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By Marc Ellison / Toronto Star Staff Reporter
Watch out for Wednesday morning. 8:46 a.m. to be exact. That’s the time and day you are most likely to be caught by one ofToronto’s 77 red light cameras.
The most likely month? May.
The worst intersection?Bayview Ave.andTruman Rd.
These conclusions derive from 18 months of data on the city’s red-light cameras obtained through a Star freedom of information request. Readers can explore this data set through our interactive dashboard, or download the data for their own offline analysis.
The information shows that 48,512 tickets have been issued between January 2012 and June 6, 2013, generating more than $11 million in fines for the city.
Interactive map: Red light camera tickets
The data also shows it pays to consider fighting your fine. Nearly one-third — 29 per cent — of all tickets were reduced to less than the set fine of $325 after being challenged. And 6,721 of the tickets have no fine amount attributed to them, indicating they were successfully appealed or are possibly still pending trial.
But beware: 138 appeals ended up costing the vehicle owner more when the judge raised the set fine. And a judge can impose a maximum fine of $1,000 if there are aggravating circumstances, according to Amanda Ross ofToronto’s legal department.
“I’m for sure fighting my ticket,” said 45-year-old Kris Nankoo, who owns aMississaugafreight company.
One of his drivers ran a red light on July 4. Nankoo claims a large trailer obscured his employee’s view of the traffic lights. Now he’s paying $150 to a company to fight the ticket on his behalf.
“You shouldn’t be running red lights, but there are circumstances in which heavy trucks cannot stop in time like a regular car, owing to whatever weight they’re carrying,” said Nankoo. “Often it’s actually more dangerous to try and stop a large truck in an instant.”
He wasn’t aware of the infraction until a couple of weeks later, when an offence notice and photograph of the violation arrived in the mail. InOntario, it’s the registered licence plate holder who receives the ticket, regardless of who was driving the vehicle.
“The fine amount of $320 is just ridiculous; it’s just a cash grab,” Nankoo said.
Found at intersections around the city, the camera system has been a money-maker forTorontosince 2010. The program cleared $2.3 million in 2012 — a leap in revenue of nearly $2 million compared with the previous year.
But Mike Brady, manager of the city’s traffic safety unit, said safety is the primary reason behind the program. And it appears to be working.
In 2011, a city study of 37 intersections with red-light cameras showed a dramatic difference in rear-end collisions between locations with cameras and those without.
The statistics — comparing the five-year period before cameras were installed (1995-99) and five years after (2000-05) — found a 1.7 per cent increase in rear-end collisions causing property damage at intersections with the cameras. But everywhere else in the city, rear-end collisions shot up by 44.6 per cent.
“Speak to a victim of red light running, someone who was seriously injured for life, and ask them if, relative to all the costs of things in our society today, if $325 is a reasonable amount for that offence,” said Brady. “I think you’d get a very clear answer from them.”
The program began in 2000 as a two-year pilot project in six municipalities —Toronto, Hamilton,Ottawa, Halton and Peel regions, andWaterloo.
In 2004, the province allowed the six municipalities to operate red-light cameras indefinitely.
Brady said the surge in revenue forToronto’s red-light camera program — and the number of court challenges — can probably be attributed to the significant increase in fines in January 2010. The provincial government almost doubled the fine amount from $180 to $325. The new amount includes a base charge of $260, a $60 victim surcharge and a $5 court fee. Demerit points are not issued.
“When a defendant is faced with that increased fine, I think that it’s expected they’re going to try and reduce the amount payable,” Brady said.
Top five most-ticketed intersections (January 2012 – May 2013)
1) 2,802 tickets – Bayview Ave. and Truman Rd.
2) 1,797 tickets – Warden Ave. and McNicoll Ave.
3) 1,701 tickets – Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Windermere Ave.
4) 1,698 tickets – Albion Rd. and Silverstone Dr.
5) 1,692 tickets – Bayview Ave. and Cummer Ave.
Top five most-ticketed months for 2012
1) May – 3,904 tickets
2) July – 3,878 tickets
3) August – 3,856 tickets
4) June – 3,802 tickets
5) September – 3,291 tickets
- CI-REDLIGHTS 8 August 2013 Data-driven story on how revenue is up for the city's red light camera system, but more people are challenging tickets resulting in reduced fines. Photos of Bayview Ave at Truman Road, the most lucrative camera in Toronto. KEITH BEATY/Toronto Star