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Why Do Public Opinion Polls Show High Approval Ratings for Photo Radar? 

Honourable Jackie Pement, addressing the Legislature of British Columbia, June 22, 1995, Hansard p. 15997.
"Speed monitoring cameras have province wide support."

When asked in public opinion polls, respondents unwittingly approve of photo radar for a number of reasons, including:

  • Respondents perceptions of what constitutes speeding differs from person to person and usually varies according to road conditions, not the posted speed limit.

    C.M. Elmberg. Effects of Speed Zoning in Urban Areas. M.S. Thesis. Purdue University, Layfayette, Indiana, May 1960.
    "The drivers paid little attention to posted speed limits and chose a speed that they considered appropriate for the prevailing conditions. This strongly suggests that geometric conditions influence operating speeds."
  • Respondents typically answer that while they do not speed, everyone else does.

    Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Traffic Safety Research Department, 1990. "Public Attitudes Towards the Use of Automatic Cameras for Enforcement of Traffic Law Infractions", p. 48:
    "The judgment of fairness of the radar cameras was significantly and positively linked to the belief about its ability to slow other drivers down."
  • Respondents erroneously believe, or are informed by the pollsters, that speeders are responsible for a very significant portion of traffic accidents.

  • Photo radar accommodates the irrational belief that 'slow driving is safe driving.'

  • As groups, the highest support for photo radar comes from, for example: seniors - as opposed to other age groups, women - as opposed to men, and those who drive less - as opposed to those who drive a lot. (As a group, those who drive significantly less, are also frequently less competent drivers, and frequently have more accidents per kilometer driven.) For example, men who make up about 50% of the driving population, drive approximately 67% of all kilometers in BC.
  • What do ICBC focus groups say when they are not given only a limited slate of questions to answer:

    C. Thomas Hathaway Associates Inc. "Radar Camera Public Opinion Research" Vancouver: 1994 July 31, p. 14:
    "Speeding in and of itself does not appear to be a high priority traffic safety concern for most drivers. It is the associated behaviours of tailgating, unsafe passing, lane hopping, cutting in and running intersections that constitute the way in which driver consider traffic safety problems. Erratic, unpredictable and 'discourteous' drivers, along with traffic congestion, are seen as primary sources of traffic problems."

    "There is substantial dissatisfaction with current traffic safety enforcement, particularly the emphasis on speed control which under current procedures is often seen as erratic, unfair and ineffective. This is primarily due to the perceived tendency of police to enforce with varying levels of tolerance in areas where speeding is seen to be relatively safe, for purposes of revenue generation rather than accident prevention."

    "While most respondents report traveling in excess of speed limits as typical rather than unusual behaviour, particularly by other drivers, they tend to define speeding in relative rather than absolute terms. They tend to think of speeding as a problem when drivers travel too fast to be in control of their vehicles, too fast to react effectively to events which should be anticipated and force other drivers to exceed their 'comfort zone'."

     Rev: 1998.09.29 contact SENSEtext map of SENSE web siteback to SENSE home pageback to top of this page