Driver Attitude and Automated Enforcement

Red Light Camera SignPerhaps the most effective way to improve road safety is by improving road user attitude. If selfish and unsafe behaviours can be shown as detrimental and users convinced to choose what is beneficial on their own reaching our Vision Zero targets have a better chance of being successful. Some people are willing to change their outlook when it makes sense to do so, but we also share the road with those who are not willing.

A prime example of those who are not willing was found in a letter to the editor of the Nanaimo News Bulletin on July 25, 2017 attributed to a D. Parker of Victoria.

I have just received a $167 ticket. I was photographed at the Norwell Drive-Island Highway intersection supposedly running a red light on a left turn. The photo shows my vehicle travelling through the intersection while all traffic in the oncoming lane was at a standstill so still observing a red light.

I was not aware that photo radar was back in vogue. I cannot remember seeing any warning signs as to this cash trap anywhere.

I am a pensioner who was just returning from a very nice trip with my wife and four grandkids in Parksville, so I was not about to take any chances. We live in Victoria, but wanted to stop for lunch at one of your local restaurants then take our grandkids to two local attractions and buy gas.

Therefore, this unscheduled stop has now ended up costing me and my family the $167 ripoff and the $225 we spent on local businesses – a total of $392.

The ticket I received distinctly says this money will be used to support the municipality’s cost of local policing. Well, you won’t be getting any more from our family – I will stop in a friendlier municipality in future.

Here's a driver who ran a red light while making a left turn and received a red light camera ticket in the mail for that action. He justifies himself by saying that he is a pensioner who doesn't take risks, opposing traffic was stopped and he wasn't told that a red light camera was in operation at that intersection. The $167 penalty was a ripoff and from now on he's going to prefer visits to municipalities that don't have red light cameras.

All of this does not change the fact that he made a very human error and failed to stop as required for a red light. He did not cause a collision, this time.

This particular intersection had the highest number of reported collisions in the City of Nanaimo from 2011 to 2015 according to ICBC's crash map. 140 of the 301 crashes resulted in casualties. No doubt road users who failed to follow traffic signal directions played a role in establishing that total but we are not told what the contributing factors were via the map.

Do you think that the real message in that letter to the editor was "I don't like the fact that automated enforcement is holding me to account for my mistake."

On the subject of automated enforcement, I saw an interesting Tweet last week from @JRogers202:

It's irresponsible to call this a speed trap. Like calling cameras in a bank a robbery trap. JUST. DRIVE. THE. SPEED. LIMIT.

He was referring to photo radar which the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission is trying to have returned to the Malahat Highway.

The proposed system is different from the Safari van sitting at the roadside that measured your speed as you passed it. The point to point system calculates your average speed over a set distance instead. Experience with this scheme in Europe shows reductions in speed and significant reductions in collisions.

Rate pressures for our Autoplan insurance are increasing right along with our collision claims and costs. A recent report done for ICBC suggests increasing automated enforcement, adding 100 new IRSU positions and enabling the red light camera's ability to do speed enforcement on green. It also suggests implementing automated enforcement technologies to counter distracted driving as they become available.

If the cost of collisions is not reduced, Autoplan may have to become a no fault plan in order to keep insurance rates affordable. I would rather see rates kept low by collision reduction instead.

... if you run a red light camera, the clear evidence (two photos, one showing your vehicle approaching the intersection after the light has gone from amber to red, the next showing your vehicle having entered the intersection anyway) is provided.

So D. Parker cannot be in any doubt that he committed a violation, and one that potentially put him, his passengers, and other road users at risk of a violent collision. (That intersection averages 62 crashes annually, half of which result in injury.)

I don't particularly like law enforcement that targets the vehicle owner, with only a fiscal penalty (rather than ticketing the driver and giving them penalty points as well) but frankly I would be happy if every traffic light in the province had red light cameras in operation 24/7.

There's simply no excuse for running a red light and that's all there is to it.

The folks that complain about automated tickets are those not following the safe standards of the majority. Oh, the folks that make it necessary to pay for enforcement as they feel entitled to flaunt the rules of society that are there to make society safe. Hmmm.

Perhaps they should also turn off the daytime running lights, rip out their seat belts, disable their airbags, and be prepared to pay their own medical bills after an incident.

I originally thought that maybe he had entered the intersection when it was legal to do so and then was caught making a left after the light had turned red stopping on-coming traffic. I pulled the intersection up on Google maps and I now suspect the driver was in the left turn lane turning onto Norwell with a dedicated left turn signal. If that is the case I would suspect that unless the camera was incorrectly adjusted he would have had to enter on a stale yellow at which point he is 100% in the wrong.

Are my thoughts on this intersection correct?

I am all for any method that will reduce excessive speeds on our highways.

"Experience with this scheme in Europe shows reductions in speed and significant reductions in collisions."

The majority of my driving is on open rural roads and in my opinion speed limits in Canada are set far below what they should be. I spent considerable time over a year back getting accident rates and highway speeds and Canada rated far down the list yet we had the slowest open highway speeds.

In Europe the majority have a maximum of 110, followed by 120 with a few going as high as 150 on open highways. Germany which on the Autobahn has no speed limits is way below the accident rate in Canada.

So it bothers me that speed is always the number one consideration whenever it comes to reducing accident rates. Maybe if they forgot about enforcing speed limits and focused on poor driving habits we could bring Canada's accident rate in line with countries that allow higher speeds with fewer accidents.

I'm still waiting for information from ICBC on the graduated program but the one report I did find pointed out that those that took a professional training program had a higher rate of accidents. Whether this is still true I have a feeling it is. Otherwise I am sure ICBC would have provided the info.

Although we all consider ourselves good drivers I am sure I speak for many of us when I say we all have our flaws. Mine is driving over the speed limit on open highways. Professional instructors should not be passing along any of these defects. Yet apparently they are doing or were doing a inferior job of driving instructions than the average person. There is something seriously wrong in this situation.

So I am strictly against photo radar as it does nothing for correcting the situation at the time. I also read of a case where a person got a speeding ticket for his vehicle after he had reported it stolen. If this vehicle had been pulled over a crook would have been caught, and it could just as easily be a drunk driver that got stopped. Photo radar and even red light cameras do nothing towards changing ones poor driving habits at the moment. Enforcement should be based on the individual not on the vehicle.

Germany which on the Autobahn has no speed limits is way below the accident rate in Canada.

Some sections of the autobahn do have speed limits. They also appear to have more stringent rules than freeways here in BC as well.

It appears to be more difficult to obtain a German driver's licence than it is in BC as well.

While collision rates are low, no doubt they are catastrophic when they occur.

Typical freeway driving behaviour that I see in BC would likely get you killed fairly quickly if you tried it on the Autobahn.

Although I did point out that parts of the Autobahn have no speed limit. Every country in Europe has a lower accident rate and although 110 is the most common speed several have 120 and higher. I also mentioned that I feel part of the problem is the lax way that Canada hands out licences.

I agree with your last statement but I think you should have added that the majority of bad driving is done by people from the SW corner of B.C. Read some of the local papers along the Trans Canada H/W past Hope and I believe you will find that the majority of accidents do not involve locals.

Well stated.  Why are we always comparing ourselves to "other" countries - no matter the subject (drugs, driving etc)  We should make our laws/rules based on what's good for Canada, not what does/doesn't work somewhere outside Canada.  I don't give a rats behind what Germany, France or England have on their books - we're not them!  I disagreed with Stone's anti-up on the speed limits as speed kills - absolutely, compared to safer limits for at least a chance or better percentage of survival.  The faster limits have implemented the speed mongers to just travel that much faster plus their original stance of doing +15 or better over the new higher limit.  With all this bad driving, going faster solves nothing except absolute death. 

Your comment about no-fault insurance really got me angry and I have waited a few hours to cool down so that I wouldn’t say anything I would later regret. Collision reduction and no-fault are not mutually exclusive topics and can be used in concert to lower our insurance costs.

Unfortunately, no fault is not very well understood by the vast majority of the population and I have a feeling that while you may know more than some, you may not know as much as you should if you are going to make off the cuff remarks such as the one in your Newsletter.

We already have a no-fault insurance plan but the benefits are very limited and not adequate in most circumstances. People understand photo radar as a law enforcement tool and are against it as a matter of principle. Similarly, they are against no-fault. Not because they understand it, but because they have heard negative comments and so, it must be a bad thing.

If you want an insurance system that under-compensates severely, even catastrophically, injured victims, puts ridiculous amounts of money in the hands of lawyers, over-compensates mild injuries, then do nothing because you have it.

