Going 420 mph In A 30 mph Zone?

from the you-might-want-to-slow-down-a-bit dept

It's been almost exactly three years since we wrote about a UK driver who received an automated ticket from a speeding camera, clocking his car cruising at a speedy 406 mph. The police chalked it up to a "clerical error." However, apparently those clerical errors are still happening, as a cab driver in the UK has now been issued a ticket for traveling 420 mph in a 30 mph zone. Again, the police chalk it up to "an employee processing error." Unfortunately, despite the driver's claims in the article that he's set a new land speed record, that's not even true in the world of bogus tickets. We've seen other reports clocking people at at least 480 mph. It's probably not such a big deal when the errors are so obvious -- but it makes you wonder how many people get in trouble for similar errors that aren't so extreme? Unless you happen to be good enough at math to disprove a slight exaggeration in your speed, you might just be completely out of luck. You would think that systems like these would (a) not let humans adjust the recorded speed and (b) have some sort of "reality" filter to pick up these extreme errors -- but apparently neither feature is in place. Perhaps that's why we once had that story of a brick wall clocked at 58 mph.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    C.. J., Jan 5th, 2007 @ 2:11am

    No harm, no foul. This was a clerical error, or so it was chalked up to. I'm fairly certain they wouldnt have him pay the likely, rediculous charge; perhaps I am wrong.

    RADAR guns are potent detterents to speeders. The good, far out weighs the bad.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 2:26am

    Re:

    They state plainly that it was an "employee processing error" i.e. someone typed in an extra "0" when processing the ticket so instead of a 42 mph ticket, he was issued a ticket for 420. Furthermore the articles is prefaced by saying that it had been three years since the last aincident they wrote about. Clearly this isn't a system rife with errors. Don't get me wrong, I don't put all my faith in an automated radar system, but this story in particular doesn't really seem to be a knock against the system itself, but rather pointing to what everyone already knows - there is always room for human error.

     

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  3.  
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    EdB, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 2:27am

    Re:

    But what happens if the error is only 20% of reality? Doing (X+(X*.2X)) in an X zone isn't going to be obvious to anyone except the person who uses cruise control set to the proper speed and still has to pay the fine.

    Yeah sure: it's gonna be like a gazillionth of a percent, but will that 'detail' matter if you happen to be the person screwed by a technological flaw?

    I say if a cop didn't see me it didn't happen, and if a cop did see me then he damn sure better not miss my day in court else the state has no witness so I go home with my money.

     

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  4.  
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    yossi, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 2:33am

    simple typo

    both cases look like an extra 0 slipped in. still, point taken that that should not be able to happen

     

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  5.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Jan 5th, 2007 @ 3:43am

    Let's fix this.

    OK, from the examples given (admittedly not a statistically significant sample) I would infer that, in the equipment used, the zero key is right next to the "Enter" key. Let's just replace all the keypads so that, say, "." is where zero is at the moment and zero moves to wherever it was. That way, "42" might be mis-entered as "42." and the damn thing will still work; no more stories in Slashdot, minimal costs.

     

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  6.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Jan 5th, 2007 @ 3:44am

    I'm so, so, sorry. Please forgive me.

    In my mini-rant above, somehow I called Techdirt "Slashdot". Please forgive this slur. @'.'@

     

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  7.  
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    nunya_bidness, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 4:17am

    high tech

    Why can't a computer print out a ticket and eliminate human error? They have system now a days that can automatically print out all kinds of things, even in color!

     

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  8.  
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    lar3ry, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 4:33am

    Computer-generated tickets

    Computer-generated tickets should be controversial.

    Despite the fact that most "ticket" offenses are technically "infractions" and not arrestable offenses, the rule should be that the accused should have the right to confront their accuser. With a computer, there is no questioning it, other than to request when the last time the computer was calibrated and whether or not the necessary calibration was accurate at the date/time the alleged infraction occurred.

