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Calgary cops doing booming business with photo radar

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Warm weather, more enforcement, and a higher traffic volume resulted in a jump in photo radar tickets issued to speedy Calgary motorists in 2015, say police.

The Calgary Police Service handed out 273,082 photo radar tickets in 2015, the highest number issued since 2010. There were 186,144 tickets given out in 2014, and 155,154 the year before.

Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey with the traffic section attributed the spike to a few factors.

“With the weather being so favourable for pretty much the entire year, especially versus 2014, which had a winter that never seemed to end, 2015 was amazing for road conditions,” Stacey said.

“We see speeds tend to stay up there.”

Stacey said the traffic section also increased the number of photo radar vehicles on city streets, from six in 2014 to 10 in 2015, in response to the public’s demand for safer roads, which has been reflected in the annual Calgary Police Commission citizen surveys and at community forums.

The photo radar units operate daily and move all over the city, and members of the public can submit a traffic service request if they have concerns about speeding in their area.

“We hit every single community in the city throughout the year, some multiple times depending on complaints from the public and speed surveys undertaken,” Stacey said.

And with slightly more than a million vehicles registered within the city — not counting the vehicles in surrounding bedroom communities — higher traffic volumes have also contributed to a higher number of tickets, he added.

Unlike intersection safety cameras, which capture speed-on-green and red-light violations, Stacey said photo radar units are constantly moving and their locations are unpredictable and not released publicly, which is why photo radar numbers are so much higher in comparison.

The number of speed-on-green summonses handed out in 2015 actually went down to 97,054 from 116,390 in 2014 and 105,500 in 2013, which Stacey said is due to some of the city’s busier cameras being down for maintenance and, hopefully, a change in driver behaviour.

“There is a lot of awareness and I’m hoping that will translate into a bit more compliance,” he added.

All automated enforcement tickets — photo radar, speed-on-green, and red light summonses — are sent to the vehicle’s registered owner.

Fines for speeding range from $78 to $474, or a mandatory court appearance where the judge sets the penalty, if the recorded speed exceeded 50 km/h above the posted limit.

The fines double if construction workers or emergency vehicles are present.

Red light violations come with a penalty of $388.

Police said the 2015 court fine revenue from photo radar tickets was $21.1 million, $10 million from speed-on-green tickets, and $15 million from manned enforcement. Additionally, revenue related to red light cameras was $3.6 million, said the Calgary Police Commission.

Scott Wilson, senior policy analyst with the AMA, said its members were surveyed late last year and about two-thirds of those polled indicated they supported the use of photo radar for speed enforcement.

They also told AMA that behind distracted driving, they believed speeding was the leading cause of crashes.

“Speeding still drives the discussion and debate around how we improve safety on our roads,” Wilson said.

“Especially in an urban environment … getting people to slow down is one way to drive down the severity in both vehicular collisions but also when you collide with vulnerable road users.”

Wilson said some have questioned the use of the devices when they’re used in areas where there is, for example, a speed limit transition.

But overall, he believes the use of photo radar technology in the province is “appropriate.”

“Speed does have a lot to do with the amount of time you have to recognize a hazard and react to it,” he said.

“The margin of error can be small. That’s really what many municipalities are trying to get drivers to remember.”

[email protected]

On Twitter: @clara_ho


Photo radar tickets issued by year:

2015: 273,082

2014: 186,144

2013: 155,154

Number of photo radar vehicles in service: 10

Speed-on-green summonses by year:

2015: 97,054

2014: 116,390

2013: 105,500

What did speeders pay out in 2015?:

$21.1 million for photo radar

$10 million for speed-on-green

$3.6 million for red light cameras


Courtesy: CLARA HO

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