Photo radar discussion March 18, 2018

Spruce Grove city council spent 4½ hours Monday, March 18, discussing its photo radar (PR/automated traffic enforcement) program. Here are some highlights of that discussion, answers to some council questions and answers to common questions from residents.

A decision on the program’s future may be made when the discussion continues March 25 when several recommendations will come before council. You can listen to the meeting podcast at

Why did this wait until now to do this?

The City waited for the release of the provincial report as that could affect what Spruce Grove does.

Cash cow?

This is the biggest PR complaint. “We believe it works. It is all about safety,” said David Wolanski, general manager of community and protective services. I was on council when PR was introduced and it was never, nor is it now, about the money. I realize that some people will never accept this but it’s so. We make no decisions based on revenue. We support technologies such as Google Maps that alert drivers to PR locations. We’ve pulled some sites where revenue is higher but we didn’t feel it was changing driver behaviour. Our goal is to have a safe community.

Does PR have an impact on collision rates and the incidences of serious injuries?

Yes, absolutely yes. Before photo radar collisions had been on a steady rise for years. Speeding was epidemic and there were many major accidents with serious injuries. That trend has been reversed. We have evidence that it has a significant impact on safety.

Does the program meet provincial requirements?

Yes, we’ve passed all of our regular audits. The province has told us that our program is conducted in accordance with the province’s requirements. We won’t require many changes to comply with the new regulations.

If it’s about safety why are we on Highway 16A?

The four highest collision intersections are all on Highway 16A. Because it’s the roadway with the highest speed combined with the greatest traffic volumes the risk is greater on 16A than anywhere.

Does covert enforcement change driver behavior to get a ticket two weeks later?

Studies and our experience indicate that it does cause behavioural change. I have no doubt that it changes behaviour. It’s changed mine (yes, I’ve had tickets) and I know I’m not the only one.

Are intersections that dangerous?

Intersections are the most dangerous locations based on collision numbers and severity. In the U.S. a third of all intersection crashes and 40% of fatalities occur at intersections.

Why not set up PR in school and playground zones?

School and playground zones probably don’t meet the site criteria, including collision numbers. Plus, there aren’t significant speeding issues in these areas. Council was told that it had pretty much zero impact. We sometimes set up manned enforcement in these zones.

Why hide cameras in those boxes that look like utility boxes

I admit that I struggle mightily with this one. The boxes have always seemed a little sleazy to me, although I understand the reason. They’re used where manned enforcement is unsafe.

Why do you use PR in speed transition zones?

Spruce Grove has never used PR in transition zones.

I was asked if I expected a full council chambers for this discussion; I didn’t. We only had four people in the gallery, one of whom stayed right to the end.

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