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Libs selective with photo radar stats, ignore lives saved

A British Columbia Liberal caucus press release on photo radar yesterday quoted figures on traffic deaths from 2007 and 2008, but ignored a wealth of more relevant statistics.

The Liberals axed the photo radar program in 2001 to fulfill a campaign promise. The system took photos of the license plates of speeding vehicles so the owners could be mailed tickets.

Yesterday's press release from solicitor general Kash Heed argued that measures like increased policing have been used instead. “The strategy is working,” the release said. “There was a 15 per cent reduction in all police-reported motor vehicle fatalities in B.C. and a 12 per cent reduction in serious motor vehicle injuries in 2008 when compared to 2007.”

But traffic death statistics from the years when photo radar was used, then removed, tell a different story.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia's 2007 report on traffic collision statistics, the most recent available, shows a steady decline in fatalities from 433 in 1998 to 398 in 2001, followed by a spike up to 453 in 2002.

Put another way, 55 more people died in B.C. car accidents in the first year after photo radar was removed than in the last year it was used.

Deaths remained around 450 a year for four years before declining, though in 2007 the number of fatalities was still above the 2001 level.

ICBC also publishes statistics on the number of road users killed in collisions involving speed. That figure hit a high of 182 in each of 2002 and 2005. The low during the period, 141 people, was in 1999, a year when photo radar was in use.

The number of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists killed spiked after 2002 as well. While 83 of these road users considered “vulnerable” were killed in 1997, the figure soared to 132 in 2007.

Heed said yesterday the government has no plans to reinstate photo radar and attacked the New Democratic Party's John Horgan for saying he supports bringing it back.

Heed, a former police chief who wouldn't say yesterday in an interview with Public Eye whether he personally thought photo radar was a good idea, called it a “tax grab” in the news release.

Never mind that it actually appears to have saved lives.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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