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December 30, 1997 Anchorage calls it quits on photo radar -- 9,800 tickets dropped

As we reported on November 2, the city of Anchorage, Alaska lost its appeal on a decision throwing out some photo radar tickets. The Anchorage Daily News now reports that the city has decided to abandon the entire photo radar process and dismiss all remaining tickets!

In the original case, "experts testifying in favor of the system failed to convince three traffic magistrates the machines were accurate beyond a reasonable doubt." The city attorneys believed they would fail to persuade the Alaska Supreme Court to hear their appeal, and have decided to dismiss the remaining tickets.

Of particular interest to BC drivers, this is the same model of equipment that is used in BC! Due to the construction and operation of the BC photo radar legislation, there is a reverse onus on defendants to prove the equipment faulty as opposed to the Crown to prove it accurate. This is an impossible burden when necessary information on the equipment and software is denied for "third-party," "proprietary," and "competitive" reasons.

December 15, 1997 Seasons greetings from your government, ICBC, and police: new speeding fines effective today!
The increased speeding fines (detailed below on November 6) are effective today and apply to all speeding tickets (both conventional and photo radar). SENSE wishes everyone happy and safe motoring this holiday season!

December 5, 1997 Photo radar constitutional challenge underway
Coquitlam business-person Doug Stead has tabled lengthy and very well founded arguments on the constitutionality of photo radar. We have posted his submission and are hopeful that Doug's time and research will pay off for all BC motorists. We will keep you posted on the trial events. Here is the text of his press release:

November 10, 1997 Get the Facts: here.
BC may have the worst drivers in Canada, but we certainly don't have the worst speeders as today's Province editorial implies. BC's injury rate (Transport Canada: 1996, per 10,000 motor vehicles) is 37.5% higher than the Canadian average. If speed is the problem, and speed makes crashes worse, then our fatality rate should likewise be equally high. But, the point they're missing is that our fatality rate is the same as the Canadian average. What's the cause of our high injury rate? It could be insurance fraud, mountainous roads, poor roads, or poorly trained, incompetent drivers (those drivers afraid to even approach the posted speed limit).

"Stiff fines are an excellent tool for curbing reckless motorists" -- just as surely as criminal records, stiff fines, loss of insurance, and jail sentences have eliminated all drunk drivers (in 1995, 38% of Canadian fatally injured drivers were impaired). The vast majority of BC drivers don't drive at criminal speeds, but under this government's policies, we're being treated as criminals.

Prior to photo radar, 400,000 speeding tickets were issued annually -- 60% of all tickets. Photo radar will push that number into the 650,000 to 900,000 range -- 75% to +82% of all tickets. If speed was the problem, we'd have solved it by now.

"... lowering speed reduces crashes. It's been proved everywhere from Ontario to Calgary to New Zealand and Australia."

Truth is found in the details and the facts -- not the over-simplifications of complex issues. And not in the emotional rhetoric spewed forth by the spin doctors and lazy editorialists who preach without checking the facts or the details. By the way Province, Ian's name is spelled Tootill, not Toothill.

For a more enlightened approach to speeding facts and statistics, see George Will's "Why speed doesn't always kill" opinion article for the November 6 Washington Post.

November 6+7, 1997 Escalating speeding fines introduced
In a blatant attempt to improve the revenue side of the government's mismanaged books, the Minister of Finance has increased speeding fines (see below), effective December 15. Expect to see expensive, emotionally based (as opposed to factual) television ads in the coming days.

Likely to be hit the hardest are drivers in school zones during the hours children are not present, but photo radar is -- a significant source of complaints to SENSE. Sensible jurisdictions elsewhere post school zone speed restrictions individually based upon each school's first, noon-hour, and last bells. This reasonable approach has shown no impact on the safety of children. More telling are the government's own 1995 unsafe speed stats: only 2.16% of crashes were in municipal posted 30 km/h zones, and the vast majority were property damage, not injury accidents.