A no-fault insurance plan can be anything you want it to be. Take look at the plans currently in place in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec just for openers and compare the benefits available for the victims of MVAs.

Sorry for going on at length, but I’m really just getting started.

I commented from the point of view of the report produced for ICBC referenced in the article. It said that creating a no fault system would save money by making sure that claims resulted in smaller payouts than the current system was making.

I am quite willing to echo that I would rather see savings by reducing collisions.

Your reply suggests to me that you and I suspect others, have misinterpreted the article. No-fault could result in lower claim costs overall, but it will put more money in the hands of injured motorists and less in the hands of lawyers and the court system. Depending on how you design the plan, the severely or catastrophically injured could receive much higher benefits while those with minor aches and pains could receive much less.

It’s a complex question and one which cannot be fully explored in a few emails or a short conversation. Much has been written on the topic but the short story is that as long as the lawyers continue to call the shots, nothing will change. They (the lawyers) are the most powerful political lobby group in this Province and they will defend their cash cow with a vengeance. They fight mean and they fight dirty. You write one word in favour on no-fault and you will find out.

With police resources stretched to the limit, technology could have a role in reducing crashes. If people know a camera will be watching them at intersections they will be less likely to run a red light. Speed enforcement on highways by camera, most people will keep a slower speed because they do not want to "get caught".

Mandatory breath testing for everyone, all police cars should have the technology to test every driver without evidence of consumption. Lives can be saved, nobodies rights will be violated...

I have to say, I really like this site, it's a great resource for all kinds of information about driving (including about a million people who seem to think its purpose is to help them fight tickets in court, never mind how guilty they may be).

But how does this thread segue from the subject of Driver Attitude and Automated Enforcement - using an example of a perfectly justified Red Light Violation captured by a Traffic Camera - into insurance issues, which are already being discussed intelligently in other areas of the site?

I get really really tired of individuals - particularly those who hide behind some "Anonymous" facade - constantly taking threads off topic, generally so they can bang their own particular drum about this or that without bothering to show sufficient respect for those who try to use the place as the valuable reference and resource that it should be?

Photo radar? Yes! Everywhere!

But, operated by Radar Technicians instead of highly paid & over qualified police regulars.

I'm not sure I like the idea that a computer that will estimate "calculate" that I will speed using my average speed over a set distance.

It's cheap policing I understand, and nothing more than a cash grab. You're not really policing, you're only using fear tactics on motorists.

The driving habits don't change, I see it daily.

If you really want to do something retest people every five or ten years, when they don't pass the retest it may hit home, the bonus is that there will be less bad drivers on the road.

Though perhaps it's a tax on stupidity... You do have the option of driving with care and following the rules. ie: don't have to hand over any cash.

Policing in the dictionary is defined as enforcing the law. The real difference might be is whether it is done by a device or by people.

Automated devices don't work shifts, don't need to be paid overtime and may even make fewer errors than people.

Be careful of the phrase "cash grab" here. I see that as a challenge to respond

It has been pointed out that these cameras are capable of multi-tasking. So could we have the cameras also ticketing for DRL's that are inoperative along with burnt out headlights and taillights? On the open highway they can also issue tickets to people tailgating. Then during light traffic issue tickets to vehicles that are in the left lane rather than the right where they are suppose to be? Don't know how good the pictures are but maybe the cameras can also be used for issuing seatbelt, cell phone usage and maybe even parents smoking with underage kids.

I can see endless tasks for these cameras and I wonder how many perfect drivers that never speed or run a red light may find they have a few habits that are also against the MVA and end up getting ticketed. We are right back to what I am always bringing up. There are very few tickets issued for anything other than speeding, use of cell phones and no seatbelts. Until we move away from believing that just enforcing a few sections of the act will improve the accident rate nothing is going to change.


" cash grab" what other name can you give it? You setup a pole with a computer and camera, it makes you money, it doesn;t do anything to correct the problem...speeding or inattentive drivers. You have no idea who is driving the vehicle, but the owner gets a ticket within ten days.

it doesn;t do anything to correct the problem

How do you justify this statement?

Right now, you do know who is driving the vehicle if the owner nominates the driver. The nominated driver does receive penalty points if convicted.

