Winnipeg man uses Google Maps to successfully fight photo radar ticket

Danial Mercer used google street view pictures of the area he got slapped with a photo radar ticket to have his traffic violation thrown out of court.

Danial Mercer was ticketed for going 49km/h in a 30km/h school zone last spring

Danial Mercer was driving through the school zone on Harrow street on April 6, 2015 when a photo enforcement vehicle snapped a photo of him travelling 49km/h in the 30km/h school zone in front of St. Ignatius School. (Supplied)

Danial Mercer used Google Street View pictures of the area where he got slapped with a photo radar ticket to have his traffic violation thrown out of court.

Mercer was driving through the school zone on Harrow Street just north of Warsaw Avenue on April 6, 2015 when a photo enforcement vehicle snapped a photo of him travelling 49km/h in the 30km/h school zone in front of St. Ignatius School.

Danial Mercer looks at a $299 photo radar ticket that he used Google Street View pictures to successfully fight. (CBC)

Mercer said he's driven that stretch of Harrow Street often and is aware of the school zone. He said he only sped up as he was exiting the zone. When he got the ticket, he turned to Google Street View and captured photos of the area, comparing them with the photo enforcement picture. He argued before a judge last week that his car was well outside the school zone. 

The Crown stayed the charges. Mercer said he was thrilled. 

"I was really happy. I got up and said, 'That's it? Yup,' and walked out," said Mercer

Mercer said from the beginning he was sure he was out of the school zone. It makes him wonder about the validity of other tickets. 

"I don't even know what to say, there are so many tickets that are being handed out every day. I mean there were 150 people [in traffic court] that day," he said, adding waiting over a year to find out what a judge would say was the hardest part. 

"I tried not to think about it. Every time I thought about it I got a little angry, thinking how many people.. do they just park wherever they want and tell you, 'You're in a school zone,'" said Mercer. 

Mercer saved himself the $299 ticket but admitted it cost him the time to prep his case and two days off work — the first day to tell the court he contested the ticket and a second day to actually argue against it.

Ticket was warranted, police maintain

Winnipeg police said they took the extra step of reviewing the original photo ticket and went back to the area Tuesday morning to double-check. They said despite the court's decision, Mercer was in fact still inside the school zone. 

Police say by measuring the man hole cover on the road to where the tires of Mercer's car were in the photo, that it clearly indicates that Mercer's vehicle was in fact still within the school zone by at least 2 metres. (supplied)

Police say the lens of the camera can give the slight illusion that the car was further away and closer to Warsaw Avenue and therefore out of the school zone, but by measuring the manhole cover on the road to where the tires of Mercer's car were in the photo, police say it clearly indicates that Mercer's vehicle was in fact still within the school zone by at least two metres. 

Winnipeg Police Staff Sgt Rob Riffle said that two-metre buffer before the school zone ended is not a huge buffer but that the ticket was warranted.

"Typically we don't like to have that little of a buffer between the end of the zone but clearly the operators felt the speed this gentlemen was going, which was almost 20 km/h [over], warranted a ticket," said Riffle.

Police say even though the charges were stayed, the Crown could reinstate the charges within a certain period of time but that decision is, again, the Crown's.

One chance to take photo

Len Eastoe with the Traffic Ticket Experts said that isn't how photo radar is supposed to work. Eastoe said the biggest issue with photo radar is that the pictures are not always clear and concise, and that proper pictures need to be available from the onset.

"You don't get to come back and take more photos to prove the person wrong after the fact," said Eastoe.

Eastoe said he didn't think the Crown would reinstate charges.

Mercer says even if he was as close to the line as police are saying, he still believes that the ticket wasn't fair.

"I still believe, me, the judge and the prosecutor came to a consensus and I'll stick by that," said Mercer.