Red light camera tickets surge
Automated cameras busted 50 per cent more drivers for running red lights last year and ICBC doesn't rule out making even greater use of the technology to reduce intersection crashes.
The newly installed system of digital intersection cameras generated 30,803 tickets against red light runners, up from 20,521 in 2010 under the old analog cameras.
That translated into $3.6 million in paid fines for 2011 so far and $5.1 million if all of the $167 tickets are paid. That compares to about $2.9 million in 2010.
The largest number of tickets were issued in Vancouver – 13,012 – followed by 5,298 in Surrey, 4,027 in Burnaby, 1,976 in Delta and 1,394 in Richmond.
The cameras flash each time a red light runner is detected, but tickets are only issued to about one out of every four violators, continuing the enforcement rate used in the past.
Mark Milner, ICBC's manager of road safety programs, said the ticket increase was expected because more cameras are now in use – 140 compared to 120 with the old system – and they've been put in more effective locations where red light running is most prevalent.
"We do expect that number will go down over time as people get used to the idea a little more and as they modify their behaviour," he said.
Milner said ICBC is now conducting an evaluation of whether the program is actually reducing the number of crashes, adding results are expected next year.
If warranted, he said, ICBC could opt to boost the ticket-issuing rate from the current 25 per cent level – reducing motorists' 75 per cent chance of driving unpenalized through a camera-monitored red light,
The five intersections where the most tickets were issued last year were Nordel Way at 84 Avenue in Delta (1,393 tickets); King George Boulevard at 80 Avenue in Surrey (1,205); West Georgia Street at Denman in Vancouver (1,052); Granville Street at West 49th in Vancouver (1,038); and Oak Street at West 57th in Vancouver (998).
"It doesn't necessarily mean that people are running the red light more often [at those sites], just that they're getting caught more," Milner said.
Last year's statistics are deceptive, he added, because the first cameras were installed in January while others didn't get replaced until as late as November.
Since ICBC tried to keep the total number of tickets being issued stable, Milner said the first cameras to be replaced may have issued a higher proportion of tickets than usual for much of 2011.
The project to modernize the intersection cameras cost $23 million, while the annual operating cost is $1.2 million.
Milner said all of that will be recovered through insurance claim savings in the coming years.
Fine revenue goes to the province to pay for traffic safety initiatives.
The red light cameras are also capable of detecting excessive speeders but so far ICBC has not contemplated configuring the cameras to ticket those drivers as well.
"There are not any plans to make those kind of changes right now," he said, adding it could be examined in the future.
Michael Cain, of the advocacy group SENSE originally formed to oppose photo radar, said the new cameras likely don't break down as often as the old ones.
"There are a lot more cameras that are on a lot more of the time," he said of the jump in tickets. "There's just far more detection."
Cain said he'd prefer to see an independent study determine if there's a crash-reduction benefit.
He said many fatal crashes happen late at night, with impaired or prohibited drivers behind the wheel, adding it may be that more police on the streets at that time would do more to stop them.
Cain noted that although tougher red light camera enforcement may reduce the number of T-bone type broadside crashes at intersections, there may be more rear-enders as drivers brake to avoid being ticketed.
TICKETS BY LOWER MAINLAND CITY
Vancouver – 13,012 at 43 sites (up from 7,543)
Surrey – 5,298 at 29 sites (up from 1,092)
Burnaby – 4,027 at 12 sites in 2011 (up from 1,622 in 2010)
Delta – 1,976 at four sites (down from 2,094)
Richmond – 1,394 at nine sites (up from 230)
Maple Ridge – 696 at three sites (down from 761)
Coquitlam – 585 at five sites (up from 72)
Port Coquitlam – 574 at three sites (up from 33)
Langley – 553 at four sites (up from 173)
New Westminster – 445 at one site (down from 1,174)
Chilliwack – 403 at two sites (down from 421)
Abbotsford – 186 at three sites (down from 1,197)
Port Moody – 164 at two sites (none in 2010)
Mission – 75 at one site (none in 2010)
West Vancouver – 58 at one site (none in 2010)
Pitt Meadows – 10 at two sites (unchanged)