Experts in traffic safety quote studies that demonstrate automated speed cameras make the roads safer. But some people hate them, and show their displeasure through vandalism. It’s happened numerous times since Niagara Region unveiled “Vision Zero” in September, a campaign to safeguard pedestrians. The most recently defaced camera is in West Lincoln, on Station Street between Spring Creek Road and West Street, in front of John Calvin School.
Automated speed cameras are now in place in four school safety zones on Niagara roadways where the speed limit is 40 kilometres per hour, and are expected to be rotated through 13 such zones in the future, according to Scott Fraser, the Region’s associate director for transportation planning. He said that a pole-mounted version of the speed camera will be introduced in December, making it less vulnerable to vandalism.
“The Region has received information on six confirmed instances of vandalism on the speed cameras,” said Fraser. “The camera vendor [Reflex Traffic Systems Canada Limited] is responsible to repair any damage to the cameras as part of the operation of the program, and typically the cameras are quickly repaired and back in service within a day or two. Tampering with these camera units is a crime, and these acts of vandalism are shared with the police, and are subject to the same response and potential consequences as any other vandalism of public property. We are monitoring the issue closely and will consider actions to deter vandalism in the future if the need is observed.”
"Tampering with these camera units is a crime, and these acts of vandalism are shared with the police"
Fraser said he will be providing a full report to Regional Council on the speed camera program in early 2024, adding that speed camera enforcement is a tool used successfully in other parts of the province, providing a mechanism to remind people to slow down and make the roads safer.
Speed bumps and other traffic calming measures are options which may be considered as well.
Fines, which vary depending on the recorded excessive speed of offending vehicles, are issued by mail to the plate-holder of the vehicle, and not the driver. Accordingly, no demerit points are assessed. However, an accumulation of speeding tickets can have insurance implications for the vehicle owner.
Travelling at 56 kilometres per hour in a 40 km/hr school safety zone will produce a $95 fine. Revenue from the fines goes into the Region’s coffers to offset costs of the speed camera program, minus a collection fee by the provincial government. The project is expected to be revenue-neutral, with the cost of the program anticipated at over half a million dollars over the next 22 months.
Speed camera vandalism is committed by individuals who perceive the program as a mere money grab by the regional government, and many irate constituents have contacted their city or regional councillors with concerns about the implementation of the system. One Welland councillor called the cameras “excessively punitive,” and said that many local residents shared stories of getting multiple tickets, unaware of the camera on Rice Road until it had been in place for some time.
Fraser said the cameras generally are only active during school hours, but added that they can also be triggered at any time if a motorist is travelling at a high enough rate of speed.
Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson was unsympathetic to the behaviour of speeders and those who vandalized the cameras.
“It’s frustrating to see this type of illegal activity taking place,” she said. “While there have been some complaints about the cameras, mostly from people who have received fines, overall they’ve been extremely effective in reducing speeding near school zones. I’ve driven through the Rice Road corridor several times and have seen firsthand that the majority of drivers have adjusted to the new speed limits. Hopefully, whoever is doing this will loses interest in continuing to vandalize the cameras, or will get caught by the NRP. Regardless, these new safety measures are proving to be effective and they’re here to stay.”
Niagara Region identifies the locations of both photo radar and red light cameras. Find them here.