    However, that's only part of the equation. How can the computer be sure that the person that received the citation in the mail is, in fact, the actual driver of the car? A grainy picture? Will the computer positively point out in a court of law that the image in its memory is, in fact, the defendant? Is it possible that the measuring device (usually radar) could have been in the process of being moved at the time when it "caught" the infraction (adding the complication combining the speed of the movement of the device with the speed of the movement of the vehicle it allegedly was measuring)? That's the "58 MPH Brick Wall" effect described in the comment above.

    There are many, many questions that can possibly be asked, but with a computer, you have nothing but the supposed "facts" it relates.

    How many programmers out there are willing to testify in a court of law that their software is perfect and cannot make an error? Unless the software in question is meaningless, the answer is "zero." However, the accuracy of the software is usually assumed in such circumstances. There is no accounting for a software glitch that assigns YOUR car the speed of a different car... can I challenge the actual programming? Will I be given access to the source code?

    I know that it is pushing the point to argue all this about a $100 ticket, but it's the point that needs to be considered.

     

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  9.  
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    Florida Guy, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 4:57am

    Agree with lar3ry

    I agree 100% with Lar3ry...how long until policemen are replaced by robo-cops? ;)

     

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  10.  
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    Vincent Clement, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:19am

    Re:

    RADAR guns are potent detterents to speeders. The good, far out weighs the bad.

    Care to cite some non-industry (radar gun manufacturer or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) research that supports your statement?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:26am

    DWI?

    Maybe 420 mph is some kind of code. Was robocop trying to tell us that the driver was high?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:26am

    I would hope these erroneous speeding tickets (ie 420 or 480 mph) are totlally thrown out by the judge in order to make the police supervisors ensure their people know what there doing.

    My father-in-law got a parking ticket thrown out a few years ago because the cop wrote the ticket on his Ford Thunder-Quack as a Mercury. They said if their cops missed details on a parking tickets then they may miss something or a bigger case.

    BTW, doesn't U.K. use metric system, so wouldn't the 420 "km/h" actual only be a leisurely 260 mph?

     

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  13.  
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    Penny Pincher, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:30am

    "How can the computer be sure that the person that received the citation in the mail is, in fact, the actual driver of the car? A grainy picture?"

    You obviously have never seen a photo taken by a radar camera.

    Many years ago I worked at a large office in Germany and received a ticket for the company van. Since I drove it almost 100% of the time, it was assumed it was my ticket.

    I knew for a fact that I never drove over the speed limit. SO down to the Police HQ I went, waited 5 minutes in line and asked to see the photo. Within 2 minutes I was handed a printout that was about as clear as a professionally shot protrait and I could easily identify another office employee. I gave the Police his name and how to contact him.

    He of course was not happy at all that I "ratted" him out, but there was no way I was going to pay the $300 ticket...

    Anyways, I can personally vouch for the clearity of said photos and if you ever think about fighting a radar trap ticket, you'd better be sure it really wasn't you.

     

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  14.  
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    Adam Hussane, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:32am

    Automated Tickets

    Automated Tickets made me think of Demolition Man... Great Movie. Now if only I could figure out those three sea shells.

    Be Well!

     

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  15.  
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    ScytheNoire, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:39am

    at least this now allows any one else who gets a speeding ticket by this same system to argue reasonable doubt in court that the system may not be working properly and they are being falsely accused of a crime they did not commit.

     

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  16.  
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    Vincent Clement, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:47am

    Re: Computer-generated tickets

    Most jurisdictions that utilize computer-generated ticketing systems (eg. photo radar) will amend their laws so that the owner of the vehicle is cited with an infraction and that no demerit points are awarded. I'm not saying that is right, just how it is done.

     

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  17.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:55am

    They are automated

    Please read the links Mike provided

    These are not cameras which produce a printout for a person to create a record off then post, hitting an erroneous zero on the way

    These ARE entirely automated systems, they take a picture, create a record, create a penalty, print a letter... (they process over 2 million penalties a year). Human error has no chance to exist as no humans are involved (in all likelihood not until you open the letter)

    When you have a system like this producing these errors it needs reviewing - people breaking the landspeed record in a mini should be easy to spot but what if it only added 10mph to your speed?

