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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Speed cameras all about safety, region says
Many drivers have questions about why the region removed the flashing lights that warned people of a decreaed speed limit. They have called the move misleading and criticized the speed camera program as being nothing more than a “cash grab.” FILE

The good news for those who were caught by the speed camera on Niagara Stone Road in Virgil is that this is the final week it will be enforcing the limit. For now.

And depending on how you look at it, the bad news is a speed camera will begin operating outside St. Davids Public School in April.

It’s all part of Niagara Region’s Vision Zero program, which aims to reduce speeding and improve road safety for everyone.

It is not a cash grab, but about safety, the region says. And it is enforced every day, even when school is not in session.

While it is a regional program, Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa is fully behind it.

“Revenue generation is not being realized,” he told The Lake Report. “All funds are directed into road safety (through) either improved enforcement or physical road improvements for safety. Statements otherwise are not accurate.”

“Speeding on a school day or any other day is still speeding. I am not clear on why there would be a distinction,” for PD Days or holidays, Zalepa said.

“Speeding is a lead cause on injury in motor vehicle accidents. The only difference is the speed threshold is lower on a school day.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Erwin Wiens has a different view regarding speed cameras.

“If ‘vision zero’, is to be achieved, there should be large flashing lights and signs alerting drivers to the cameras. There is some signage, but not enough to deter speeding,” said Wiens, a former police officer.

“Getting a ticket two weeks later (by mail) doesn’t help. It seems to me that because the program is designed to generate funds, by definition, it is assumed that they don’t work. People aren’t slowing down and the region is banking, pun intended, on that.”

“I believe the region has its heart in the right place, but I don’t agree with how they are getting to the goal of Vision Zero,” he said.

School zones always have reduced speed limits and the region chose to install the cameras for three-month intervals at various spots around Niagara.

However, the program has left drivers with a lot of questions and frustrations.

Among them:

When the camera went in, why did the region remove the flashing red lights that used to warn drivers about the reduced limit outside Crossroads?

The school zone speed limit is in effect from September through June, according to the signs along the road.

But readers are wondering: why is that lower limit in effect when students are not in school eg. on PD Days? Or statutory holidays, like Family Day? Or during March Break?

The whole speed camera project has been criticized by many drivers as simply a cash grab.

Many blame the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, but in that respect they are wrong. It is wholly a regional program.

For at least one NOTL resident, who said she was a fan of the crackdown, the speed camera has proven to be a really painful.

A volunteer at the Newark Neighbours food bank, she received four tickets totalling about $800 in fines and surcharges.

One of the tickets was during March Break. Without the red lights flashing outside Crossroads, she didn’t realize the 40 km/h limit was in effect.

She was one of many who were caught.

We asked the region to respond to some of the lingering questions that people in the community want answered.

Responses from Scott Fraser, Niagara Region’s associate director of transportation planning:

What happened to the flashing lights warning of the school zone speed limit?

Turns out it is mandatory. “Removal of the flashing lights is required by Toronto’s Joint Processing Centre, where provincial offences officers review camera images to confirm if a violation has occurred.”

The reason for removing the “flashing beacons” when speed cameras are installed is so there can be “no question as to what the speed limit was at the time of the infraction. The way the speed cameras operate, it is not possible to show that a lower speed limit enacted by the beacons was legally in place at the time of an infraction.”

“Therefore the ‘flashing beacons’ are replaced with signs that display the months and times of the lower speed limit instead and the cameras are programmed to enforce the speeds as appropriate for the times of day/months noted.”

“This change is consistent with other municipalities across Ontario that use automated speed enforcement cameras and ensures the units can accurately enforce speeding infractions.”

The change is done before speed cameras are installed “to give drivers an opportunity to adjust to the change before the beginning of enforcement and the new signs will remain in place going forward.”

As well, the flashing lights will NOT be coming back and “the current signage will remain in place so that further changes are not required” when the speed camera rotates back to the area in the future.

“This change must be implemented in any school zone prior to the start of an Automated Speed Enforcement program which will include a change to the Community Safety Zone on York Road between Queenston Road and Concession 3 Road (St. David’s Public School).

How much over the limit before you get a ticket?

“The region does not disclose the automated enforcement speed threshold as we do not want to give the impression that there is any acceptable speed over the posted speed limit that is safe. The speed threshold is set provincially and is consistent across the municipal programs.”

But based on anecdotal evidence from people who have received tickets, The Lake Report has concluded that about 11 km/h over the posted limit is the threshold for issuing a fine.

As well, Fraser disclosed that the Crossroads camera only checks and photographs southwest-bound vehicles, ie. ones driving away from the camera. “Reductions in vehicle speeds and associated safety benefits are generally realized in both directions with the use of automated speed enforcement.”

Why are school-day limits in effect on PD Days, statutory holidays and March Break?

“Niagara Region sets speed limits on regional roads through by-laws approved by council. Speeds are enforced in accordance with the posted speed limits either by speed enforcement cameras or police.”

“Speed limit changes must be simple and consistent to support comprehension of signs by drivers as they travel through an area and not rely on information that may be unknown to drivers such as PD day schedules.”

“All automated speed enforcement units are placed in community safety zones, which are selected in areas where safety is of special concern. Safety concerns related to schools extend beyond the days and times when classes are in session, as schools host other activities such as day camps, extra-curricular activities, youth sports and often have playgrounds.”

As for how many tickets have been issued and how much revenue has been generated for the region, those details likely will be presented to regional council in April.

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