Photo radar saves lives and reduces injuries and health care costs.
It's simple. Drivers pay more attention to speed limits if they're worried about tickets. And when they obey the posted speed limits, fewer people are maimed and killed.
There is no real debate about those basic facts. The global research and the evidence from B.C. are overwhelming.
That doesn't mean people must support photo radar. They can argue the money spent on the equipment could produce greater safety improvements if it was used in some other way.
Or they can maintain that some laws shouldn't really be enforced too rigorously, though it's hard to see the logic of that position. Or that photo radar is unfair in some unspecified way.
But the reality is that B.C. politicians have decided it's not worth getting yelled at over an unpopular measure, even if better law enforcement would save lives. That's why the NDP and Liberals both reject the return of photo radar and run like scared cats when the issue comes up.
Mostly. NDP MLA John Horgan did a radio interview in Victoria and said he personally supports photo radar because it saves lives.
Which prompted a quick response from the Liberal caucus communications people (whose salary you pay).
"NDP wants to resurrect failed photo radar plan," the title said.
The staffers crafted imaginary quotes for Solicitor General Kash Heed. Photo radar was a "total failure" in B.C., they imagined Heed saying. "Only the NDP would want to resurrect a plan to use police as tax collectors rather than having them on the street fighting crime and targeting problem drivers."
Crash deaths fell 15 per cent in 2008 compared with 2007, the release noted. Other policing efforts have worked to make the roads safer.
But that's not really true. Photo radar caught speeders in B.C. for six years. The average number of people who died in crashes was 408.
In the six previous years, the toll had averaged 534.
In the same period after photo radar was eliminated, the average number of people killed in crashes was 439.
So despite the new measures, the lives of 30 more families each year were shattered. Many were victims of someone else's speeding, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Thousands more people were injured. The costs to us all were huge, from health care to higher insurance rates.
A study that looked at the first year of photo radar in the province found a "dramatic reduction" in 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 report said.
Another review analyzed data from 26 photo radar studies around the world. Crashes were reduced by between 14 per cent and 72 per cent. Fatalities by 40 to 46 per cent.
There's lots of support for photo radar. The RCMP and ICBC and Surrey council all sought photo radar for the Patullo Bridge.
And a 2007 poll for the Canada Safety Council found 75 per cent of British Columbians supported photo radar on the highways - and 90 per cent in school zones.
Politically, it's still poison. The NDP photo-radar was tainted by the government's unpopularity. The program was wasteful, with a police officer in each van. And people felt the predatory locations were chosen to boost revenue.
But there are effective alternatives. Boxes for photo radar - or speed cameras - could be mounted on traffic lights or utility poles at high-risk areas. Cameras could be rotated from location to location. Speeders would be caught and more people would drive closer to the speed limit.
Lives would be saved, hospital costs reduced and insurance rates kept lower - and families protected from tragedy.
Perhaps police officers watching for traffic offenders would be even more effective. But the government is not likely to hire a lot more of them.
Or, sadly, to bring back photo radar.
Footnote: Give credit to Horgan for a straight answer. Many MLAs - not all - would have responded to a question about an issue like photo radar with blather, determinedly saying nothing. Honesty and straight talk are refreshing.