Sunday, August 28, 2016

Why The Photo Radar Debate Is Misshapen

Photo radar reduces speed. Photo radar doesn't reduce speed.
Physical police presence reduces speed. Physical police presence increases speed immediately after an issued ticket.
Photo radar makes roads safer. Photo radar doesn't make roads safer.

There are studies and anecdotal evidence to prove all of the above. All can be right. Circumstances, times of studies, bias, too scientific (?!-- this particular argument is baseless, but made, so I'm including it,) not scientific enough: all are arguments waged against studies that don't favour an individual's or a group's view of photo radar.

Some people, as my "local"* paper has noted, are so opposed to photo radar that they are joining together to locate photo radar, then respond by positioning themselves physically in advance of the photo radar, holding signs to warn drivers to slow down.

We actually have such signs already. They are called speed limit signs. There are also signs informing drivers of locations that use photo radar. Posted below are examples:

We're required to understand what they are and why they exist in order to get the most base level of driver's permit, the learner's permit officially known as the Class 7 Learner's Licence in Alberta.

In case anyone has been licensed long enough that they've forgotten the reason we have speed limits, the information is prominently displayed on the Government of Alberta's Transportation landing page.  If time does not permit following the link, here is the reasoning behind speed limits:

Speed limits do not indicate the 
maximum speed drivers should travel. 
They are the maximum speed permitted 
when conditions are ideal. Any speed 
that is unsafe for the current conditions is 

My partner sagely pointed out that sometimes, a driver speeds for reasons they perceive to be legitimate. Our system has an opportunity for that to be explained. Tickets received via photo radar and tickets written in person by a Traffic Enforcement Officer provide a court date when the ticketed individual or ticketed owner of the vehicle (depending on which applies) can argue their case.

The fact remains that speed limits are limits and they are laws.

Do people make mistakes and drive far enough over limits that they get tickets? Absolutely. Does everyone who has ever received a speeding ticket cause a speed related accident? Obviously not. Our population would be decimated.

But why should breaking the law, whether a mistake or by intention, not have a consequence?

In what other circumstances of legal infraction do we shrug our shoulders and say, well, it was a mistake, no harm, no foul, carry on?

Speeding causes accidents. Consider the following statistics: (2014 was a good year, other years had higher occurrences; to placate people who might argue I chose worst possible scenario, I specifically did not select Alberta's worst year for speed related collisions and fatalities.)

In 2014, 25.0% of total fatal collisions involved one or more drivers indicated by the police as having been travelling at a speed too great for the given conditions.  (328 fatalities means 82 people were killed as the direct result of speeding.)
5.7% of total collisions in 2014 involved unsafe speed.
Of all drivers involved in fatal collisions, 15.9% had consumed alcohol before the crash. (328 fatalities mean 52 people were killed in collisions involving alcohol consumption. Note that neither impaired driving or charges of impaired driving are the determinants of this statistic, simply consumption of alcohol.)
Of all drivers involved in injury collisions 3.3% had consumed alcohol before the crash.

I offer these statistics to demonstrate that speed is a factor larger than alcohol consumption in the number of driving fatalities in Alberta. Also of note is that the majority of speeding tickets issued, by photo radar or in person, are at rush hour.

Distracted driving statistics are not available in large part, because drivers don't admit to distraction at the scene of an accident. However, when distracted driving has been ticketed in non-collision circumstances, the following is the breakdown of distractions:
Outside object/person/event — 29.9%
Adjusting radio/CD — 11.4%
Other vehicle occupants — 10.9%
Something moving in the car — 4.3%
Using another object/device — 2.9%
Adjusting car's climate controls — 2.8%
Eating/drinking — 1.7%
Cellular phones — 1.5%
It follows logically that distracted drivers fail to notice speed limit signs.

To return to the argument though, should speeders be ticketed by photo radar? Is it fair? Is it a cash cow?

My answer to all three is YES.

Driving is a privilege. Speed limits are laws. Numerous accidents and deaths are caused by speeders. If photo radar is a cash cow that helps generate revenue for the government so they can pay for the emergency vehicles, health care required for injured drivers and passengers, repair of public property damaged by accidents, where is the problem?

Arguments that photo radar is a cash cow are probably true. Of course, if you don't speed, you won't get a ticket, so you won't be a "victim" of a cash cow.

The irony of those objecting to photo radar, like Jack Shultz (who also has vehicular stunting tickets under his belt,) the organizer of the "activist" group in the newspaper today, is that they want more police officers on the road to prevent speeding, distracted driving... all instances of driving infractions. Where exactly do they believe the money to pay for such a massive increase in police presence will be found? A revenue source or "cash cow" that catches speeders is pretty intelligent revenue source; find the money wherein the problem lies.

More photo radar is an intelligent solution to Mr. Shultz's concern; it raises funds allowing an increased police presence.

Those of us who make an occasional mistake, miss noticing a speed limit sign, will get an occasional ticket. When we are speeding just a bit, the ticket is lower; there is an algorithm to the speed in excess of the limit applied to the fine accompanying the ticket. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and when we make mistakes there are consequences.

Chronic speeders? They'll get more tickets. They can feel pleased that their intentional speeding (ignoring limits is what makes them chronic) is helping fund all the costs associated with speed related collisions and more officers on the road.

As for drivers who think they know better than the surveyors, engineers, and physicists (the professionals who evaluate roads to determine speed limits) and therefore believe they can drive the speed they want, (with no evidence, just their "superior instinct" about speed and safety,) they shouldn't have received driver's licences in the first instance. The driver's licence is issued to individuals who have demonstrated they are capable of the act of driving and of complying with motor vehicle laws.

Believing oneself to be above the law and to act in overt, intentional defiance is to be a vigilante.

I cannot imagine ANY other area of criminal law in which there would be popular support for individuals to make their own decisions about what should be.

In short, I don't care at all if people think photo radar is a cash cow. If you don't want to get a fine; don't speed. It's that simple. If you get a ticket, be an adult and admit you made a mistake. We all do sometimes.

*There is nothing local about the paper; it is owned, operated, and the majority of the content created by a single entity that owns the vast majority of papers in Canada. A scant few pages are dedicated to local content produced by a scant few local journalists.

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