Alberta 'freezing in time' photo radar use, while considering new rules

The Alberta government is placing a temporary freeze on municipalities purchasing or upgrading photo radar equipment, while it conducts a two-year study into its use.

“We will be freezing in time the use of photo radar devices effective Dec. 1,” Transportation Minister Ric McIver said Tuesday.   

The government will begin a two-year consultation process with police services and municipalities to ensure photo radar is used to improve safety and is “not just a hidden tax,” McIver said.  

Photo radar use in Alberta generated $220 million in 2016-17. 

“It’s obvious that photo radar generates income but the focus should be on how it affects safety on the roads instead of how it can be used to skim a few extra dollars from Alberta drivers,” McIver said. 

“Once we have better more consistent data we will be in a position to make more informed decisions about the future of photo radar in Alberta.” 

Ban ‘on the table’

Following an independent, third-party review of photo radar last year, the previous NDP government said it planned to eliminate photo radar as a tool for revenue generation. 

The review found photo radar operations in Alberta showed only a marginal contribution to traffic safety, despite Alberta having three times the number of photo radar devices per capita than British Columbia or Manitoba. 

A total ban on photo radar in Alberta is “on the table,” McIver said.

The government supports the NDP’s review and guideline changes, which restricted photo radar use in some locations including transition roads and high speed multi-lane roads, McIver said, but better data collection and reporting requirements are needed.

“Everything’s on the table but I think we’re going to go where the data takes us.”

The temporary freeze and data collection with the 27 Alberta municipalities that use photo radar, is expected to take about two years. 

The government will be using the data to refine rules for photo radar site selection, operational restrictions and data collection. 

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