August 7, 2018 9:48 pm

B.C. says 24/7 red-light cameras are not photo radar, critics say that’s exactly what they are

WATCH: Red light cameras are now up and running non-stop at 140 locations across B.C. The provincial government says it's a matter of safety, but it's what those cameras will be capable of next that has critics crying foul. Ted Chernecki reports.

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Red-light cameras are now up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 140 locations across B.C.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the cameras are intended to make the roads safer.

“It’s about improving safety, and it’s about reducing the number of crashes, which means you’re reducing the number of fatalities, you’re reducing the number of injuries,” he said.

READ MORE: Red light cameras will soon run 24/7 at many B.C. intersections

But it’s what’s coming next that might be controversial.

After reviewing the red-light data this fall, an unspecified number of cameras will be upgraded to have the ability to record speed.

Motorists will get tickets for excessive speeding even on a green light. Alleged offenders will be mailed both a photo and a speed recorded by radar.

Farnworth says the cameras are not like photo radar, the unpopular program implemented by the NDP government in the 1990s.

WATCH: Effectiveness of new red-light speed cameras questioned

Critics say otherwise.

“It’s clearly photo radar,” said Chris Thompson of SENSE, a motorist advocacy group. “You’re taking pictures of someone’s vehicle and then you mail them a ticket and you tell them that they were going over the speed limit.

“At the end of the day, you have a system that assumes drivers are guilty until they manage to prove themselves innocent. That’s not really clearly going to accomplish the goals they want to accomplish,” he added.

WATCH: Province upgrades red-light cameras to catch speeders


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The photo radar program, which ended in 2001, used unmarked vans in random locations, issued tickets at low speeding thresholds and tied up police resources by having two officers in each van.

The province claims that, unlike photo radar, there are no secrets with red-light cameras.

Farnworth notes that an online map showing the location of every red-light camera, and there will be roadside signage warning motorists of their presence.

Retired police officer Grant Gottgetreu said more transparency does not solve the problem.

“You cannot support a radar ticket without a visual estimation,” he said.

READ MORE: Turning on red light cams to catch speeders a ‘tax grab,’ say BC Liberals

“That’s why it failed in the 1990s and it was a political nightmare. I’m surprised they’re bringing it in again but they have to stem the flow that’s bleeding out from ICBC.”

The robotic law enforcement cameras can’t identify who is driving a vehicle so the fine will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle and there will be no driver demerit points.

Lawyer Paul Doroshenko says as long as there isn’t a police officer there to visually identify who is actually driving, safety isn’t likely to improve.

“If you’re driving your Ferrari through that intersection, are you overly concerned about that ticket that doesn’t show up on your driving record? Really, it’s just the cost of doing business for a lot of people,” he said.

— With files from Richard Zussman

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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