Camera program hits roadblock in court

Yonge-Eglinton red-light runners get pass for now

A new court ruling has put a stop to red light cameras catching neighbourhoods in their glare — for now.

Drivers in the Midtown area who have been caught by the camera at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. will have a hard time being convicted after an Ontario judge ruled the photographs inadmissible as evidence against a driver. The Ontario Court of Appeal said the picture does not clearly state the date, location and time as is required by law.

Currently, there are 40 red light cameras located at various city intersections. The cameras photograph the licence plates of cars that enter an intersection after the traffic light has turned red. Motorists who are already in the intersection when the light changes are not fined the $190 penalty.

"I agree with the principal of red light cameras," said local Midtown councillor Cliff Jenkins.

"I think they’re important as a safety precaution," agreed another local councillor, Jane Pitfield. "Police can’t be expected to watch the intersection, it’s not an effective use of our police service."

Now that the courts have rendered a verdict on the cameras, there are plans to make changes so that the picture will clearly show the date, time and location of the infraction.

During the initial pilot project in September 1998, the city put a camera at the intersection of St. Clair Ave. West and Dufferin St. It recorded about 60 violations a day. After putting up a warning sign and alerting the media about the location, the number of violations per day was reduced by half.

Some local residents, however, have taken a stand against being photographed.

Ursula Lebana, the owner of SpyTech, a gadget store at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., said her customers are concerned about their privacy. People from all over had rushed to buy Photo Stopper, a product that drivers can put on their licence plates to deflect a camera’s flash. So many people were buying the product that Lebana had to post traffic laws inside her store so that people would know that obstructing red light cameras is illegal.

Nonetheless, Lebana said that a licence plate protected by Photo Stopper is "completely undetectable" by the naked eye.

About this article:

By: Sandie Benitah
Posted: Nov 28 2004 3:00 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto