Students Using Speed Cameras To Frame Other Kids

from the guilty-until-proven-innocent dept

In general, we have trouble with things like speed cameras and red light cameras -- both of which don't tend to do much of anything to make the roads safer (rather, there's evidence that they lead to more accidents). The reality is that they are really about boosting revenue for local governments, not about safety -- which explains why plenty of places have been found illegally changing parameters to make them bring in more revenue.

But the biggest problem of all is just that these cameras aren't reliable at all, and without any human witness it seems unfair to charge someone with a crime -- especially when they do things like charge a stationary brick wall with going 58mph or accuse a woman of driving a car at a stunning 480 mph. And, of course, when you have an automated system sending out violation notices, you just know it's going to get gamed. That's exactly what appears to be happening. Slashdot points out a story of students in Maryland making fake license plates matching other students' plates, slapping them on their cars and speeding by speed cameras in order to get other students slapped with fines. And, of course, others have seen similar attempts for more nefarious reasons. At what point did we decide it was okay for automated systems to issue fines without any human review?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Niles, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:13am

    Demolition Man

    Just like the swearing fines from "Demolition Man"...

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:34am

    I thought you liked technology, Mike. Wait if they are digital tickets does that mean they are an infinite good. Maybe instead of issuing tickets local PDs could sell t-shirts or ride-alongs.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:40am

    Electronic tickets ARE an infinite good

    Electronic traffic fines are an near-infinite good: anybody who wants one can have one at low cost. Back in the old days you had to find a real cop and goad him into pulling you over; now all you have to do is drive by the camera. You might not even have to violate the law.

    The problem is the government wants to give them to people who don't want one.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:42am

    Re: Electronic tickets ARE an infinite good

    I guess that makes traffic cops should change their business models.

     

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  5.  
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    Truthbringer, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:42am

    Not crimes

    "But the biggest problem of all is just that these cameras aren't reliable at all, and without any human witness it seems unfair to charge someone with a crime "

    Traffic violations are not generally "crimes", this gives the state alot of leeway (this is why traffic court was invented). Certainly there is no question that these cameras and most traffic enforcement is about revenue generation though, I dont even think anyone bothers to argue otherwise anymore.

    Maryland was the last state I saw actually using a strategy to make roads safer. They would put cardboard cop car cutouts on the road side and everyone would slow to the speedlimit (works like magic). The police know all they have to do to get drivers to comply with the law, is be visible. They hide of course, because its about revenue generation, not safety.

     

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  6.  
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    *angry dude, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:48am

    Re:

    Dammit!
    Looks like my rant script has malfunctioned! It's not even properly filling in the "name" field.

    Plus, that's one pretty lame rant. *sigh*

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:52am

    Re: Re:

    We know that wasn't you, because you didn't call him, Mikey.

     

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  8.  
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    Matt, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 6:59am

    it was never okay

    Not enough people put up a 6th amendment claim in court. This is their mistake. All you have to do is defend this part: "to be confronted with the witnesses against him"

    There are no witnesses. Speed all you want, get it dismissed, hope the supreme court of each state notices.

    It's all a cashgrab for the idiots not smart enough to fight it in court (fight in court + success = no fee).

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:03am

    Re: Not crimes

    But, but, but.., the reason they hide is to make you THINK there is a cop behind every bush and around every corner so they don't have to have a physical presence everywhere! It's not about the revenue.

    Sincerely,
    Local government official.

     

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  10.  
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    Gunnar, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:08am

    Re: Not crimes

    "Maryland was the last state I saw actually using a strategy to make roads safer. They would put cardboard cop car cutouts on the road side and everyone would slow to the speedlimit (works like magic)."

    I imagine they do that in all states. I know it's been done in Pa. But it only works if people don't know about it. They can't just leave the car on the street, people figure it out.

     

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  11.  
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    Bob, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:17am

    Matt, these things are not brought as criminal offenses (at least not in Texas) that's how they are getting away with this crap. They are brought against citizens as civil actions. Like a code violation. (high grass, trash, etc) In these cases, I don't believe you have the right to speedy trial, witnesses, etc.

