Council plans to petition province to allow use of controversial technology, despite police success in reducing speeding.
Photo radar is back on the table in York Region, after councillors voted to make a pitch to the province for permission to reinstate the contentious speed-enforcement system.
Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen said he was thinking of safety first when he put forward a motion last month that asked regional staff to come up with a proposal to send to Queen’s Park.
“We have always thought it was a good idea,” he said. “In my mind, it’s a technology-enabled enforcement process that makes the police services more efficient,” he said.
Photo radar — which takes pictures of a speeding car’s licence plate and mails the vehicle owner a ticket — was implemented on Ontario roads for a short time in the ’90s, but support for it is split. Supporters of the practice say it can help maintain road safety, while drivers argue it’s just a cash grab.
“Any proceeds that will come out of the tickets would not go to general revenues,” Van Bynen proposes, thus avoiding the “cash grab” title. “Those funds would be specially identified for improvement to safety and road programs.”
This is not the first time the region has sought photo radar. In 2012, it supported the York Regional Police Services Board’s lobbying efforts on the issue — to no avail. This time around, the police department says it would “support any program that may improve road safety,” but it’s not leading the charge.
But the province has no plans to reintroduce photo radar, and is focusing on legislation to keep roads safe instead, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation.
“With respect to photo radar, the ministry is not considering re-introducing speed cameras in Ontario at this time. However, we welcome and will review carefully any proposal from municipalities or stakeholders that include measures to improve road safety,” he said. “It has been our experience that there is no simple solution to speeding.”
In a 2012 transportation services committee report to York council, staff said “speeding … remains the top contributing factor resulting in motor vehicle collisions in York Region,” and suggested that photo radar could aid safety in school and construction zones.
But since then, the region has implemented other initiatives such as red-light cameras and reduced speed limits on regional roads.
“We very much oppose photo radar,” said Maddie Di Muccio, a former Newmarket councillor and president of the newly formed York Region Taxpayers Coalition. “Everybody knows that receiving a ticket in the mail weeks after an offence has occurred does not calm traffic at all,” she said. “It’s just a money-making opportunity.”
Statistics from York police also suggest there’s little need for photo radar. In its absence, the force has successfully implemented a multi-pronged approach to deal with speeding. Over the past five years, the number of speeding tickets issued has decreased significantly, from 64,116 tickets in 2010 to 39,059 in 2014.
“We have also progressively become more strategic, using crime- and collision-related statistics to tell us where we should be and when,” said Kathleen Griffin, manager of corporate communications. “And perhaps our overall efforts have resulted in additional compliance to the speed limits by motorists.”