Town renews photo traffic enforcement

Two-year contract extension

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

By a 3 – 1 vote, Slave Lake town council approved two-year contract extension with Global Traffic Group last week. Global is the company that operates photo laser enforcement for speeding and stop sign violations at various locations around town.
What’s called for under the contract is 48 hours per week of monitoring. That’s two peace officers (yes, that’s their designation) doing 24 hours apiece. Lately, David Steer of Global told council at its Feb. 14 meeting, there have been some staffing “issues,” resulting in “down time.”
“It’s a thankless job,” he added.
Notwithstanding the down time, the statistics provided for council show quite plainly that the rate of violations dropped significantly in 2016 vs. 2015. The telling stat was ‘violations per hour worked.’ In 2015 it was just under four; last year it was 1.94, a fairly strong indicator that the program is achieving the desired effect.
“A drop like that is not uncommon for us,” Steer said, adding, “This is already a loss leader for us.”
On the other hand, he predicted that within a week of the local paper reporting the program was gone, “your speeds are right back up.”
Judging by some of the questions councillors asked, there is a certain amount of discomfort about the program, despite its evident benefits. Councillor Mark Missal, for example, seemed to think Global might be spending a bit too much time on Hwy. 88. He noted that fully a third of all tickets were issued for violations there. Steer’s response: why would you spend time somewhere where there aren’t any violations?
Provided statistics show Global set up at six spots on Hwy. 88 in 2016 – all in the 60-kph zone. The busiest (by quite a bit) was at 6th Ave. SW, northbound, where in 138 hours of operation, 430 tickets were generated (out of 608 total offenses). The average speed in the case of the ticketed offenses was 78 kph.
Missal noted that council has talked about the possibility of raising the speed limit on Hwy. 88 back to 80. That’s up to you, Steer said, but “a t-bone at 60 kilometres per hour is a completely different thing than a t-bone at 80 kilometres per hour.”
A fair amount of attention was paid to school zones. The busiest of these, as far as violations were concerned, was 6th Ave. SW by St. Mary of the Lake School. Two-hundred-eighty-five tickets were issued for violations there last year. The other busy spot was on Main St. by E.G. Wahlstrom School. A lot of drivers probably don’t think of it as a school zone, but it is, with the standard 30-kph limit and 239 tickets resulted in 2016.
For stop sign violations, Main St. at Caribou Trail was the busiest location, with 165 offenses recorded and 67 tickets issued. Caribou at Hwy. 2 produced 40 tickets and the four-way stop at Main St. and 6th Ave. by the Speedee Mart was good for 34 tickets.
Steer was asked about tickets for distracted driving. It’s not happening yet, he said. A pilot project has been done, he said, and the technology proven, but Global is waiting for direction from the provincial government on it, and it appears the Minister of Justice is waiting to hear from municipalities that they want such enforcement.
“It’s rampant,” said Missal.
Councillor Darin Busk noted that people in town are complaining about the photo enforcement. He seemed to be addressing them when he said “there are other options,” going on to say that if the RCMP issue traffic tickets, demerits are associated, whereas with automated enforcement, they aren’t.
On the other hand, Busk wasn’t comfortable with the two-year extension, preferring it be for one year. However, it was councillor Phil Lokken who made a motion to that effect. It was defeated by a 3 – 2 vote. The subsequent vote, on the two-year contract, passed by three votes to one, with Busk not raising his hand either way.
Council also learned in the course of the discussion that the town’s portion of the traffic ticket revenue is up to $152,000. That’s since March of 2015.

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