Sticking It To The (Camera) Man: Inventor Develops License Plate Frame That Defeats Red Light Cameras

from the i-see-your-functional-flash-and-raise-you-two-xenon-strobes dept

Tech is all about disruption. When a problem presents itself, someone will find a way to route around it. Red light cameras, the controversial jackpot generators favored by certain law enforcement agencies, are the problem. The solution?
Jonathan Dandrow has developed noPhoto, which renders the pix snapped by those revenue-generating robo-cams useless. The technology behind noPhoto is fairly simple. At the top of the gadget, which doubles as a license plate frame, there’s an optical flash trigger that detects the flash of the traffic-light camera. That trigger sets off one or both xenon flashes in the sides of the noPhoto, so when the traffic-light camera opens its shutter, there’s too much light and the picture of your license plate is overexposed. Big Brother can’t read your plate.
Some will argue that technology like this will only be used by scofflaws wishing to run red lights. But as the inventor points out, there's plenty of shady activity on the other side of the camera, not the least of which is some more erosion of civil liberties.
“I just had a lot of reservations about the cameras,” Dandrow says. “They are trying to circumvent the constitution.”

As Gary Biller, the president of the National Motorists Association, recently wrote in U.S. News and World Report, traffic-light cameras violate “several key tenets of a citizen’s due process rights,” because there is “no certifiable witness to the alleged violation,” and so therefore, “the defendant loses the right to cross-examine his accuser in court.”
This isn't just an overreaction from minor league anarchists. Once the camera has "decided" you're guilty, that's it. Arguing your innocence is next to impossible. Case in point: this woman's ordeal with being falsely accused by a red light camera.
The New Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column has the story of a woman whose license was suspended by authorities in New Jersey for a red-light ticket, even though the car in the photo is clearly not hers — oh, and she hadn’t even been in the Garden State in more than a year when the violation occurred.
Despite having moved from New Jersey to Colorado 18 months before being ticketed, she still had to jump through a ridiculous number of hoops to clear her record and get her suspended license back. Starting with the city staff in Edison Township calling her a liar and a long game of paperwork tennis between the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and the township, it finally reached the point where the driver realized it would be easier to pay the fees than travel 1800 miles for a court date. Appealing the ticket runs $75 plus fees and a personal appearance. The final breakdown? $200 to restore her license plus $81 for the ticket and $33 in court costs. $314 to clear a ticket issued to the wrong person.

Despite the obvious flaws in the "camera-as-cop" system, there's a very good chance Dandrow's noPhoto will be forced off the market before too long. There's already a law against obscured license plates. But will that hold when the license plate is only obscured when being photographed? The other angle will likely be "concern" about "safety," as if this bit of civil disobedience will lead to rampant red-light running. Will some people ignore red lights if they have this equipped? Sure, but I doubt they'll use it to drive through heavily-trafficked intersections against the lights. This will most likely result in a few more "California stops" at quiet intersections. If the cops don't like this, maybe they should consider the example they set when they flip the light bar on momentarily to blow through traffic signals.

If this disruption hastens the demise of the rightfully-maligned red light camera, so much the better. The cameras, which some municipalities adore for their money-making ability, have been linked to increased accidents and shady law enforcement activity, like issuing tickets signed by a deceased patrolman, lowering the yellow light time to increase the chance of violations, and lying about the length of a red light to hide the fact a bogus ticket had been issued. Fighting back against technology being used badly for lousy ends with a simple, effective solution is the best kind of disruption.


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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:11pm

    I think that these red light cameras should go, the problem is that we are not willing enough to stand up to a military state where our freedoms have been tramped on in favor of corporate interests and revenue generation scams.

    You know that (California) if you buy a used car and it has past tickets you must pay them, or you can have your car towed, and then you must ask the previous owner for the money (or you can sue them for it and who wants to do all that). You might argue, but you can go to the DMV and do a car history check ... for like $30. What a scam.

