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Speeders to escape fines from traffic cameras… for now

Mayors Dave Aker of Mount Pearl and Dan Bobbett of Paradise (left) along with Sarah Stoodley field questions from reporters Tuesday about a pilot project involving the use of traffic cameras to combat speeding. Craig Westcott photo.

By Craig Westcott \ May 26, 2023

There will be no fines for now, just a picture and a note in the mail to say you’ve been spotted. But Service NL Minister Sarah Stoodley says a photo radar pilot project with Paradise and Mount Pearl may eventually lead to ticketing leadfooted drivers who get caught on camera.

Stoodley, Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker and Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett outlined the project, which will start June 1, at a press conference at the Paradise Double Ice Complex on Tuesday.

The pilot will gauge the frequency and rates of speeding and is not being implemented as a revenue raising initiative but simply to deter speeding, she insisted. It will take legislative changes and an analysis of the effect on Traffic Court’s operations before the cameras can be used as a basis for fines. For now, the two municipalities will take on the responsibility and cost of sending “detection notices” to people seen speeding.

Bobbett said his town has long advocated the use of traffic cameras. Council has already implemented a range of measures to fight speeding, he noted, including the installation of rubber curb extensions, flashing lights, speed radar signs, and the use of crossing guards near Paradise’s four elementary schools.

“Our municipal enforcement officers frequently patrol school zones during opening and closing hours and work closely with the RNC to report traffic violations and infractions,” he said. “Working with the provincial government to pilot this initiative was the next step in our work to improve road safety.”

Bobbett said traffic data already indicates speeding is prevalent on Carlisle Drive and Brougham Drive in Elizabeth Park and on Karwood Drive. 

“Based on the research, our Town engineers feel installing traffic cameras over the next three months will deliver the most benefit to curtailing speeding in the area for the future traffic calming measures in our community,” he said. “The new traffic camera pilot program will use recorded data to issue warnings to speeding drivers as a first step. This process will allow our municipalities to set the stage for monitoring road safety within our own boundaries. Our long-term goal is to ticket individuals travelling above the posted speed limits.”

Bobbett said such collaborations between municipalities and other levels of government benefit the whole region. “I am looking forward to seeing the accomplishments of this program as it rolls out,” he added.

Mayor Aker said speeding has been a doorstep issue in every municipal election he has contested since entering politics 14 years ago. 

“Some of the issues with speeding are perception over reality,” he allowed. “But over time we’ve acquired the equipment in the City of Mount Pearl that allows us to identify our hot zones. Yes, sometimes speeding is perceived to be a little bit more than what it really is, but other times we do realize that we do have speeding issues on some of our streets.”

Aker said council has been reluctant to tackle the problem using the same old methods, which is why this program is so welcome. “It’s really important that we add a deterrent to the mix, that we add some additional eyes and ears, so to speak, to our municipal enforcement, both for the City of Mount Peal and Paradise as well as to complement our RNC officers, who also do a fine job in managing traffic,” said the mayor. “Because at the end of the day, it’s the safety of our residents and our businesses that come top of mind. Reducing speed is a goal of the City of Mount Pearl and we believe this is going to be very integral to it. I’d like to say that finally, with this new technology, the coyote is going to catch the roadrunner.”

Aker thanked everyone involved in the project. “You can’t believe the number of government departments alone that are involved in this initiative,” he said. “We’ll work out the process, at the end of the day, to ensure that those who speed in the City of Mount Peal and the Town of Paradise ultimately get held accountable.”

Park Avenue, Blackmarsh Road and Michener Avenue, meanwhile, are the three “hot spots” in Mount Pearl that the cameras will target, Aker said. “That’s not just based on perception – we’ve done the data and we see that there’s speeding occurring,” he said. “It will be interesting to see the before and after.”

Stoodley said the pilot project will provide an idea of the volume of tickets that might eventually be issued thanks to the cameras, as well as the court and police time that could be involved. “We’re going to, ideally, automate as much of it as possible,” she said. “That’s one of the key things we’re working out, because we don’t want to take our law enforcement away from the very important work that they’re doing. We’re hoping this can supplement what they’re doing, with their cooperation. So that’s part of why we need some of this excellent data (so that) we can work out what elements can the municipalities enforce, and what elements will go through the provincial court system. Those are some of the nuances we’re still working out.”

Some research shows traffic cameras can reduce speeding by 30 to 50 per cent, Stoodley said.

Aker noted his City has spent money on all the traditional means of fighting speeding. “We feel that we’re not getting any more bang for the buck,” he admitted. “Frankly, over the last 10 years we haven’t seen much of a change in speeding. So, I think it’s time now to take that money that we normally spend every year and put it into something that’s new… As the minister said, behind the scenes there’s a lot of work to be done in getting the technology right, the software, to get it moving from the camera to the City to Motor Vehicle (Registration) to Fines and Administration to collection and finally to depositing the money.”

Stoodley acknowledged municipalities would like to share in the revenues from traffic fines. 

“That’s certainly something that we’re looking at,” she said. “We need to look at what legislation needs to change… That’s all part of the background work that we’re working on.”

The minister said the traffic camera system should pay for itself once fines can be issued from it. “And it should be a revenue generator for municipalities, but I just want to make clear no one is trying to make money off this,” Stoodley said. “Hopefully, this is successful in reducing speeding and there will not be any tickets issued, but that has not been the case in other jurisdictions, and in other jurisdictions it does create revenue.”

Aker, who has a background in accounting, suggested the volume of tickets generated will likely determine whether the traffic cameras are eventually a net cost or a revenue generator.

“This is not about generating revenues for the municipalities,” he said. “But, when you listen to the sales pitch for the cameras, some of the vendors will argue that’s part of the pitch. But we can’t answer that question until we do some snapshots using the speed cameras and find out what the typical volumes are, particularly in the hot zones.”

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