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Council told not to tinker with photo radar

City administration is recommending council leave the give and take lead-footed drivers receive from photo radar cameras untouched.

City administration is recommending council leave the give and take lead-footed drivers receive from photo radar cameras untouched.

The recommendation is contained in a response to an information request Mayor Nolan Crouse made earlier this month about the leeway drivers receive between when they speed over the limit and when an actual ticket is issued.

Crouse wanted to know what impact lowering the speeding tolerance would have on city revenues. In the response to council, administration indicated tolerances are set using industry standards and changing them to suit an individual community’s needs is not advised.

Chris Jardine, general manager of protective and community services, said there is an understanding in the industry about what the right tolerances are.

“This isn’t just some arbitrary thing that you can pick and choose on because there are some industry norms that you should be following.”

He said police officers and photo radar operators make the decision on a daily basis based on their location, weather conditions, as well as the general guidelines the city imposes.

The city’s intersection cameras aren’t adjusted every day, which is reflected into the device’s tolerance levels.

Jardine said the city doesn’t reveal those guidelines, or how much over the limit one can drive before receiving a ticket, because their advice to all drivers is to simply obey the limit.

“The posted speed limit is what people should be driving, but that being said, tickets aren’t issued for driving one kilometre over the speed limit.”

The report to council also outlines that because the Alberta Solicitor General oversees the program, any changes to how much room city drivers get has to be based on sound statistics and information.

Jardine said one Alberta municipality had its photo radar program suspended for changing tolerances. Another community he worked with before coming to St. Albert also received a warning to that effect.

All told, the city’s photo radar and intersection cameras brings in $2.3 million to city coffers, which are offset by the approximate $1 million required to run the program.

In contrast, the RCMP generates $900,000 in revenue and municipal enforcement another $500,000 through traffic tickets, though both those amounts included infractions other than speeding.

Jardine said even though it’s often panned as a cash cow, photo radar is a very effective way at getting people to slow down.

Crouse said his ultimate goal in asking about the tolerance rates and revenue impacts was to get the information and hopefully make the community safer.

“If photo radar has an impact on slowing people down and speed is causing accidents or is a contributor to accidents, then why not tighten it up?”

He said statistics have shown the photo radar program has slowed drivers in the city down and it only make sense to expand that.

“If you increase the number of units, decrease the tolerance and increase the fines, you will have people driving slower.”