    Enough is enough. These counter flash overexposure measures are a bad idea and are indicative of a much deeper problem, our unwillingness to tame our government and make them act in our interests instead of their own. It's amazing how they can afford to have these expensive camera systems but they can't afford to have something simple like a warning light (or time clock) placed 100 (or whatever) feet before a main intersection notifying drivers that they should begin their stop now because they won't make it for the light or telling them that they have plenty of time and can continue through the intersection (not a patentable idea). This would do a lot more to prevent accidents than the nonsense we have now. and what about adjustable/digital speed limit signs so that the speed limit can be increased during favorable conditions. But no, the whole purpose of our parking and traffic laws is centered more around revenue generation than anything else.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      Also, if you think this will work they'll place expensive, high quality, video cameras next to the red light cameras that will get the license plate, detect the flash, and they'll fine you triple and put a criminal record on you or something.

      Fact is, our government is out of control and the solution isn't 'workarounds' that they'll ban, find workarounds to, and further penalize you for. It's protesting.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:47pm

      Re:

      In Missouri some places like Rogersville and Seymour have signs similar to what you're talking about. If you're approaching an intersection and the light is about to turn red, the sign says RED LIGHT AHEAD, with the word RED flashing.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 6:37pm

      Re:

      "our unwillingness to tame our government and make them act in our interests instead of their own"

      Those bullies and jackasses that made life miserable in school...guess where their jobs are.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:06pm

      Re: Revenue

      There are so many things the city does here in L.A. to frak with the citizens and make revenue. They paint little red strips on the curb-- no more than about five inches wide-- in the middle of a block of street parking. No conceivable reason for that bit of red whatsoever. No hydrants, no power junctions, no hazards, nothing. Just a little bit of red no wider than your hand that gives the meter maid one more excuse to cite someone who parks next to it without noticing.

      They also post the parking signage in such a way that it's like solving an algebra word problem to figure out if you're legal or not. There's one in Santa Monica that's especially ridiculous. Half a dozen different prohibitions and conditions that require signs six feet tall to list them all-- No Parking 6A-10P Mon-Thu, etc.-- and when you finally figure them all out, you realize the only legal times you can park there are two hours in the middle of the night. How much easier would it be just to put up one sign that says Parking Allowed Only 2AM-4AM? Of course that would be easy to figure out and wouldn't result in all that revenue from the confused people who couldn't properly figure out the multitude of purposely obtuse signage and end up parking wrong.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:21am

        Re: Re: Revenue

        A lot of the parking laws are designed to keep people with motor homes from staying/living there.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Revenue

          > A lot of the parking laws are designed to keep
          > people with motor homes from staying/living there.

          That's fine, but if they're going to prohibit parking any time but a couple of hours in the middle of the night, just say *that*. Don't put up a half dozen signs with different restrictions and times that make the driver have to construct a flow diagram to figure out what's legal.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Revenue

          Wouldn't a sign saying "Living in motor homes prohibited in this area" be much simpler?

           

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    rubberpants, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:14pm

    I think this is awesome. However, with as expensive and unique as these are, I would say theft is a significant risk.

     

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    The Real Michael, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:23pm

    The police are supposed to serve and protect the public, y'know, the people who pay their salaries. If they're not serving the people (and by "serve" that doesn't mean a summons or citation), they're not doing their job.

     

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    crade (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:25pm

    So how is this thing supposed to help me from being falsely accused by a red light camera when the car isn't mine and I haven't been in that state for more than a year?

     

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      vegetaman (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 6:00pm

      Re:

      This was my first thought, as well. Plus, I've already had paranoid thoughts of "what happens if I am doing an absolutely legal thing when the lights change, but they snap my picture and give me a ticket anyway -- how can I fight it!?". I'm sure more people would rather pay their ticket than fight against the brick wall of abuse of authority (all in the name of "money", errr... I mean "protection"...).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:35pm

    "...there's too much light and the picture of your license plate is overexposed". Now where have I heard that claim before? Ah, yes, those license plate sprays that don't work.

     

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      nasch (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      Now where have I heard that claim before? Ah, yes, those license plate sprays that don't work.