Another area of revenue generation: drivers who get nailed by photo radar in unworked highway construction zones where the construction signs have not been removed, may also find very expensive tickets in the mail, all for travelling at safe and reasonable speeds.

SENSE has been informed that police officers have expressed the concern that the lowest category of fines (1-20 km/h) should have been lowered to about the $75 level, and the next tier (21-40 km/h) should be $115. The vast majority of conventional (non-photo radar) speeding tickets are issued in the 21-40 km/h range -- these drivers have seen ticket prices go from $100 to $173 -- a 73% increase in 6 months!

Offence Old
New Fines
146 (1) Speeding
(above 50 km/h in a municipality
or 80 km/h elsewhere)
1-40 km/h

41+ km/h

1-20 km/h

21-40 km/h

41-60 km/h

61+ km/h

146 (3) Speeding Against Highway Sign
(above posted speed)
146 (5) Speeding in an Unorganized Area
(above 60 km/h in a unorganized area)
146 (7) Speeding in a Municipality
(above posted speed)
147 (1) Speeding in a School Zone
(above 30 km/h between 08:00 and 17:00
on regular school days in posted "30" zones)
1-40 km/h

41+ km/h

1-20 km/h

21-40 km/h

41-60 km/h

61+ km/h

147 (2) Speeding in a Playground Zone
(above 30 km/h between dawn and dusk
in posted "30" zones)
140 Speeding in a Construction Zone $173

November 2+17, 1997 Alaska Court of Appeal upholds decision throwing out photo radar
SENSE reported on April 14 that an Alaska court threw out tickets because of the "questionable reliability" of both the photo radar system and the testimony provided by American Traffic Systems' experts. This is the same model of equipment currently used in British Columbia.

The Anchorage Daily News now reports that on October 17, 1997, the Court of Appeals upheld the original decision (the original decision stands). When SENSE first publicised the court case in April, BC Crown Counsel responded that this decision was under appeal and had little bearing in BC. This new affirming of the lower court decision should provide additional weight to the important, original decision.

October 17, 1997 "Fairness Code" gutted to make way for increase in ticket volumes
As Michael Smyth reported in today's Province: the Attorney General, ICBC, and police have removed key provisions of the photo radar fairness code. These cornerstone provisions were advertised in the newspapers (see "Playing Fair with Photo Radar" 39K), debated in the Legislature, and consistently used by promoters of photo radar to support their statements that photo radar would only be used fairly and effectively.

The abandonment of the key standards serves only to increase operating locations and ultimately to increase both ticket volumes and revenues. These changes are timely when viewed in conjunction with the new automated ticket processing software which recently began operation. The new system was originally designed to produce up to 80,000 tickets per month (possibly 133,000), which is 3-5 times the manually-processed capacity of about 25,000 that has been in effect since photo radar began in August 1996.

Most troubling are the changes to point 11 which supposedly prevented the use of photo radar in zones where the speed limits were clearly posted too low, and point 1 which required photo radar to be used only where it might be effective - where speed is the problem.

September 26, 1997 Minister raises some speed limits
Minister of Transportation and Highways Lois Boone announced late yesterday that some highway speed limits will be increased in October. The majority of these increases are on highways outside the more densely populated areas, thus these changes will not help many drivers who are receiving speeding tickets for travelling at safe and reasonable speeds.

Boone was quoted in today's The Prince George Citizen: "We're not out to catch the person going five or 10 km over the speed limit," she said. "We've said all along that [Speed Kills] is going after the people who are speeding excessively." Drivers should note that photo radar considers you to be "speeding excessively" at 11 km/h in many locations.

Interestingly, the Minister states in her press release: "the majority of drivers are travelling at that speed," but then cautions in The Citizen: "but you can't go that speed until the signs go up."

Refunds are not expected on speeding tickets issued to driver's travelling within enforcement tolerances of the new arbitrarily safe speed. However, driver's fighting tickets previously issued at these locations should ask the justice for a significantly reduced fine given the negligible threat they apparently posed to public safety.

