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"The BC photo radar program operates under a fairness code"
Any "fairness code" is useless because it is not in statute. If the provisions are violated, you have no recourse through the courts -- a judge has no basis to hear your arguments that the code was violated. If the government is truly sincere about the "fairness code", put it in statute, and express all statements objectively not subjectively.


From the Integrated Traffic Camera Unit Manual:

12.1 Site Selection Criteria:
    1. Sites will be selected based on a crash history or, a documented record of speeding as a community concern. All sites will be substantiated by accident data which shows speed was the contributing factor.

    2. what's a "history"? -- why not express it as a rate: e.g. more than 1.5 crashes per 1 million vehicle-kilometers? many speed related crashes are related to conditions, not excessive speed!
      who is this "community"? have you been invited? what's documented - one person's complaint? can these be vetoed? is this "community" composed of traffic engineers? maybe it's an engineering problem, not an enforcement problem?
    3. A Speed Camera site will not be established within a community where there is clearly no public support for the Speed Camera Project.

    4. if you can get your city council to say no, there will be no photo radar!
    5. A Speed Camera site will not be established within 150 meters of a speed sign change in a municipality or within 300 meters of a speed sign change on a highway or a speed transition zone. A transition zone is a relatively short speed zone between a high and a low one which allows drivers to comfortably accelerate or decelerate. For example, a transition zone of 70 kph is often used between a 50 kph speed zone within a town and a 90 kph zone in an adjacent rural area.

    6. get your measuring tapes out!
    7. Selected sites should be on relatively straight and flat sections of road where drivers do not typically accelerate or decelerate but travel at a constant speed.

    8. if sites are not on straight roads, the camera's internal calculations may overstate or understate your true speed!
    9. A Speed Camera site will not be established where such an operation will be a hazard to the Speed Camera Operator or the motoring public.

    10. aren't most vehicles parked on the side of the road a potential hazard? In Ontario, a number of collisions were reported as motorists slamming on their brakes were rear-ended!
    11. A Speed Camera site should be at least 500 meters away from traffic signals, stop signs, yield signs and freeway ramps.

    12. get your measuring tapes out!
    13. A Speed Camera site should be at least 300 meters away from curves with advisory speeds.

    14. you might be going too slow for them to get any pictures!
    15. A Speed Camera site should be at least 300 meters away from bridges.

    17. A Speed Camera site should not be downstream of any enforcement activities which would cause drivers to slow down more than usual.

    18. you might be going too slow for them to get any pictures!
    19. A Speed Camera site will not be established in a speed zone which has been determined to be inappropriate. Such a determination will follow the Site Evaluation Process which will be completed by the ITCU Site Selection Team. This does not mean that the Province, Municipalities, or the Police will be conducting an evaluation of every speed zone in the Province. It does mean that the Integrated Traffic Camera Unit will evaluate the speeds within the specific sites that communities identify.

    20. if you've ever gotten a speeding ticket for travelling at a safe and reasonable speed, you won't like this -- police policing the police!
"Revenue from photo radar tickets peaked after introduction and then fell rapidly as motorists slowed down" -- quoted from the ICBC photo radar web page (July 8, 1997).
Victoria, Australia, (which has about the same population as BC and is the model for the BC program) has had a full photo radar program since July 1990. Their photo radar total tickets issued since the official start of the program are noted on the table below, as are some other interesting figures.

Only after six years of operation were ticket volumes finally down to the level of tickets issued in the first 12 months of the program. Similarly, ticket fines have not dropped dramatically either. Although the percentage of vehicles "speeding" (above the threshold tolerance) has dropped dramatically, police still managed to issue large numbers of tickets.

Advice to ICBC, the government of BC, and a few members of the media: better check the accuracy of the statements you make!

12-month period
(July - June)
% of first
% vehicles
1-15 km/h
16-29 km/h
30+ km/h
($A mil)
Fines $A 105 $A 165 $A 220-360
1990 - 1991 416,551 100.0% 12.66% 83.4% 15.9% 0.7% $47.4
1991 - 1992 577,266 138.6% 7.49% 86.2% 13.3% 0.5% $64.9
1992 - 1993 479,454 115.1% 4.75% 88.1% 11.4% 0.5% $53.4
1993 - 1994 497,356 119.4% 3.74% 88.1% 11.3% 0.6% $55.3
1994 - 1995 454,078 109.0% 3.22% 88.4% 11.1% 0.5% $50.5
1995 - 1996 415,474 99.7% 2.99% 88.8% 10.7% 0.5% $46.1
1996 - 1997
390,231 93.7% 2.59% 89.6% 10.0% 0.4% $43.1

Information obtained by spreadsheet from Victoria Police Traffic Camera Office.
* Total fines are not publicised, figures based upon SENSE estimates.