There is no requirement for the owner to nominate the driver as the owner is responsible for the vehicle's use. If points were given to the owner if no driver is nominated, I'd bet that the number of nominated drivers would rise significantly.

How many times are we going to see this kind of comment:

If you really want to do something retest people every five or ten years, when they don't pass the retest it may hit home, the bonus is that there will be less bad drivers on the road.

1. Every driver out there had to pass a test in order to qualify for a license. Every good driver, every bad driver, every totally chaotic antisocial moronic driver (assuming they're holding a valid license, obviously).

2. Few drivers drive in the same way as they did during their driving test; hopefully, they improve with experience!

3. If a driver can drive in accordance with the testing criteria once, they can do so again and again. Every five years, every ten years, whatever.

But it's presumptuous to assume that testing drivers over and over is going the change the way they drive, when they're not undergoing a test.

Besides, even if a driver fails their re-test, they'll be given at least two more chances to pass it; and that friendly ICBC Driver Examiner will certainly have done their best to explain how to do this, at the conclusion of the re-test.


Neither photo radar or red light cameras are issued to the driver instead they are issued to the vehicle.

Take the case of the driver charged with excessive speeding over the 1st. Narrows. That person lost his vehicle and licence. If he would have been caught by photo radar he may have lost his vehicle but he would still be driving. There are thousands of drivers in this province that even if they got 2 tickets per day could afford to pay them. On the other hand if they are stopped in person they would have their licence revoked and join those walking.

And that is where having automated enforcement fails.

Then I am back to my constant whine you are only focusing on two infractions. There are a lot more out that need to be enforced.

While I respect your opinion C-D BC, sadly it is not so.

You may recall a few years ago when some examiners in Richmond were found to be selling licenses.  They were caught and fired but ICBC never called the possible incompetent drivers in for a re-test.

There is still an ongoing problem with drivers with foreign country issued licenses written in languages not decipherable to most of us.  This means that validity, history and indeed competence are not verifiable by our law enforcement.

Another issue which came to me via a long time friend who is now a retired ICBC big mucky-muck.  He told me of a situation in North Surrey where the ICBC Driver Testing office had a "normal" failure rate of examinees.  But they also had excessive claims of "discrimination" founded or un-founded.  To counter this, ICBC hired a very tall, distinguished looking gentleman as an examiner however, he would refuse to examine anyone not of his cultural background.  But the most amazing thing was that his failure rate dropped to almost zero!

Further, it was back in my "racing days" (I was a mechanic/tow car driver) when I became aware of a young driver from the Seattle area.  He was very fast and very competent .... but he didn't have a Driver's License.  I asked around to find that he was illiterate and unable to pass a written test!

Let's also look at our test requirements.  Navigate some traffic not over 50 KPH and be sure to slow for the School Zones.  A reasonable attempt to parallel park and don't hit anything.  Oh, and recognize a few pictorial road signs and you're licensed.  Does this mean that you a competent on the highway in bad weather, limited visibility and no clue about the effects of distractions and/or impairment?  No, I think not.

I've ridden a motorcycle since '52 and had a few painful lessons in my younger days. Mobility issues have recently probably ended my riding but even in the past few years, it was rare that a ride did not teach me something new.  Perhaps a minor thing but not always.  When you stop learning, you die.

So ..... may I suggest that passing a test has little to do with competency.

You hope they've gotten better but for many that's not the case.

I have full merits as do my wife, I drove a commercial truck for decades with just under 1M km., and have only had one accident that wasn't my fault, and one ticket that was thrown out.

I've been retested many times and passed easily, I'm not saying that I'm a great driver, I'm a driver that's seen what bad drivers can do.

Now I've been in for a retest and watched while licences are giving to people who can't speak english and have only been in this country for six months. For the most part our signs in western canada are in english, why are drivers licencing giving out licences to people who can't read?

Awhile back I had a stroke  (thankfully I was spared), while in rehab I had one fellow who drove me by handi transit to rehab. Over the months we got friendly and one day I asked him how long had he been in canada, his reply was nine months. Seems driver licencing are giving out licences like candy bars,  he didn't know the city, drove to fast and almost got us killed once. 

If drivers who get an unusual amount of red light tickets are retested maybe we all be safer on the street, maybe.