The increased limits are:

  • To 90 km/h (total 459 km):
  • To 100 km/h (total 1,870 km):

    September 4, 1997 ICBC web site now on-line...
    The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia's new web site is now operating -- here's their press release, and SENSE's. Stop by and see what a wonderful job they have been doing to keep your insurance rates so low! If you find that their information contradicts ours, e-mail SENSE, and we'll be glad to show you in detail how they are misrepresenting the facts. And, don't forget to drop by and add your two-cents to their "Road Sense Forum!"

    August 27, 1997 Truth about photo radar beginning to come out in Alberta...
    The Edmonton Journal reported today that some Alberta police are expressing concern that photo radar is not being used as promised. Not only did SENSE predict this would occur in British Columbia, but we already receive frequent confidential reports from police officers and photo radar program insiders that a number of locations used in BC do not meet the standards or expectations that were communicated to the public.

    The article reported: "Some police officers have cited instances when they were told by superiors to move the equipment from high-risk accident zones to places where they would be likely to produce more speeding tickets, [Alberta Transportation Minister Walter Paszkowski] said."

    August 21, 1997 Photo radar to start targeting vehicle fronts...
    CHEK TV reported today that the photo radar police are now targeting vehicles from the front. While this move permits police to ticket commercial vehicles, it also tripled the ticketing ratio from 2.6% to 7.1% at the Highway 1 - Whippletree Junction site profiled near Duncan!

    Under normal operation (receding mode), a vehicle would enter the radar beam some 15 to 40 feet after passing the van. By taking front photographs (approaching mode), vehicles now enter the beam 30 to 60 feet before the van. Drivers must now be significantly more proactive to avoid being photographed.

    Details on front photograph operations throughout BC will be posted as they become available. It is currently believed that this is in a trial process, and that not all sites are working in approaching mode.

    July 7+17, 1997 Summertime revenue generation -- oops -- speed enforcement heats up...
    Motorists should be on the lookout for the summertime conventional speed enforcement campaigns now under way across BC. These campaigns are no doubt very profitable for the government and ICBC as they utilize highly efficient speed-trap techniques, nail tourists who rarely return to dispute their tickets, and can now easily ticket for two or more offences at once. ICBC has issued not one, not two, but now three press releases.

    Officers (paid time-and-a-half by ICBC -- not that we're implying there's an incentive to produce) are equipped with the latest Laser guns (paid for by ICBC -- who, by the way, makes an average $50 in penalty point premiums on each ticket issued) can also calculate distance between vehicles and thus lay charges for following too closely (and they've secretly changed the rules on what is "too close" -- remember all the advertising years ago about the "2-second rule" -- even the BC Safe Driving Guide (96/07, page 51) suggests the "2-second rule" -- yet we've received reports that officers are charging for 3-seconds or less!) Here's the new fiscal reality:

    June 12+17, 1997 Government drops no-fault, increases speeding fines
    At a press conference June 12, Finance Minister Andrew Petter announced that no-fault is not currently being considered, but that a six-point program will be introduced to reduce insurance costs. The goal may just be to replace the money they won't be raiding from ICBC's reserve fund, with increased photo radar revenue.

    Bill 41, which implements the proposed initiatives, had first reading on June 17. The bill proposes a lot of negative changes to the workings of photo radar and speeding fines. We'll post a critique shortly.

    The six points (and our comments) include:

