Photo radar devices

​​​​As Québec’s road safety record had been steadily deteriorating since the beginning of the years 2000, the gouvernement du Québec decided, in 2005, to put forward a series of initiatives to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on the roads. Upon recommendations from the Table québécoise de la sécurité routière, new technologies were introduced to control speed and detect red light running. Automated speed enforcement is widely used around the world.

Chapter 40 of the statutes of 2007, that is, the Act to amend the Highway Safety Code and the Regulation respecting demerit points, provided for the installation and use of photo radar devices and red light cameras at determined locations for a period of at least 18 months. The Act also created the Fonds de la sécurité routière (highway safety fund), in which the sums paid for fines and fees related to a statement of offence issued following a photo taken by one of these devices are deposited. The sums are to be allocated only to initiatives or programs designed to improve road safety or assist road victims. The implementation and operation of photo radar devices was the first measure financed by the fund.

Chapter 15 of the statutes of 2012, that is, the Act to modify the rules governing the use of photo radar devices and red light camera systems and amend other legislative provisions, confirmed the permanent use of photo radar devices on Québec’s road network. Additionally, the Act extends the use of photo radar devices to school zones and roadwork zones. These devices are now part of Québec drivers’ environment.

Note: The terms used in Québec legislation to designate these devices are “photo radar devices” and “red light camera systems”.

Objective

The main objective of using photo radar devices is to improve road users’ safety and, by extension, the road safety record. This technology is intended to change drivers’ behaviour in order to reduce the number of accidents and road victims. In concrete terms, it means preventing tragedies and reducing social costs to the benefit of the whole community.

In Québec, 37% of traffic fatalities are linked to speeding, and 25% of bodily injuries at intersections with traffic lights are due to red light running.

Changing drivers’ behaviour

Photo radar devices control traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of the weather conditions. Their presence is always indicated in advance and directly impacts drivers’ behaviour by changing their perception of the risk of being caught.

Impact of photo radar devices and red light cameras on the number of accidents

The comparison between periods before and after the installation of the devices shows that the number of accidents (bodily injuries and property damage) was reduced by:

  • 29% where stationary photo radar devices were installed,
  • 28% where red light cameras were installed,
  • 12% where mobile photo radar devices were used.

Where does the money raised by fines go?

Under the Act respecting the ministère des Transports, the fines and fees resulting from offences detected by photo radar devices are credited to the Fonds de la sécurité routière (highway safety fund). The sums are to be allocated only to initiatives or programs designed to improve road safety or assist road victims.

An advisory committee composed of seven members of the Table québécoise de la sécurité routière was set up in 2010; its role is to provide the Minister of Transport with recommendations on the use of the sums credited to the fund.

Financial assistance program of the Fonds de la sécurité routière

The financial assistance program of the Fonds de la sécurité routière (highway safety fund) was introduced in 2017. The objective of the program is to improve the road safety record and assist road victims by supporting road safety and road victim assistance projects financially with the surplus funds of the Fonds de la sécurité routière.

Implementation phases

Phase 1 (2009)

In 2009, Québec installed 15 photo radar devices in the administrative regions of Montréal, Montérégie and Chaudière-Appalaches as part of a pilot project. One of the main objectives of this pilot project, also called “Phase 1”, was to assess the impact of this technology on road users’ compliance with speed limits and red lights in Québec and to determine the social acceptability of these devices.

Phase 2 (2015) and municipal cooperation pilot project

A second photo radar device implementation phase began in 2015. The government authorized the installation of 39 additional photo radar devices, increased the number of regions where the devices are used and implemented a municipal cooperation pilot project (MCPP) with the cities of Montréal, Laval and Gatineau, as well as the agglomerations of Longueuil and Québec.

The new devices, which are in addition to the 14 previously installed, were put into operation between October 2015 and April 2017. (Note: The photo radar device located on autoroute 15 southbound, near the Atwater exit, was removed in fall 2015 and was not installed at any other location.)

