New Alberta regulations on ATE Automated Traffic Enforcement mean vehicles need better signs, among other things. Photo by Jim Sparks

The service popularly called ‘photo radar,’ (it doesn’t actually use radar) continues to be in use in Slave Lake. If you drive too fast through a school or playground zone, you might be hearing from them.

But the province has tweaked the rules regarding the use of automated traffic enforcement (or ATE, as it’s often called). Slave Lake town council got a report on these on Dec. 6 from Garry Roth, the town’s consultant on strategic and special projects.

Most of the changes to the ground rules, Roth said, were already in practice in the Slave Lake ATE program. The government’s purpose of the changes, he said, is “to make ATE a more data-driven tool, to supplement conventional enforcement, and geared toward traffic safety.”

That sounds like what it always was, but the program in Slave Lake will see some changes. The biggest impact, says Roth in his written report, is that all ATE sites have to be assessed, to see that they meet the new provincial regs for justifying ATE.

So if an intersection doesn’t meet the criteria, ATE can’t be used there. With school, playground and construction zones, it’s pretty easy. Other places – tougher to justify.

For example, the new regs prohibit the ATE on residential streets with speed limits of less than 50 kph. There is talk, council heard, of reducing residential speed limits from the current across-the-board 50.

If that happens, ATE couldn’t be used on them.

A new definition of ‘transition zone’ is now required, but no further details on it were in the report. As it stands, ATE isn’t allowed to take speed readings in a transition zone (80 down to 60 is the main one locally) until the vehicle has traveled 100 metres into the slower zone.

Choosing a site for ATE based on ‘public concern’ is no longer valid. The data has to be shown, to justify the location.

On the frequency of issuing multiple tickets to the same violator, the government says don’t do it if the notices are within five minutes of each other.

The municipality is also advised to ‘restrict’ the use of ATE in school zones when school is in session.

Other methods of slowing people down should be tried before using ATE, say the new guidelines. Speed bumps and education are mentioned.

The vehicles shooting the lasers and taking the photos need to be more identifiable. Roth said Slave Lake will be “following Edmonton’s example,” on this. He mentioned ‘Drive Safe’ signs on ATE vehicles in the city.

Finally, ATE sites must be advertised. This has been happening since the program started in Slave Lake. These can be found on the town’s website, and not just the sites. Roth said details on the justification for each site are also there.

As for what the town uses the ticket revenue cash for, it falls well within the provincial guidelines. Traffic safety initiatives and park improvements are the two things council has earmarked those funds for. Other municipalities, Roth said, have been less careful, putting ATE money into general revenue, and might have to stop doing that. The government has indicated “there may be future restrictions on how fine revenue is used,” Roth said.

Councillor Julie Brandle asked if anything had ever come of the idea of adding distracted driving to the mandate of the ATE operators.

“I don’t think it ever cleared the legislature,” said Roth.

The town’s current contract with Global Traffic Enforcement runs to June of 2023.

by Joe McWilliams

December 12, 2022

This item copyrighted by / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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