Skip to main content
Speed cameras on the Malahat

Speed cameras being proposed for the Malahat

It’s been 16 years this June since BC last had speed cameras watching our roads and highways for the errant motorist. But that may soon change.

Speed cameras were last seen by drivers in BC from 1996 to 2001. They were scrapped as part of an election promise when the BC Liberals came to power in 2001. Fast forward to today, there may be appetite for the return of speeding tickets in the mail, especially with a New Democrat-Green coalition government about to take reign.

The technical term for this type of speed camera is called “section control.” It works by figuring out the average speed a vehicle is travelling from one point to another.

The NDP might not even have to push for it. A motion passed in May by the Capital Regional District’s traffic safety commission is now advocating to bring back speed cameras. The proposal asks for speed cameras to be planted at the entrances and exits to the Malahat, a stretch of Highway 1 west of Victoria that runs from Langford to Mill Bay.

The proposal is still in early days, however. The current plan is to get the Cowichan Valley Regional District on board for a joint request to the provincial government to bring the cameras back.

History of speed cameras in BC

First, a little bit about BC’s past experience with speed cameras. They were introduced in 1996 by the Glen Clark-led NDP government. The province at the time brought in 30 photo radar units, each operated by a law enforcement officer who would park in an unmarked vehicle at the roadside.

The officers were given orders to tag those going faster than average traffic, with any tickets issued mailed out later to the vehicles’ owners.

The program was deemed a success. So much so that fines were increased and critics began calling the whole thing a cash-grab. While photo radar initially saw public support, that sentiment soon changed and the scheme was abolished with the arrival of a new government.

What type of cameras are being proposed?

We spoke with Colin Plant, a councillor with the District of Saanich and chairman of CRD’s traffic safety commission. He’s the main proponent behind the idea to bring speed cameras back. Here’s what he had to say:

So if you were in, let’s say Mill Bay and entering the Malahat south to Victoria, you’d get a picture of your licence plate taken as you enter. And if you then left, let’s say at the end of the Malahat just down at Langford, and had gone through at a rate that’s above the speed limit – it would be physically impossible for you to have gotten through that in a time if you had done the speed limit. 

If you got through in less time, you’d have to be speeding. It’s just simple. If you’re going 80 km/h and you’re going 10 miles, then you would do it in X amount of time. If you could do it in less than that, then you’re speeding. It is a derivative of photo-based enforcement. It’s something used in Europe, it’s used in Alberta, and we think that the local governments of the Cowichan Valley and the Capital Regional District should consider it.”

The technical term for this type of speed camera is called “section control.” It works by figuring out the average speed a vehicle is travelling from one point to another. It’s one of the less common methods of speed measurement. The idea is that using these cameras would be less labour intensive than having officers sit by the roadside to tag speeders. Another advantage is that these cameras could potentially run around-the-clock. All that’s required is for the first camera to snap a time-stamped photo of a car as the vehicle passes it, and for the second camera to do the same. Divide the distance between the two cameras by the time it took for the car to get between them, and you have the driver’s average speed. And if a driver is determined to be speeding, mail them a ticket.

BC’s laws still allow speed cameras

It’s unlikely that BC’s laws will have to change to accommodate automated speed cameras. Under existing legislation, tickets from red-light cameras are already mailed out to the owner of any registered vehicle photographed running a light. Similarly, S. 14 of the Offence Act also allows speeding tickets to be mailed out to offenders, as long as the vehicle was tagged by a “prescribed speed monitoring device.”

It remains to be seen how much traction this idea would get in the legislature, but the NDP’s anticipated rise to governance is significant. John Horgan, NDP leader and likely soon-to-be premier, had promised to look into speed cameras on the Malahat during the 2013 election.