Councillor wants photo radar to combat speeds

Okotoks: Town not quite ready for digital enforcement yet

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 11:28 am

Okotoks Municipal enforcement officer Kleckner operates a laser radar gun on Sandstone Drive on July 22. Okotoks municipal enforcement cites laser radar as an effective form of speed enforcement.
Okotoks Municipal enforcement officer Kleckner operates a laser radar gun on Sandstone Drive on July 22. Okotoks municipal enforcement cites laser radar as an effective form of speed enforcement.

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You won't be receiving speeding tickets in the mail any time soon, as municipal enforcement says the town isn't ready for photo radar – yet. Instead the boys in blue are continuing to crack down on speeders the old fashioned way and are hoping a visible presence will help slow drivers down.

Municipal enforcement presented their second quarter statistical report to council on July 14, where it was noted that 414 speeding tickets were issued in town since April. They have also been targeting certain problem areas, such as Westlands Street, where they found that 15 per cent of vehicles are driving faster than 49.75 km/h in the 40 km/h zone, which enforcement said is the greatest concern as speeds over 50 km/h decrease survivability rates in the case of a collision.

Coun. Tanya Thorn said Westland Street isn't the only place in town where speeding is an issue.

“Sheep River Drive is a problem, Cimarron Boulevard is a problem, 32nd Street is a problem, Milligan drive is a problem, you know some of those major thoroughfares are all problems,” she said. “As a community where we have so many young families and young kids that are out and about, it concerns me that we can't slow down.” While increased police presence is one way to combat the issue, additional enforcement also comes with a price tag, and Thorn is supportive of looking into other methods, like photo radar.

“It may be a cost effective method to do it because for us to hire more police officers in order for them to actually deal with the speed issues, which I think we have some very significant speed issues identified, it is a significant tax increase,” she said. “So photo radar at this moment in time may be a cost effective method for us to deal with on some of our major roads where we do have a problem.”

But municipal enforcement leader Tim Stobbs said at this point, Okotoks won't be bringing in photo radar because they don't have the traffic incidences to support it.

“We looked at it briefly a number of times. For us to have photo radar we have to be able to justify it by collisions and locations,” he said. “So if you ever look at red light cameras and photo radar, generally they are places with high vulnerability or high collision places. We don't have those, so how do I justify doing that?”

The towns financial sustainability plan, which was done in 2007, suggests possibly implementing photo radar and red light cameras by 2017, but Stobbs said that plan was created with a finite growth model in mind, and all of those plans are being redone as the town prepares for growth. With more cars on the roads in the coming years, photo radar could be an option.

“We believe we're going to be on the same course for growth, we estimate it will be, but we have to understand and bear in mind that that could change with the potential for annexation, anything previous now is really up in the air with how we're going to manage it,” he said. “Understanding in those times that we're working with 30,000 or people and a certain level of traffic in our region, so I guess I'd have to say I'd have to look at how we're doing.”

Although Stobbs doesn't know if or when photo radar will be coming to Okotoks, he said they're always willing to consider anything that will help keep residents safer and slow people down.

“Anything that would slow people down over a long period of time can be an effective tool if it's used correctly and deployed correctly, because I don't think we want to have a perception in our community to think that we would only bring photo radar here as an allegation of just a revenue generator,” he said. “We want to make sure that if we brought any electronic enforcement to town that we've done it for he correct reasons and we've placed it at the right locations to help change behaviour in the correct manner to help enhance safety on our roadways.”

For now Stobbs said they feel that a highly visible enforcement presence in problem areas is the best route to slow drivers down, but Thorn said she expects the issue to resurface as they discuss other problem areas in town.

“It will probably come up again as we move forward on these speed issues, because there's a few others that are still going to be coming to a forefront,” she said. “So I think it will probably come up to be discussed in more detail.”


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