Alberta changing ‘cash cow’ photo radar to focus on safety, not money

EDMONTON — Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason says it’s clear photo radar is being used as a cash cow by municipalities and he is implementing changes he thinks will fix that.

“It’s my intention that we are going to humanely put the cash cow down,” Mason told a legislature news conference Thursday.

Mason also released a third-party report showing that photo radar generates about $220 million a year in revenue while reducing collisions by about 1.4 per cent.

Municipalities keep almost three-quarters of that money and the rest goes to the province. There’s also a 15 per cent surcharge for a victims-of-crime fund.

The changes are to begin as early as June with photo radar to be banned at spots where the speed limit changes on highways.

Also in June, photo radar on high-speed, multi-lane highways won’t be allowed unless there is documented proof of safety concerns.

Municipalities will also have to begin posting on their websites all upcoming photo radar locations and the rationale for putting them there.

Mason said guidelines on where to put photo radar are to be updated, because the current ones brought in by the former Progressive Conservative government are vague and ineffective.

He said a good example of that is a current rules by which photo radar can be run on any four-lane highway regardless of the number of accidents.

“But the question is: where do most of the accidents take place? If you ask the police, they will tell you that most severe accidents take place at intersections,” said Mason.

“And yet most photo radar is not deployed at intersections. It’s deployed on long straightaways where people speed, and the accident rates there are much lower than they are at many intersections.”

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