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A speed camera installed on Horner Ave. facing west outside Sir Adam Beck Junior School, and Alderwood Action Child Care, in Toronto, is photographed on Feb. 3, 2020.

Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

My mother was driving my car and was caught by speed trap cameras three times. The tickets came to me, and they’re all for speeding 10-15 km/h over the limit. Will these tickets have an impact on my insurance premiums? Assuming they do, is there a way I could dispute the charge and have her confess to speeding as the driver of my car? She has her own insurance and I believe her premiums should increase and not mine. – Anne, Toronto

Smile. If you’ve been caught speeding on camera this summer, you’re not alone.

Here’s a quick snapshot: In the first month after Toronto started using 50 automated speed enforcement (ASE) cameras to catch speeders, the city mailed out more than 22,300 tickets – 2,239 of them to repeat offenders.

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The steepest ticket was $718 for a driver going nearly 50 km/h over the 40 km/h limit. Another driver got 12 tickets at the same intersection.

Ottawa has just four photo radar sites, but it issued 10,771 tickets to speeders caught on camera in its first two and a half weeks in July.

The tickets get mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. If you get one in the mail, it doesn’t matter who was driving your car – it’s your car, so you have to pay.

“The defendant is the individual who’s listed as the plate registrant according to Ministry of Transportation’s records on the date of the offence,” said Jacob Ginger, an Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman.

While the tickets come with the same fine as speeding tickets handed out by police, they don’t come with demerits and they don’t go on your driving record.

That’s because the cameras can’t prove who was driving. They just see your licence plate.

You can dispute photo radar tickets in court, the same way you can fight a normal speeding ticket.

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Since they go to the car and not the driver, pleading “but my mom was driving” might not get you out of paying the ticket.

Rate escape?

If you get a regular speeding ticket in a province with private insurance, your insurance rates could go up by 5 to 100 per cent – depending on how many other speeding tickets you’ve had in the last three years.

That’s because when insurance companies set your rates, they look at certain offences on your record.

It doesn’t matter if an offence came with demerits or not. While you can get your licence suspended if you get too many demerits, your insurance company looks at the convictions on your record and not your demerits. For instance, in Ontario, speeding tickets for going 15 km/h or less under the limit don’t come with demerits. But that ticket could still impact your rates.

Since photo radar tickets don’t go on your record, they don’t affect your insurance rates.

So, you could get 30 photo radar tickets and your insurance rates insurance company won’t find out about them.

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Also, unlike regular tickets, you don’t risk losing your licence by racking up demerits.

“Repeat tickets carry no additional penalties beyond a monetary fine,” MTO’s Ginger said.

While you won’t be dinged by your insurance company, you still have to pay the tickets. If you don’t, you won’t be able to renew your licence plate.

Speedy delivery?

In December 2019, Ontario approved new rules allowing cities to use ASE cameras.

While cities can now use speed cameras, the province says it doesn’t have plans to bring them back to provincial highways.

In 1995, then-premier Mike Harris’s Conservative government scrapped a photo radar pilot on 400-series highways that had netted $16-million in fines from 224,000 tickets in 11 months.

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While Toronto’s cameras were installed in January, the province required a 90-day warning period where drivers got warning letters instead of tickets.

The city issued 25,000 warning letters from January until the end of March. The city delayed issuing fines until July 6 because of COVID-19.

From January until late June, a speed camera set up near an elementary school on Royalcrest Road in Etobicoke saw more than 20,000 speeders – with the fastest car going 103 km/h over the 40 km/h speed limit.

There’s some evidence that photo radar keeps people from speeding. A 2017 study by University of Alberta researchers showed that the presence of photo-radar vans cut speeding by 19 per cent in Edmonton, even after the vans were gone.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

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