By: Graham Lane
Traffic enforcement in manitoba is now just another tax.
Despite a huge increase in vehicles and travel, our roads have become less dangerous. This, thanks to better driver training, improved technology, road design and signage as well as traffic enforcement. Canadian road fatalities declined 58% between 1970 and 2009.
At an increasing speed, Manitoba’s NDP government has made driving outside of its rapidly expanding body of traffic law much more expensive. In doing so, the government has some societal support, rarely found when it jacks up its revenue haul with higher taxes or price hikes for monopoly government services such as Hydro and MPI.
The assumption has been that government’s motivation for adding new driving infractions and aggressively upping the cost of traffic fines is to reduce road accidents and save lives. But, as the overall bill for Manitoba’s motorists soar, citizens now have good reason to suspect that Manitoba’s NDP fiscally-challenged government has a more practical and hidden motive, that being trying to satisfy its seemingly endless need for more and more money.
Despite the NDP’s frenetic road and traffic law changes, including the aggressive rise in traffic fine levels, road accidents are still common. In fact, MPI recently reported that road deaths have spiked this year.
One of the technological mechanisms now increasingly relied on to reduce accidents is automated traffic enforcement — red light cameras, photo radar, and the like. For some, the more the better, the assumption being that these mechanisms reduce accidents, deaths and injuries. While they certainly bring in millions of dollars annually to government, do they reduce accidents, deaths and injuries? To date, neither the City of Winnipeg, the Selinger provincial government, nor MPI have proved they do.
Two Frontier Centre for Public Policy researchers, Hiroko Shimizu and Pierre Desrochers, have studied the use of automatic traffic enforcement devices. In their lengthy report, “Speed or Greed, Does Automated Traffic Enforcement Improve Safety or Generate Revenue”, they find “little credible evidence that “¦ artificially low speed limits, increased fines and rigorous enforcement can deter dangerous driving behaviours and improve public safety.”
On the contrary, they discovered that improved road design and signs, along with speed limits more in line with normal driving practices and slightly longer yellow caution lights, would be more effective approaches to reduce collisions.
As to government’s true motivation for establishing unaffordable traffic tickets, the researchers conclude that fine revenue has become a means of dealing with growing municipal and police budgets. They question the ethics of “budgeting fines and penalties as regular revenue sources when (the fines) are often imposed for very minor offences and justified as public safety measures.”
As to Manitoba, the researchers found “fines are so large as to be unaffordable,” and representing “a regressive form of covert taxation “¦ disproportionally affecting people of lesser means.” Manitoba traffic fines are, shockingly, about 2 to 3 times higher than those of neighbouring Ontario. Their conclusion asserts that Manitoba’s traffic campaign and laws target more the majority of careful drivers, rather than the dangerous ones. They forecast that the NDP’s approach will end up resulting in a growing distrust of government, rather than reducing accidents — which should be the goal of road design and traffic enforcement.
In other words, higher and higher fines are another NDP tax grab.
Graham Lane chairs Manitoba Forward (www.manitobaforward.ca) dedicated to sensible public policy. Republished from the Winnipeg Sun online edition December 17, 2015.
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