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ATE fine revenue continues to decline in second quarter

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The latest quarterly update  on automated traffic enforcement (ATE) activity in the Town of Hinton showed a decline in enforcement time and revenues.

Non-residents made up 97 per cent of all violations this quarter, with three per cent being residents of Hinton.

“Typically when most violations are Non-Residents, these are people coming through our community making it less safe and are speeding through our designated zones,” said Todd Martens, Hinton’s protective services manager.

Martens said that Hinton residents have actually gotten the message regarding traffic laws and have been slowing down in the zones throughout the community, Martens noted. Non-resident speed violations are always higher, and this comparison remains fairly comparable over the years.

When the program started, between February and December of 2007, 24 per cent of violations were residents and 76 per cent were non-residents.

The majority of violations this quarter were made in private vehicles with 103 in July 2020 and only 16 in company vehicles within that same month. In July 2019, 292 were private and 96 were company vehicles.

In total, 189.79 hours were spent monitoring different zones in Hinton that quarter, with the majority of time spent at Hwy. 16 near McArdell Drive. 

Nine of the zones prescribed time were on hold since March 2020 because of school closures due to COVID-19 and there are no approved playground zones in Hinton, according to Martens.

“The approach to working zones is based on the heat trace maps but every zone is hit during the year. We usually have the operators spend a minimum of one hour in a zone when they set up and no more than two hours per zone with 30 minutes to set up,” Martens said.

If operators spend less than an hour in one zone, quite frequently the operator got blocked by a vehicle and was no longer able to shoot or the number of vehicles in that location was low during that time.

COVID-19 caused a decrease in numbers on violation tags due to the low volume of traffic, stated the report. No citizen complaints were received in that quarter.

Twenty-one zones are currently within the program, including nine school zones, six 50km/h zones, two 60km/h zones, two 70km/h zones, and two 80km/h zones and one 100km/h zone that is pending.

Each year since 2015, the total of offences and issued tickets has gradually reduced due to zone and hour reductions.

In 2019, there were 4,197 offences committed totalling 2,203 tickets issued and 947 hours were spent monitoring zones. In 2015, there were 27,223 offences, totalling 22,065 tickets issued and 3,330 hours spent monitoring zones.

In 2015 there were also 2,073 stop sign offences, totalling 1,302 tickets issued, while in 2018 and 2019 this program was dormant.

The Town of Hinton hired Global Traffic Group in July 2006 to provide photo enforcement after receiving citizen complaints and concerns regarding speeding within town limits.

Global Traffic’s contract initially ran out last December but was extended for two years, until December 2022, due to the province’s decision to review the program.

The province also has put a hold on the program meaning no new programs or zones will be approved until all recommendations are flushed out.

Global Traffic Group uses photo laser, and describes the difference between photo laser and photo radar as the difference between a laser pointer and a flashlight, according to the Hinton website.

Automated traffic enforcement is governed in Hinton in part by the Automated Traffic Enforcement Committee, which is made up of the Staff Sgt. of the Hinton RCMP, the protective services manager, and the CAO of the Town of Hinton.

As part of the Town agreement with Global, all individuals who receive a traffic infraction ticket also receive a video clip, illustrating the infraction.

This clip can also help in the case that a resident wishes to make a challenge or request a fine reduction in court.  

CAO Emily Olsen stated in the spring that there were a lot of unpaid fines that had to be written off. Martens explained that outstanding fines first go against a person’s vehicle, and if that goes unpaid, registries won’t issue a renewal.

If for some reason it doesn’t happen through registries, then the unpaid tickets are submitted to fine collections by the Government of Alberta at the five year mark, including Revenue Canada, Martens explained.

“Eventually they end up getting paid. We have spoken to the person who is in charge of this department on several occasions. Although it takes some time eventually collections are made,” he added.

More people are not paying fines, and Martens has heard from the Crown that more people are seeking extensions to pay their fines right now, or a reduction, which affects revenue.