Catching red-light runners is proving beyond the camera’s reach.
Four years after the city shelled out a cool $3 million to install red-light cameras at 38 intersections, it’s preparing to shell out $9 million on 100 more – even while a new study suggests they actually cause more accidents, i.e., rear-end collisions.
The cheaper option would be digital cams, but municipalities are hamstrung by a province that refuses to use its constitutional authority to ask the courts to rule on the admissibility of digital photography.
So what objection could a defence lawyer put forward to discredit this method of evidence-gathering?
First, unlike on hard-copy pictures, digital image manipulation is easy and almost undetectable.
I could, if I wanted, show you and Madonna driving through a red light at Keele and Bloor even if you, Madonna and your car were nowhere near the corner.
Since licence-plate identification will be at the heart of red-light-camera enforcement, it could conceivably be argued that the police and ministry could target you and place you, your plate number and car in the picture just to persecute you.
The validity of these images could be tested by setting up a temporary digital location and letting a motorist take the province to court. Savings on equipment costs alone will pay for the appeal 10 times over.
High-quality digital video cameras with a 10-times magnification lens can be purchased retail for less than 25 grand per unit.
Using a software program available for home computers, the city could have 500 cameras and no need to physically move the equipment from site to site, as is done now.
Instead of high-speed, low-cost digital video cams, we’re stuck with wet-paper Polaroid cameras connected to a loop under the road that’s activated when the light turns red.
Imagine the traffic jams at busy corners that are closed to install and repair this triggering device.
Adam Wetstein is an IT consultant.