Originally published in the Medicine Hat News
A University of Alberta computing science student has developed an app to track photo radar enforcement in major municipalities across the province, including the Hat.
Benjamin Lavin said his app was originally geared toward Edmonton, but in the past few weeks it has expanded to the city’s suburbs and other major cities — Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Medicine Hat.
“It started because I had heard that Edmonton had started releasing its photo radar information online,” he said. “I wanted to set a challenge myself to see if I could take this information and put it into a more usable format for people.”
In the Hat, photo radar locations are also published in the News.
“Once I launched it here in Edmonton I started getting emails from people all over the country asking if I would consider expanding the app into their city.
“I figured that expanding it to the rest of Alberta would be a good first expansion step.”
Developing the app provided Lavin with the opportunity to put his computing science skills into practice.
“It’s all information that the various cities publish online,” he said. “This is really just aggregating all of this information and putting it into a more useful format.”
The app is crowdfunded, meaning it’s free, but users can make voluntary donations.
“I wanted to design it as a public service, so it is a free app for iOS and Android, because I wanted as many people to use it as possible,” said Lavin.
MHPS concerned with distracted driving
Sgt. Clarke White of the MHPS Traffic Unit has no objection to aggregating publicly-available photo radar data, but expressed his concern that an app of this sort could contribute to more distracted driving.
“We’re not trying to hide anything, we’re just trying to use the (photo radar) to slow down motorists, regardless of where it’s sitting. We want the behaviours to change.
“My biggest concern with it would be the added distraction that the device is creating,” said White, adding that reducing distracted driving is one of the traffic unit’s top safety priorities.
“We all know that (when) that device buzzes or dings, it’s going to draw your eyes towards it.”