    1. A crackdown on impaired drivers with a new lifetime driver's licence suspension upon a third conviction for impaired driving (suspension may be revised to 10 years only if the offender takes remedial training or treatment) as well as increased roadside checks, and improved detection of drugs other than alcohol.
      1. This might help, if we can keep the drivers off the street (that hasn't always been that easy).
      2. Detection of drugs only works if it can be done and if it stands up in court.
    2. Tough action to reduce speeding and dangerous driving including introduction of intersection [red-light] safety cameras and a new system of graduated fines and penalties - the faster you go, the more severe the penalty. Penalties will increase significantly for those who speed in school and construction zones.
      1. Watch out, increased speeding fines -- we told you so!
      2. Look for penalty points on photo radar tickets -- we saw that one coming too!
      3. School zones are just not the high accident zones that parents think they are. The fact is that school zones are the most efficient places to give out photo radar tickets: highest violation rates and fewer spoiled photos.
      4. It's about time they're getting into intersections -- the place where the accidents are really happening. However, officers are still the way to go.
    3. Increased penalties for bad drivers including higher insurance premiums for dangerous drivers and a new requirement that makes drivers who cause accidents liable for the first $250 of property damage they cause to another vehicle.
      1. Just what is a "bad driver"? This definition might include those with just a photo radar ticket or two!
    4. New measures to improve driving including a graduated licensing system for new drivers and mandatory retraining for bad drivers.
      1. You might remember that graduated licensing was promised as part of the "Traffic Safety Initiative" in March 1995. It was supposed to be here June '96 and it's still not here -- we're not holding our breath.
      2. Even if graduated licensing finally arrives, these programs keep the honest off the road, the rest continue to drive -- and it's the rest that cause the majority of the problems.
      3. Once again, just what is a "bad driver"?
    5. Strengthened anti-fraud and auto crime measures including increased fines for insurance fraud of up to $25,000 for an individual's first offence and $50,000 for subsequent offences with possible imprisonment for both. Anti-theft measures include reduced insurance benefits for joy-riders in stolen vehicles, expanded public education programs and increased funding for police to combat auto crime.
      1. It's about time that more is done about fraud.
    6. Significant measures to improve efficiency, cut costs and reduce legal delays including mediation for parties involved in a crash as an alternative to costly and lengthy court battles, streamlined claims procedures for vehicle damage, improved ICBC debt collection, periodic payments that spread out payments to accident victims and adjustment of wage loss benefits from gross to net. Petter also announced the creation of a new Road Safety Commission to monitor progress on road safety issues and provide advice to government on an ongoing basis.
      1. Just what we need, another commission that won't advise, but merely rubber-stamp.
    While keep you posted as actual details are released.

    June 4, 1997 American Traffic Systems website now on-line!
    American Traffic Systems, supplier of the photo radar equipment and ticket processing software used in BC now has a website as of yesterday. They've produced a very impressive site from both a graphic and information perspective. (A note for the bandwidth challenged: there are quite a number of large graphics to be loaded!)

    While we don't subscribe to all of their conclusions about the benefits of photo radar, their site stands out as a corporate presence that actually has useful and informative content.

    May 28+29, 1997 "Approval of municipalities no longer required for photo radar operations"
    Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh announced Wednesday that community councils will no longer have the ability to say no to photo radar. This not unexpected change removes citizens last defence from the abuse photo radar by a money hungry provincial government, and represents yet another lie about photo radar.

    Minister of Transportation and Highways Lois Boone said Thursday, July 4, 1996, about 2:00 PM in the Legislature:

    "Those communities that don't wish to have photo radar have the right to vote against it, as several have -- Colwood, for example. So if your community decides they don't want to have it, they can do that very thing: vote not to have photo radar."
    and also on Thursday, July 11, 1996, about 10:45 AM in the Legislature:
    "They are going to be put in, and only in those areas where the councils agree. If councils do not agree on them, they are not being implemented."
    If you are interested to see what might be on the chopping block next, check the Monday, July 29, 1996, Afternoon part-2 Hansard and search for the words "fairness code".

    May 3, 1997 New photo radar sites indication of ticket volume ramp-up
    The photo radar sites released for the week of May 5 to 11 include many new sites never used before. Drivers should check the listings before venturing out!

    News sites of note include:

    Sources have informed SENSE that about 45,000 tickets were issued in April. This is up substantially from the previous monthly average of 18,000 since September 1996. Expect monthly volumes to ramp-up to a maximum of 83,000 within 6 months. Previous reports by ICBC and the government that photo radar is not a cash cow because there were so few speeders and hence so few tickets confirm once again that this government lies to support photo radar. Prior ticket volumes were kept low due to processing problems and public relation concerns that photo radar not look like a cash-cow, not a lack of speeders!

