We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Is it time to bring back photo radar?

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, August 11th 2017

A driver passes a photo-radar warning sign in North Vancouver in 1997. A modernized version of photo radar could slow traffic and save lives, Steve Wallace writes.


Photo radar in B.C. was discontinued well over a decade ago.

There were several reasons for the death of the initiative.
They included lack of immediate notification of the offence to those receiving tickets, technical problems and lack of public support for the initiative prior to an election promise to kill the program.

Will it ever return? Not likely in its previous form.
But there have been several technological improvements since the cancellation of the program in the early 2000s.
Lasers are now used to determine vehicle speed, instead of the initial technology.

During the heyday of the old photo-radar program, a resourceful police corporal decided to do his own speeder-reduction program.
He was so tired of giving out speeding tickets in the jurisdiction for which he was responsible that he took it upon himself, without authorization, to nail a number of radartransmitting devices to the trees along the highway.


Speeding drivers with radar detectors would slow down when the detector began beeping.

His personal initiative went unnoticed, as it would most certainly have been frowned upon by his superiors.
The upper brass at the detachment did, however, notice the reduction in tickets being issued.
Were congratulations in order? On the contrary — the corporal was criticised for slacking off and not doing enough radar detail.

Unintended consequences!

Another weird and somewhat entertaining occurrence happened in the Central Interior concerning photo radar.
A young man with an active sense of humour decided to secretly take the licence plate off a photo-radar van while it was in service, parked at the side of Highway 97.
He then attached the licence plate to his father’s Cadillac and proceeded to run through the photo-radar trap several times.

The camera flash indicated he was being tracked by the photo radar equipment.
It was a rainy night, which explained why his skullduggery went unnoticed by the trained person in the photo-radar van.
The notice of speeding was never acknowledged and the photo-radar program ended shortly afterward.

Will it be revived?

I think it will be brought forward for consideration, but not in the manner of past usage.
The present-day proposal by those who wish to see photo radar return is different.
There is a time-and-distance factor involved.
The Malahat area of the provincial highway system on Vancouver Island is a possible test case for a pilot project.


Proponents are suggesting a time-lapse system of photo radar in this location.
It’s a relatively simple way of recording the time it takes a particular driver to travel a set distance at a posted speed.
There are all sorts of questions to be asked and answered before a government with the slimmest majority will entertain such a notion.

The pros and cons are obvious. Will it be a cash grab?
Will it save lives? Who will administer such a program?
Municipalities now keep traffic fines levied within their boundaries.

Will this be the case with photo radar?
What would be the speed tolerance above the limit?

The undeniable fact that the vast majority of traffic deaths take place at intersections and on the highway might motivate authorities to take action.
There are already a number of cameras at intersections.

Does it naturally follow that dangerous highway stretches should get the same attention?

Time will tell.






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