    People lose their jobs because of speeding offences so if there is doubt it needs investigating

    Incidentally I live in the UK near Durham and the interesting thing for me are these comments from an ex-cop ex-cop

    Durham has a few more than 1 camera now admittedly, but it is known locally as an area where you watch your speed as the police are hot on you - I try not to speed but I know I always look twice at my speedo when passing through the Durham area – far more effective than cameras which I know the exact location of from my sat-nav!

     

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  18.  
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    R..C.., Jan 5th, 2007 @ 5:56am

    Re: C..J's Comments

    You entirely miss the point. The point being that if such large errors are being made then smaller errors are being made too...say, a person doing 60 in a 70mph zone being tagged as doing 75. Every device has a confidence interval and in this case it seems to be positively skewed with a large variance.

     

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  19.  
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    Overcast, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 6:48am

    Makes sense.... whoever put that system together seems to have been partaking in a little '420' of their own!

    *puff* *puff*

    Dang, I'd love to get a ticket for going that fast, if, in fact; my car could go that fast. I'd enter some drag racing right away and pay for it easily.

     

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  20.  
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    Lewis Salem, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    R..C.. is right.

    The point of the article is to point out that errors happen with these speed cameras. Humans have discretion and machines do not. That's why these cameras are unfair. It takes away circumstantial situations.

     

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  21.  
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    Wizard Prang, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 6:52am

    Data processing without Due Care and Attention

    It seems obvious that in a situation such as this any speeding ticket in excess of 100MPH should automatically be flagged for verification.

    ...or is that too much to ask?

     

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  22.  
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    Craig, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

    lar3ry wrote: "How many programmers out there are willing to testify in a court of law that their software is perfect and cannot make an error?"

    How many police officers, or any witness for that matter, can testify without "zero" chance of making an error. If we applied this line of reasoning to all legal proceedings, nobody could ever be found guilty of anything (O.J. anyone?).

     

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  23.  
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    DCX2, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 7:40am

    It seems to me that some fools here really believe speed limits etc. are for reducing accidents. That just happens to be a side-effect.

    The primary purpose of speed limits is to generate revenue from fines.

    For instance, the city of Pittsburgh is always in need of money. Therefore, in Allegheny county, the taxes tend to be higher (sales tax is 7%, whereas it's 6% in the neighboring counties).

    The speed limit on highways outside of Allegheny county is 65 mph. If you're on the SAME HIGHWAY and you enter Allegheny county, the speed limit suddenly becomes 55 mph.

    Now, keep in mind, everything else is constant. Same highway, same road condition, same number of lanes, same typical traffic patterns...the only plausible explanation is to inflate the fines from driving infractions, and to make it easier to bust people for speeding.

    Remember, kids, it's always always always all about the $$$

     

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  24.  
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    Dam, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 7:57am

    The People That Invented this system....

    were doing 420.

     

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  25.  
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    Trouble Maker, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 8:09am

    2 cents worth

    Do away with the Automated Law Enforcement and return to the proven tried and true "Law Enforcement of connivance and inequality". You know, when a law Enforcement Officer says "The other car was going faster then you, but you look like you can pay the fine."

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 10:15am

    Re: Let's fix this.

    Assuming they are using a standard UK layout keyboard the zero key is one key up and four keys to the left of the Enter key (it might vary slightly from keyboard to keyboard). So to accidently hit the zero key instead of Enter would be pretty hard.

    If however the speed was in round brackets of followed by a hyphen that would make more sense.

     

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  27.  
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    Paul, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 10:19am

    Clerical Error

    The clerical error is that an employee did not stamp that record as "bad"
    Someones job is prolly to look at the picture, look at the speed, and then stamp it good or bad. If it says 400mph obviously the person was supposed to stamp it bad.
    If the speed is 100mph and the car doesn't look the slightest bit blurry then the person is supposed to stamp it bad.

