Red-light cameras could soon be snapping away at intersections across Ontario in an effort to slow down motorists anxious to avoid paying a $190 fine for running a red, Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said Tuesday.
The province has given its blessing to those Ontario towns and cities that want to install the cameras to improve public safety - and give their municipal budgets a lift at the same time, Mr. Takhar said.
But the measure, which will include signs to warn drivers about the cameras, is all about protecting motorists and pedestrians, Mr. Takhar told a news conference.
"One-third of all deaths at municipal traffic light intersections are due to red-light running," he said. "Red-light cameras are proven to reduce collisions and fatalities."
Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen said he's not worried about a public backlash similar to the one that prompted former premier Mike Harris to scrap photo radar shortly after the Conservatives came to power in 1995.
"There may very well be a motorist backlash, but remember, it's all about safety," Mr. Gerretsen said.
"Statistics clearly indicate that there are fewer accidents, fewer fatalities and fewer injuries" in the half-dozen Ontario municipalities where red-light cameras have been used in a pilot project that began four years ago.
There are currently no plans to reinstate photo radar on Ontario highways, Mr. Takhar added.
The Ministry of Transportation says the red-light camera pilot project reduced collisions resulting in personal injuries and fatalities by close to seven per cent.
The owners of vehicles caught on camera will face fines of $155 plus a $35 surcharge, but won't earn demerit points, which they would if they were pulled over by police for the same offence.
The cameras, which snap a photo of the licence plate of a vehicle that enters an intersection after the light has turned red, won't be paid for by the province, Mr. Takhar said.
Municipalities will also be required to post signs warning motorists that the cameras are watching, in the hope that they'll think twice before racing through an intersection in an effort to beat the signal.
"Hopefully, if they know that the cameras are out there, and they think they might get caught, they'll stop running red lights," said Staff Superindent Gary Grant of the Toronto police traffic division.
"Red light cameras are an around-the-clock safety tool that will encourage motorists to drive safely, avoid collisions and save lives," Mr. Takhar said.
Mayors and regional chairs from the Greater Toronto Area told the province they wanted to make their own decisions on red-light cameras, and also wanted to keep the money generated by fines levied against motorists who are caught running a red.
"The government is showing confidence in Ontario municipalities by giving them the tools needed to do what they do best, serve and protect their citizens," said Ann Mulvale, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
But not all cities planned to jump on the red-light camera bandwagon.
Sudbury Mayor David Courtemanche said he wants more information before he recommends installing the cameras.
"I don't know if this is a problem in our city," Mr. Courtemanche told the Sudbury Star. "I would want to find first whether this is a problem that needs addressing."
Councillor Eldon Gainer, a member of Sudbury's police services board, wondered if the cameras are worth the effort.
"I don't it know if it would be cost-effective," said Mr. Gainer.
The Canada Safety Council calls the cameras "an important traffic safety measure" and supported the province's requirement that signs be posted to warn drivers which intersections are being monitored by the cameras.
"Without the signs, the safety benefits are compromised," council president Emile Therien said in a release.
"The purpose is to prevent violations, not to make money from fines."
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police also offered its support for red light cameras, calling them "a welcome measure to enhance road safety."