Edmonton

Photo-radar secret revealed: zero tickets for minor speeding

On Thursday, the transportation department revealed that exactly zero tickets were handed out in the last four years to drivers going five km/h or less over the posted speed limit.

Transportation department says no tickets for drivers going 5 km/h or less over limit

Those hush-hush speeding ticket numbers that city council kept as a closely guarded secret, too sensitive to share with the public, stayed that way for less than 24 hours.

On Thursday, the transportation department revealed that exactly zero tickets were handed out in the last four years to drivers going five km/h or less over the posted speed limit.

More than 70 per cent of the tickets were given to drivers going 15 km/h or more over the limit, said Gord Cebryk, branch manager of transportation operations for the city.

The transportation committee met Thursday to discuss a report about traffic safety.

Ten people showed up to speak to a range of issues. Among them was Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency room physician and University of Alberta professor, who thinks photo radar is an effective tool to curb speeding and save lives.

“The only problem with photo radar is, A, there’s not enough of it, and, B, there are no demerit points associated with it,” he said. “If we had far more photo radar, like they do in Europe, (people) just don’t speed.”

Francescutti said he was moved, as many people were this week, by the story of David Finkelman, a university student, musician and radio host who was crossing Whyte Avenue in January when he was hit by a car. He died later in hospital.

The 19-year-old woman who was driving the car was given a two-month suspension and $2,000 fine Wednesday after she pleaded guilty to failing to yield to a pedestrian.

That accident, a moment of carelessness behind the wheel, ended one life and changed another forever, Francescutti said.

“The only people who have a problem with photo radar are the people who speed,” he said. “And those are the people we want to get to in the first place.”

The traffic report shows that injury accidents have decreased significantly over the past few years, from 11.1 injury collisions per 1,000 people in 2006 to 4.9 injury collisions per 1,000 people in 2013.

Still, more than 4,000 people were injured on Edmonton streets last year, and 23 people died.

Fransecutti said Edmonton still has among the worst injury rates in the country.Reducing collisions, and therefore injuries and deaths, would save the health-care system billions of dollars.

Cebryk said city data shows that photo radar has helped reduce the number of collisions. He said most tickets go to those driving far too fast. People going six to 10 km/h over the limit accounted for just three per cent of tickets, he said.

“At the end of the day, the public can really help us, can put us out of business, by not speeding.”

Karim El-Basyouny, the City of Edmonton's research chair in urban traffic safety at the University of Alberta, said recent studies show that photo radar helps reduce the severity and number of collisions.

He said he would agree the program could be seen as a “cash cow” for the city if the number of collisions wasn’t changing.

“But if we’re seeing substantial improvements from a city-wide perspective … then I can make a council argument that it’s not a cash cow, because we’re seeing the collision reductions, and they’re significant.”

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