Bring Back Automated Speed Enforcement

SoapboxAccording to B.C.'s new 10 Year Transportation Plan, safety on British Columbia’s highways and side roads is the ministry’s number-one priority. Four pages of the 56 page report are dedicated to the topic. Aside from physical infrastructure improvements and singling out left lane hogs for special attention, only the slow down move over law is mentioned. My wish is that the province would bring back automated speed enforcement.

I'm not going to advocate for the photo radar program that the current government scrapped, but for time over distance or section control of vehicle speeds. Instead of an instantaneous check of velocity, vehicles are recorded when they enter and when they leave a highway segment. If the vehicle's average speed in the segment is over the posted speed limit enforcement action is taken. Momentary inattention is not penalized, but consistent inability to follow the limit is.

This type of automated enforcement is in use in Europe and the European Transportation Safety Council reports that "The majority of evaluations of sites using section control show evidence of reductions in average and 85th percentile speeds, most often indicating that these speeds were reduced at, or below, the posted speed limit." Examples of significant reductions in collision numbers, injuries and fatalities are given for the various member countries that operate these systems.

I suspect that if drivers chose not to exceed the speed limits, the need to worry about left lane hogs mentioned in the plan would be reduced. Section control would also free police to focus on other behaviours that we like to complain that they should be doing instead of speed enforcement.

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The above is not a terrible idea but only effective if the average speed of a segment of road is posted at an appropriate level. For example there are several sections of road in the Lower Mainland such as: Marine Drive in Vancouver, The Lions Gate Bridge, Golden Ears Way & the new Highway 17 Connector that are posted well below what they should be. On any given day over 50% (my opinon but I believe accurate) of the drivers likely exceed the posted Speed Limit. I don't believe this to be dangerous as the road could very reasonably be posted 20KM/H higher. I just believe it to be that the Highways Department has purposely posted a Low Limit for what is probably a variety of reasons.

If suddenly there was automated Speed Enforcement on these road segments with the current Speed Limits then it would become primary a Cash Grab by the Government for the majority that are exceeding the Posted Limit.

The drivers know what the posted speed is and choose to disobey on their own. This is not a cash grab as the drivers made the choice. They could also have chosen to keep their hard earned dollars in their pockets too.

I do agree that the limit should be appropriately set too before something like this is implemented. The trouble is, there are many reasons for a limit lower than the public might like that are valid reasons.

I can see where this would get a thumbs up from truck drivers. They are slow going up the hills and then have to brake going down even if there is a safe long straight stretch at the bottom. This would be much easier on the truck as they would not need to brake as much at the same time they would not have to worry about a speed trap at the bottom of the hill. There are always some idiots who will take advantage of any system put in place but nature has its own way of thinning the crowd.

I couldn't agree more.  This is a simple, relatively low cost, way to reduce accidents and the ensuing fatalities.  As mentioned in the article, this is common in the UK and Europe, and it works.  There are always a lot of people who think they can drive safely at greater than the limit, but the limits are set for good reasons, especially on highways.  The limit is the maximum safe speed under perfect conditions.  Here in BC conditions are often far from perfect, yet we still see idiots who exceed the limit in heavy rain or blizzard conditions.  These so called experts are putting us all at risk.  Automated enforcement is a no-brainer, but then how often do we see the politicians use their brains.

I don't want to change the topic or focus of this discussion but in my original post I named 4 segments of road that I believe are underspeed aka the Posted Limit is below what is Reasonable. Of the 2 I named, 2 of them are true Highways: Golden Ears Way & Highway 17 Connector. Both are posted with 80KM/H Speed Signs dipping in one particular area to as low as 50KM/H. No other true Highway in the Lower Mainland is posted that low that I am aware of. Highway 91 is posted at 90KM/H & it is over 20 Years Old. The latter are the newest most up to date, most recently constructed which means they should be some of the safest Highways we have, also they are away from Residential & School Zones primarily going through Industrial Areas. Being a very reasonable person the only reason I can come up with that these are underspeed by atleast 10>20KPH is to subsidize the construction costs, because guess what, Radar Traps are very common on both...humm I wonder why.

If tomorrow Automated Speed Enforcement was put in place on these 2 Highways everyone from the Trucker to the VW Mini driver would be taken advantage of. If the limit was reasonable at 100KM/H>110KM/H or even 80KM/H for Trucks in the Right Lane only & 100KM/H for Cars which is common in the USA then I would be more supportive of this Automated Speed Enforcement idea.

