Intersection cameras now operate around the clock at 140 high-accident locations in B.C., and have the ability to issue speeding tickets by mail with images like this. (ICBC)

B.C. communities call for highway speed camera pilot project

‘Not photo radar’ proposed for Coquihalla, Sea to Sky, Malahat

Local politicians have endorsed the idea of “point-to-point” speed enforcement cameras on three B.C. highways to reduce speeding and crashes.

One of those locations is the Sea to Sky Highway from North Vancouver to Whistler, where municipal officials are gathered this week for their annual convention. The others are the Coquihalla Highway and the Malahat Drive on Vancouver Island.

Lions Bay Mayor Karl Buhr sponsored the motion, noting that Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is “quite receptive” to the idea. Automatic cameras would capture licence plates and mail tickets to the vehicle owner if the average speed over a monitored stretch of highway is excessive.

The highway to Whistler is a notorious speed zone with three times the fatalities and twice the property damage of other roads, Buhr said.

“Average speed-to-distance technology, some call it point-to-point technology, is not photo radar,” Buhr said. “It’s not the gotcha that we’ve been used to in B.C. This is in fact a fair and controlled approach to governing speeds in safety corridors for all drivers, all the time.

“It works where it’s been applied, Australia, many countries in Western Europe, and in Scotland, where after an initial teething period, the rate of compliance is around 95 per cent.”

Not everyone was supportive.

“This is not the gotcha of photo radar,” said North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring. “It’s a different kind of gotcha, but it’s based on the same principle.

“They take a picture of your licence plate when you enter the zone, and a picture of your licence plate when you leave the zone. And the assumption is that registered owner is driving the vehicle, which is the problem with photo radar.”

Farnworth is already considering another kind of “not photo radar” using intersection cameras. By August, all 140 intersection cameras at high-risk intersections in B.C. have been upgraded to operate 24 hours a day. The upgrades include the ability to measure speed as well as detect running red lights.

RELATED: B.C. red-light cameras now live around the clock

A report is due this fall on the threshold for an intersection speeding ticket, after analysis of speeding and crash data.

“Enforcement will focus on the fastest vehicles at these locations, whether they are passing through on a green, yellow or red light,” Farnworth’s ministry said in an August statement. “What we do know is thousands of vehicles are going through at more than 30 km/h over the speed limit throughout the year.”

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