I served on an oversight committee when photo radar was proposed as a way to reduce serious accidents and fatalities caused by excessive speed on highways.
Its eventual demise brought about by Gordon Campbell as an election ploy was due to a number of factors, not least of which was that municipalities wanted to share in the revenue. They insisted the cameras be deployed on local streets, thus giving substance to the “cash grab” claim, but the real culprit was the provincial government for not funding the complete system.
Photo radar was intended to be deployed only on highways with a history of serious speed-related crashes. Images were to be downloaded every 24 hours and the licence plate of the offender digitally matched against the vehicle’s registered owner. A copy of the photograph and speeding ticket would be in the mail within 36 hours.
At least, that was the standard proposed. The reality was that the digital-matching component of the system was considered too expensive and not acquired. Therefore, the identification of errant vehicles had to be processed by hand, taking many weeks; in some cases even months.
Vehicle owners, particularly where a family car was involved, couldn’t be certain who was driving or recall where and when the infraction occurred, and complaints flooded into the superintendent’s office.
It’s no wonder that photo radar became so disliked and became an easy gambit and casualty of a general election, with a significant loss to highway safety.
John H. Râtel
Former director of government affairs
B.C. Automobile Association