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2001 + | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996

November 27, 1998 SENSE site back on-line!

If you came looking for the SENSE web site in the last week, you would have received no answer. It took several days for confirmation, but our previous site hosts finally informed us that they would no longer be operating a web server.

SENSE and our members can thank Penticton based Valley Internet Providers for donating the space and resources to continue operating our site. If you need Internet services, please consider VIP as your source.

November 21 + 24, 1998 Crown wins Stead Constitutional challenge
A BC Supreme Court justice has found that the photo radar legislation, as argued by Mr. Stead and his lawyers, does not offend the Constitution. Victims of photo radar tickets who were planning to dispute their tickets on these particular Constitutional grounds will need to formulate new arguments against the legislation or hope for Stead to appeal to the BC Court of Appeal.

Motorists should note that Stead's case was but one set of many possible Constitutional questions regarding photo radar and that there are many other issues currently before the courts that have the possibility of rendering the system unusable.

A copy of the decision is now on-line. Additional information is on the Stead page.

October 9, 1998 Vote in an on-line photo radar poll! is hosting an on-line photo radar poll. Drop by and add your vote! Click on "GO TO CURRENT POLLS NOW!"

September 29 and October 9, 1998 Welcome to the new and improved SENSE web site!
We've cleaned up our look and added a new navigation system. These are the major changes for you to check out...

September 24, 1998 Join Doug Stead in the battle against photo radar
Coquitlam business-person Doug Stead (for more information, see the Stead page) will be in BC Supreme Court on Tuesday, September 29th, 1998 at 2:00 PM to hear the Crown's appeal of his Constitutional victory. At 12:30 PM in the courtyard outside the New Westminster courthouse at Begbie Square (645 Carnarvon), there will be a rally for the public and media. Persons interested in photo radar and the constitutional process are encouraged to show support by attending the rally and court session. Doug will also be appearing on CKNW's Bill Good show from 11:30 AM to 12:00 PM.

Live photo radar discussion on Rogers Cable October 1st
SENSE Director of Research Michael Cain and Constitutional photo radar fighter Doug Stead will be appearing on the TV program "Under Appeal" on Thursday, October 1st, between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM. This is a live phone-in program available on the Rogers Cable system in the Lower Mainland (channel 4), hosted by lawyer Scott Taylor.
September 17, 1998 Papers filed in Constitutional appeal...
Coquitlam business-person Doug Stead has filed his submissions in the Crown's appeal of his win against photo radar on Constitutional grounds. He will be in court on Tuesday, September 29th, 1998 and we hope that many people will attend to show their support.
July 27, 1998 Appeal filed in Constitutional decision...
Coquitlam business-person Doug Stead has issued a press release on his photo radar case. SENSE urges all to help support this fight, and has now created a separate web page on his charter challenge.
Support the Constitutional challenge of photo radar 
send your donations to: 
Barbara Brown In Trust - Photo Radar Defense 
Box 12155, 808 Nelson Street 
Vancouver V6Z 2H2

July 21, 1998 More photo radar service records released...
Today in Question Period, the Liberals released the service records of all the photo radar vans. Contained within their questions were reports of numerous significant problems related directly to the accuracy of the photo radar cameras. The government, content to allow potentially faulty equipment issue erroneous speeding tickets to innocent owners, stated only that photo radar was responsible for saving many lives -- a highly debatable issue given international trends, the BC economy, weather, vehicle improvements, and other safety programs.

The issue of the service records and accuracy of the photo radar units is long from being settled conclusively in the courts, however SENSE will not be posting any new service records. During a recent court case to obtain complete service records, American Traffic Systems-Canada lawyers complained that SENSE had made available the service records of two photo radar vans (see News for April 14, 1998) and that the records were the confidential property of ATS-Canada. ATS-Canada lawyers also attempted to hold the trial on the service records in a closed court (i.e. no public or media), a move vigorously opposed by defence counsel and denied by the court. Media present in the court at the time were baffled by the desire for secrecy over such information.

While SENSE does not agree that evidence of the reliability of a device used in law enforcement should be anything but open to the public, an undertaking was made by SENSE to not publicize any further service records or the specific contents. It was, and is, our belief that the contents of the service records will eventually be made public through the court process. For the record, neither SENSE, it's directors, or members were in any way involved in the release of any new records nor have we ever had possession of any new records.

BC Liberals say "Scrap Photo Radar"!

