To pick up a Times Colonist, you’d think Photo Radar was a real life saver. Here’s another misguided piece, praising the Provincial Health Officer and his call for Photo Radar, that we responded to, but that (no surprise) didn’t make it into print. You can read it here.

Here’s what we said:

You don’t see engineers telling doctors what medicine to take but the doctors feel entitled to express their emotion-laden opinion on matters of traffic engineering, specifically the on-going call to return photo radar.

Photo radar is a shotgun approach to a very specific problem.  The doctor’s fundamental error is a belief that exceeding the limit alone is the problem.

A Transport Canada paper succinctly captures this core misunderstanding:  “While contributing to the severity of the collision, there is little evidence to indicate that travel speed is a cause of collisions. The desire to reduce the number and severity of collisions must begin with an understanding of the difference between driving too fast for the prevailing conditions, and driving faster than the posted speed limit.”

Research show virtually no correlation between having speeding tickets and being at-fault in future serious crashes.  Why?  Even without photo radar, too many tickets are issued to too large a swath of motorists – the shotgun approach of focusing on speed.  Most recipients of speeding tickets are usually experienced drivers travelling familiar roads at reasonable and safe speeds, but above the posted limit.   The vast majority provably aren’t dangerous drivers, but they do represent a revenue source and a contentious belief that ticketing them will make the roads safer.

It is no surprise that an ICBC study found two-thirds of speed-related fatalities to have drug or alcohol involvement.  These drivers don’t need a ticket in the mail weeks later. They need a live police officer.  For the doctor to suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

There is no doubt that police need to target excessive speeding, but focusing on the truly excessive speeder doesn’t require costly automated systems and new bureaucracies – it requires correct speed limits and a renewed focus of existing police resources on the dangerous driver and a wide variety of under-policed traffic offences that aren’t speeding.

Doctors are using their bully pulpit on the experts at the Ministry of Transportation.  Leave the engineering up to the experts.