Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) is a tool that is being used more frequently for traffic law enforcement in B.C. Cameras mounted on police vehicles scan vehicle licence plates as they pass and compare them to a computer database. A "hit" in the database is announced to the patrolling officer and the vehicle will be stopped for investigation.
ALPR is an effective tool for the detection of prohibited and unlicensed drivers. These offenders were usually discovered incidentally during the investigation of an unrelated driving offence in past. Today thousands of vehicles per hour can be checked and these drivers positively singled out. During 2013 1,944 drivers were charged for driving without a driver's licence, 313 for driving while prohibited and 416 had notices of driving prohibition served to them at roadside.
The detection of stolen vehicles, licence plates and licence validation decals, people with warrants and Amber Alerts are other uses that ALPR may be put to. The 2013 statistics appear to indicate that "hits" in these categories are not nearly as frequent as unlicensed and prohibited drivers. 34 outstanding warrants discovered was the highest total from this group.
Since ALPR can be used to store information about when and where a vehicle was encountered, many people have privacy concerns about its use. In British Columbia this information is only stored for "hits" that have resulted in enforcement action. The balance of the data is deleted. The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner is the provincial agency responsible for the oversight of ALPR data collection.
... and I'm sure this has been helpful to the police to identify miscreants on the road.
Meanwhile, some lifelong friends of ours were driving their son's car across BC recently (their family moved), and they were pulled over by the RCMP as their son's driver license was prohibited/suspended.
And yet, with all this technology - including police cars that must by now be festooned with technology and cameras and stuff (including those 'laptop' computer devices in their cars, that they're generally so focused on at traffic lights) - there is less than 5% enforcement (with undeniable accompanying video) of drivers tailgating, drivers changing lanes illegaly, drivers turning on red illegaly, drivers failing to give pedestrians right of way, pedestrians failing to give drivers right of way.
It's just stupid, when you consider the technology - and relative cost - of the potential use of these modern electronic tools, to make roads safer.
And meanwhile, there is this vast gulf, it seems, between what the cops are doing, what the highway engineers are doing, and what bad drivers are doing, in terms of reducing the number of bad drivers on our roads.
And, bad pedestrians. And, bad cyclists. And, so on ...