A B.C. lawyer is urging all Yukoners to challenge their speeding tickets.
That’s because the Yukon RCMP hasn’t changed the way it checks the accuracy of its speed radar, despite a court decision last May that threw out a speeding ticket on that basis.
“The equipment isn’t properly maintained,” lawyer David Tarnow told the News Wednesday.
“I just can’t believe anybody would pay a radar speeding ticket,” he said, adding he was surprised he hadn’t received more calls from Yukoners contesting their tickets.
Tarnow is based in Vancouver but regularly comes to the Yukon for cases.
He was representing David Bernier, a Yukoner challenging a speeding ticket from June 2015.
On May 5, territorial court judge Peter Chisholm threw out the ticket, citing issues with how the radars are checked for accuracy.
In that case the RCMP officer testified he used two tests to verify the radar’s accuracy.
The first was an internal self-operated test by the radar.
The second test was done using tuning forks.
A tuning fork is a U-shaped flat metallic tool that produces vibrations which radars pick up as a speed.
But the forks themselves were never checked for accuracy, Chisholm found.
In a 2008 decision, an Ontario court ruled that if using a tuning fork to check a radar’s accuracy, the fork must be shown to be accurate.
At the Whitehorse trial the Crown argued that if the radar showed the expected results using the tuning fork, it proved both the accuracy of the radar and the tuning fork.
“I am unable to accept the circular reasoning that the results registered by the radar guarantee the accuracy of the tuning forks,” Chisholm ruled.
The radar’s accuracy is tested through the use of tuning forks, he wrote, so checking tuning forks requires additional independent testing.
Yukon RCMP told the News that the forks come with an initial certificate of accuracy, which they claim is enough.
More importantly, they say the manufacturers themselves don’t require the use of tuning forks.
“The advancements in the technology of the instruments has improved dramatically, and according to the manufacturer, the tuning fork test is not even necessary,” spokesperson Const. Julia Fox said in an email.
But at trial the officer didn’t testify about the manufacturer’s recommendations.
More importantly, Yukon RCMP told the News this morning that only two tests are required by the manufacturer. They’re currently doing two tests on top of the tuning fork test.
A different Yukon RCMP spokesperson, Coralee Reid, said police in the territory rely on the internal self-check and a speedometer test to ensure radars are accurate.
That last test is done comparing the speed of the RCMP cruiser equipped with the radar and the radar’s finding.
The radars used measure both the speed of incoming vehicles and the police cruiser’s own speed.
Tarnow told the News three tests are required. The evidence at trial was that tuning forks are used all the time, he said in a follow-up email.
The use of tuning forks has been part of the RCMP training since 2005, B.C. RCMP traffic services Sgt. Todd Balaban told the News today.
But technology has evolved, and it’s now considered “optional” by radar manufacturers, he said.
Even in the U.S., most police departments don’t make use of tuning forks.
But in Saskatchewan, the police have to file a certificate of accuracy for the tuning fork, the judge wrote.
And in the Northwest Territories, tuning forks have to be certified within one year before or after the speeding ticket is given.
Spokesperson Jack Poitras of the Alberta RCMP told the News that division sends the tuning forks in for certification once a year.
There are no such rules in the Yukon.
“They are considered to be accurate until there is a difference in the expected result and the tested result, as verified by the radar unit (which is otherwise tested itself by the other two test methods),” Reid said in a follow-up email.
The tuning fork test is done as a third test.
“Judge Chisholm said that their procedures weren’t good enough,” Tarnow said. “I don’t understand why [the RCMP] don’t want to listen.”
The reason tuning forks are checked is that their frequency can be altered.
“The officer conceded that the smallest of scratches on a tuning fork could affect its accuracy,” Chisholm wrote, noting it was consistent with a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at