July 9, 1998, July 10 Constitutional decision could knock out photo radar...
Judgment was delivered today in the R. v. Tri-M Systems Inc. case (see News for December 5, 1997) and the Crown lost! In the 31 page ruling, Justice of the Peace Zahid Makhdoom ruled that the British Columbia legislation which permits photo radar to function is unconstitutional. The judgment states that the "... public has the right to be protected from 'bad drivers' not 'dead-beat drivers'" -- the crucial distinction being that photo radar can prevent an innocent owner from renewing his or her license based upon the tickets of another person being attached to the vehicle registration. SENSE has long maintained that the operation of the BC legislation is to collect fines from the owners, not punish the speeding (and allegedly dangerous) drivers.

While the implications of this judgment to other tickets is not known at this time, we will keep you posted. People who are considering paying their tickets, and who can still file a dispute might want to do so. Those who have court dates in the near future might ask for a stay (dismissal of charges) or an adjournment pending the outcome of any appeal of this decision.

June 23, 1998 Watch out! -- ICBC cops armed for revenue collection
As SENSE first reported July 7, 1997, ICBC continues to fund laser guns and overtime for local police departments. The two $7,650 LTI 20/20 Speedscope's purchased for Prince George and Vanderhoof are capable of measuring both speed and following distance, giving a guaranteed penalty point windfall to ICBC. (ICBC's press releases are on their "News Releases" page.)

ICBC currently coerces BC police officers to issue more and more conventional speeding tickets by paying time and a half to off-duty officers to run corridor speed enforcement programs. Coupled with recent increases in speeding fines (see November 6, 1997) and penalty points (see May 1, 1998), the biggest hazards on the roads are the police and ICBC.

SENSE is not advocating that people should speed excessively or tailgate, but passing situations occur where these momentary scenarios become quite common. Here is an updated illustration on the revenue picture, which gives new meaning to "they've got you in their sights":

Before... The ICBC Revenue Cops...
Speeding Ticket (+22 km/h) $100.00 3 points
ICBC Penalty Point 
Premiums (for 3 points)
Total $100.00
Speeding Ticket (+22 km/h) $150.00 3 points
Following Too Closely $75.00 3 points
Victims of Crime Surcharge 
(15% - started July 1, 97)
ICBC Penalty Point 
Premiums (for 6 points)
Total $559.00
Figures assume average conventional speeding charge, driver with no other penalty point tickets in current year.

June 21, 1998 Live photo radar discussion on Rogers Cable this Thursday
SENSE Director of Research Michael Cain will be appearing on the program "Under Appeal" this Thursday between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM. This is a live program available on the Rogers Cable system in the Lower Mainland (channel 4), hosted by lawyer Scott Taylor, and will feature the SENSE web site, phone-in questions, and possibly representatives from the police, government, or ICBC.

The program will repeat on Thursday, July 2, at 9:00 PM.

May 29, 1998, June 2 Government pays $400,000 ($150 per word) for 25 page photo radar manual
A list of payments to American Traffic Systems (suppliers of BC's photo radar equipment) indicates that they were paid $400,000 to produce a 25 page document titled "Verification Rules Handbook." This booklet instructs ticket processing clerks on which photographs are acceptable and which are to be discarded.

The list of payments also shows that ATS was paid a total $15,222,949.82 from 1995 to March 5, 1997, and appears to indicate that $965,000 went for documentation and manuals. Even at this incredible cost, disputants of photo radar tickets are told that the provincial government does not even own the copyright on the 40+ page Operator's Manual, and are thus refused copies.

However, the larger question is: just what value have BC taxpayers received for their $+15 million investment in 30 photo radar cameras? Until the contract between the provincial government and ATS is fully released (we've been waiting 618 days so far) taxpayers can't calculate if an incompetent government paid far too much. See our "Contract" page for detailed information on costs and attempts to get the contracts released.

Here is Friday's Canadian Taxpayers Federation editorial.

May 29, 1998 Corridor Speed Enforcement list for this year...
Once again, ICBC is paying police officers overtime incentive pay to nail motorists travelling throughout the province. If these levels of speed enforcement were truly beneficial, police departments would independently assign a greater proportion of officers to the task. Instead, they must be bribed to act as revenue collectors. Recent increases in penalty points, coupled with a few tickets will certainly help government coffers.

Here's the press release and the advertised locations:

May 7, 1998 Kootenay speed limit increases reannounced
Transportation and Highways Minister Harry Lali has announced some speed limit increases from 90 km/h to 100 km/h on the following Kootenay roads will finally occur: These increases were originally announced September 26, 1997, (see our Old News page), but not implemented at that time.

May 1, 1998 Predicted penalty point increases announced Friday afternoon
As we predicted, based upon the document leaked from ICBC (see News for January 15), ICBC has announced that penalty point premiums will be raised by about 10-20% effective June 1. Although a detailed list was not available (here's the old list), it would appear that just two conventional speeding tickets will now get you an estimated $310 penalty point fine, up from $270 -- and this is on top of the tickets ($100 to $400 each) and Victims of Crime surcharge (15%). Two minimal speed, non-photo radar speeding tickets will now cost about $540 total.