      Yes, since those don't work, that means this doesn't either.

       

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

    you'd know that system wouldn't work well, if at all. Relies on first detecting a flash at the least, so if other models use low-light or IR cameras, doesn't work at all.

    But ignorance doesn't get in the way of a feeble story here at Techdirt.

    On other hand, the AC at #1 and #3 has sense: it's just the fanboy/troll/pirates here who don't.

     

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      abc gum, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

      Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

      More ignorant vitriol from Out Of The Loo.
      What would we do without your infinite insight into the inner workings of the most complex issues facing our world today ...

       

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      silverscarcat (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:04pm

      Re: or had a bit of sense,

      That's rich, coming from one of the three people that lack any and all sort of sense in this place.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:37pm

      Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

      If you had actually read the "feeble story" you'd have known that Masnick doesn't think the idea is foolproof and acknowledges that it's very likely to get forced off the market quickly.

      But stupidity doesn't get in the way of a pathetic argument here from out_of_the_ass.

      On the other hand, the AC at #1 and #3 has sense; it's just out_of_the_ass and the other trolls here who don't.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 7:14pm

        Re: Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

        Tim Cushing, not Mike Masnick....

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

          And no, Tim Cushing is not the guy who played Grand Moff Tarkin in "Star Wars".

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2013 @ 2:46am

        Re: Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

        Why r u people arguing amongst one another its pure ignorance to waste an argument amongst each other save your frustration for the real jerks lol pompous A holes. I don't have to complete for you all pretty much know who I'm referring to. On the other hand good for you for inventing your invention I'm very much happy for you and keep up the good work:-)

         

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      btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:13pm

      Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

      > you'd know that system wouldn't work well,
      > if at all. Relies on first detecting a flash at the
      > least, so if other models use low-light or IR
      > cameras, doesn't work at all.

      Easiest thing to do is take your tags off altogether. Seems like every third car here in L.A. is driving around with no tags at all. Just those paper tags that advertise the car dealer where it was bought. As long as your car is actually registered, the fine for not displaying tags is only $20 and that's if the cops even bother pulling you over for it at all. Most don't.

      So just take the tags off and occasionally pay a $20 fine (maybe) and never worry about a $300 ticket for running a red light or violating the express lanes or whatever.

       

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      Niall (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:31am

      Re: Had you read the comments there, or had a bit of sense,

      When all you can do is actively troll an article to nitpick anything other than actually agreeing with a TD article, and when half your post is pointless insults, it totally devalues any attempt to take any of your other posts remotely seriously. At least average_joe makes some good legal observations.

      Non-douchebag version:

      "it's possible that system wouldn't work well, if at all. Relies on first detecting a flash at the least, so if other models use low-light or IR cameras, doesn't work at all.

      I also think that the AC at #1 and #3 has sense in what he's adding to this."

       

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    Haywood (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:55pm

    $350?

    I'll wait for the Chinese knock off @ $50

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 4:59pm

    Why NJ fought so hard:

    Because if they, or any state that uses the red light cameras were to admit, even once that the system can make mistakes, they would have countless people lined up to contest the tickets they'd been sent, or even worse, an investigation into the whole thing.

    As it is the system is far too profitable for them to want to mess with it, or allow it to be messed with.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:09am

      Re: Why NJ fought so hard:

      In this case, interference with a business model is probably already a crime. They'll probably pull out the interference with a police investigation charge on this one.

       

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    Anonymous Hero, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:42pm

    Just start an activist group to defeat the cameras in your community by voting them out. It has happened all over the country. If not learn your rights in court you can defeat all of the tickets easily anyway. These are victimless alleged crimes that are really just a complete money raising fraud. They are hoping you will be too lazy or stupid to represent yourself and just pay the fine. So even if you were guilty the only way you can lose is if you have a totally corrupt judge or don't learn how to represent yourself.

    Search Marc Stevens you'll find what you need on the latter.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 5:58pm

    Face it, the red lights cause more accidents than they save. In near every case the yellow has been lowered at least to the minimum time the law allows and often less than that.

