Monday, May 22, 2006

Liberals choose needless deaths over photo radar

VICTORIA - The Liberal government is putting politics and ideology ahead of saving lives when it comes to photo radar.
The NDP raised the issue in the legislature's last days, asking why the government was refusing to use cameras to catch speeders on the Pattullo Bridge. The old, narrow bridge has claimed five lives so far this year, 15 in the last five years. Speeding is a problem, partly because enforcement is dangerous for police. There's no room to stop speeders.
Surrey council has endorsed photo radar for the bridge. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon says it might be useful. RCMP want it. ICBC studied the problem and said photo radar is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries.
Forget it, said Solicitor General John Les. The Liberals promised to get rid of photo radar in their in 2001 campaign, and they're keeping the promise even if it does mean people will die in preventable crashes.
It's a curious bit of blind ideology, one that has already cost the lives of some 160 British Columbians.
Look at history. Photo radar was introduced - badly - in 1996. In the prior five years an average 510 people had died annually in car crashes.
During photo radar's almost six years of operation the annual death rate fell to 412 - a stunning drop.
The Liberals killed it weeks after the 2001 election. In the first three years after it was gone the average number of deaths was 449 - an increase of 37 a year from the photo radar era.
It's not surprising. Every study has shown photo radar reduces speeds and crashes and saves lives. The only variance is in how many deaths and injuries it prevents.
A study on photo radar's first year in B.C. found "a dramatic reduction" in speeding where the cameras were used. "The analysis found a 25-per-cent reduction in daytime unsafe speed related collisions, an 11-per-cent reduction in daytime traffic collision victims carried by ambulances and a 17-per-cent reduction in daytime traffic collision fatalities," the study reported.
An exhaustive Australian review released this month analyzed data from 26 separate photo radar studies from around the world. The results were conclusive. The number of crashes was reduced by 14 to 72 per cent once photo radar was installed. More dramatically, fatalities were reduced by 40 per cent to 46 per cent.
Enforcing the speed limits saves lives. (That hardly seems surprising or controversial.)
B.C.'s former photo radar was wildly unpopular. People saw it - with good reason - as an attempted cash grab. They considered some locations unfair. And they questioned the use of police officers in the photo radar vans.
But none of those problems are inherent to photo radar. Introducing a new program would be as simple as installing speed cameras in dangerous locations, like the Pattullo Bridge or problematic school zones or a road used by street racers. Put up a sign saying the device is being used and speed and crashes will fall. (Britain has permanent boxes for speed cameras at high-risk areas; the cameras move from location to location.)
Even the existing red light cameras in place at high-risk intersections round the province could also be used to catch people speeding in the same locations. Surely no one can argue against issuing tickets to people driving 30 kilometres per hour over the limit in a busy intersection?
You can argue that other measures may produce better results, or that speeding laws shouldn't be enforced for some reason. But you can't deny the effectiveness of photo radar. That's why so many jurisdictions - including Alberta - have accepted photo radar. That's why polls show wide support.
It's simply fact that photo radar works. Enforcing speeding laws save lives. Photo radar - or speed cameras - is the most cost effective way of achieving the goal.
It's irresponsible for a government to put politics and ideology ahead of the lives and well-being of citizens.
Footnote: The Liberals have talked a lot about getting tough on crime. But we had about 430 motor vehicle fatalities in B.C. in 2004; ICBC says speed was a factor in 172 of them. There were 112 homicides. But somehow speeding, though deadlier, doesn't get the same government commitment.


Anonymous said...

Paul, we are talking about a group, led by a guy who hates to change his mind, or admit he is wrong. Good Lord, if the previous government brought something in, close it down.Les is simply keeping in line with the leader. But the leader managed to change his mind when tearing up contracts, so why not now? I guess it's mostly because they never thought about it. Saving lives makes sense. I drive the Pat Bay highway , and the Malahat often ,and if driving the speed limit, everone passes. When Radar was on the road very few exceeded the limit. Now that the price of fuel is so high, a driver with any brains loses the heavy foot if for reduced gas purchases if nothing else.The speeder will never both to read studies but will lay flowers and toys at the makeshift shrines, side of the road. So we are back to seeing police officers with hand held radar running out into trafic to wave the clowns to the side of the road. A fixed camera is safer. I drove commercially for 13 years, all our routes were timed so speeding simply wasn't allowed. Smarten up Les, get Radar back on that bridge. Yu will win more votes by doing the right thibg.

Erik Abbink said...

I agree, getting photo radar back seems to make sense. But please let's do it right this time; 1)pick dangerous locations (above locations that simply make money) and 2) issue warnings (instead of tickets) for the first 10-20 km over; anyone going more than 30km an hour over the speed limit should pay lots....

Anonymous said...

Photo radar is nothing but a senseless cash grab... there is no discretion whatsoever, and with the government allowing insurance companies to continue gouging drivers (particularly in Ontario), I can't believe any Canadian would allow their elected officials to proceed with this.