The only issue I had with the original photo radar was that they had to leave the vans in an obvious location and weren't allowed to hide them. If people keep getting speeding tickets in the mail because of an unseen photo radar set-up maybe they will finally slow down. Some commenters are correct, one photo radar ticket in the mail will not slow someone down but if they get one or two a week from consistently bad driving maybe they will start to use their brain while behind the wheel.
I think they should bring it back.

A few years ago a friend on vacation drove through Calgary about 3 AM.  He wasn't aware that they had Photo Radar and was somewhat surprised when he got 4 or 5 tickets mailed to him.  Did he whine and moan? No.  He did it and he paid the tickets.  Maybe I should mention that he is an RCMP officer.

But no matter.  The point was that he simply took responsibility for his own actions and this, along with ability, maturity, courtesy and a host of other things, appears to be severely lacking in our society.

However, I must say that I do have a problem with "speed limits".  Speed is only one factor in a mix of factors that result in overall risk.  Weather, road surface (wet, dry, ice), visibility (day/night, fog), traffic volume and congestion,  tire condition, vehicle condition, driver alertness/ability .... and the list goes on, all contribute.  But "speed" is the only easily measurable factor. As such, it alone is the enforcement of choice by the revenue collectors.

Furthermore, speed limits are often set abnormally low due to political pressure and other factors that have nothing to do with road engineering.  When this happens, the violation rate rises and the tax man thinks they've found a Midas treasure.

Let's take an example from my younger days around 1962 when I was into Rally Driving.  I was heading Eastbound from Cache Creek on Hwy 1 and the road was sheet ice.  As I recall, the posted limit was 60 MPH and I came upon an RCMP patrol car slipping and sliding at about 40.  I flashed my headlights, pulled out to pass and maintained just under 60 (I was maintaining a set average speed) and a ways further noticed the RCMP car had his overheads lit up.  Assuming he'd had a call, I carried on to be stopped in a road block about 10 miles short of Kamloops.  Asked if I'd passed an RCMP car, I said yes and was ordered to remain.  The officer I'd passed finally got there and issued a ticket for "unsafe driving".  Being somewhat choked over this, I chose to return a few weeks later to the Kamloops Traffic Court to fight the ticket.

The Officer gave his testimony about how I'd passed him on very slippery, treacherous roads then it was my turn to ask questions.  "Was my car slipping and sliding?"  "No."  "Was I exceeding the posted speed limits?"  "No, not that I could see."  "So, on what basis do you say my driving was unsafe?"  And so it went until the old Judge interjected and asked how I had control when the Officer didn't.  "Studded tires, your Honour ..."  "What?"  "Tires with metal studs sir ...."

As a competitive Rally Driver, I was running Pirelli radials when most cars of the day had bias ply tires.  Being a Winter Rally, my Tire Shop had punched about 250 studs into the fronts and maybe 350 into the rears.  They were a little skitterish on dry pavement but on the ice, they were like my normal tires on a wet road .... and quite controllable.  Next I know, the old Judge calls a recess and I've got him in the passenger seat buzzing around downtown Kamloops including a couple of icy parking lots.  Back in the courtroom ..... "Case dismissed!"  Oh yes, I had to give the Judge the name of my tire shop.  I was grinning all the way home ....

But back to the topic ..... My opinion is that Red Light cameras cause rear-end collisions far too often due to constant tail-gaters.  Photo Radar takes into account nothing but "speed" most of which, are too low for much of the day.  Used in say, School Zones .... fine but out on the open road, especially at the bottom of a hill, nothing more than a tax grab.

BTW - 100 MPH never did sound as inflammatory as 160 KPH.

Your post brought back some old memories. I bought a 1959 Renault Dauphine in the fall of 58 and as it was September wanted snow tires installed. Was informed that this car was equipped with a different type of tire and they would only install the same type of tire due to handling problems. Also told these Radial tires would work as well as Bias snows.

Thus I went through the winter of 58 - 59 with no snow tires. I was given a set of chains but never needed them. The traction of the Michelin Radials although not snow tires was superior to the best bias ply snow tire of the day. Fall of 59 the dealership had snow tires available and something that was new to our area at least called a studded tire. I think it came from Finland but don't quote me on that. This dealership was a few generations ahead of its time or just took advantage of a kid but they sold me 4 of the things.

That car stuck to the road just as you say especially when the temperatures were around the freezing mark. With the exception of when I lived in Vancouver I have always installed 4 studded tires on my own personal car.