"The number of speeders in Victoria, Australia dropped from 23% to 3.5% in five years"
This statement is frequently used by supporters of photo radar to push the "short-term pain, long-term gain" idea. 

It is true that the percentage of drivers passing cameras who are speeding has dropped, but it certainly doesn't speak to the truth of the matter -- photo radar tickets have remained constant! (see above

And, if you think that it is only the "excessive" speed drivers who get all the tickets, think again. The table to the right is from Victoria, Australia recidivism rates for 1993 (the latest year available). As you can see, very few drivers get multiple tickets.

NEW!Using these recidivism rates you can project the distribution of tickets among a target population. As shown, 414,807 different people received 482,857 tickets which means that 85.9% of tickets go to unique people. If a government plans to issue 100,000 tickets per year, approximately 85,900 different people will get tickets. Any belief that photo radar is targeted solely at dangerous drivers is simply not credible.

Tickets Issued Total Drivers Percentage NEW!Total Tickets
one 358,930 86.53% 358,930
two 46,397 11.19% 92,794
three 7,657 1.85% 22,971
four 1,241 0.30% 4,964
five 331 0.08% 1,655
six 221 0.05% 1,326
seven 19 0.00% 133
eight 8 0.00% 64
nine 0 0.00% 0
ten 2 0.00% 20
more than ten 1 0.00% n/a
TOTAL 414,807 100.00% 482,857
"Photo radar will target only the excessive speeder" 
"Photo radar's success will be measured not by how many tickets are issued, but by how few"
In 1994, there were 17,865 convictions for Excessive Speeding (MVA Section 148 [was 152.1]).

However, the Request for Proposal: Speed Management Project, p. B16, states that "a number of stakeholders... will be significantly impacted by the additional 1.6 million notices/violation tickets expected in the first year of operation."

This clearly says that they expect 1,600,000 tickets in the first year! That's a 9000% increase over the number of excessive speeding tickets currently issued! It looks like they'll have to go after the rest of the driving population to meet their ticket targets!

An internal Ministry of Finance "Question and Answer" document (used for media relations) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Vancouver Sun, states: "Revenue assumptions for 1996/97 of $65 million were based on a starting date of July 1, 1996. The program was intended to ramp-up for the first 3 months and be fully operational by October 1, 1996." The document continues: "Should revenue be less than budgeted, the government is prepared to take the necessary actions to achieve our fiscal targets." Necessary actions? Fiscal targets? Either more tickets or higher fines or both?

Other evidence that the government planned to issue a lot of tickets:

  • The Motor Vehicle Branch - Traffic Safety Initiative Quick Reference Guide states in its Bank Fines Payment Project section that photo radar "is expected to generate a million fines in its first year."
  • NEW!The contract between the Provincial Government and American Traffic Systems (limited sections of which have been obtained by SENSE under a Freedom of Information request) state that the system is to be designed to handle:
  • 2,860,000 images per year
  • resulting in 1,600,000 notices (based upon an error rate of 44%)
  • resulting in 960,000 violations (based upon 60% of notices)
    SENSE says that more than 15% of drivers will get tickets, why then are only about 6-7% of total vehicles passing cameras getting tickets?
    If you think that only the top 6-7% of drivers are getting tickets, you're wrong. What is actually happening, is that photos of drivers exceeding the government's 85th percentile tolerance are taken (around 15% of drivers depending upon a number of factors), but many are discarded for reasons which have nothing to do with the driver's speed. Any driver who happens to be in the top 15% of the traffic flow, has an equally likely chance of getting a ticket as that truly excessive speed driver in the top 2-5%!

    Another interesting point: research has shown that a driver who generally travels at the average speed of traffic, will exceed the 85th percentile speed 11% of the time! This means that an "average" driver (i.e. not an "excessive speeder") might potentially get a photo radar ticket once every nine times he or she passes a camera!

    SENSE says that 1 in 3 BC drivers will get a speeding ticket each year, and the government says you're wrong? -- prove it
    Using the recidivism rates above as a guide, we expect that 80 to 87% of speeding tickets issued will go to drivers who receive only one ticket. We'll use the more conservative 80%.

    The most reliable projections we have seen are that 600,000 to 800,000 photo radar tickets will be issued each year. Again, we'll use the more conservative 600,000.

