Besides the media flurry on the new Liberal leader of the Ten Lane Massey Bridge party, there has been discouraging information coming out about ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. This is a provincial Crown corporation established in 1973 to provide universal auto insurance to motorists in this province. It was cutting edge at the time, and responsible for driver and vehicle licensing and registration.
Unfortunately it also appears that some of its profits did not stay with the Corporation, and you can find out more about its governance here. There’s been some finger-pointing on how these losses happened, and a suggestion of limiting the awards of some injuries to mitigate these losses. But a retired Police Chief for the City of Delta Jim Cessford has come up with a proposal to save lives and to save money for the Crown Corporation~bring back photo radar. Why? Because when people know they are being watched, they drive more carefully. “We had it in Edmonton when I was with Edmonton Police. And we found that there was a dramatic decrease in the number of collisions, as a result of photo radar. I know that there’s this whole notion that ‘It’s cash grab.’ Well, that’s true. Obviously, there are funds that are realized as a result of photo radar. That’s a side issue. The real issue is saving lives and we believe that photo radar did save lives.”
British Columbia did have photo radar which was implemented by the provincial  NDP government in 1996. It generated 2.3 million dollars in the year 2000. In 2001 the incoming provincial Liberal government did away with photo radar, instead saying they would rely on traditional policing methods. At the time it was estimated to cost the government 6 million dollars to phase out the program.
Attorney General David Eby has also suggested that red light cameras be set up across the province. But if lowering speeds means that lives are saved, shouldn’t photo radar be considered too? A study on the Economic Impacts of Photo Radar in British Columbia undertaken in 2006 revealed “an annual net benefit of approximately 114 million in year 2001 Canadian dollars to British Columbians. The study also finds a net annual saving of over 38 million Canadian dollars for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) that funded the program..Automated photo radar traffic safety enforcement can be an effective and efficient means to manage traffic speed, reduce collisions and injuries, and combat the huge resulting economic burden to society… Every effort should be made to focus on and to promote the program on safety improvement grounds. The program can be easily terminated because of political considerations, if the public perceives it as a cash cow to enhance government revenue.”


  1. There is a better, cheaper and easier to install version. It does not use radar. There is already an extensive use of cameras to track vehicles across networks. Traffic survey cameras are used to study issues such as the number of vehicles making turns through intersections, but also route choice in dense networks. These cameras can also be used to track vehicles along stretches of road. A speeding ticket can be issued to any vehicle that covers the distance between two cameras in a shorter time than is possible at the posted speed limit. One of the obvious places to install these is on the existing overhead signs used for directions. For instance the Oak Street Bridge already has overhead signs at each end of the bridge – and a posted 60 km/hr limit which is universally ignored.
    Apparently Eby has already agreed to study this idea

  2. We’ve had cruise control for decades but it doesn’t restrain the car from going faster than the set speed. Especially with hybrid and electric cars this should be an easy and beneficial addition to cruise control. Stomping on the gas should over-ride the setting just as braking does now. It seems a logical and easy step on the road to AVs.
    Photo radar, or cameras as mentioned by Stephen, would still be needed to encourage compliance but few would be ticketed. So, no revenue but likely far fewer crashes and injuries.

    1. You’re talking about positive car control in a way that US can’t even implement for trains.
      This kind of thing would take a huge collective effort between gov’t and industry to implement. Cruise control just links the throttle to the speedometer, which is easily done with a variety of systems. I could program one with an arduino and a couple servos in hours.
      A system like you’re suggesting would require an accurate GPS with frequently updated maps, and a data connection to the car, or a system that can reliably read and interpret road signs, even when they’re of poor quality.
      An area where multiple sets of signs are visible without could cause huge problems unless there is significant processing done. Just think of a freeway with a service road. The freeway could have a 120km/h limit, but the service road may have a 50km/h limit. What happens if the car sees a 50 km/h sign, and decelerates 70km/h relative to traffic for seemingly no reason?
      If you want cruise control to work like this, you’d probably have 10 years to implement a new standard, then another 5 years for adoption to be significant.

      1. Why couldn’t you just have a touch screen or other manual control to set the maximum speed? I specifically mentioned hybrids and EVs because they have regenerative braking so the friction brakes don’t need to be applied.

        1. Actually the cruise control on my 2007 VW slows the car to keep it at the set speed, e.g. when it’s on a downhill grade. The problem isn’t a lack of technology, it’s drivers willfully disregarding the posted limit.

        2. Ok, nevermind. I thought you were mentioning a cruise control that would stay at or under the posted limit without driver intervention. I’d guess that was mostly contextualising the comment on my part. Something like Tesla’s autopilot, but without driver overrides.
          Some cars will already do what you’re suggesting. My Volt for instance doesn’t need any brakes applied on the Coquihalla once Cruise Control is set. The automatic regen will keep the car pegged at 120km/h down a 10% grade without any problems
          Any diesel with engine breaking will also do similar things once the cruise control eases off the throttle.
          Automatic friction brakes however aren’t as nice to do, since there is potential for the brakes to overheat, and modulation is a much larger issue. Imagine for instance, that your brakes aren’t perfectly balanced and an automatic brake begins slowing you down. The car would want to pull to one side or the other, which might be a bit of a surprise.

  3. Of course we should have some form of speed control. Red light cameras already have the ability to monitor speed as well. Speed does indeed kill and it is often that vulnerable road users pay the price.
    Why is it that speeding is socially acceptable, but if a cyclist safely rolls through a stop sign it is the downfall of civilization.

  4. There are currently 140 red light cameras throughout the province, but they are only on 25% of the time so that there is not the appearance of a “cash grab”. These cameras already monitor speed through the intersection and have already recorded over 1 million drivers blowing through the intersection (mostly on green, I hope) at more than 40 kph over the limit! Imagine if we issued tickets to these speeders, run the cameras 24/7 and increased the number of cameras? Lots of revenue and safer roads. There will be a lot of uproar and SenseBC will have a fit, but how can someone argue that speed is more important than injury and death? And no one is forced to break the law, so I just don’t get the “cash grab” concept.

  5. The photo radar has been introduced in France in 2003, you can see on the below curve, it is immediately followed by a 25% decrease in fatalities.
    Brits, even including the RAC drew a similar conclusion:
    “decommissioning of speed cameras across Great Britain could well result in about 800 extra people being killed or seriously injured each year..”
    The scientific evidence are piling up, that works and works very well.
    Considering the above, the only thing we should discuss, is why the government of the time has not been brought to court? …and what the actual government is waiting for?

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