The objective of the MCPP was to evaluate the type of cooperation and the types of photo radar devices that would be the most suitable in a municipal context. The period to analyze the results ended on June 30, 2017. As none of the parties involved has stated its intention to remove the devices, those used during phases 1 and 2 are deemed to be operational.

At the end of the pilot project, the participating cities and government partners worked together to produce a report. Conclusions were drawn regarding, in particular, road safety, the social acceptability, management and use of the devices, as well as technological and financial aspects. The municipalities and government partners involved in the projects are now better equipped to propose guidelines on the conditions to install new devices in municipalities. The MCPP report is available in the Documentation section.

Phase 3 (2019‑2023)

On May 15, 2019, the Minister of Transport tabled the 2017 assessment report on photo radar devices and red light cameras (Rapport d’évaluation 2017 : Cinémomètres photographiques et systèmes photographiques de contrôle de circulation aux feux rouges) to the National Assembly. The report makes twelve recommendations for the further development of the use of these technologies in Québec to improve the efficiency and management of automated enforcement and allow the implementation of new devices in other regions and municipalities throughout Québec. The 2017 assessment report and the municipal cooperation pilot project report are available in the Documentation section. Phase 3 involves the in-depth analysis, experimentation and implementation of the recommendations.

In order to complete the third implementation phase, experts from all government organizations and partner municipalities serve on different working committees. The committees conduct research, analyses, impact studies and experiments on the following aspects of the technology: operational, legal, road safety, communication, governance and financial. All of that work will help develop a gradual implementation strategy, identify the types of devices to be used and determine how many devices should be acquired. The planning stage of the project will last until 2022‑​2023, and the first devices could be operational in late 2023.

How does it work?

This section presents the procedure in the case of an offence and the different types of devices.

Offences

  1. A photo radar device or a red light camera detects a vehicle speeding or running a red light.
  2. The device takes a series of photos of the vehicle and the licence plate. The following data appears on the photos: location, date, time, licence plate number, position of the vehicle, and the vehicle speed or the colour of the traffic light, as applicable.
  3. The photos are encrypted to ensure confidentiality, and are sent to the Centre de traitement de la preuve (evidence processing centre), which is under the responsibility of Sûreté du Québec.

  4. A peace officer makes sure that all the key elements of the offence have been collected.
  5. ​​If the information is complete, the officer blue-pencils the interior of the vehicle in the photograph and writes a general offence report. If some elements are missing, no follow-up is made.
  6. The general offence report is used to produce a statement of offence, and both documents are sent electronically, using a secured site, to the Bureau des infractions et amendes (BIA) of the ministère de la Justice.
  7. The BIA issues a statement of offence on behalf of the prosecutor, the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, and sends it to the vehicle owner. The BIA also ensures that the statement of offence is served in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Penal Procedure and the phases of the judicial process.

Anyone who receives a statement of offence must send a plea of guilty or not guilty within 30 days after the statement of offence was served, to the location indicated on the statement. The person can contest the offence by entering a plea of not guilty. In that case, the BIA forwards the case to the Court of Québec.

A vehicle owner who receives a statement of offence can:

  • identify the person driving at the time of the offence. To do so, the owner must fill in the appropriate form available on the website of the ministère de la Justice and send it to the BIA with a plea of not guilty, or
  • decide to enter a plea of guilty and pay the fine, the fees and the contribution claimed. The file is closed, and the judicial process is completed.

Under the Highway Safety Code, no demerit points will be added to the driving record of the offender (defendant) when the offence was detected by a photo radar device. The same applies to drivers and operators of heavy vehicles since June 6, 2012.

Time frame for receiving a statement of offence

The Highway Safety Code specifies that the statement of offence must be sent to the owner within 30 days after the date of the offence at the most recent address entered in the registration records of the vehicle concerned. The date of the postmark will confirm the date of transmittal.

Photo radars phishing scam

Statements of offence in connection with photo radars are never sent by e-mail. Please ignore any e-mail message asking you to pay an on-line fine.

Privacy

The protection of personal information and information security is a government priority.

