Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Road-condition webcams a hit before they're online

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It hasn't gone live yet, but already the association that represents Manitoba drivers says the province's road-condition web-camera network should be expanded.

The local branch of the Canadian Automobile Association has lobbied the province for about three years for the camera system that, with a few clicks, will let drivers see road conditions before they leave the house.

CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Liz Peters lauded the planned network, but said it should look at even more than the dozen cameras initially planned as the benefits of informed drivers and safer roads outweigh initial costs.

Peters said the number of visits to Alberta's road-condition camera webpage and a similar Alberta Motor Association (AMA) website shows the road-condition cameras are extremely popular.

"The amount of hits that that AMA website gets is obscene," she said. "They must get three times as many hits as any other AMA page. People log on to look at this cameras like you would not believe."

Peters said the cameras give drivers peace of mind so they can see driving conditions for themselves.

"As much as you're going to hear on the radio or you're going to read in the paper that's there snow, and to check the forecast before heading out on the highways, if you can see it with your own eyes, you can see if it isn't safe and that it isn't the right time to be going out," Peters said.

The province is testing five of the solar-powered cameras -- they also collect meteorological data -- on the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 75.

Seven more cameras are to be added by March and a website launched to allow motorists to see driving conditions. The new cameras will be installed south of Brandon, south of The Pas, north and south of Grand Rapids, near Austin, west of Russell and south of Ste. Rose du Lac.

The province will look at developing a mobile app as well. The cameras cost $10,000 each.

"They need to be smart in how they unroll this," Peters said. "But I do think there's potential for the cameras to be all over the province. It might seem like a large upfront cost, but the impact will see people conditioned to just check the cameras before they hit the road.

"That little piece of plastic that you put in your wallet is called a driver's licence. It's comes with certain responsibilities and being proactive and doing your research before you hit the road is a big part of that."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2013 A9

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