I admit that it really bothers me when people start describing photo radar as a cash cow. But after police have come to your door to tell you that your son was killed crossing the street, you look at the world differently.
So when I turned on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM Monday morning to hear that the topic of their “Morning Roast” was photo radar, I was prepared for the worst.
What I heard from my former colleagues left me yelling at my radio in outrage.
The “Daily Roast” is a panel of three people. This week it was political commentator, Brock Harrison and actor/comedians Sheldon Elter and Jana O’Connor. And certainly, there was a lot of laughing going on. O’Connor suggested jokingly that photo radar officers should dress up as sasquatches, so it would be funny when they gave you a ticket for speeding.
Elter complained that he got photo radar tickets for “just going 12 (km/h) over.” Harrison went even further. He said drivers doing 10 km/h over the speed limit are just “out there taking their kids to soccer. You are not a public safety hazard. You are not posing a threat to anyone,” he said.
He even offered to serve as campaign manager for any municipal candidate who runs on a “ban photo radar” platform.
All this amid lots of laughs and lighthearted banter. With nary a real fact or statistic in sight.
So what are the facts that CBC did not bother to provide? (Maybe the cutbacks have taken a toll on their research budget.) Years of studies from around the world, including our own University of Alberta, say this:
- Photo radar reduces fatal and serious injury collisions by 20.1 percent. Other jurisdictions provide similar numbers.
- A 5 per cent increase in speed leads to a 10 per cent increase in injury collisions and a 20 per cent increase in fatal collisions.
I do not know what is worse. That a broadcaster charged with looking at issues from a factual and journalistic point of view has so blatantly provided time to people spewing misinformation, or that the subject was part of a lighthearted, entertainment-oriented discussion.
CBC is not the only one taking a happy-go-lucky approach to such a serious issue. In February the Edmonton Journal carried a “cute” picture showing photo radar denier Jack Shultz with a child and a cardboard cow, warning motorists of a nearby photo unit. Other radio stations have given voice to those complaining about being ticketed by such an “unfair” system.
But whose fault is it that the facts about the dangers of speed and the usefulness of photo radar in slowing speeders are so little known?
It was heartening to see the stream of Twitter comments, most of which said things like, “If you don’t want a photo radar ticket, don’t speed.” But the city, whose Vision Zero campaign is supposed to be championing the issue of traffic safety, was disturbingly quiet during the morning’s program. This despite the city’s own communications strategy which recommends playing a greater role in public advocacy, including efforts to educate opinion leaders like radio show hosts.
Some Edmontonians just don’t get it. Speed limits are there for a reason. Knowing the proper speed, reading the signs and paying attention to your driving are part of the responsibility you accept when you get your licence.
Your one-tonne vehicle can easily turn into a killing machine without proper care. Slow down, obey the speed signs and pay attention.
If you think this is a laughing matter, remember those who have died on our roads because of bad drivers. It’s anything but amusing.