WINNIPEG — Yes, they may be relieved to be getting fat refund cheques after an administrative snafu saw their photo-radar speeding tickets quashed.
But drivers saddled with hefty fines after recently passing through a Kenaston Boulevard construction zone remain irked they were even ticketed at all.
“By all means necessary, I don’t deserve to pay this,” Jared Narine, 26, said Wednesday. “It’s unjustifiable. End of story.”
“Improper wording” on 2,574 photo radar tickets issued between June 27 and July 1 in a construction zone at Kenaston Boulevard south of Scurfield Boulevard has prompted police and justice officials to order the tags cancelled and refunds issued where appropriate, Winnipeg police said.
The face value of the tickets, exclusive of court or other costs, was about $1.2 million, a provincial spokeswoman said.
A photo-radar van’s computer at the site over those days wasn’t updated to issue tickets in line with a recent amendment to provincial traffic laws on speeding in construction zones, police said.
Drivers were charged with speeding under Highway Traffic Act Section 95(1) when they should have been “speeding in a designated construction zone” tags under Section 95(1) (b.1), police said.
The mistake — limited to the one construction zone — is being officially put down to “administrative error.”
It came to light after the Crown’s office noticed potential problems with the tickets and notified the Winnipeg Police Service.
Narine and others now suspect, however, there were likely other mistakes made prompting the ticket recall — including whether correct signs were posted warning drivers to slow down.
Narine got a ticket for $626.25 for doing 82 km/h in what is usually an 80 km/h zone on the evening of June 30. Because it’s an ongoing construction zone, the speed limit had dropped to 60 km/h.
“I don’t even remember seeing a flash behind me — no flash at all,” Narine said.
He also said he didn’t see any signs posted at the time warning him of a drop in the speed limit or witness any construction workers in the area.
Others told similar stories, including Perry Gilfix, who was tagged by a photo radar van in the same zone at 9 a.m. on June 28.
“They clocked me at 74 km/h with a posted speed limit of 60 km/h,” Gilfix said in an email. “I never saw any sign and neither did the other … ticketed drivers,” he said.
Prominent signs observed and photographed at the construction zone on Wednesday noted a 60 km/h limit.
“(That) is not what I saw on June 28,” Gilfix said.
“There is no way they could catch that many speeders if they put up the displays that are there now.”
He questioned the police motivation to recommend the province nix the tickets.
“They got greedy and were caught,” Gilfix said. “I was planning to fight the ticket and I’m sure many others were as well.
“That is why they are claiming this technical mistake is the reason they are forgiving the tickets. It was nothing but a money-grabbing speed trap,” he said.
The 2,500 questionable tickets issued over the five-day time frame in this one construction zone represent nearly 3.5 per cent of the total number of photo radar tickets issued city-wide in all of 2013.
A total of 74,897 photo radar tickets were issued in Winnipeg last year, according to police statistics.
Police said they requested the tickets be thrown out and refunds issued out of fairness and wanting to be transparent with the public. They had the option of reissuing them but chose not to, they said.
Also, there were hundreds of other tickets issued in the same zone over the affected dates that were legitimate, said police.
The high volume of speeders in the area is concerning, said Det. Sgt. Natalie Aitken.
“The sheer number of tickets … reflects the fact that people aren’t getting the message,” she said.
The hope is that people who got tagged with problem tickets will see being ticketed as a deterrent even though they’re getting a reprieve, Aitken said.
Police pledged to continue using photo radar in construction zones.
Narine said the snafu has called into question his trust of the city’s methods. It isn’t the first time photo radar has been called into question, he noted.
He suspects if police were personally out doing enforcement instead of leaving the task to photo radar, things might have turned out differently.
“In this case we were all being charged by a robot doing a police officer’s job. Is that justifiable? Not in my books,” he said.
Len Eastoe is a former police officer whose business, Traffic Ticket Experts, helps people challenge traffic infractions.
He also suspects there’s more to the story than officials are currently telling.
“Personally, I think there’s something else that we’re not being told, and I suspect that would be (about) signage,” he said.
» Winnipeg Free Press