While penalty points don't YET apply to photo radar tickets (except for tickets issued to a nominated driver), the leaked document also indicated discussions to add points to all photo radar tickets and lower the penalty point threshold to 3 points (one speeding ticket).

April 21, 1998 "What would happen if . . . we raised highway speed limits?"
On news stands this week, SENSE contributed an opinion column for the The Next City, an excellent Canadian "solutions-oriented" national quarterly magazine that examines public policies. Responding for the status quo is Frank Navin, a UBC professor and frequent ICBC consultant. Neither writer was aware of the other's content until the magazine was published.

Check out our opinion column, the entire issue, and the back issues for some enlightened approaches to many issues.

April 14, 1998 Photo radar service logs raise more questions than they answer
As a result of two photo radar trials (one on-going, one acquitted), SENSE has received copies of service logs for two of the photo radar vans. Since photo radar began ticketing in August 1996, SENSE has taken approximately 20 telephone reports of drivers who have received photo radar tickets after visually observing the van from a distance, ensuring that the he or she was travelling at the speed limit, and then passing the photo radar van, but simultaneously being passed by a faster vehicle -- which is not captured in the image. At this time, we are unable to offer an explanation of this phenomena, but it could be the result of radar reflections, hardware, or software problems. (The acquitted ticket noted above was based upon the credible testimony of a driver who experienced the described situation. To ensure accuracy, the speedometer of the driver's vehicle was checked by radar and found to be reliable.)

Photo radar is a shortcut for the police and government. Traditional speed enforcement is based upon an officer's independent visual estimation of a vehicle's speed, corroboration by radar, and the subsequent apprehension of the driver (who can then take notes, if unjustly accused, to defend him or herself). Police officers in the photo radar vans DO NOT make independent observations of the vehicles, nor do they employ the built-in capability of the photo radar units to make videotape records of each deployment. Photo radar has an "air of accuracy" which has not been earned, but deemed so by a revenue motivated government. While this equipment is undoubtedly capable of taking valid photographs of speeding vehicles, one is left to question just how many erroneous photographs are taken of innocent motorists.

The questions raised by these records may appear to some to be only a "fishing expedition", but they are much more when one considers that identical photo radar units were found by an Anchorage, Alaska, magistrates court to be "insufficient to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt". This decision was upheld by the Alaska Court of Appeal.

Each record has 35-36 entries for about an 18 month period. Using previously provided deployment statistics, we calculate a mean time between service issue of about 25 operational hours. Somewhat less than the manufacturer's advertised Mean Time Between Failure of 24,900 hours.

It is not directly possible for defendant's to determine which photo radar van issued their ticket. This ultimately requires the presence of the police officer in court to testify which van was being used. Defendant's generally require "evidence to the contrary" for the justice to permit cross examination of the officer or order production of records -- see our page on "going to court". If you can't recall the circumstances of the photograph being taken, you likely won't be able to get anywhere in court (another benefit to the government of their "shortcut").

Here are the service logs as obtained by fax:

March 18, 1998 ICBC tries again to take all the credit for reductions in crashes
On Monday, ICBC released a press release which yet again credits a reduction in crashes to their road safety initiatives (which includes photo radar and a number of program not even in effect yet!). Wise SENSE members will know that any crash reductions are significantly (if not completely) attributable to the economy and the weather -- two very important factors which failed to receive any mention in ICBC's press release.

In a Vancouver Sun news item today titled "El Nino: It's Official: This Was A Mild Winter," it was reported that this was "the second warmest winter since records began in 1948." Better driving conditions equals less crashes.

Recent BC media reports suggest that BC is clearly in an economic slowdown, if not heading in to a recession. It is well known by traffic researchers that a good economy results in more people travelling more often, and a bad economy reduces both the number of trips and the average number of occupants. In fact, in Victoria, Australia, for the year 1993, it was reported that their increased unemployment reduced serious casualty crashes 15.3% alone.

It seems that the only significant thing this government has done for road safety is to send us into financial oblivion.

February 16, 1998 ICBC posts a $14 million surplus in 1997
BC motorists and taxpayers should be wary of this not unexpected announcement. Once again, it appears that the books are being cooked. We will either pay through deceptive transfers of taxes, higher future insurance rates, or higher fines and penalties -- applied to an even larger portion of the motoring public.

