Winnipeg leaves school zones unmarked to raise speeding-ticket revenue: group

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

No one likes speed traps, except maybe civic revenuers who see them as cash machines.

A group called Wise Up Winnipeg that opposes enforcement tools such as photo radar and red-light cameras now is accusing the city of neglecting to replace missing or degraded school-zone signs in a deliberate attempt to generate speeding-ticket revenue.

The group makes no mention of this in its news release this week, which warned the city is ignoring the provincial legislation by failing to replace 206 school-zone signs, 166 of which it says have been missing for more than three years. It said the problem affects more than half of Winnipeg schools.

"The Highway Traffic Act has certain provisions to protect children in school zones which can only be enforced and adhered to by motorists with proper signing present." Wise Up Winnipeg founder Todd Dube said in the release.  "With the current state of signing, these provisions are essentially useless and a hazard to our children."

But in an interview with the National Post, Dube claimed Winnipeg intentionally removes the signs so it can write more tickets.

"It pains me to see people pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars in tickets when they're in violation of nothing," he said. "It is the most egregious thing I've ever seen and I decided to stop it."

Wise Up Winnipeg has long contended the city intentionally traps speeders with inadequate signs in school zones and approaching photo-radar cameras, which dot Winnipeg streets if data on the web site Canadian Speed Traps is accurate.

[Related: Windsor, Ont., No. 2 for speed traps in North America]

For its part, the city has been candid about requiring police to write more traffic tickets, the Post said.

Three months after Chief Keith McCaskill told the city's finance committee last year that it could expect a $1.4-million shortfall in traffic-ticket revenue as police focused more resources on gang violence, orders went out to officers to up their ticket counts, the Post said.

The policy doesn't sit well with the cops.

"Tickets should be handed out where warranted; it shouldn't be based on revenue," Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, told the Post.

Wise Up Winnipeg said in addition to the missing signs in school zones, there are 32 signs on streets that don't even have schools, which diminishes the effectiveness of properly placed signs.

"It also shows the city does have the resources to install signs; they're just misused" said Dube.

The problem extends to playgrounds, which are just as poorly marked as school zones, Wise Up Winnipeg contended.

The Winnipeg Sun reported the city will spend $1 million erecting new signs at 230 Winnipeg schools with pupils in Grade 6 or below, cutting the speed limit there to 30 km/h from 50 km/h. It's awaiting approval from the province.

Sun columnist Tom Broadbeck, an outspoken opponent of photo radar and speed traps, previously condemned the police's speed-enforcement approach.

"If police want buy-in from the public on its Safe Streets program, they should show us how specific speed traps and photo radar vehicles are reducing the number of crashes where the technology is being used," Brodbeck wrote on his blog last January.

"I suspect police do not release those figures because many of these speed traps aren't designed for safety reasons. They are designed to raise revenues."