The City of Airdrie will have to wait before it can consider implementing Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) measures throughout the community, following a provincial freeze on the installation or upgrade of photo radar devices by municipalities or police services effective Dec. 1, 2019.
Still, following a council direction from October 2019, administration drafted a report on ATE and Intersection Safety Devices (ISDs) and presented it at a regular meeting Feb. 18.
“The use of automated speed enforcement technologies is now wide-spread throughout many parts of the world, and research has consistently demonstrated the positive road-safety benefits achieved through the use of these technologies,” said Lynn Mackenzie, team leader with Municipal Enforcement, in the report to council.
“However, there is wide variation in the nature, extent of use and the perceived acceptability of automated enforcement technology, particularly as the primary form of speed enforcement.”
Benefits of ATE use, according to the report, include improved safety for law enforcement officials, fair and impartial enforcement, self-financing (as ATE programs generate sufficient revenues to be self-sustaining) and resource-saving.
“The amount of time it takes to monitor speed and issue a violation is far longer than ATE and captures far less violators,” Mackenzie said. “Reducing the number of traffic collisions also reduces emergency response times along with health-care expenditures.”
In particular, the report recommended the use of ATE to address the issue of speeding in residential areas and school zones, suggesting the option be explored further.
“ATE is only one speed-management approach, and a tool used by certain municipalities to monitor and enforce compliance with traffic-safety laws, penalize aggressive drivers and curb dangerous behaviours,” Mackenzie said.
Administration also recommended the City pursue a contractor-led program, which Mackenzie said is typically cost-neutral – meaning the municipality would not need to invest in the up-front cost.
“A preliminary estimate of $300,000 would cover the cost to purchase cameras for two intersections,” she said, noting additional costs would include expenses for staff time and resources, developing a communications plan and working with the contractor, Solicitor General and the RCMP to ensure the program is compliant with all necessary guidelines.
Mackenzie’s report stemmed from council direction in April 2019, requesting administration review intersection safety and collision and traffic data to determine if precautions and tools – like ATE and ISDs – would make the City’s intersections safer.
The City’s current Traffic Safety Plan – which Mackenzie said builds on the provincial road-safety plan using data specific to the municipality – was adopted in November 2017, and is valid until the end of 2020. The freeze on ATEs will remain in effect for approximately two years while the province reviews best practices.
“At the [Municipal Policing Advisory Board] level, we don’t support the province’s decision to do what they have done, and we will be writing a letter urging them to strongly reconsider,” Coun. Candice Kolson said. “It will be a strongly-worded letter that will show the importance of some of these traffic enhancements that we could do around the City, just to make it safer.”
Mayor Peter Brown suggested council submit a letter to that effect, as well, and asked Mackenzie what the City can do in the interim, until the provincial freeze is removed.
“We do make intersection safety a priority, but one of the challenges with those big intersections is that it’s difficult to actually place an officer there, from the officer’s safety perspective,” she said. “As well, with the court system, quite often the courts are looking for that camera to get a conviction.”