    April 14, 1997 Alaska court decision throws out photo radar
    Drivers who have received tickets from photo radar will be interested to see a very recently obtained decision from the city of Anchorage. Please read our press release first for information. You can also access a number of Anchorage news articles here on our news links page, and an Anchorage anti-photo radar web-site.

    SENSE has received numerous reports from drivers who state that they were aware of the lawful speed they were travelling when they drove through a photo radar site, yet they received a ticket for an amount somewhat higher. Many of these reports also mention that other vehicles had passed them at higher rates of speed about the time the photograph was taken. This decision highlights a fundamental problem with photo radar -- no computer is infallible.

    The accuracy and credibility of the BC photo radar camera system might finally receive the scrutiny it deserves here in BC. The Municipality of Anchorage had a couple of lengthy technical trials on the ATS PR-100 camera -- the same system that was used in BC -- and found that the photos and use of the cameras was not sufficient for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Decision on validity of original Section 151(1) certificates is in...
    The BC Supreme Court has ruled that the original Section 151(1) certificates do comply with the law. The government revised the certificates on January 30, 1997, to remedy the possible defect. However, there was the possibility that the old certificates would have been ruled as insufficient, thus tossing out thousands of tickets issued before January 30 [see SENSE news from Jan. 27]. In the reasons for judgment, the judge found that:

    "... it is for a person charged under s.151(1) with speeding against the general 50 kph limit to lead evidence of an exception to that limit, the Crown need not prove there is no exception unless the evidence puts the matter in issue."
    Defendants charged under Section 151(1) with speeding above 50 km/h in a municipality or 80 km/h outside a municipality must produce evidence to the contrary. The original traffic court justice dismissed the ticket citing that the Crown had failed to adequately prove their case through the certificates. This ruling does nothing to prevent a defendant from legitimately advancing a defence that the street had a posted speed limit other than 50 km/h or 80 km/h, as the case may be. Defendants may want to verify the posted speed limits where they were allegedly speeding.

    More observations from the courts...
    SENSE Director of Research Michael Cain was observing in Port Coquitlam traffic court on Monday for about 2 hours. Defendants of photo radar tickets, especially those charged for small amounts over the limit (11-15 km/h), might want to at a minimum dispute their fines. Here are the outcomes of the observed trials:

    March 31, 1997, Apr. 3 What is photo radar really costing taxpayers?
    A report in the March 31 Vancouver Sun "Computer deal doubles costs for photo radar" renews SENSE's long-standing request for the government to release the photo radar contracts.
    You can review a chronology of our requests and the government's stalling, along with some dubious cost figures which have been used by the government.
    What we need is an independent and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of photo radar, along with complete release of both contracts, and a detailed accounting of all expenditures (including severance payouts to any fired bureaucrats). SENSE has been seeking answers to these questions since July 4, 1996 (see our press release).

    March 20, 1997 Audit of the Traffic Safety Initiative highlights government mismanagement
    The government finally made available a 39 page audit of the Traffic Safety Initiative (TSI). Among the highlights: It should be noted that both SENSE and Reform BC have been attempting to obtain through the FOI (Freedom of Information) process full copies of the two photo radar contracts to ensure that the taxpayers of BC have had their interests we represented by this government. To date, less than 10% of the substance of the two contracts has been obtained. This audit does nothing but confirm our fears that the taxpayers will be paying for government mismanagement.

    It should also be noted that this audit was instituted around June 21, 1996. After waiting for some time, SENSE submitted an FOI request on December 9, 1996 to ensure that the findings were eventually released to the public. After almost exhausting numerous procedural delays, the government decided to release the document publicly.

    March 5+10, 1997 Yet another loss in court for government
    A Justice of the Peace delivered another blow to the province's photo radar prosecutions Tuesday at 7:00 PM in Richmond (see the January 27 report below dealing with Section 151(1) certificates). The certificates for tickets issued under MVA Section 151(3) and 151(7), representing up to 50% of all tickets issued to date, may not provide sufficient evidence to convict the defendant.

