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Edmonton police chief concerned with recent rise in traffic fatalities

The chief of the Edmonton Police Service says the rising number of traffic fatalities involving pedestrians is “a big concern.”

Chief Dale McFee spoke during a wide-ranging news conference Thursday — a regular meetings he holds with reporters dubbed “Coffee with the Chief.”

There have been 11 fatal crashes in the city so far in 2024, six involved pedestrians. This time last year, there had been seven traffic fatalities in Edmonton.

2023 turned out to be a deadly one with 23 crashes claiming 26 lives. In 2022, there were 13 crashes killing 14 people.

McFee said there is not one through line with the crashes in terms of cause or location, but he wonders whether drivers are no longer incentivized to follow traffic laws — but not, perhaps, because the punishment is too steep.

“Traffic fines have actually become so much now, I wonder if it’s actually detrimental,” he told reporters.

“And what I mean by that is, when it gets too high, people just kinda ignore it because they’re not going to pay it anyway.”

The chief laid out changes he is making in an attempt to curb the rise in fatalities.

The police service is still struggling to come back from staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. That means some officers will be asked to help crack down on bad drivers.


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“In the interim, it’s going to be more than just traffic that will be doing enforcement and in the long term obviously, is to get the resources back so we can get more staff in not just that area, but patrol and other areas.”

He reiterated a push for legislation that would allow police to seize vehicles being driven more than 50 kilometres per hour over the speed limit.

Other provinces have similar legislation but the Alberta government shot down the idea in 2020.

McFee said he will try to work with the city to see whether photo radar locations can be better chosen.

“How do we work together to look at some of the target areas? Because we haven’t seen any real patterns yet, but generally, when you get these things — it generally is a pattern area and driving in a particular area,” the chief explained.

He added that he believes photo radar can be effective when being used in areas where there are problems with speed.

The chief does not, however, support photo radar when it’s targeting drivers going “a very low number of kilometres” over the speed limit.

Those comments comes as the province looks to drastically reduce the number of photo radar locations across Alberta.

Last fall, the province banned photo radar from Stoney Trail in Calgary and Anthony Henday Drive in Edmonton. Calgary’s ring road had eight photo radar sites and Edmonton’s ring road had 22.

At the time, Transportation Minister Devin Dreeshen said the tool was being used as a cash cow on the ring roads rather than to improve safety.

The Alberta government said it would be engaging with municipalities and law enforcement over the ensuing year to remove all “fishing hole” locations — spots where there is no clear safety reason for photo radar and it’s only being done to collect money.

“Taking something away, generally, when at times we need enforcement, generally isn’t a good idea,” McFee said when asked about the potential changes.

“But that said, if it’s looking by location then I would hope you’re looking at statistics by location.”

Red light intersection cameras have been left out of the review process because they have been proven to prevent T-bones and similar collisions that lead to serious injuries or death.

The province has not yet released details on how or when those changes will be made.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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