Traffic fines do not pay for construction costs.  All fines are paid to the Provincial Court.  Each year a certain percentage of those fines are returned to the municipality that levied the fine.  In my municipality that money is handed over to the Police dept.  Whatever money the Province keeps would stay within the Ministry pf the Attorney General.

On those highways that you think are too low speed, what are the conditions?  Is there access from ajoining roads or businesses?  Are there visibility problems?  In bad weather would there be a hazard?  The engineers aren't stupid.  They set the limits for a good reason.

  1. It's always about the money.  No matter what the authorities claim, they can never resist the chance to scoop more dollars in from the peons, uh, general public.  When photo radar was introduced, 'they' promised that it would only be used in high-crash locations where speeding was particularly dangerous; that didn't happen; the cops running the vans deliberately and intentionally selected areas where the highest number of speeders could be found; typically wide open straight roads with few hazards and excellent forward vision.
  2. It's always about the money.  Much as I favour the concept of Red Light cameras; indeed I would like to see them installed at every Traffic Light Controlled interesection (a majority of collisions happen at intersections, and are not directly speed-related); but in many jurisdictions the authorities installing these devices have deliberately shortened the duration of the amber light, in order to increase the chance of incriminating drivers.  Democracy in action ... or something.
  3. It shouldn't just be about the money.  It should be about safety.  It should be about getting the bad drivers off the road.  What's the difference between a cop pulling someone over and issuing a ticket, as compared to a robotic camera?  The cop tickets the driver.  The camera tickets the car.  Got lotsa money?  Then with automated traffic enforcement, you and your family members who drive your car can drive like morons, because there is no direct consequence - i.e. penalty points - to the miscreant behind the wheel.  Where's the democracy in that?
  4. It doesn't target the root cause of collisions!  Fact is, the most common two-vehicle collision is the rear-ender.  The car behind doesn't have sufficient room from the car ahead.  So-called accidents happen when drivers run out of space and time - at any speed.  If you doubt me, go visit some wrecking yards, walk up and down the rows of wrecked vehicles, and look at where the collision damage has occurred.  No wonder ICBC have lots of lawyers, trying to disallow whiplash claims; it's because there are lots of victims of whiplash - caused by drivers following too close.  At any speed.  (What's really ironic is that automated enforcement could easily be used to target this issue; if a vehicle is captured within a second of the one ahead, then again 100 meters later, then again 100 meters after that, then that vehicle is demonstrably following that other vehicle too closely, and a ticket should be issued; as with photo radar, the vehicle owner would be free to nominate the driver, if they wanted to avoid having to pay a penalty for someone else's actions when driving their vehicle.)
  5. If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem.  We have seen tremendous efforts by law enforcement officers in BC over the last four decades, and the three main issues they have addressed have been, in no particular order, Speeding, Seatbelts, Impairment.  And you know what?  This concerted effort on the part of the cops has been effective.  Seatbelt compliance in BC is pretty much as high as you'll find anywhere in the world.  Impaired driving is at an all-time low.  Speeding ... well there just hasn't been the same success; what has actually occurred is that drivers still speed, only more carefully, and travel in these dangerous packs and clusters; far too close together, generally about 10 km/h over the limit.  So inevitably when things go wrong, being already low on visibility they then run out of space, and haven't the time to react.  Multiple rear-ender crashes that then get blamed on ... speeding!  When in fact, they were all following too close, due to overzealous enforcement of speed limits.
  6. You know what really irritates me?  Our whole system of road governance has been allowed to disintegrate, and this is the fault of both the government and the police.  When ICBC were given the authority to take on Driver Licensing in BC, they probably (I'm guessing here) expected to be able to enjoy the revenue from traffic tickets.  Uh uh.  No, that just got channeled into general revenue.  So they got all of the responsibility, and none of the gravy, other than sufficient reimbursement to run the operation; ICBC does not profit from licensing.  What about the police forces?  Well after years of attempting to ticket the real miscreants out there, and with increasing demands on their services, they pretty much decided that they wouldn't attend accidents any more unless alcohol and/or death/serious injury were involved, and after wasting countless hours in courtrooms defending legitimate tickets against defendants who were there simply because they 'hoped the cop wouldn't show up', they almost completely gave up on the penalty point system and decided that traffic violations, and consequences, were an issue that ICBC would resolve with higher insurance penalties against vehicle owners.  And why does this really irritate me?  Because in this current age, virtually every cop car has a camera - or six - running.  Gone are the days when traffic court might be reduced to 'he said - she said'.  A cop in court can pop a DVD in the player for all to see whether the driver really did blow the light, or fail to signal, or follow too close, or cut in, or - whatever.  So it would be a piece of cake for them to cruise in traffic and nab drivers for breaking fundamental vehicle laws, laws that result in collisions and at minimum increase road rage.  So why don't they do this?  Because they don't have the motivation.  The courts are choked, and when the tickets do stick, the revenues are swallowed up by our so-called government.  What a farce it has all become; there is a smaller chance than ever these days that the drivers who are the problem are the ones who will get the fines, and the penalty points, and the license suspensions and prohibitions.  And that costs us all.

