Toronto’s photo radar cameras having trouble reading new Ontario licence plates

Toronto’s new photo radar program may be off to a slow start after preliminary data from the city suggests the font size of the new Ontario licence plates can’t be seen by the cameras.

A spokesperson for the city said staff could not provide a “conclusive evaluation” because the photo radar cameras have only come across a small number of the new plates, but so far the smaller font size of the jurisdiction name — Ontario — has some “visibility challenges,” especially at night.

“When you look at the old plate versus the new plate it does appear that the ‘Ontario’ text is smaller than it was, and that’s primarily where our challenge is,” said Mike Barnet, the manager of Automated Enforcement, adding that identifying the jurisdiction is a requirement for issuing the ticket.

This revelation comes amid criticism that the new blue plates are hard to read in the dark.

However, Barnet said the blame doesn’t lie with the provincial government.

“It’s [the province’s] right to make the licence plate as they determine, and it’s our responsibility to work with them on that,” he said.

For now, the city is going back to the photo radar vendor to see what can be done to improve the cameras. Part of the issue could be the fact that the cameras are set back 20 or 30 metres from the road and capture the vehicles in motion at an angle, Barnet explained.

Advocate calls for ‘immediate halt’ to new plates

The mounting evidence against the plates — which rolled out on Feb. 1 — is causing one activist to call for the entire new plate program to be scrapped.

“I’d like to see an immediate halt to the implementation of this program until further testing,” traffic safety advocate Tom Worrall said.

Worrall said if drivers know they can’t be seen and therefore can’t be ticketed by the new photo radar cameras, it “puts us back into the dark ages of free reign.

“It’s pretty obvious that much of the traffic does not adhere to safe driving practices … We can’t go backwards, we must move forward on safety issues,” he said

Province says it has ‘absolute confidence’ in new plates

Before launching the plates, the government said it consulted with “key stakeholders, including our law enforcement partners, to test the readability, reflectivity and functionality of the new high-definition plates.”

“These plates are working, people like them,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of government and consumer services, at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, adding that the same technology is being used in four other provinces.

“They’ve been tested under a whole host of visibility conditions and we have absolute confidence in our plates,” Thompson insisted.

The photo radar cameras are set back at an angle from the road, which could be the reason why they are having trouble reading new Ontario licence plates, a city spokesperson says. (CBC)

Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French challenged Thompson during question period on Tuesday.

“I thought Ontario was a place to grow, not a place to glow,” French said.

“Why is the government scrapping perfectly good white plates when their glowing propaganda plates are problematic?” she asked.

Thompson’s response was that the older plates were “peeling and flaking.” She also said the government is taking the input on the new plates “seriously” and that she was “drilling down on it and getting to the bottom of it.”

Thompson did not confirm whether the government would pull the plates until the problem with visibility at night is fixed.


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