Automated traffic enforcement not a ‘cash cow,’ town council hears

Program is having a definite effect on driver behaviour

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The big item on Slave Lake town council’s agenda last week was a presentation by the operators of the automated traffic enforcement (ATE), popularly (but incorrectly) called ‘photo radar.’
Global Traffic Group (GTG) presented the results of a new traffic study it had done, using new technology. Using a colour-code system, it showed various ‘hot’ spots in town, where speeding happens often; it also shows what times of day are the most active. This allows them to target zones that need it more effectively, council heard.
Council also heard that in the two-and-a-half years that GTG has been operating in Slave Lake, drivers are behaving much better than they used to. The stats show violations per hour significantly down, pretty much across the board.
“In 2015 the average violation was 3.92 for every hour worked in the school and playground zones,” said the written report for council. In 2016 that dropped to 1.94 violations per hour worked and so far this year it has declined further, to 1.80 violations per hour worked.
Councillor Darin Busk expressed his approval of the positive impact in school and playground zones, but skepticism about the value of such enforcement on the highways in town. Referring to earlier figures of about 70 per cent of tickets in those spots going to out-of-town drivers, he said, “it’s slowing local people down, but not the majority.”
David Steer, speaking for GTG, said behaviour change on highways is slower to come about, but it does eventually happen. He gave Devon as an example, where photo enforcement has been in place for a dozen years on Hwy. 60 through town. By now, “I think everybody in Alberta knows, do not speed through Devon,” he said.
Steer was asked about enforcement in the unpopular ‘transition zones,’ such as on Hwy. 2 on the west side of town, where the speed limit drops from 100 to 80 and then to 60 (going east) in a fairly short distance. A lot of people get caught there.
For starters, Steer said, “transition doesn’t exist in law. It’s sign to sign.” In other words, if you were slowing down to 60 after passing the 60 sign, your argument won’t stand up in court. Having said that, however, Steer said, GTG is not, taking its shots anywhere near the signs themselves. Its laser reaches well into to the zone, meaning it is catching people still speeding 100 or more metres in, after they’ve had plenty of time to reach the legal speed limit.
Further to the ‘cash cow’ accusations, Steer said his firm is definitely not issuing tickets twice in succession to the same vehicle (although they could). Nor does it focus exclusively on ‘hot’ zones, day after day after day (although it could).
One of those spots in Slave Lake where drivers don’t seem to be getting the message is Main St. where it passes the E.G. Wahlstrom School playing field. It’s a school zone, so the 30 km/hr limit applies during the hours as posted.
“I think people forget because there’s a fence there,” said mayor Tyler Warman.
Distracted driving
The topic of photo enforcement of the distracted driving law came up, as it always does. Nothing much has changed since the last report for council: it’s a big problem; the technology exists and the company is ready, willing and able to implement it. But the recommendation to allow it sits on the minister’s desk.
Steer explained that with distracted driving, video clips are proven to work best and in trials have been shown to be very effective. All they’ve heard from the minister, he said, is ‘not at this time.’
Council passed two motions: one was to “advocate for distracted driving enforcement technology,” and to seek a meeting with Justice Minister Katherine Ganley to talk about it. The other motion directed town administration to “provide positive messaging,” to the public on the program.



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