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Council defeats motion to discontinue photo radar

Last Updated Nov 26, 2019 at 11:10 pm MDT

RMWB Council voted down the motion to examine the discontinuance of photo radar in Wood Buffalo.

Councillor McGrath served notice to introduce the motion on Nov. 19, 2019.

Mayor and councillors voted against the motion by a 7-2 margin.

Hours before the Nov. 26 Council meeting, the Alberta government announced a freeze on more photo radar locations in the province.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver said they want to investigate the practice.

“Our goal is to ensure photo radar is used for safety, not to generate backdoor tax revenue. Albertans are skeptical about the impact photo radar has on safety and we do not have useful data to analyze so we can make a decision.”

The freeze comes into effect on Dec. 1, 2019.

In his introduction on the motion to discontinue Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE), Councillor Keith McGrath shared his concerns.

He said ATE didn’t account for high-risk areas including school zones or even municipal roads in rural areas.

McGrath also mentioned the Municipality’s previous contract with the previous ATE provider from New Jersey.

Notices from photo radar went to speeders months after the incident.

Operations cost the Municipality $360,000 in 16 months.

Safety is paramount

Statistics Wood Buffalo RCMP Superintendent Lorna Dicks provided shows photo radar saves lives.

A 2018 study finds overall collision rates per 10,000 residents decreased by 29.35 per cent in the province between 2007-2016.

Notably, ATE directly contributed a 1.4 per cent reduction in collision rates and a 5.3 per cent reduction in the proportion of fatal collisions over that period.

However, Mayor Don Scott said the numbers don’t lie.

“Does it save a life? Does it make people safer in this region? The answer is yes. It’s very evident by the statistics, so I’m very happy about that.”

Wood Buffalo has 138 photo radar locations and eight red-light cameras in service.

Personal accounts, especially from Councillor Murphy, also swayed more support to the dissenting side.

Council learned a new ATE provider signed an RFP with the administration.

They are currently analyzing the region’s municipal roads and intersections, including school zones.

Speaking about the new contract, Mayor Don Scott said the move made perfect sense.

“They’re going to be looking at locations, so it’s all something that’s very positive for our region. We want to keep young people safe, and we want to keep adults safe.”

The administration also said the new provider would send notices within 72 hours.

As work with the new contractor began before the announcement of Alberta’s freeze on new photo radar, it may still go ahead.

Mayor Don Scott said “one is too many” adding awareness and timely enforcement are key to a successful program.

“I want to see school zones protected in this region. Everyone wants their young people safe.”

As for the cost of the new program, Murphy said to “stick it to the speeders”.

Speed controls currently used in Wood Buffalo include signage, speed checks, hazard lights, controlled and mobile police radar units.