#3: Why not points? The registered owner gets them unless they choose to identify the driver. Having it work this way would place the blame where it belonged and would make people more aware of who is using their vehicle.

#4: I don't entirely agree. Trying to go too fast results in behaviours like tailgating, running lights, weaving between lanes, and on, and on...

#5: Please define "overzealous" and explain why you chose to apply this thought to speed enforcement.

#6: Nope. In car cameras are on a lot of wish lists, but they are nowhere near as prevalent as you think.

As for traffic court, well, I could probably write a book on that. Should have kept a diary.

#3 Why not points?  The registered owner may not have a driver license.  The registered owner may be a Company, a Conglomerate, a Crown Corporation, whatever.  The registered owner could be a Municipality, a Provincial or Federal entity.  So this could include anything from Dump Trucks to Emergency Vehicles, the Military, or the Police ... heck, the registered owner could be some rich old bugger with half a dozen Rolls Royces and chauffers - you don't have to hold a Driver License in order to own and register and insure a vehicle in BC.

#4 Well you're right, trying to go too fast - particularly if this is faster than the overall flow - does result in all of those behaviours you describe.  But, you see, so does going too slow - particularly if this is slower than the overall flow; and regardless of the posted speed limit!

#5 "Overzealous", to my mind, is when cops are more than willing to sit beside relatively open highways with their radar equipment, and hand out tickets to drivers for speeding even when conditions permit; but unwilling to hand out tickets to drivers who have actually been involved in collisions, such as happen so often at intersections.  "Overzealous" is when the RCMP Highway Patrol set up on the left shoulder, and flag drivers over for speeding there, then release them back into the high speed traffic flow with minimal space to use for acceleration; if Traffic Engineers designed highways with 50 metre Entrance Ramps, they would be fired and replaced with more competent individuals.  "Overzealous" is when the end always apparently justifies the means, such as when the police use oncoming radar - sometimes speeding themselves (I could show you examples) because apparently it's a bad thing when a civilian exceeds the limit, but a good thing for a police officer to do the same thing, then pull a 180 on the highway and proceed to vastly exceed the speed limit in order to give the civilian a ticket.  "Overzealous" is when the Police, constantly and intentionally and knowingly choose the stretches of road where sensible drivers may go with the flow, due to the conditions, to hand out tickets - while ignoring the high crash locations.

#6 I don't doubt that I exaggerated when I suggested that police cars might have a whole bunch of cameras, but come on, the use of these devices is growing exponentially.  I'm pretty sure you ran a column here recently on the increasing use of License Plate readers being installed in cruisers, and frankly I can't recall the last time I saw a Police Vehicle around these parts without an onboard computer, and numerous other high tech devices.  In this day and age, when any of us can walk into Future Shop or Walmart or wherever and pick up a Dash Cam for $50 - $250, it is far from impossible, or unlikely, for Traffic Cops - at a minimum - to be properly equipped with recording devices.

No bout adbout it, a show about Traffic Court would probably be even more entertaining than Judge Judy ... but I digress.

But CompetentDrivingBC, doesn't your point 1 make a better argument for Average Speed Cameras rather than against them? Firstly ASCs measure speed over an extended distance, upto 20 km, and not just over a localised sweet spot for nabbing speeders. Secondly, it is not up to the cops where they are located.

I drove the A9 in Scotland two weeks ago which has extensive ASCs. Traffic seemed to be flowing excellently and I wasn’t tailgated by speed maniacs who thought they owned the road.

