Don’t have a cow over photo radar

This photograph was featured prominently in the Edmonton Journal.

At first glance, it looks harmless enough: A little girl and a man standing by the side of a snowy road. The man appears to be waving and the girl is holding up a large cardboard cut-out of a cow.

But look closer and you see the word, “Radar” printed across the cow’s body.

The man  is Jack Shultz, Edmonton’s infamous photo radar denier, warning motorists of a nearby photo radar location. The cow, of course, is a tool to trumpet (or perhaps moo) Mr. Shultz’s oft-repeated message that photo radar is a cash cow, the city’s way of lining its coffers.

For some reason, Mr. Shultz feels it’s his duty to inform the masses of the wrongs he believes are being perpetrated upon them by photo radar. He insists enforcement of the practice doesn’t work. He says there is no evidence showing it slows drivers down.

Mr. Shultz is wrong.

Statistics indicate that photo radar has reduced the number of speed-related collisions in Edmonton.

A University of Alberta study in 2014 analyzed 8 years of City of Edmonton traffic records. It found that the use of photo radar reduced fatal and injury collisions by 20.1 percent. Read the study here. The findings were consistent with studies from other jurisdictions. A British Columbia  study found a reduction in speed-related collisions by 25 percent, while a study in France pegged the reduction at 21 percent. 

Mr. Shultz is a proponent of driving the speed set by the majority of others on the road. If the speed limit is 50 kilometres an hour, but most drivers are doing 60, go 60, Mr. Shultz would say.

He’s wrong on that count, too, because data shows the speed a driver is travelling — no matter what it is — impacts how quickly they can stop.

Why does Mr. Shultz feel he has the right to disregard posted speed limits and put others, be they motorists, pedestrians or cyclists, at risk? What sense of entitlement would make anyone do that?

Mr. Shultz’s antics are disturbing. It scares me that he’s out there spreading misinformation. It scares me that he believes he is above the law and doesn’t have to follow traffic rules. It scares me that he encourages others to break the law as well.

And it deeply disturbs me that he includes children in his crusade. What does standing on the side of a road warning drivers of the big, bad photo radar truck, teach a child about respect for our laws? How does that affect a person’s mind-set once they’re old enough to get behind the wheel?

Some people might be amused by Mr. Shultz. Not my husband and me. Once you’ve experienced the horror and heartbreak of losing a child to a careless driver, things like that aren’t funny.

Our son, David, was not killed by a speeding driver. But did speed factor into it? Sure. If the driver had been paying more attention to the road, combined with the speed she was going, she would likely have been able to stop before hitting him.

I doubt anything I’ve said here would influence Mr. Shultz. So, we invite him to spend a day in our shoes. Three years ago, my husband and I were working happily in our respective careers. We were enjoying life, going out for dinners, seeing friends and spending time with our children.

On Sunday, January 27th, 2014, we had breakfast with David. He was in his second year of university and he said he was worried about paying for the rest of his degree. Steve and I had already decided we’d foot the bill and take the money out of his inheritance.

We didn’t tell him that day because we were sitting in a noisy restaurant. We’ll tell him later in the week, we said.

But there was no “later.” David was killed the following day.

Mr. Shultz, how would you feel if someone you loved was killed by an irresponsible driver? Would you be satisfied with a $2,000 fine and a two-month licence suspension?

Or would you not even be able to grasp the penalty because your mind was so swamped by grief that you could barely function?

The rules of the road are there for a reason, Mr. Shultz. They are not meant to be interpreted as an individual sees fit. Driving is a priviledge, not a right.

I hope your arrogant disregard for that does not end in some innocent person’s death.