Around 65 the Highway Patrol vehicles working in the central and northern regions of B.C. started using studs and another item which I was also using at the time which was technically illegal was Ciebie quarts iodine headlights. I gave the cops a little advice from personal experience that one needed to install a relay switch otherwise you would fry the light switch and or dimmer switch. Think I got away from a few speeding tickets due to this helpful advice. I can say the combination of studded tires and a set of good headlights definitely made winter driving a lot safer.

Thanks for the memories and the chuckle:)

I would like to thank our moderator for this weeks topic.

Although some of us vehemently disagree with the topic of photo radar it definitely has got all of us thinking and voicing our opinions. And to me that is a good thing.

Thanks for the great topic and lets hope the enthusiasm continues for the rest of the week.

I totally agree with your comments on selfishness and attitudes regarding the letter to the editor and Red Light Camera.

What amazes me is that the letter writer doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. He is fortunate that someone didn’t blow through the intersection at 90 k plus and T-bone his vehicle.

I’ve seen people hang back from a red light and accelerate on timing of green. A very foolish practice but done not infrequently.

If he truly was not a risk taker, he would not have entered the intersection on a yellow light and thus would never have received a penalty.

Sadly, this type of attitude is not completely rare and is a partial reflection of why our insurance rates are so high.

For me a deeper question remains. “ How do we change the attitude and habits of the majority of people to become safe and courteous drivers?”

Is this possible?

"I’ve seen people hang back from a red light and accelerate on timing of green. A very foolish practice but done not infrequently."

I got both my Class 5 and Class 1, (were not referred to as such in 1956), and heard this piece of advice around the same time. With a heavily loader tractor trailer rig anytime you can avoid starting from a stop is a lot easier on both your equipment and saves rutting the road. It is also a sign in my mind of a professional driver one that is paying attention to what is going on around him. So I definitely am guilty of this offence in this persons mind. But I definitely would not consider it a sign of irresponsible driving, quite the contrary. Of course one does have to scan the intersection before entering.

The following is taken from Page 70 of the professional drivers manaul:

Look ahead to anticipate traffic lights:

  • If you see a red traffic light that's been red for a while, gradually slow down. If the light turns green before you arrive at the intersection, by not coming to a complete stop you save fuel.
  • On some major streets, traffic lights are timed so that if you drive at a certain steady speed, you may make all the lights, which saves stopping and starting and saves fuel.

I also wonder about these people that sit for several seconds after the light turns green. Are they not paying any attention to the traffic? If you have traffic already stopped on the cross streets, no pedestrians entering the cross walk, and no traffic travelling at high speed towards the intersection why is it necessary to sit there after the light has turned green? Nothing is going to change. And you should have been paying attention to this once the light switched to amber.


If he truly was not a risk taker, he would not have entered the intersection on a yellow light and thus would never have received a penalty.

If you look back in this thread, you'll note that the driver entered the intersection after the light turned red. Otherwise, the device would not have activated.

Much as the people in charge of traffic management in Nanaimo might like to say, "Thanks for your letter, Mr. Parker", it would not be politically wise for them to do so.  Below is some of what they might say. 

Mr. Parker, you state in your letter that you were not about to take any chances - however, the fact that your vehicle violated a red light shows that you are taking chances that you don't recognize.  Perhaps the most significant chance you overlooked was the possibility that one of those opposing drivers might take the same kind of chance you took. The reason that they didn't might well be because they didn't want to get the red light ticket that you got.

So, Mr. Parker, be thankful that the red light camera had two effects; it contributed to keeping you and your family safe from other errant drivers and it also brought your attention to a change that we hope you will make.

My experience with automated enforcement of traffic laws, both direct and second hand, is based upon my experience both in Canada and Europe. In B.C. back in the 1990’s I grew accustomed to seeing the photo radar vans parked idling at the side of the highway, particularly on Hwy 1 in the eastern Fraser Valley and the Coquihalla highway, particularly on clear, dry days. While this undoubtedly generated significant revenue the safety benefits of issuing speeding tickets weeks after the fact for 11+ kph over the under posted speed limit (note the speed limits on those highways have now been properly raised to more reasonable levels) is debatable at best. A marked police car at the roadside would slow down traffic far more effectively, but then there’s no financial return on that strategy is there?