There does seem to be one deficiency with ASCs. Since they require a frontal view of number plates, they cannot detect motorcycle speeders.

One major potential benefit that doesn’t seem to get a mention is that it could free up police resources to deal with other dangerous driving such as driving too close and dangerous lane changes.

Here are a few snippets from the web on the UK experience with ASCs:

“The first permanent average speed camera system in Scotland was installed on a 32 mile stretch of the A77 in July 2005 in a pilot project. Since the A77 system was installed, there has been a 46% reduction in the number of people being killed and a 35% reduction in the number of people being seriously injured. Analysis has indicated a considerable speed reduction throughout the route and very few speeding offenders.

An average speed system was also used for the first time as part of road works in Scotland on the M74 Raith Interchange scheme from February until June 2006. The use of such systems at road works is part of an overall design to mitigate the risks to road workers who are exposed to passing traffic on high speed roads.

As well as reducing risks to road workers it has also been instrumental in minimising congestion and reducing incident occurrence within the road works area. This strategy continues to be used at major road works schemes; most recently on the M80 Stepps to Haggs improvement scheme.”

“The A9 Safety Group, which involves Transport Scotland, police and road maintenance companies, said overall speeding was down from about one in three drivers to one in 20.

It added that the cameras - which have been introduced at 27 locations between Dunblane and Inverness - had detected 298 vehicles exceeding the speed limit over the first three months.

Police Scotland said 2,493 offences had been recorded over the same period the previous year.

The safety group said excessive speeding - where drivers were traced travelling at more than 10mph above the speed limit - had fallen by 97%.

An associated pilot scheme allowing lorries to go at 50mph, which is 10mph faster than the national limit, has helped to reduce journey times, it added.

Average journey times between Perth and Inverness have increased by up to 14 minutes, according to the new report.”

Tranquil, thanks for that.  Much to think about, I'm still reading and trying to analyze; I must admit, Average Speed Cameras are unfamilar to me - learning more about them would be a grand idea.

I think this whole discussion is about a solution looking for a problem.  We all have our own perception about whether there too many people going too fast or too slow in the left lane, but what are the facts?  I can't speak to other areas, but where I live, (south end of the Island) the actual numbers say something different than what people are saying here.  A very small minority of drivers travel at less than the maximum speed limit, average is about 1-2%.  80% are travelling between the maximum and 10 km/h over the limit, and the other 18-19% are going even faster.  In my opinion it seems obvious the dangerous conditions are being created by the speeders not the very rare slow driver.

In my opinion it seems obvious the dangerous conditions are being created by the speeders not the very rare slow driver.

I would first ask, where your statistical (percentage) evidence comes from?  Are these actual facts, or your own subjective perceptive estimates?

Besides which, given that we're discussing Automated Speed Enforcement here (which, from my understanding, totally ignores the very rare slow drivers anyway) what is your point?  Sorry, I'm not getting it.


The numbers come from my local Police department.  They are real, not perceived.  This kind of info is freely available from Police, Regional districts, or Dept. of Hwys, depending on who looks after the road/highway in question.

Sorry, my point was misplaced.  I thought I was on the thread about the left lane hogs.

A very small minority of drivers travel at less than the maximum speed limit, average is about 1-2%.  80% are travelling between the maximum and 10 km/h over the limit, and the other 18-19% are going even faster.

... then wouldn't it make sense for them to recommend to the Traffic Engineers that the speed limit be raised, to actually reflect how the absolute majority of drivers there behave?

Then they could properly target the ones who really are a danger!

".. then wouldn't it make sense for them to recommend to the Traffic Engineers that the speed limit be raised, to actually reflect how the absolute majority of drivers there behave?"

The traffic engineers set a highway's speed limits taking into account a whole multitude of factors and eventually come up with a safe maximum (for perfect conditions).  What you are suggesting is 'let's all jump off the cliff to our deaths because that's what all the other lemmings are doing'.  Just because the majority of (uneducated/unskilled) drivers think something is safe, doesn't make it so.

The traffic engineers set a highway's speed limits taking into account a whole multitude of factors and eventually come up with a safe maximum (for perfect conditions).

If only it were so.  But in fact, they sometimes get it wrong (hence the recent raising of limits on many highways in this province).

