Show me the numbers! Choosing locations for Automated Photo Enforcement

Show me the numbers!

That’s the approach taken by Edmonton’s Office of Traffic Safety when it comes to choosing locations for automated photo enforcement, aka photo radar.   It’s all about using evidence to make decisions.

That’s why photo radar is used where conventional enforcement would not be safe (such as high-speed arterial roads), at intersections and other locations with a high rate of collisions, in construction and school zones, and locations where a member of the public has expressed a concern about speeding.

Edmonton’s Office of Traffic Safety uses a process known as the “speed management continuum” to decide which anti-speeding measures should be taken.

Here’s how it works:

A speeding complaint comes in through 311, Twitter, a city councillor, the police, or via email at  More than 500 Edmontonians have made such complaints so far this year.

OTS checks to see if previous complaints have been made at that location and if so, what was done.  If we suspect a bigger problem, we do a speed survey in which the traffic is analyzed for a week, looking at everything from the kind and number of vehicles, top speeds, average speeds, incidents of tailgating, and so on.   We also review three years’ worth of collision statistics at the location.

If the numbers show there’s just a minor problem, OTS will set up community signs to remind drivers to slow down.  We may even set up one of those speed display trailers that tells drivers how fast they are going as they drive by.

If it looks like there’s a more serious speeding problem, then OTS requests approval from the Edmonton Police Service for the creation of a new automated enforcement site.  All such sites are listed online.   In general, when a new site is established, advisory signs are posted to remind drivers of the speed limit.  Digital speed trailers will be put in place for two weeks before enforcement begins.

When possible, the enforcement is done from a marked community van so that drivers know what’s going on.  It’s sporadic so that an individual driver doesn’t get caught multiple times within a short period of time.  And the tickets are sent out within six business days so that speeders get the message and can correct their behavior as quickly as possible.  An education insert all about how speed contributes to the occurrence and severity of collisions is included with each ticket.

The next step in the continuum is to make the location a regular site for photo enforcement, using a community van, an unmarked vehicle, or a vehicle with City of Edmonton markings on it.

If there’s a key intersection in the problem area, an Intersection Safety Camera can be installed.  There are 48 so far in the city.

The last steps in the continuum are manned police enforcement and “cost recovery enforcement”, which involves paying police to enforce speed violations in a specific trouble area and using the fines levied to pay the officers.

Data about the number of speed violations, average speeds, complaints, and collisions are constantly reviewed so that we can make Edmonton’s streets safer for all road users.


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About the Author
Scott McDonald
Scott McDonald was an officer with the Edmonton Police Service for 30 years before he joined Edmonton's Office of Traffic Safety, where he is Speed Management Coordinator.
  1. Reality
    5 years ago

    Cool story, I’m sure the millions raked in is just a coincidence. I remember finding out about tickets months after they occurred. What exactly does that do to curb the danger of speeding? With photo tickets, you often aren’t even aware you’re violating the law.

    Dive a little deeper, for a program that rakes this much $ from the population, it would be fantastic to see the statistics when it comes to:

    – reduced collisions in relations to photo tickets
    – the correlation between photo tickets and fatalities
    – the change in motorists driving as a cause of photo radar (are people driving any different)

    This whole systems spits in the face of reason and makes no apologies. Speeding can be very dangerous. Putting photo radar in areas where the speed limit suddenly is reduced (and this ALWAYS happens) has nothing to do with safety.

    Think about it, why would you hide the photo radar behind a wall/on top of the bridge to reduce speeding. Why not show that there’s going to be a photo radar? Because that would reduce speeds, but wouldn’t make any money.

  2. Darryl Sinclair
    5 years ago

    Here’s the deal… If Police were to POLICE a specific point on the road, it would be immediate and consideration would be given to deter a driver from speeding again… Photo Radar, on the other hand, notifies the driver, months after the infraction… There’s nothing like locking the gates after the horse has fled…

    Photo Radar does nothing to slow the speeds of drivers. It on;y fines them for infractions, long after the event has taken place… That mentality, simply does NOT work… At this point it becomes nothing but a Money Grab… as the violators only learn if it months after the fact…

    If you get a notice in the mail, even if it’s only a couple of days… Did that slow you down at the time? NO!

    So maybe, you’ll be more careful going through that intersection again, but it does NOTHING for the immediate threat… How about we turn back to the immediate threat and focus on that and a cop with a RADAR Gun… Pulling people over IMMEDIATELY… People seeing violators being pulled over send a clear message… Photo Radar sends a message that You did something wrong Months ago…

    If it was not just a money grab, then the city would focus on an immediate solution and not a belated solution… A belated solution is No solution at all…

    Stop Photo radar… Period…


  3. Daniel
    5 years ago

    It would make sense that the Photo radar sites correlate with ‘locations with a high rate of collisions’ .
    I doubt however this is the fact. Are the collision reports for the chosen sites posted somewhere for the public to read?
    More specifically could someone please email me the collision data for 142nd street between Stoney plain rd and 107ave. The speed limit drops unnaturally from 60 to 50 for just a few blocks. I’m assuming a lot of tickets go out to people doing 60 and the location was chosen for its revenue potential rather than based on any collision data.

  4. Rohan
    5 years ago

    This is all about making money! Secret so called data, nothing to deter speeding!!!!


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