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Pushing for action on photo radar

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Photo radar devices could be in the cards for Oshawa’s future.

During the most recent meeting of the Community Services committee, several councillors put their support behind Oshawa streets eventually getting the speed control devices, which they see as a last resort against speeding drivers.

“I think we all agree that’s about the only option we have left,” says Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki. “We certainly don’t have enough officers to look after the traffic infractions happening through Oshawa and the region for that matter.”

The same was said by Councillor John Neal, who noted he receives many calls from concerned residents in the city’s northern reaches about aggressive drivers.

“That is very, very busy up there, I’m just trying to go by the number of calls I’ve had in the last little while. I know there’s a need for something like this,” he says.

The discussions followed the delivery of a staff report that updated council on the city’s efforts to research photo radar technology. Currently, the City of Oshawa is part of a collection of municipalities and other stakeholders who form part of the Automated Speed Enforcement Working Group, organized by the Ontario Traffic Council, an organization that provides support and services to the traffic management sector of the province. The working group was formed in response to the passage of Bill 65, the Safer School Zone Act, in May of last year at Queen’s Park, which opened the door for municipalities to use photo radar in school and community safety zones.

Currently, regulations are still in the works for this technology at the province and are expected to be finished this summer, according to the staff report.

However, as it stands right now, city staff had little information in the way of costs or financing available for the project, or any details around the types of devices Oshawa may use if they decided to pursue an automated speed enforcement project.

“We don’t have enough information at this time to bring a recommendation, a responsible recommendation forward to council,” says Ron Diskey, the city’s commissioner of community services. “We still need to do our due diligence.”

Staff expected to have further information available for councillors in early 2019.

That didn’t sit well with Pidwerbecki, who urged that the city needed to move quicker. He requested staff come back in September with an update, a motion was eventually carried.

“We all get calls about the speeding and it’s a very serious situation,” he says.

For Mayor John Henry, he questioned whether the system could be self-financing in terms of developing an administrative monetary penalty system, with dollars from infractions being used to fund the system itself. However, he raised questions about how that would impact the provincial demerit point system, as the city would not have the power to remove such points, like tickets handled through the court system.

Diskey said he was unsure whether such a system could be developed for the city.

“We have a real challenge within our municipalities,” Mayor Henry says. “You’re not able to put a policemen on every corner with a radar gun…whatever we can do to find a way to improve this would be good.”

This also isn’t the first time photo radar opportunities have arisen in Durham Region. In September 2017, an Alberta-based company appeared before the Durham Police Services Board looking to bring their technology to Durham Region. The company executive noted they had seen “dramatic” success in school zones where the technology had been implemented in Alberta. At that time, the board left it up to each individual municipality in Durham Region to decide what they would like to do when it came to photo radar.

For Neal, it’s time the public began to see officials taking action on the issue.

“We’re all trying to do our best, but I think the public has to see something coming forward in terms of concrete action,” he says.