    See the justice's final 15-page decision (which has been substantially revised since the first posting), the first written decision in BC on photo radar. Defendants in relevant BC trials may want to allow the Crown to close their case and then make a "No Evidence" motion, citing this case -- seek some legal advice.

    February 28, 1997 Do not be intimidated by process servers
    If you live in the Lower Mainland or Howe Sound and the government attempts to have a photo radar ticket served upon you, you might find one of these post-it notes attached to your residence: (emphasis in yellow added by SENSE)
    Do not be misled or intimidated by the highlighted statement. The government cannot prevent you from renewing your driver's licence or motor vehicle insurance when you have not been successfully served with a photo radar ticket. If you find one of these on your door, you do not have a legal responsibility to arrange service, nor can your licence or insurance be denied for a ticket that has not been successfully served upon you.

    February 28, 1997 Just who is running Vancouver city?
    We won't say we told you so, but one-by-one, the hollow promises of this government to use photo radar responsibly are shown to have little substance. The Attorney-General seems destined to break a promise that communities will have final say on the use of photo radar -- a safeguard against government misuse of the tool. Faced with losing a cornerstone community (not to mention an estimated 30% of the projected revenue!), the AG is positioning himself to make photo radar compulsory. We are left wondering what will remain of the already broad "fairness code" that was much promoted to safeguard motorists against unfair use of photo radar.

    February 21, 1997 Watch out! Here comes more fines, more enforcement, same bad drivers!
    The new ICBC web-site is up and designed to convince us that no-fault auto insurance is the way to go. Buried within the "independent" report by KPMG are only hints of things to come. BC drivers can expect to see short-term measures to raise revenue for government or token initiatives designed to make the government look like it is actually concerned about long-term traffic safety.

    As you can see on ICBC's page on preventing crashes, there is nothing to improve driver education or skills, token amounts spent on roadway engineering, and much designed solely to raise revenue:

    As further evidence of the motives of this government, the "independent" KPMG report talks about lowering speed limits even more (while others are raising them)!

    The government (through ICBC) seems determined to create a truly monstrous cash-cow out of all the drivers on the road. Prior to photo radar, two-thirds of all traffic tickets issued in BC were for speeding, and this amount will surely rise rapidly as above plans (including photo radar) go into effect. SENSE predicts that ICBC will continue to spend millions of our dollars on emotional advertising to convince us that speeding is the cause of all our problems, all the while generating millions of dollars under the guise of safety.

    Contrary to government predictions, we have not seen a drop in accidents since photo radar was introduced, in fact ICBC announced that 1996 was the worst year and January '97 was the worst month ever!

    February 13, 1997 Another photo radar LIE exposed!
    In yet another example that British Columbian's are getting a different photo radar program than they were originally sold, Premier Glen Clark referring to sharing of traffic fine revenue with Vancouver city, said in today's The Vancouver Sun (p. B1): "Perhaps we could say: 'Give us what you've given us the past couple of years in revenue and maybe anything above that we could share.'"

    Photo radar was promoted as a tool to free-up police personnel to do other activities in the community (other traffic safety issues, violent crimes, investigations, community policing, etc.). Now, municipal leaders are told that they must exceed historical ticket levels to receive any revenue sharing. Speeding offences already account for 2/3 of tickets issued because they are by far the easiest to issue. The net result of the Premier's plan would be to issue even more speeding tickets as municipalities struggle to exceed past volumes, with no net benefit to other policing functions -- as originally promoted.

    The Premier's move seems designed solely to prevent municipalities from reducing existing traffic enforcement (and thus the revenue flowing from it) as municipal leaders react in opposition to reductions in government funding (closing of courthouses, etc.).

    February 10, 1997 SENSE predicts "back room" deal between provincial government and cities
    See our PRESS RELEASE -- SENSE predicts that the provincial government will share some photo radar revenue with municipalities, leaving BC motorists trapped between not one, but two levels of revenue hungry government. SENSE believes that the provincial government "leaked" reports to the media about huge revenue short-falls to obtain favourable agreements on revenue sharing.

