Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quebec Photo Radar Starts Today- Another Cash Grab

Notwithstanding Quebec Transport Minister Julie Boulet's promise that photo radar will not be used as a cash grab, don't hold your breath.
According to her announcement, photo radar will only be used as a deterrent for specific 'problem' areas with the public well-informed as to the where and when.
It seems like a reasonable enough explanation and one hard to detract, but do you honestly believe that the government is going to buy all this expensive equipment and not use it to make money? If saving lives is the
rationale, then the money would be better spent by hiring more doctors and nurses.

Mindful of the uproar that the introduction of photo radar caused in Ontario a decade ago (the project had to be withdrawn), sugar-coating photo-radar's introduction is a good idea. For the first couple of months, only warnings will be issued. Once we get used to it, photo-radar will rapidly
propagate and become an important revenue stream. Within a year or two they'll be placing cameras on the most lucrative spots with an eye to getting the biggest cash return.

Can I buy a franchise?

Why do I not believe that photo-radar isn't a cash grab?
Well, here in Montreal we just went through the same story in regard to radar traps. The city claimed that speeds had to be brought down because of the elevated danger to pedestrians and so a special police traffic detail was created and 130 officers added to widely expand the use of radar traps.

So how did police implement the plan? Did they go to dangerous intersections that had a history of accidents? Did they set up in front of schools, hospitals or where pedestrian traffic is particularly heavy?
Nope, they set up operations in places where they could give out the most tickets in the shortest amount of time. Pedestrian safety is not a criterion in selecting where traps are placed and in fact most of these spots are not dangerous in the least.
It's true.
I asked the cop who was writing me up, why he set up on such lonely stretch of road that wasn't dangerous
at all and he wasn't shy to tell me that the goal of the police is to give out as many tickets as possible. Period. He called it deterrence.

Some of these speed traps are on deserted roads, devoid of pedestrians, such as in the Cavendish underpass in St. Laurent where police use the bridge as a sight barrier and nail people as they come up the hill.
Autoroute 40 service road (at Place Vertu) doesn't see 10 pedestrians a day walking on it's sidewalk, yet the police set up on it on an ongoing basis strictly because of it's profitability.

The stupidest radar trap of all is on
Decarie Boulevard service road near Jean Talon, which I've already written about. This one is of particular interest because the police actually represent a public danger as they run out into traffic, across three lanes to nab drivers who haven't slowed down fast enough when coming off the Decarie Expressway. All three lanes of traffic come screeching to a halt as the police officer leads the offender across the traffic to the curb. All this in the interest of traffic safety!
It's clear that Montreal Police radar traps have everything to do with revenue production and nothing to do with safety, so why will photo-radar be different?

Now let's get back to the stated rationale behind photo radar, the desire to get road speeds down. Every day we are reminded that speed kills, but it's actually not true.

The notion that going ten or twenty clicks over the speed limit is inherently dangerous is patently untrue. Please note that I differentiate between speeding and dangerous driving (where drivers go forty, fifty and more over the speed limit), which does represent a danger to everyone.

But, believe or not, speeding as the primary cause of road accidents, is towards the very bottom of the list.
In Germany the Autobahn has no speed limit, yet it records less accidents and fatalities per
capita, than our provincial Autoroute system.

Statistics can be made to prove almost anything, and officials make the case, that excess speed is a large factor in car crashes. They remind us that in 30% of crashes, drivers are speeding.

It's like saying that in 50% of accidents the driver is listening to the radio and ergo radios should be removed from cars.
The fact is, that 30% of drivers are always speeding, so that it's quite likely that when accidents happen, 30% of the drivers were speeding.

Here is a list of the principle reasons for car accidents.
Unknown 18.7%
Failure to yield 18.1%
Loss of control 14.0%
Tailgating 12.6%
Driving too fast for road conditions 12.6%
Improper turn 7.9%
Disregarding signage or lights 6.0%
Improper lane change 5.6%
Improper passing 2.3%
Speeding 1.9%
Driving the in the wrong direction 0.2%
Driving too slowly 0.1%
Total 100.0%
As you can see speeding is towards the end of the list and represents less than 2% of the primary reason for car accidents. I bet you didn't know that!
People who speed are generally skilled drivers and represent less of a risk than your average grandpa driving below the limit.
In fact tired or distracted drivers represent a risk that is ten times more dangerous than speeders. Perhaps the government should force every driver to have a cup of coffee before getting behind the wheel, it'll save more lives than ticketing speeders!

Over the last thirty years, the number of people killed on the road has been cut in half. In Montreal, there was a thirty percent drop in traffic deaths between 2006 and 2007, so why the big hullabaloo.

Even if we believe the police that all this effort will save lives, the question is-how many?
In Montreal 24 pedestrians died in traffic accidents last year. Over half of them, according to police were breaking the law and themselves responsible for the accident. Every year, despite precautions there are couple of deaths related to snow clearing operations which have nothing to do with speeding.
That leaves about six or seven deaths in Montreal, to account for. How many were related to speeding?
Perhaps one, maybe two, maybe none.
Consider that number when you listen to politicians telling you that there is speeding crisis that photo-radar needs to address.


1 comment:

  1. Call me crazy, but it seems to me all these could involve speed:
    Loss of control 14.0%
    Tailgating 12.6%
    Driving too fast for road conditions 12.6%
    Speeding 1.9%