Do I sound cynical? Well please consider the following comparison: Edmonton and Ottawa are two similar Canadian cities in terms of population, four season climate etc. Ottawa has no photo radar, while Edmonton has the most intensive array of automated speed enforcement in the country. Edmonton’s traffic fatality rate per 100,000 population is 2.92, while Ottawa’s is a lower 2.85. Ottawa also has a lower collision and injury rate, all the while issuing less than 10% of the speeding tickets that Edmonton does according to the following source: No Photo Radar in Ontario - Ever (statistical source references are noted at webpage bottom). If speed enforcement and slowing traffic were the defining factors they are purported to be, then Edmonton should be the safest City in Canada. Edmonton’s city government of course argues that their safety statistics are trending down, proving they are on the right track. They fail to mention that the same is true across Canada in general where few jurisdictions employ automated speed enforcement, and none to the extent that Edmonton does.

On a recent driving trip in France, where speed cameras are marked and visible if you’re observant, I noticed none on narrow country roads (where crash risk is high) but on straight, faster highways, where statistically crash rates are lower, a camera could be spotted every 10 to 15 kilometres (online camera maps confirmed this). Again, this strategy will certainly catch more speeders than placing cameras on slower, windy, more dangerous roads, but this is not an effective safety strategy.

Simply slowing traffic on well designed roads misses the point of safety, much as a placebo misses the point of good health outcomes, and our government’s preoccupation with speeding causes scarce public resources to be misapplied. Yes there is an unquestioned need to control speed in congested, urban environments. To say otherwise is just deceiving oneself, but high levels of enforcement on many of our country’s well designed highways, whether automated or done with police only allows government to give the appearance of addressing traffic safety when in fact little if anything is accomplished.

I believe that advanced driver training, such as that required in Germany for example, would be a far more productive policy tool. According to the World Health Organization, List of Countries by Traffic Related Death Rate - Canada has a traffic death rate per billion vehicle miles driven of 6.2 while Germany enjoys a rate of 4.9 - this in a country with unrestricted speeds on rural sections of their famous autobahn highway network. Traffic safety is a complex and serious issue, but the speed kills message, which justifies proponents of automated speed enforcement as well as more conventional anti-speed campaigns, while valid in some limited circumstances, does a gross disservice to the overall advancement of road safety.

It seems inevitable that if you give the authorities the tools to ticket people, they will use them. Even if it doesn't make any difference to crash rates, there's money to be made, and supposed evidence of action to tackle these issues.

And in this part of the world, where police and government are all too ready to assign blame to drivers - but without any concurrent willingness to accept responsibility for the effectiveness of their enforcement - it seems inevitable that they'll choose the most cost-effective way of employing automated enforcement without genuine regard or concern for the outcomes.

Certainly, that sounds harsh. And cynical.

But unless and until we see proportionate ticketing for the offences that cause collisions - the 2-car crash resulting from following too close, the 2-or-more-car crash resulting from intersection/right-of-way failures - then we're unlikely to see any kind of amelioration in driver behaviour.

Oh sure, that old idiot D. Parker (I grin ironically, realizing that he's only three years older than me ha ha) who won't never visit Parksville with his grandkids again (because that red light camera in Nanaimo nailed him in an obvious and dangerous violation) may decide to be more circumspect about how he responds to traffic control signals in future. But I doubt it; his attitude isn't likely to change at all, only his resentment against the system.

Nobody likes being tail-gated (as in, another driver following far too close). We know that this all too often results in a collision, with the injuries inflicted on the driver who gets hit from behind. But, the police aren't doing anything effective about it and have no plan to do so (even though ICBC repeatedly ask for their assistance in traffic corridor enforcement in high crash areas). And even in places such as the Lions Gate Bridge / Stanley Park Causeway which has a high incidence of crashes, where it would be easy to set up a couple of synchronized cameras a couple hundred meters apart to nab dangerous miscreants who don't make any attempt to keep a safe following distance, we're never going to see it happen.

When's the last time you ever saw a cop ticket someone for not signalling a lane change. Hmmm. OK, when's the first time you ever saw this happen? Never mind that, how about ticketing drivers - OR pedestrians (the way they used to) for right-of-way infractions?

I rest my case, they actually don't give a damn about these issues, from what we've seen.