I'd rather be a lemming than the rock in the stream that disrupts the current, myself!

85th percentile is a generally agreed term among engineers in many jurisdictions in the world. It is a method described in the US DOT engineering manuals for the setting of the speed limits.

The lemming analogy is flawed, since lemmings are lemming and people are people, you would not expect a lemming to drive, while people are getting licensed to drive on a daily basis. Lemmings do not form societies, conduct revolutions and institute laws, rules and regulations, because they are lemmings - and its simply not what lemmings do.

Receiving a license carries certain merits with it, in particular the State's acknowledgment that the licensee has been trained, tested and is deemed to be fit to drive. Lemmings on the other hand do what lemmings do with-out a license; and it can further be said that the State does not deem lemmings to have been trained, tested and qualified to do what the lemmings do.

I hope this asinine explanation highlights the flaw of your analogy.

Rules of the society are in support of the society, for the conduct of the reasonable and prudent day to day activities of the society, and on the off chance that a rule, that does not represent the above simple concept, comes into existence - it will inevitably cause friction to the society and its un-threatened/voluntary compliance rate will directly speak to its validity.

Oops! This thread appears to have made an illegal lane change.

The thread's subject is for the discussion of  "Automatic Speed Enforcement" using two or more cameras at different points on an extended length of highway to determine the average speed of each vehicle over that distance

Perhaps the thread should switch to the correct lane before the forum cops issue a ticket!

May I suggest the "Setting credible speed limits" thread for continuing the discussion on setting credible speed limits and the Zoology Forum for continuing the fascinating discussion on lemmings ( Dicrostonyx torquatus ).

But while I am here, may I suggest that lemmings may not be the ideal model for driving since they have a reputation of compulsively following the rest of the herd even when that direction leads over a precipice to a watery demise.

Thanks guys.

Though it might be argued that Automated Speed Enforcement would only be another cash grab, if the speed limits being enforced in an automated manner were set too low, eh?

The Lemming analogy never applied here, because the one thing the Traffic Engineers can be pretty much relied upon is not to abruptly end the road at a precipice, no matter what the posted limit might be.  Hmmm why do Thelma & Louise come to mind?

Now, where is that there Thread about Illegal Lane Changing? (Hey it's the weekend, I'm allowed to be a smart alec once in a while, surely?)

This approach needs to be applied to high crash sites and during poor road conditions , to slow down excessive speeders. With today’s technology, the excessive speeder could have the citation deliver to the door, by a courier. Soon, certain consequences will change behavior for most drivers.

I’m concerned about the impact of increased high way speed limits and increased emphasis supporting left lane speeding, on driver’s speed in city and on rural roads. Even when travelling at posted speed plus 10 k, more drivers tailgate and drive aggressively.

Too much emphasis is being placed on increased speed.

Will ICBC , or some other traffic safety professional group , please analyze the impact of this focus on increased speed on the frequency and severity/cost of traffic accidents?

As crashes cost billions per year the new technology of speed cameras would not only pay for themselves it would save lives & injuries. They could not only catch speeders but also agressive drivers like tail gaters, the roads & Hwy's would become much safer. I think they should be equiped with ALPR as well and linked to police computers so the worst offenders could be met in person by police so they can be removed from the road instantly & their vehicles towed.

Cash Cow??? What an insane statement! And not just from drivers but from Instructors, just wow! That's more of a statement I would expect from speed advocacy groups & selfish drivers with no clue about safety that try and justify breaking the law because of their "Opinion" It makes no difference if the speed should be set higher it should be followed at all times. Supporting law breakers because your opinion a speed is set too low & by someone that teaches driving just makes me shake my head, to actually argue on behalf of dangerous drivers, OMG really?

If the speed is set to low rally the government to raise it, not just take the law into your own hands and risk lives while doing it. I have said it before, the 85th percentile is the most rediqulous way to set speed limits, your taking the vast majority of drivers with no clue on how to handle a motor vehicle properly or any clue of real road safety and putting their ego's in charge of setting the laws? Wow again! That makes as much sense as having kindergarten children setting the laws for our whole country. The totally Ignorant of what is actually reality in charge of making the laws, I can't believe this still is the norm in 2016, it's simply politicians that love their fat paychecks & don't want to commit political sueicide and go against public opinion, at the cost of lives & family suffering, as well as billions of tax payer dollars per year. The very sad reality :-(