    I just have to live with the hope that the increased revenue is paying for officers to police high crime areas INSTEAD of laying up for traffic violations.

     

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  12.  
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    The Mad (Patent) Prosecutor, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:17am

    Without addressing red light and other cameras, I support "hiding" to catch law breakers. I think in addition to generating revenue, issuing tickets does more to dissuade speeding and make roads safer.

    When the officer is parked on the corner, of course speeders slow down when they pass the patrol car. Once they are around the corner, though, it is the same unsafe behaviour. If they get two tickets in the same week, however, surprise, surprise, they drive slower and safer for a while.

     

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  13.  
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    Vincent Clement, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    issuing tickets does more to dissuade speeding and make roads safer

    Properly designed roads and driver training will make roads safer.

    it is the same unsafe behaviour

    You assume that the speed at which the vehicle is travelling at is unsafe. The posted speed limit does not necessarily represent the safe AND efficient speed. Many speed limits, especially in residential areas, are politically motivated not based on engineering.

     

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  14.  
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    Thomas, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:46am

    Good way to go to jail

    If the cops happen to see someone driving around with a fake plate over their real plate they can easily wind up in jail. The cop could see the violation, stop the car, run the plate, find out it comes to a different vehicle, and boom you're in cuffs.

    And if you go to court to challenge the ticket when it't not for your car, you can show that the car/color on the photo is not your car. A reasonable judge would dismiss the charges. If you could identify the car that's faking yours, the cops would be interested.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: Not crimes

    "I imagine they do that in all states. I know it's been done in Pa. But it only works if people don't know about it. They can't just leave the car on the street, people figure it out."

    I can promise you this is not and has never been done by the state of virginia. Traffic enforcement in Virginia at least is about revenue generation first. Once again if the goal was to slow people down, then simply having the police drive up and down the highway would work far far better, but thats not the goal, so they hide.

    In a small town were my parents had a summer home, the shariff would often park his car at the main intersection of town and simply put his hat on the seat headrest. This was the best of all possible speeding deterents, becuase it worked 100% on tourists. Since locals wouldnt speed through that intersection anyway, it was a nearly perfect (and cheap) solution.

    Visibility prevents speeding, hiding generates revenue. Its really just that simple.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Safety considerations and $$$ for fines aside, why am I left with a feeling in my gut that Big Brother in the book "1984" has arrived and is slowly and inexorably growing in scope?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Fantastic....

    The ingenuity of American teenagers makes worthless a piece of fascist technology....

    I'd encourage all teenagers all over the world to do this. It would make this type of automated enforcement absurd.

     

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  18.  
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    k, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 8:13am

    Maryland was the last state I saw actually using a strategy to make roads safer. They would put cardboard cop car cutouts on the road side and everyone would slow to the speedlimit[...]
    They also do this in Bulgaria.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 8:25am

    Why would government care? As long as it's bringing in more cash - there's no other concern for them.

     

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  20.  
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    Benjamin Wright, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 8:56am

    Texas litigation

    Texas private investigator legislation is causing problems for robo-cop traffic enforcement. A Texas judge said the company running a red-light camera was acting illegally because it did not have a private investigator license. On the basis of this ruling, motorists are challenging traffic tickets. The problem started when the legislature said computer forensics experts needed to be licensed like private eyes. See deails --Ben

     

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  21.  
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    Tony, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 9:33am

    Hmm...

    "students in Maryland making fake license plates matching other students' plates, slapping them on their cars and speeding by speed cameras in order to get other students slapped with fines"

    Does anyone else think it would be quite amusing if someone were to game the system in exactly this way, but using the license plates of the city officials who had the cameras installed?

    I, for one, would LMAO if I heard a story like that on the news.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    nasch, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Re: it was never okay

    "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to be confronted with the witnesses against him;"

    A speeding ticket is not a criminal prosecution. Do not expect this defense to work.