    Yes it started out as a technical error but they have human brains in place to counter these errors unfortunately it didn't work out this time

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 10:44am

    re DCX2

    Hummm, I live in one of those neighboring counties, and it actually goes from 55 to 65 right before entering Allegheny County, and then bump it down again closer to town.
    Funny part is I set my cruse to 60 in the 55 zone and everyone and their grandmother passes me. I bump it to 70 in the 65 and I pass everyone. Converse is true the other way.
    I travel rt60 by the airport on a daily basis. If it was all about revenue they could get their yearly quota on any single day as I don't think I pass a single car in the 55 zone w/ cruse set at 60 and everyone else is passing me, most at a brisk pace. Closer to town I go about 70 so I'm not a hazard, and I'm still the slow on on the road.
    Personally I would welcome some sort of "automated" system.

     

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  29.  
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    misanthropic humanist, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 11:03am

    gravy train

    Good link Enrico. I've heard many other respectable sources say they are really just revenue generation tools. There's a camera near Bristol
    that won the award as "employee of the year" by netting 1 million quid!

    Kinda insulting to real cops who are on about $10/hour isn't it.

    All part of the war on motorists.

    But they DO save lives *locally*. There's no disputing the figures on RTA deaths, if the ones I've read are true.

    But I say *locally*, because they just shift the problem. People know where the speed cameras are and they drive like wankers right up until the last possible moment before slamming on the brakes, doing 30 through the zone, and then flooring it again. Perhaps on balance they decrease road safety?

    The governments solution? More speed cameras. More money out the taxpayers pocket to pay for them. More money to the camera manufactureres and security contractors that run them. It's a huge gravy train.

     

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  30.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 5:26am

    Re: gravy train

    Its even better than that - the sat nav reference in my post is entirely true

    In the UK the companies who create maps (paper or electronic) are allowed to record and show locations of the fixed cameras so they end up on Sat nav systems

    They market it as a safety feature ("if you know where the cameras are you know where the 'accident black spots' are")

    I get taxis reasonably often and most of the drivers have them installed as its their livihood - you are warned you are getting close to one so the drivers slow down (usually you are quite right they speed up right after)

    What this effectivly means is that the speed cameras become a tax for those who can't afford £200 sat nav systems and regular updates

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    Re: simple typo

    Yep eliminate humans and you don't have their errors.

    Were human we make mistakes, you have to deal with that.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 6:39am

    Re: high tech

    Because the humans pissed, whined, moaned and bitched, much like here in the states, that the system can not be totally automated. A human has to review and approve every pic/ticket.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    Yep 2 documented errors that we know of and the thing should be thrown out.

    Next bring on the eugenics laws.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re: gravy train

    Funny, if you don't speed, you don't have that tax either...hmmmmm......

     

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  35.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 2:40am

    Re: Re: Re: gravy train

    True enough anonymous - but why should those who can afford a decent sat nav system be effectively 'allowed' to do so with impunity or at least at less risk than others?

    It's the double standard that is concerning on this one

    Also it is like misanthropic humanist states, the gravy train mentality of them - they are not there for safety or anything similar - they are there for £££

    To drive to town from my house I pass 2 schools >20 busy pedestrian crossings and 1 junction at which 3 people have died in separate crashes over 2 years

    I also pass 4 speed cameras - needless to say the cameras are not anywhere near the above danger areas and are instead all on sections where the road becomes a dual carriageway, which if you are going to speed is probably the safest place to do so barring a motorway

    There are very few accidents near them, not because they make the road safer, but because there never were many accidents there - they are on the safest sections of road

    I agree "don't speed" is the best policy but, if the system you employ to raise money from speeders is inaccurate and prone to error then it’s wrong and don't try to sell such an obvious money making scheme as a 'safety system'

     

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