Huge spike in photo radar tickets for 6-10km/h over speed limit

WATCH ABOVE: Through a FOIP request, Global News has learned just who is getting photo radar tickets and at what speeds. Eric Szeto reports.

EDMONTON – The city issued more than five times as many photo-radar tickets in 2014 to drivers going six to 10 km/h over the posted limit than in the previous year.

From January to November of 2014, 63,616 photo radar tickets were given to Edmonton drivers going six to 10 km/h over the speed limit, compared to 12,403 such tickets in all of 2013.

In the 2014 period, six-to-10-km/h tickets accounted for 13.1 per cent of the total number of photo-radar tickets, compared to just 2.9 per cent in 2013.

Mayor Don Iveson said the difference was due to increased enforcement in slower speed zones.

“We’ve been doing more enforcement in school zones and in other areas where we have significant traffic safety concerns.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton school zones see over 400 violations in first week 

“Generally speaking, if you get a ticket for going not very much over, it’s because you’re in a speed zone that is a lower speed zone,” he said. The city couldn’t provide the exact number of photo radar tickets issued in school zones in 2014.

Iveson added that tickets for going six to 10 km/h over aren’t given on high-speed roads.

“I’m pretty sure no one’s got a ticket for going 10 over on the Henday, for example.”

As City Council previously revealed, no photo-radar tickets were given to drivers going zero to five km/h over the speed limit. That was the case for both 2013 and 2014, according to information obtained by Global News through a Freedom of Information request. The numbers for 2014 only include January to November because that is when Global News made the FOIP request.

To compare, in 2014, the majority of tickets were given to drivers going 11 to 15 km/h over the posted speed limit (204,386). Nearly 152,690 tickets were handed out to drivers going 16 to 20 km/h over and 65,630 tickets were given to motorists going more than 20 km/h over the limit.

Photo radar tickets by speed and year, with City of Edmonton information. Tonia Huynh, Global News

In 2014, the City of Edmonton distributed a total of 486, 320 photo radar tickets. The previous year, that total number was 422,720.

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In 2011, Edmonton police ran the photo enforcement program by itself. That year, a total of 147,354 tickets were given. Then, in 2012, the EPS and the city ran it together. In 2013, the city took over running the program.

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The mayor said, while the amount of enforcement has gone up, the method has remained the same.

“The enforcement approach has been consistent for a very long time and is consistent with the way that EPS enforced it previously,” Iveson explained.

“We are doing more enforcement but it’s consistent with the historical policy.”

The city was recently criticized for its use of photo enforcement, with some residents speaking at City Council and calling the program a “cash grab.” One resident even started a petition against the practice.

READ MORE: Photo radar: cash cow or safety initiative?

In 2013, photo enforcement brought in $41.3 million in revenue – $11.2 million more than the city had anticipated.

“I think what council is struggling with is the line between traffic safety and public support,” said another opponent, who spoke at a heated Transportation Committee meeting in November.  “The optic that hidden photo radar vans are ticketing people – and the target for next year’s revenue from photo radar tickets is $40 million – that’s a very bad optic and I think that damages their hopes for traffic safety,” said Edmontonian Nathan Smith.

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But, councillors stressed funds from the program go toward traffic safety initiatives, not into general city revenue.

“We don’t take a single cent out of the photo radar revenue to fund city services,” said Councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

“All the money goes to improving safety on the roadways and the neighbourhoods, around schools, around playgrounds.”

READ MORE: ‘The first problem with photo radar is that there is not enough’: Dr. Francescutti 

Councillor Mike Nickel says photo radar only slows drivers down for a short time and doesn’t change overall behaviour.

“If you’re willing to accept temporary behaviour adjustments, that’s one argument, but I don’t accept that.

“The only real answer is cops pulling people over, handing out tickets with real demerits.”

But, does he still consider the program a cash grab?

“I find it very difficult to argue to the taxpayer that their feelings on this issue – about the tax grab – are not somewhat unjustified,” said Nickel.

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“I’m trying to be very careful, and very respectful of the people who are in the traffic safety initiative and our police force… but sometimes it’s tough to make that argument knowing that the nature of photo radar to me is just not a permanent fix on altering peoples driving habits.”

While there will undoubtedly be naysayers, Iveson believes there are supporters as well.

“Just as there are people who are upset because they get tickets, there’s all kinds of people who want us to enforce the laws that we have in the city here because they understand and support that that’s here for traffic safety.”

Staff from the transportation department also say it’s a step in the right direction. They say excessive speeding is down but low-level speeding is on the rise.

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