     

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  23.  
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    Angry Techie, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 9:44am

    In my town (Ventura, CA population 100,000), the city council listened to the song and dance about increased safety (revenue) from installing red light ticket cameras. The company that sold them swore the city would recoup its $3 Million+ investment within the first year due to ticket revenue. It has now been over 3 YEARS, and they have not gotten half that amount. The camera company has "generously" (and illegally) agreed to suspend the city's payments on the cameras until revenue is more in the expected range. Now they are playing with shorter yellow timing to fool people into "running" lights. Oh, and rear end collisions at intersections are up, so the body shops and chiropractors in town are seeing more business. Win-Win for all!

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    R.S., Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    "In general, we have trouble with things like speed cameras and red light cameras -- both of which don't tend to do much of anything to make the roads safer "

    Where is your evidence for this counter intuitive statement?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re:

    you should learn to follow the links, use google, etc... but I'm nice, so here are two sites

    http://www.theagitator.com/2008/03/13/study-says-red-light-cameras-cause-death-mayhem-acne/

    http://hscweb3.hsc.usf.edu/health/now/?p=404

     

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  26.  
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    mako, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 10:29am

    genius...

    pure genius!

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    I know this story isn't really meant to be funny, but LOL

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 10:43am

    When I received my latest license plate I noticed a reflective film with something like a hologram on it. Will this protect me from the vandals described in the article?

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 11:29am

    Anyone who knows about traffic radar technology will tell you it is crap. The systems they use are not infallible and can be tricked with multiple cars, hell even a bird could screw up the signal. It is all about one thing, money. They don't care about anything else. If they cared about actual crimes cops would actually show when you needed them but they don't because there is no money in anything but little things like traffic violations.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 11:52am

    Re:

    "When I received my latest license plate I noticed a reflective film with something like a hologram on it. Will this protect me from the vandals described in the article?"

    No but it does make the plate considerably more expensive for the state to buy . . . so thats something?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Michael, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 11:59am

    thank you...

    You just gave me my defense in court for my next photo radar ticket... prove that its actually MY plate on the car and not a fake...

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    neil, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Good way to go to jail

    i love it what is the licence plate number, color make and model of you car now I can build a copy of yours that you cant dispute.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 12:49pm

    anyone have a plate number for someone at the RIAA?

    hint hint

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 1:33pm

    Re: thank you...

    you got it reverse. in traffic court you are guilty until proved innocent. I have a friend who was accused of going 70+ during lunch rush on the busiest, most backed up street, without his hands on the handle bars of his bike. they claimed they had video tape evidence but never showed it in court and after months of fighting the ticket (sometimes the cop wouldn't show, then the tape wasn't available so they'd delay time and time again) he still was forced to pay the fine.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    lordmorgul, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Re:

    "Wait if they are digital tickets does that mean they are an infinite good."

    Idiot, stop making Mike's argument for him if you dislike it so much. The fact that these are automated, extremely cheap to put in place, and have nearly zero maintenance and operational costs... means the tickets they hand out should be extremely low value for basic offenses.

    Its clear they are used for generating massive amounts of revenue without the overhead costs of funding adequate numbers of law enforcement officers... which could be a major problem when it gets eventually taken to extremes and we lack the law enforcement to properly protect and serve.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    lordmorgul, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re: it was never okay

    It will be once you fail to show up the first time. ;)

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 7:20pm

    Sometimes they do care.

    In this case the police cares-- but someone else wants the cameras...

     

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  38.  
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    Jack Daley, Dec 23rd, 2008 @ 6:10am

    This worked very well, when Hawaii had its van cam working. Got someone who looked like the governor speed through the cameras with a picture of the Governors license plate Soon no more camera vans.

     

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  39.  
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    Bob, Dec 24th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Santa Will Help

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    CFK Staff, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 12:59am

    TEACHING KIDS DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

    Now that you've got that great camera for your child, it's for them to learn how to get the full potential out of their camera. CAMERAS FOR KIDS is place for kids to learn about digital photography and an easy, fun atmosphere. There's also blurbs on nature, animals, and science.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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