It's getting harder and harder to figure out Premier Gordon Campbell's opposition to photo radar.
The statistics suggest the Liberals' decision to cancel photo radar in 2001 has cost about 50 lives a year and thousands of injuries. Tragedies for the individuals and their families; a waste of human potential; and a major health-care cost.
Campbell is seen as a pretty pragmatic politician - look at the big swings on First Nations and climate change. You'd expect him to accept the reality that photo radar works. Crashes and deaths are both reduced.
I attributed the reluctance to an unwillingness to admit a mistake and the fear of a public backlash.
But last month Ipsos-Reid asked British Columbians how they felt about photo radar and red-light cameras.
The support was overwhelming for both, surprising even for those - like me - who figured the public recognized the common-sense benefits of deterring speeding drivers.
The poll, done for the Canada Safety Council, asked people across Canada about the devices.
Almost 90 per cent of British Columbians, and 84 per cent of Canadians, supported the use of photo radar in school zones.
Almost three out of four British Columbians supported the use of photo radar on highways, compared with 69 per cent of Canadians. And 84 per cent of British Columbians supported red-light cameras.
So there's no risk of a real political problem. In fact, it seems the public would welcome a measure that made life safer for their families.
It all makes the refusal to act baffling.
The evidence is overwhelming that photo radar works.
Before B.C. introduced photo radar in 1996, an average of 510 people had died annually in the five preceding years.
For the almost six years photo radar was in operation, the average annual death rate was 412 - almost 100 fewer lives lost per year to crashes.
The Liberals acted on their campaign promise and killed photo radar in 2001. And in the next three years, the average number of deaths increased to 449, an average 37 additional deaths per year.
A study done on B.C.'s first year of photo radar found "a dramatic reduction of speed" at deployment sites. "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.
Almost 20 per cent fewer deaths.
The people who object to the cameras can come up with explanations.
But a major Australian review last year analyzed data from 26 photo radar studies done around the world. The number of crashes was reduced by between 14 per cent and 72 per cent once photo radar was installed, it reported.
Fatalities were reduced by an even more dramatic 40 to 46 per cent - cut almost in half.
Photo radar - or speed cameras, as they're called now - isn't a cure-all. It would be more effective to have increased policing. The survey found that 42 per cent of Canadians thought there should be more traffic enforcement - roadside checks, radar, speed traps and the general visibility of police. Only seven per cent thought there was too much enforcement.
But police officers are expensive. Speed cameras, done right, are cheap. The old B.C. system used vans. Other jurisdictions set up permanent camera boxes in appropriate locations - school zones, stretches of highway with a high rate of crashes. They rotate the actual cameras between sites.
So for very little money, speeds are reduced in dangerous areas, there are fewer crashes and lives are saved.
Sometimes people would get tickets they don't deserve, because they loaned their cars to someone. But most of us would want to know if someone - a child, perhaps - was driving our vehicle at high speed.
The public backs photo radar. It saves lives, reduces health-care costs and protects families.
How long can the government keep saying no?
Footnote: The government hasn't come up with any reason for its position. Solicitor General John Les has even turned down a request for speed cameras on the deadly Patullo Bridge. The RCMP want them; they say enforcement is too dangerous. ICBC and Surrey council say the cameras are needed to save lives.
But the government won't budge.