameras will no longer only be watching for impatient drivers looking to shave a few seconds off their commute. The B.C. government plans to activate automated speed enforcement on the cameras at 35 intersections around the province.

But solicitor general says there's a big difference between this and photo radar including identifying signage

B.C. intends to activate the automated speed enforcement cameras at 35 intersections this summer. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

Red light cameras are no longer only watching for impatient drivers looking to shave a few seconds off their commute. 

Starting this summer, the B.C. government plans to activate automated speed enforcement on the cameras at certain intersections around the province.

The B.C. NDP studied the speed and crash data from 140 intersections currently equipped with red light cameras. 

Over a four year period, the data showed an average of 10,500 vehicles per year driving at least 30 km/h over the speed limit.

Out of all the equipped intersections, officials identified the top 35 most likely to benefit from the automated system.

Click the map below to see the 35 locations in B.C.

In a written statement, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the measures are meant to change "the behaviours of those who cause carnage on B.C. roads."

"We have a record number of crashes happening — more than 900 a day in our province — and about 60 per cent of the crashes on our roads are at intersections," Farnworth said. 

Farnworth said the government and the police both plan to keep the speed threshold that triggers the cameras a secret to discourage high speeds.

So is it photo radar?

When the B.C. NDP first came to power, CBC News asked Attorney General David Eby whether his government would ever bring back photo radar  — it was scrapped by the B.C. Liberals in 2001.

"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

Critics of photo radar, like Sense BC, aren't happy about the automated enforcement, which they say is simply the government putting a new name on a system that British Columbians rejected almost two decades ago.

But Farnworth says this is not the kind of enforcement people knew as photo radar in the past.

"People expect government to use cameras and modern technology to improve our lives, including public and road safety," he said.

"We're not wasting valuable resources by hiding two police officers in random locations that may or may not have a history of bad crashes and surprising drivers who are only a few kilometres over the speed limit."

 The solicitor general says this time there will prominent signs clearly identifying a speed camera intersection.

"We are also publishing the list of all locations where cameras will be installed, so there are no surprises and no excuses," Farnworth said. 

'This is photo radar' 

However, Ian Tootill, co-founder of Sense B.C., which advocated for drivers' rights, doesn't see much of a difference.

"This is photo radar," he said.

"They're reneging on what they promised us they wouldn't do." 

Tootill says automated enforcement doesn't really address the problem, adding immediate, in-person apprehension would be his preferred method. 

He says this form of enforcement puts the onus on the driver to prove innocence rather than the government to show guilt.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story, taking information from a government release, incorrectly stated that the speed-enforcement technology had already been built into red-light cameras. In fact, the technology has yet to be installed in the cameras.
    May 08, 2019 10:19 AM PT

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