    There are about 2,400,000 licenced drivers in BC. Police currently issue about 400,000 conventional speeding tickets each year. We expect that this will drop by about 10-15% (based upon Victoria, Australia's experience) to about 350,000.

    So, we expect to see about 950,000 (350,000 + 600,000) speeding tickets written annually in BC. 80% of them will go to drivers who only get one ticket, therefore 760,000 (80% x 950,000) drivers will get one speeding ticket each year. That's 32% of the BC driving population.

    "There will be public consultations"
    The August 19, 1996, edition of BC Report magazine interviewed a former ICBC manager who labeled the much promoted public-consultation process a 'sham' and said that neither the government nor ICBC ever intended for the public to be truly consulted. Only 'selected and anointed' lobby groups are invited to the meetings.

    In his September 21, 1996, column in The Vancouver Sun, Stephen Hume writes about the arrogance of our government in relation to "community input":

    "Yet from around the province, signals are coming in that [Premier] Clark's fledgling government is increasingly perceived as arrogant, imperious and bullying. Its defining characteristic seems to be a fundamental inability to listen to the little guy."

    "His government, of course, waxes eloquent on its commitment to community input. But what it does contradicts what it says."

    Have you ever seen an advertisement inviting you to a meeting? Have you ever seen an advertisement instructing you on how to find these groups?
    For a 'Community based program' there sure are a lot of questions about photo radar!
    The provincial government had intended to distribute, by general mail or flyer delivery, a multi-page flyer to all residences in BC. This has never occurred, and is currently sitting "on the shelf" somewhere between the Motor Vehicle Branch and ICBC.

    Past ICBC research indicates that the more the general public is aware of photo radar, the less they tend to support it. It's no coincidence that while photo radar was supposed to be on our streets January 1, 1996, its introduction was delayed until after the provincial election.

    "Speeding causes about 200 deaths (40% of total) each year"

    In an ICBC ad which ran in The Vancouver Sun on March 30, 1996, p. A17, (and other dates and publications), it is stated that "every year, approximately 200 motorists [40% of fatalities] are killed and 8,000 injured in accidents caused by speeding." Note the use of the word caused.

    The British Columbia Motor Vehicle Branch 1994 Traffic Collision Statistics cautions that "a collision is often the result of a chain of events," and does not designate causes, but only "contributing factors."

    Further reading reveals that "notably, in 39.6% of all unsafe speed related fatal collisions, alcohol was also considered a factor." And, in fact, an in-depth ICBC sponsored toxicology study reveals that 66% of the time that speed is cited as a contributing factor in a fatal collision, alcohol and/or drugs are present in the driver.

    During the CBC program Public-Forum Live on March 18, 1996, SENSE accused ICBC of lying to the public by using the above advertisements, yet ICBC representative Leigh Carter denied that ICBC used this type of advertising, stating in response "we have never said that speed causes 40% of accidents [referring to fatalities]."

    Is it honest or even ethical to say that speeding caused 200 deaths? Absolutely not when up to 133 of those fatalities include the criminal behaviour of driving while intoxicated. But it does sell photo radar!

    "Photo radar will save $325 million and 50 lives in the first year"
    These figures are based upon wildly optimistic assumptions based upon misrepresented facts about the infinitely more comprehensive Victoria, Australia, traffic safety program.

    The cost savings do not take into account the economic costs of the program (i.e. loss of productivity, increased travel times, fine payments, court costs, etc.), but they do include estimated (and very highly speculative) down-stream social costs.

    Nor will the government likely disclose the true effects that increased conventional traffic enforcement (now happening) and increased Counterattack advertising and enforcement (now happening) will have -- these effects will be forgotten and attributed to photo radar!

    "Photo radar will free up officers so that real crimes can actually be investigated" 
    "Photo radar will mean less conventional speed enforcement"
    In Victoria, Australia, (the apparent model for our program) conventional speeding tickets have decreased only by about 10% to 15% since the introduction of photo radar.

    Claims that photo radar will free police officers up to attack other (more beneficial, less revenue producing) problems are highly exaggerated, especially when you look at the increased intensity of conventional speeding enforcement currently active in BC.

    "Photo radar / penalty points will not be a windfall for ICBC"
    It will be when they add penalty points to all photo radar tickets, a feature which is available in the current legislation. See our page about penalty points.
    Cause and effect considerations
    Many traffic safety solutions which appear positive at first glance, may have greater negative consequences when human behavior is considered, for example:
     Rev: 2001.10.29 contact SENSEtext map of SENSE web siteback to SENSE home pageback to top of this page