Coun. Ross Siemens says photo radar may be the cure for rampant speeding in playground and school zones around Abbotsford.  Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Coun. Ross Siemens says photo radar may be the cure for rampant speeding in playground and school zones around Abbotsford. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Is photo radar the cure to school zone speeders?

Abbotsford politicians say province should reconsider photo radar stance to cure speeders of habit

It might still be a political bogeyman, but a pair of city politicians think photo radar may be the only solution to curtail rampant speeding around Abbotsford.

At Monday evening’s council meeting, Coun. Ross Siemens said the city should ask the province to consider allowing the use of photo radar in school and playground zones to deter speeders.

Siemens expanded on the thought in an interview Wednesday. He said the city has been receiving numerous complaints about speeders in 30 km/h playground and school zones. But with the city’s police force already stretched to its limit, significantly increasing the number of traffic cops would either cost taxpayers millions of dollars or compromise law enforcement efforts in other areas.

The city, though, has no authority to implement photo radar; new provincial legislation would have to be implemented for it to go ahead here. So Siemens thinks Abbotsford should ask about it.

“Police can’t be everywhere,” he said. “They’ve got so many competing demands for times and resources.”

Photo radar presents a cost-effective alternative, as long as it’s used responsibly, he said.

“The problem with photo radar in the past is it was used as a cash grab … that’s why it was tremendously unpopular.”

Along with playground and school zones, he said the city’s rural roads also frequently see motorists driving at extreme and dangerous speeds.

“We’ve got people doing in excess of 100 km/h on some of these rural roads.”

Mayor Henry Braun agreed speeding is an issue.

Its implementation and abandonment in the 90s was “a debacle,” he said. But he called the technology “a great tool” that, if used properly to target habitual speeders, might finally get speeders to reconsider their actions.

“I think it probably needs to have a look at, but not in the way it was done before.”

He said that if implemented, it should be focused on catching chronic speeders, rather than the general public who may only occasionally find themselves straying above the speed limit. Braun suggested a regimen whereby drivers could receive multiple warnings each month before being ticketed. Once the tickets start, Braun said they could increase.

“When you get up into the thousands [of dollars], at some point you’re going to get their attention.

An ICBC report released last month suggested photo radar could be used to reduce speed-related accidents and limit the need to increase insurance rates.

But the province’s new attorney general, David Eby, has bluntly ruled out bringing back photo radar, saying British Columbians “hate it.”

Those comments came after the BC Liberals said the NDP should “come clean” on their plans for photo radar.

But Siemens and Braun aren’t the only municipal politicians in B.C. speaking a different tune. In June, West Kelowna councillors said they’d welcome photo radar in order to slow drivers.

A 2013 poll suggested 39 per cent support for bringing back photo radar to help curb speeding, with 53 per cent opposed.