    Despite the reports that speeders were under 5%, far below "predictions", SENSE has discovered that the approximately 95 police officers who staff the photo radar vans are monitoring speeding motorists an average of less than 1 hour per shift or 14.5 hours per month. This vast amount of under-used capacity will soon recovered as the back-end processing system, delayed from past contractual disputes and computer integration problems, comes on-line sometime around April. (Even when time-off, sick-days, travel, set-up, etc. are considered, the fact is that this system was designed to produce 1,600,000 tickets per year (133,000 per month) with the same 95 officers, yet it is currently producing only about 18,000 tickets per month -- 7.4% of capacity).

    Total Deployment Hours (August-December 1996) 6,894 hours
    Average monthly Deployment Hours (August-December 1996) 1,379 hours/month
    Total Police Officers (non-supervisory, as per original projections) 95 officers
    Average Deployment Hours per Officer per month 14.5 hours
    Average Deployment Hours per Officer per shift 0.96 hours

    Threats to implement photo radar province-wide confirm SENSE beliefs that the much promoted "community" input has never been much more than a token gesture to appease citizens. Facing the loss of too many key communities, the government seemed eager to jettison this "cornerstone" of the photo radar program.

    February 5, 1997 Government releases photo radar 'statistics'
    In a hurried response to Vancouver City Council's decision to drop photo radar, ICBC and the government released some questionable statistics today in support of photo radar. They also included some graphs containing the following information:
    Collisions Injury Crashes Fatalities
    August-November 1995 15,952 11,768 136
    August-November 1996 14,178 10,713 115
    Change -11% -9% -15%
    Percentage of Speeding Vehicles at or Above Trigger Speed
    Warning Phase... Photo Radar Ticket$...
    May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
    16% 12% 10% 7% 6% 6% 5% 4%
    SENSE has obtained motor vehicle fatality figures from the province's Office of the Chief Coroner. While the numbers do vary significantly from the police reported fatalities due to reporting procedures, they are much more accurate and reliable. For the same periods, they indicate:
    August-November 1995 169
    August-November 1996 174
    Change +3%
    Furthermore, a 12-month moving average chart prepared from the last eight years of the Coroner's data indicates that the presence of photo radar (in red) coincides with the reversal of a downward trend in fatalities:
    12-Month Moving Average Total Fatalities
    In addition, a number of comments come immediately to mind:

    February 4, 1997 Vancouver City Council says no to photo radar!
    Vancouver City Council said no to photo radar today after trying for the last six months to get a share of the photo radar revenue. City Council indicated that it might re-consider it's decision if the government can produce statistical evidence that photo radar is working to reduce accidents. (SENSE is confident that the government will put it's best number-crunchers on the job -- probably the same people who informed us that we'd have a budget surplus this year!)

    Vancouver joins a growing list of municipalities who have said no/maybe-not to the provincial revenue machine (please advise us if you are aware of any other municipalities or errors in this list):

    January 27+29+31, 1997 Omission in photo radar cases puts thousands of tickets in jeopardy
    SENSE has discovered that nearly half of the over 80,000 tickets issued in the Province's photo radar program may be invalid. Please read our PRESS RELEASE first for information.

    SENSE is opposed to the use of photo radar based upon a wide range of well-researched reasons. While this issue may only temporarily defeat one aspect of photo radar on a technicality, our members believe that if this government insists on the use of photo radar, it should be held to the strictest standards.

    This affects only speeding tickets issued under Section 151(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, which represent about 45% of all tickets issued to date. The problem stems from the "Certificate of Enforcement Officer: Qualified Operator" which is used in court to prosecute the alleged speeding drivers/owners.

