By Ward 22 Councillor Carol Anne Meehan
As I sit down to write this article, the sounds of the cars squealing their tires as they race down River Road provide background noise. It’s just after 10:00 pm, and the mock racetrack just across the Rideau River from my home will be busy for hours. Sound carries, so nightly activity is a problem for light sleepers like me. Across the city, it’s like a Fast and Furious movie is being shot in every neighbourhood, every night.
Ottawa, it seems, has roads that beg to be driven on as fast a possible. COVID and the ensuing lockdowns have resulted in more dangerous driving, more noise and more crashes. Police describe drivers they nabbed as uncivil and entitled.
Ottawa, we have a growing problem on our roads.
Reckless driving and speeding make up the bulk of complaints to my office. We are constantly begging police to step up enforcement in problem areas of the Ward.
This spring, for the second year in a row, Ottawa Police launched a campaign to target speeders and those who modify their vehicles, so they make as much noise as possible.
Project Noise Maker is seeing positive results. On one evening alone, police laid 13 stunt driving offences. That means they were going more than 50 km/hr over the posted speed limit. Each driver was fined $2,000, had their licence suspended for seven days and their vehicles impounded. The same evening someone was stopped for going 135 km/hr in an 80 zone on Fallowfield. Another driver was clocked at more than twice the speed limit on Bronson Ave.
The crackdown continues, but it will eventually come to an end. We know that unless there is consistent law enforcement, a constant police presence on our problem roads, speeding will continue.
So what do we do?
I believe the answer is technology. Red-light cameras, or photo radar cameras that snap a picture of a speeding car’s licence plate. The only thing that will get drivers to slow down is the threat of a fine and loss of demerit points. The nice thing about cameras is they work around the clock. Ottawa currently uses radar cameras in school zones with significant effects. To use them in other areas of the city, the provincial government must approve them.
I recently met with Chief Peter Sloly to discuss the possibility of using photo radar. He agrees it would be a great tool to slow drivers and change behaviour. He encouraged me to direct OPS to study it and other measures; I did that at the last Ottawa Police Services Board meeting. A report is expected hopefully before the fall.
Photo radar would be a serious tool for a serious problem. We do not have enough police to stop all the reckless and disturbing behaviour on our roads that jeopardize community safety for those who would oppose it.
If OPS reports back and recommends we ask the province for the right to install photo radar cameras, I will do what I can to promote this change to road safety policy.