February 2, 1998 SENSE outlines all the options...
Effective today, SENSE launches a significantly larger and more informative page on "dealing with tickets." This updated page -- twice the length of the older version -- clearly outlines the options available when a photo radar ticket is received. The ICBC document leaked to SENSE (see News for January 15) indicates that up to 25% of all photo radar tickets are being frustrated -- that is... the owner/driver never needs to pay for the ticket.

Motorists who familiarize themselves with the new web page should have a clear understanding of all the options for photo radar tickets, and could avoid paying this road tax. In consideration for the time and expense that SENSE members put in to the organization, please consider donating all or a portion of your savings to help our fight.

January 28, 1998 Examining photo radar
No, no, and no. Contrary to ICBC's message which has been picked up by much of the unquestioning media in the last couple of weeks, there is little evidence to support any of the above claims. For some critical discussion, see:
January 28, 1998 ICBC: "Public Support for Photo Radar Steady, Survey Says"
In this excellent illustration of ICBC public opinion manipulation, they ask the skillfully crafted question: "do you feel that using radar cameras to catch speeders is a good way or a bad way to prevent speed-related accidents and injuries in BC?" Here is a copy of their press release and the attached graph:
"Photo Radar Support"
September 1996 -- December 1997
The question is solely designed to elicit high support ratings from the public:

This is akin to asking the question "should lead be used to help keep our unsafe streets clean" and then purport this to mean "overwhelming support for shooting homeless people."

Now that photo radar is not even required to operate in valid "speed-related accident" zones, as per changes to the police operating procedures (see News for October 17), one can conclude that this question bears little relation to the actual operation of photo radar in BC.

Perhaps SENSE should undertake to gauge public support for the question: "Do you support the use of photo radar surveillance to ticket drivers travelling at safe and reasonable speeds in areas where speed limits do not meet international criteria?"

January 15, 1998 ICBC Minister's Brief: "Autoplan Renewal and Savings Initiatives" released
SENSE and the BC chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) have jointly released this 103 page internal and confidential document "Policy Options for the Minister Responsible for ICBC" to the media and public. This document was anonymously forwarded to SENSE and we have been working with the CTF to highlight the important points to the BC public -- both motorists and taxpayers.

All motorists and taxpayers should read our joint press release (also posted on CTF's site) to get an overview of the proposed changes to insurance, photo radar, penalty points, and more. The entire original 117K Microsoft Word 6.0 document is available for convenient browsing on CTF's site or zip'ed (69K) for download. If you need the document in another format or cannot download it, please e-mail us.

January 14+21, 1998 ICBC road safety debate tonight...
SENSE Director of Research Michael Cain, Leigh Carter of ICBC, Jim Ball of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, and Colin Brown of Canadian Direct Insurance will be debating ICBC's efforts to regulate road safety on the Knowledge Network's Studio BC tonight between 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM. The live debate will air in the last half of the show. The program repeats at 6:00 PM on Thursday, and also Sunday at 11:00 PM.

You can read the viewer responses here.

January 12, 1998 Foreshadowing ICBC rate announcement and other revenue generation programs, government spin begins...
The government is releasing information on the benefits of photo radar today. To counter these questionable claims, SENSE is releasing two press releases. The first release contains (and explains) the graph below and puts perspective on the magnitude and real causes of the 1997 drop in BC fatalties and crashes.

Our second release, intended for media who will receive local statistics designed to suppress objection of photo radar, raises questions to ensure that these statistics are valid and represent improvements actually caused by photo radar.

January 8, 1998 SENSE releases new photo radar defence technique to public
Today, SENSE launches a new section on our web site called"Preventing Tickets." -- see our press release. The first technique to be listed is a form we've called "Record of Owner Responsibility - Photo Radar Tickets" along with a list of procedures that can help protect owners who responsibly lend their vehicles to other drivers. This form was successfully used in a December court case and helps the owner to prove that they exercised "reasonable care and diligence" in lending their vehicle. Similar legal protections exist in other jurisdictions Oregon, for example), as enacted by statute, which don't require the owner to fight the ticket -- but the BC government chose not to provide a similar process here.

The defence of photo radar tickets using the "reasonable care and diligence" section requires an owner to meet some conditions. Since these conditions come from case law, not statute, the vast majority of owners are unaware of them and thus rarely meet the threshold. SENSE has attempted to compile the primary conditions into a one-page form and added additional information to help owners meet the threshold. This information is applicable to both businesses and individuals.

SENSE Director of Research, Michael Cain said today "if everyone who lent their vehicles, whether to relatives, friends, or employees, successfully used this form in court, the lost revenue and additional costs would force the government to enact a fair system to ensure that only the offender was prosecuted, not the innocent owners. A fundamental problem of automated enforcement is that it penalizes the owner after the fact, not the offender at the time of infraction."

more news here...
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