    The certificate for the most common offence, Speeding Against a Highway Sign, Section 151(3) states:

    "... Throughout those hours of operation on that date, there was a sign in place which the Minister of Transportation and Highways caused to be erected, pursuant to section 151(3) of the Motor Vehicle Act, indicating a posted speed limit of ____ kilometers per hour (km/h) for all motor vehicles at that location travelling in that direction."
    However, the certificate for the Speeding Within a Municipality, Section 151(1) states:
    "... The location was in the municipality of ________ on that date."
    And, the certificate for the Speeding Outside a Municipality, also Section 151(1) states:
    "... The location was outside a municipality on that date."
    These certificates under Section 151(1) fail to state that there was not another sign in place at the time indicating a potentially different speed than the general speed limits of 50 km/h and 80 km/h respectively.

    Crown lawyers have attempted, and in an as yet undetermined number of cases -- failed, to get the justices to take "judicial notice" of the speed limit. (Judicial notice refers to the act by which a court, without the production of evidence, will recognize the existence and truth of certain facts.)

    The Crown could amend the certificates or produce the police officer in court to testify in each case, but aside from the cost and logistical problems, it may be difficult for an officer to state with certainty that a sign did or did not exist at some specific point in the past.

    January 29, 1997 Reports of the Crown's impending successful appeal of this defence are vastly over-rated
    Contrary to a report in today's Vancouver Sun ("Tossing out of photo radar ticket to be appealed", p. B7), more than one ticket has been dismissed by more than one justice, and this issue does affect about 45% of all speeding tickets issued by photo radar -- they all fall into this one little "isolated section".

    We'll keep you posted on the outcome of this British Columbia Supreme Court appeal (expected in April). Until then, remember that if you pay your ticket (subject to OA 14.2 (2.1)), you won't get your money back if the Crown loses.

    January 31, 1997 Government changes potentially troublesome certificates
    Late Friday, SENSE was informed that the government has, thorough an order-in-council, proscribed new section 151(1) certificates. This change does not affect the certificates already issued, but will likely prevent tickets issued on or after this date from being disputed/dismissed on these grounds.

    January 24+31, 1997 City of Oakland Caught Red-Handed Using Photo Radar in Illegal Speed Trap
    The local Judicial Council in Oakland (California) announced today that they are no longer going to process Photo Radar Citations. Read the press release and motion to dismiss.

    Motorists in California and many other US states are protected from "speed traps" by legislation called "prima facie speed limits." If you can produce evidence that the speed you were travelling at was prudent for the conditions, or evidence that the speed limit was incorrectly set, the judge may dismiss your ticket! If only our government felt that we were worthy of such common-sense legislation, our group probably would not be here -- after all, if enforcement of speed limits is only for safety (not revenue), why not allow motorists to judicially challenge the posted speed limit. Until we get protection from unreasonable enforcement of arbitrarily posted speed limits, we'll keep on fighting!

    See The San Francisco Chronicle 97-01-27: "Reprieve for Speeders Caught on Film"

    January 22, 1997 Photo radar court victory!
    SEE PRESS RELEASE -- In a Delta courtroom today, a photo radar ticket issued against a business was dismissed when the vehicle owner proved that it had exercised "reasonable care and diligence" pursuant to section 76.1(3)(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act in lending out a vehicle. While this defence will assist only a limited number of vehicle owners, it is the first issue that SENSE has helped send before the courts (and we won! -- subject to appeal).

    This defence requires the accused to establish that they had consistently exercised "reasonable care and diligence." The actual driver is then asked if he/she was driving at the time of the offence (while on the stand, they get protection under the Charter against self-incrimination). If successful, the Crown is left with no one to prosecute, and the innocent accused is not left with an infraction against the owner's record. (The Crown might produce this, the only case law on photo radar reasonable care -- read up!)

    Business owners who lend out their vehicles to employees should maintain a high standard of care in doing so. For instance, implement the following procedures:

    (Mar. 04) Read the court transcript!

    January 14, 1997 Photo radar statistics
    As a result of a SENSE Freedom of Information request on November 15, 1996, (information received January 14, 1997) we are now able to provide some interesting statistical information about the BC photo radar program. Figures presented represent 'snap-shots', and will change as more information becomes available.

    more news here...
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