Data is transmitted in a fully secure electronic environment. Exchanges of information between devices, the Centre de traitement de la preuve (evidence processing centre), and the Bureau des infractions et amendes (office of offences and fines), which are under the jurisdiction of the ministère de la Justice du Québec, are managed by the government's computer network.

All data is encrypted to ensure confidentiality, data integrity, and sender authentication. Only authorized personnel from police forces and the Bureau des infractions et amendes may have access to the information.

In addition, the passengers inside the vehicle are not shown in the photographs, to respect privacy.

The documents, like all police files, are archived in a secure environment.

Types of Devices

In Québec, four types of devices are used:

  • Stationary photo radar devices
  • Mobile photo radar devices installed in a van or mounted on a trailer
  • Red light cameras

Red light cameras can also control vehicle speed.

Stationary photo radar devices

Stationary photo radar devices are installed along public roads. They measure the speed of a vehicle and take photographs when the vehicle exceeds the prescribed speed.

Mobile photo radar devices installed in a van or mounted on a trailer

Mobile photo radar devices are either installed in a van or mounted on a trailer, meaning they can be moved from one site to another.

They measure speed and take photographs of vehicles exceeding the prescribed speed.

Photo radar devices installed in a van can be taken out of the vehicle and mounted on a tripod on the side of the road. It must be operated by police officers, unlike devices mounted on trailers, which do not require the presence of a police officer during a speed enforcement operation.

Red light cameras

Red light cameras are installed at intersections with traffic lights. They detect red light violations and take photos of the vehicles as they are running the red light.

The devices are positioned so as to give a general view of the intersection and show the traffic lights concerned, the stop line and the vehicle running the red light.

If speed is also controlled, a vehicle exceeding the prescribed speed will be photographed, and the associated file will be transmitted to the Centre de traitement de la preuve (evidence processing centre), regardless of the colour of the traffic light (red, amber or green).

Signs Used

All public roads where a photo radar device may be used are indicated with road signs showing the “camera” pictograph. Drivers will see at least one sign, regardless of where they come from.

Stationary devices

Indicates the presence of a stationary photo radar device


Indicates the presence of a red light camera


Indicates the presence of a red light camera which also controls vehicle speed

Mobile devices

The signs must be installed on the same side of the road as the device during periods of use.


Indicates the possible presence of a mobile photo radar device


Indicates the possible presence of a mobile photo radar device in that area of the city


This tab sign, which is installed under a sign showing the “camera” pictograph, indicates the length of the road section controlled by a mobile photo radar device.


This tab sign, which is installed under a sign showing the “camera” pictograph, indicates the end of the road section controlled by a mobile photo radar.


This tab sign, which is installed under a sign showing the “camera” pictograph, indicates the direction of the road section where a mobile photo radar device could be used.

Roadwork zone


Indicates the possible presence of a mobile photo radar

If a roadwork zone is located on a site where a stationary photo radar device is already used, the green signs do not need to be removed or covered for the duration of the work.

School zone

Sign I‑413‑1 is installed between sign D‑270‑1, School Zone or School Crosswalk Ahead, and sign D‑265, School Zone, without any prescribed distance between the signs. This informs the driver of the possible presence of a photo radar device before entering the controlled school zone.



Collaborators and partners

  • Ministère des Transports
  • Ministère de la Sécurité publique
  • Ministère de la Justice
  • Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales
  • Sûreté du Québec
  • Ville de Montréal and the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM)
  • Ville de Québec, Ville de L’Ancienne-Lorette, Ville de Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures and the Service de police de la ville de Québec (SPVQ)
  • Ville de Longueuil, Ville de Boucherville, Ville de Brossard, Ville de Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville and the Service de police de l’agglomération de Longueuil (SPAL)
  • Ville de Laval and the Service de police de la Ville de Laval (SPVL)
  • Ville de Gatineau snd the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG)

Documentation

The press releases, evaluation reports, surveys and legislative documents regarding photo radar devices and red light cameras are available in French only. You can consult these documents in the French version of our website​​​​​.