Dawson: Exhausting, smug photo radar debate carries on

Tyler Dawson of the Ottawa Citizen wrote this brilliant piece on the photo radar debate. Reprinted here without permission:

The smarm and smugness that have accompanied the debate over whether Ottawa should get photo radar are indicative of the exhausting way arguments are conducted. This manifests itself, particularly, in the suggestions that people who don’t want photo radar are speed-crazed sociopaths and, from the other side of the debate, that photo radar itself is nothing more than a cash grab.

It’s literally true that photo radar is a cash grab; it would likely become a significant revenue source for the city. So there’s that. And some photo radar proponents likely are juice-swilling cyclists taking up lane space. But it’s also true that some people who don’t want photo radar really do drive like Vin Diesel wannabes and would prefer they remain able to get away with it.

None of these points, on their own, makes the case for or against photo radar or does much to discredit the other side, but they do reduce what’s actually a serious public policy debate to stupid quips. That will no doubt continue, even after last Wednesday’s transportation committee vote that referred a pilot project on photo radar to city council.

I, for one, rarely speed. I simply can’t afford the tickets – or worse, increased insurance premiums. So I’m not one of the aforementioned sociopaths and have no particular desire to drive like a showboating teenager. But I don’t like photo radar either; Edmonton went through a fantastically expensive process of getting it under city control and there’s been a long-running controversy over whether or not the city is lowering trigger limits on radar machines to reap more cash.

More to the point, the case hasn’t actually been made that Ottawa needs photo radar. There were 29 fatalities in 2014 on city streets; in Edmonton that year, where photo radar raised $34.5 million, there were 23. The transportation committee heard some profoundly weird arguments in favour of photo radar: for instance, according to the Citizen’s Matthew Pearson, that speeders are privatizing public space for their own convenience. This is obscurantist mumbo jumbo. And a petition in support of photo radar, showing 800 signatures – that’s well less than one per cent of Ottawa’s population.

The issue is whether or not city streets are dangerous. Are they? Is speeding the issue? Is photo radar the only conceivable way – or legitimately the last-ditch effort after all else has been tried – to tackle these problems?

Rightly, the city is looking only at a pilot project for now, and Mayor Jim Watson, backing down on his opposition, says he’ll accept it only in a school zone and only if the money raised goes to road safety. (Why has he changed his tune?)

“I believe this is a solid way forward for those who are hesitant about a widescale roll-out of photo radar on streets where it may not be warranted or for those who are concerned with the tool being used as a limitless revenue generating measure,” he said in a statement.

But does anybody seriously think that at the end of a pilot project, with the potential to raise revenue – and perhaps slow down drivers – photo radar is going to be abandoned by council?

Yasir Naqvi, an Ottawa MPP and the Ontario community safety minister, called Wednesday’s vote on photo radar a “bold step.” Politicians, ever eager to be seen to keep children safe, raise revenue without blowback and punish intransigence, are not likely to stand up to photo radar.

Ottawans should reserve the right to be suspicious of motives and what’ll happen if we get photo radar. There’s nothing wrong with worrying about this, or with wondering, as traffic fatalities continue to decline provincially, if we really need new enforcement technology or indeed more law enforcement presence in our lives.

Whatever the outcome of the debate and pilot project, an approach that tries to score cheap points over having a serious discussion damages public policy. And that’s no good for anyone.

ATS Issues Press Release To Explain Why Their Products Don’t Work

ATS, one of the nations leading provider of automated ticketing machines recently issued a press release explaining why their cameras can have no effect on most accidents. The press release explains that 58% of red light runners were distracted (including cell phone use, looking away, eyes closed, smoking, eating/drinking, reading, and applying make-up) while running a red light. If distracted drivers didn’t notice the red light, they certainly had no awareness of the camera and thus were not deterred from committing the violation. This press release is a blatant admission that cameras cannot do do anything to deter or prevent a majority of red light camera violations.

ATS sampled data from 67 intersections with red-light safety cameras across the United States over a three-month period. Distractions were coded into several categories, including cell phone use, looking away, eyes closed, smoking, eating/drinking, reading, and applying make-up. ATS data showed distracted red-light running increased by 58% from 2012 to 2015.


Another Crash Caused by Speed Camera

Crashes caused by speed cameras are always tough to document and prove, but alas we have a video of yet another crash CAUSED by speed camera:

Crash Caused by Speed Camera

Chicago Red Light Camera Report

This is a great study that analyzed the Chicago camera program and has shown again that (surprise!) crashes INCREASED after installing red light cameras!

Chicago Red Light Camera Study

What the Red Light Camera Companies Don’t Want You To Know

Engineering Improves Safety at Red Light Camera Intersections

Here’s a great article that explains what happens when a city extends yellow light times. Violations PLUNGE!

The study result means that most of those who received tickets for entering the intersection within the difference time in the chart above after the light changed to red were ticketed unfairly. This is huge. We are talking thousands of unfair tickets and several million dollars in unfair fines at $490 per violation.

Since my involvement with this, I have had contact with some who have received tickets and have had a personal experience as well. They include:

* A lady with a family that recently moved to our city. She was trapped at the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway at McBean Parkway. What a great welcome to our city.

* A good friend whose parents were visiting from Arizona last Christmas. On their way out of town at 3:49 a.m. the day after Christmas, they were trapped at the intersection of Orchard Village south at Lyons Avenue. The picture on the violation indicates they were clearly victims of the unfair timing. What a great Christmas gift from our city. They are elderly and just paid the fine.

* My father-in-law, who three years ago received a ticket when he was three days dead. No, it was not another miraculous resurrection. His son from Albany was driving the car while in town for the funeral. This could have been fought, but my distraught mother-in-law insisted on paying it because “she just did not want any trouble in the future.”

Public conned over anti-speeding strategy

Saw a great editorial with some strong arguments against the “speed kills” fallacy. Here are some excerpts and here is the full article.

“When the road toll goes down, the police claim credit. When it goes up, they blame bad driving. They can’t have it both ways. Either the police anti-speeding strategy works or it doesn’t work.”

“The police anti-speeding strategy is based on a discredited theory that if you ticket mums and dads who drift over the speed limit, then criminals will stop driving recklessly. This claim is simply not based on any credible science.”

“The facts are these: only about 20% of fatalities occur above the legal speed limit.”

“Of these 20% of fatalities that occur above the speed limit, most involve either drunks, motorcyclists or young working-class males who live on the edge of the law. There is simply no evidence that rigid enforcement of speed limits has made the slightest difference to the behavior of these high risk drivers.”

Arizona SB1167 Seeks to Ban Photo Enforcement in Arizona

Senators Ward, Burges, Kavanah, and Yee have sponsored Senate Bill SB1167 for the 2015 Arizona legislative session. This bill will ban all forms of photo enforcement in Arizona. Please contact your legislators and let them know how they should vote on this bill that will help remove the corruption from law enforcement and improve traffic safety for all motorists.


A great article worth re-posting about red light camera tickets in LA:


So, cutting right to the chase: You can still ignore them with little consequence, experts say. And, no, a recent California Supreme Court red-light camera ruling in People v. Goldsmith does not change that, our sources say.

More Evidence: Red Light Cameras Increase Crashes

It’s bit old but worth mentioning. This article from TheNewspaper.com discusses a study that reveals what we already know: Red Light Cameras increase crashes! This report dives into why data and reports have differing conclusions:

The studies with the most complete set of variables concluded that accidents increased with the use of red light cameras, while the reports that claimed an accident reduction benefit to camera use relied on more simplistic analyses that excluded factors such as yellow signal timing, the number of lanes at an intersection and time trends.