Flash: Alberta approves red-light cameras

EDMONTON — Starting Jan. 1, police in Alberta will be able to issue fines for violations using evidence provided by red-light cameras at intersections.

The cameras photograph vehicles that enter an intersection after the traffic control lights have turned red. They record information like the time, date, location, violation number, and time lapsed since the light turned.

Bill 215, an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, provides the legislative authority to employ red-light camera technology.

The registered owner of a vehicle caught by a red-light camera will be issued a ticket for $50 under Section 170 of the Highway Traffic Act, according to Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation and Utilities. No demerit points will be issued. The camera will not photograph a vehicle that enters an intersection on a yellow light but does not clear it before the light turns red. This means drivers waiting in the intersection to make a left-hand turn will not be ticketed.

Proponents say the cameras will make motorists think twice before entering an intersection on a yellow light. In 1995, 901 collisions occurred in Alberta as a result of running red lights causing 11 fatalities and 890 injuries. A pilot project in Alberta’s Strathcona County during April 1998 caught 113 infractions in its first 48 hours. An Edmonton pilot project caught 315 in the first month.

Other jurisdictions, including Victoria, B.C., have used the camera technology. Earlier this month, the City of Toronto announced it would use cameras to catch red-light runners.

Detractors say the cameras are a tool for producing additional revenue at best, a symbol of intrusive government at worst.

“The conventional use of police officers to combat red-light running uses a lot of resources,” counters Chief John Lindsay, chair of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police. “Witnessing and apprehending drivers who run red lights is time consuming and can be dangerous for the officers and other drivers on the road, especially at high-risk, busy intersections.”

Bill 215 also allows evidence to be entered in court by way of affidavit, rather than by requiring the personal appearance of a police officer. A standardized affidavit for use in court has been developed for use by all police forces.

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