I could endorse automated enforcement - if it's effective, and aimed at the bad guys such as those who run red lights. Even better if the law was written in a way that demanded the driver be nominated (identified) and issued a Demerit Point ticket against his/her license as a precursor to getting them off the road if the bad behaviour continues.

As it is, I have no confidence whatsoever that automated enforcement would be used in an effective manner. Because I don't believe that the powers that be are motivated to do this; which is unfortunate, being as we either elected them as our governmental representatives, or pay them to properly police our society.

"And even in places such as the Lions Gate Bridge / Stanley Park Causeway which has a high incidence of crashes, where it would be easy to set up a couple of synchronized cameras a couple hundred meters apart to nab dangerous miscreants who don't make any attempt to keep a safe following distance, we're never going to see it happen."

I do agree that this needs to be done but the only problem with this option is the worst offenders are generally too close together to get a picture of their licence plate from a readable angle.:)

Edmonton and Ottawa are not comparable with regard to the age of the city or the average age of their populations. Edmonton is much younger in both cases, both of which are related to higher collision rates.

Automated enforcement is a fairly young technology; not surprisingly, it has pluses and minuses as pointed out in the two U.S. government documents linked below. Traffic managers are still learning how to best apply it so as to obtain even better results with respect to collision reduction.

Automated Enforcement: A Compendium of Worldwide Evaluations of Results

Automated Enforcement and Highway Safety: Final Report

So far, the effect of automated enforcement on collision reduction, like wearing seat belts, has been positive. Similar to the introduction of seat belts, acceptance has not been smooth.

Run a red light: -$167
Take a cellphone out of back pocket and put it in a cup holder while stopped at a red light: -$543

Personally I regard running a red light as the gravest of road sins, however the punishment for cellphone use and speeding is completely disproportional by comparison.

... but one could review all of the tickets that might potentially be issued, along with their associated Demerit Points and Fines, and argue all day long about whether they're fairly apportioned.

And as hard as it is to figure out precisely which transgressions result in the greatest number of crashes, damage, injuries, deaths etc dependent on the source being cited, I'm personally convinced that distracted driving is the greatest threat to the safety of everyone right now.

So 4 demerits and a whacking great fine is good by me. And a great argument for putting your phone in the cupholder (or wherever you want to stick the thing) when you get into the car so you'll have no excuse for touching it after you commence driving.

Pick which is less scary as a passenger:

- Run a red light into cross-traffic as if the red light was not there $167
- Touch my phone while driving $543
- Exceed speed by 40km/h ~$1,500

To illustrate the point to my friend: first I took out my phone while driving and groped it a bit - wasn't scary at all. Then I went 71km in a 30km/h park zone with nobody around - my friend didn't even notice.
But when I started moving into an intersection of 6 lanes of cross traffic, seemingly with-out noticing a red light... I almost got a beating.

And I don't think distracted driving is a problem in itself, there is plenty of time behind the wheel to operate a cellphone by hand with-out getting in a bind - people have been doing it for years before it went illegal. It's the compound factors like no space margins, over-speed, lack of foresight and a lack of courtesy that causes accidents. What does it matter if somebody was on a cell-phone if they were tailgating, speeding and being a jerk - its not the cellphone that made them do it,  the cellphone just took away that extra 1/10th of a second that they needed to avoid a crash; but really its all the other transgressions combined that precipitated the accident.

On the other hand, the people who drive through red lights as if they weren't there that cause some of the most volatile accidents.

P.S. I do think that texting in-general is a bit of a problem in society: people engage in it pointlessly, firing "What's ups" to their contacts 10 times per day. I use text for useful stuff like phone nubmers and addresses. About 1-2 times per month.

Absurd the one most likely to get you killed is the cheapest one.

What bothers me most is the exception to cell phone usage. Why are emergency personnel exempt? Quite possibly they are speeding to an emergency where they should be paying full attention to driving.

Within the last two weeks there is the story of the ambulance driver getting confused at a railway crossing while texting resulting in the death of an elderly woman that was in the back. Saddest point here the elderly patient recognised the driver was driving through the crossing while the signals were sounding. Will he be charge? Nope! He is allowed to text while operating an emergency vehicle.

And with more safety features being put into vehicles with emergency breaking one that is in a lot of cars today distracted driving is becoming less of a concern. And with 100% autonomous driving not that far away??

Make running a red light $1,500, reduce the rest to the lowest rate.