Welcome back, photo radar. You’ve been gone too long.
The Ontario government announced last week that they will introduce legislation allowing municipalities to use automated cameras to enforce speed limits in school zones and community safety zones. If you’re caught on camera speeding, you’ll get a ticket in the mail.
It’s been more than 20 years since photo radar was last used in this province. The arguments against its return have never made much sense. Opponents call it a “cash grab” but concerns about the cash getting grabbed are countered by piles and piles of actual data.
All of it points to the same conclusion: photo radar makes drivers slow down and makes streets safer.
Statistics compiled by the City of Toronto as part of the city’s new road safety plan tell the tale. In Edmonton, photo radar led to a 32.1% reduction in collisions causing injury or death. In Chicago, photo radar was linked to a 31% decrease in the number of speeding vehicles. In Winnipeg, intersections with photo radar saw a 24% decline in collisions caused by excess speed.
If increased safety isn’t enough to convince you, maybe the economic case will warm your cold capitalist heart. A 2005 study by Greg Chen for the School of Public Affairs at Barauch College fond that British Columbia’s photo radar program saved taxpayers $114 million in a single year, primarily due to reduced emergency services costs.
That’s significant. And with technology getting cheaper, it stands to reason that photo radar could prompt even greater savings today. With the city facing a budget crunch, it makes zero sense to have police officers sitting roadside holding radar guns when cameras can do the same job.
With the cameras cheap and readily available, there is no reason this couldn’t be used in other ways to catch drivers behaving badly.
Consider the issue of drivers parking or idling in bike lanes. Even with bollards and barriers, cyclists frequently encounter cars who have entered their dedicated space. This isn’t just an annoyance. It’s dangerous, forcing cyclists to merge into active traffic lanes.
Enforcing the laws would be trivial. Point some cameras at the obvious trouble spots and wait for the jerks to show up.
The same could go for nabbing drivers who blow past open streetcar doors. Or drive in lanes reserved for transit vehicles. Or do countless other dangerous and disruptive things.
Is this a slippery slope toward the surveillance state? I don’t think so.
Driving is a privilege, not a right. And with 40 pedestrians dead after collisions on Toronto’s streets this year, I’m not worried about drivers’ wallets. I’m more worried about their recklessness.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/torys-toronto-matt-elliott/2016/11/14/welcome-back-photo-radar-toronto-missed-you.html on 2016-11-14T00:00:00.000Z