Toronto photo radar having trouble reading Ontario’s new licence plates in day and night as plategate grows

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The city of Toronto’s new photo radar cameras seem to be having trouble reading Ontario’s new blue licence plates that are already under fire for being hard to read in the dark.


Plategate is growing. The city of Toronto’s new photo radar cameras seem to be having trouble reading Ontario’s new blue licence plates that are already under fire for being hard to read in the dark.

City transportation spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad said preliminary tests “the smaller font size of the jurisdiction name (“Ontario”) on the new licence plates may pose visibility challenges for the ASE devices during both day and night.”

It’s premature to make a “conclusive assessment,” he said of the readability of the new blue-on-blue plates in images captured by the 50 photo radar devices being tested in school zones across the city. The province mandated a 90-day warning period for motorists before the devices can start issuing tickets to speeders as part of the city’s Vision Zero pedestrian-cyclist safety plan.

But the City of Toronto is worried enough about whether the new plates will foil its photo radar, a key part of Vision Zero, that it has contacted Ontario officials.

“An officer must be able to identify a vehicle’s rear licence plate, including the name of jurisdiction, to lay a charge. This is a requirement to be able to prosecute under the law,” Muhammad said in an email Wednesday.

“The City will be exploring possible solutions with the (photo radar) device vendor if the readability of the new licence plates is confirmed to be an issue.”

Concerns about the plates introduced with fanfare by Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario government were first raised by an off-duty police officer who said his unofficial tests showed the plates giving off a glare when hit by light, making them impossible to read at night.

Cabinet ministers were under fire at the Legislature on Tuesday as political rivals mocked apparent problems with the “propaganda plates” — so dubbed because predominately white plates were replaced with Tory blue tones. The issue follows problems with government stickers mandated for gas pumps, alerting motorists about carbon tax costs, that failed to stick.

On Tuesday, Government and Consumer Services Minister Lisa Thompson scrambled to do damage control, alternately insisting the plates work fine and telling MPPs “we are working with our manufacturers to get down to the bottom of it.”

“They were tested for readability at night,” Thompson insisted after the legislature’s first question period since mid-December.

“I can assure you that we have been exhaustive with our testing. We have tested in terms of readability, reflectivity and durability on a whole host of weather conditions, and they passed,” she told reporters, calling the white licence plates with blue lettering still on most vehicles “Liberal plates” that are peeling and in need of replacement.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser pushed back at the accusation the blue-and-white plates are “Liberal,” given his party’s colour is red and the plates have been around “forever” — almost four decades, in fact.

Opposition parties said any readability problems need to be fixed as soon as possible, so that drunk drivers and vehicles involved in Amber Alerts can be effectively spotted and identified by both concerned citizens and police to protect public safety, among similar concerns about identifying vehicles in emergencies.

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With files from Rob Ferguson

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