    The camera's cost most cities nothing. The deal is the company will install the cameras for nothing and accept a large payoff out of the fines in return. This forces most cities to automatically jack the fines to cover it and give themselves a boost as well.

    It's a scam, plain out. The city gets money, the camera company rakes it in, all at the cost of the driver.

    Rear end accidents are rampant because there is not enough time from the yellow light to brake to a stop before the red if you are traveling the speed limit. The car behind you is going to nail you good if you are in front.

    Several cities are having fights with the camera company as the citizens don't want them and the companies have a contract the city can't get out of.

    For those in favor, first time you get one of these tickets for several hundred dollars, smile and think. Without the camera it might have only been $50.

     

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    F!, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 7:49pm

    low-tech solution

    I've been driving for over 25 years without a license plate on the front of my car(s). Lived in 4 states and over the years taken thousands of miles of road trips across at least 10 more states and 3 Canadian provinces, all without a license plate on the front of my car. Yep, they let me through the USA/Canada border (both ways) without a front plate. Got pulled over once for expired tags (on the back plate). Nobody has ever said a word to me about missing a front license plate!

    Never got a red-light ticket either - not that I've ever deserved one, of course.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:14pm

      Re: low-tech solution

      Not all states require front license plates. I live in Louisiana and we don't have them here.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:17pm

      Re: low-tech solution

      > Yep, they let me through the USA/Canada border
      > (both ways) without a front plate.

      Not surprising. Since many states don't have front plates, it would be odd indeed if the Canadians denied admittance to anyone who didn't have one. Kinda hard to have one if your state never issued you one.

      "Sorry, sir, you're from Florida and since we require a front tag here in Great White North, so we're going to have to ask you to turn around and go home, eh?

       

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    SUNWARD (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:04pm

    Illegal

    this would be considered obstruction of justice and or fraud here in Ontario.

     

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      Niall (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:34am

      Re: Illegal

      It would probably be something similar here in the UK. We have mandated font and font size for number plates (although this is occasionally ignored, that's rare), and they take a dim view of anyone apparently deliberately obscuring their plates. Of course, in rural areas where peoples' Land Rovers get all covered in mud... ;)

       

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    Rynd Smithson, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:16pm

    Driving is a right and no greedy governments or corrupt cops are going to impose their flawed beliefs on me in order to line their pockets. The facts clearly show that there are literally no injuries or deaths caused by red light running and that gerisdictions where ALL road laws are eliminated are factualy the safest of all. Every time I run a red light, I *always* make sure no one else is coming. So it is clear red light cameras are just another effort by big brother to impose its big government, statist, BS on the rest of us.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:29pm

    Why are people just not taking high powered rifles and shooting the red light camera's. Much more simple and it clearly gets the point across that the camera is not welcome.

    I know at some point it will come to this when some red neck gets a ticket.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:33pm

    avoiding police detection is in itself a crime, if you are commiting a crime (like running a light), so by definition these devices are illegal, obscuring your plate is a crime, again (at any time, even for a milisecond), so these flashes would be a crime.

    the cameras take no just one photo, the take a framed set with different exposure settings, like any modern Digital SLR, they can even take a short 1 or 2 second video of you.

    so not only will you be fined for running a red or amber light (not that bad a thing), you'll be up for far more serious charges and a criminal record..

    the best way around it, dont run the lights,, is it really that hard to abey the law ?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:52pm

      Re:

      "Avoiding police detection is in itself a crime". HUH? Where? Perhaps you're not in the US, since you said "amber" instead of yellow, and "running an amber light" is not a crime here (as far as I know).

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 2:07am

        Re: Re:

        Well, in some states it is. Indiana, for example, will ticket you for running an amber.

         

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          ChrisH (profile), Oct 26th, 2012 @ 12:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          How can that be? There would be a large area before the intersection where it would be theoretically impossible for you not to go through an amber light, even if you were going less than the speed limit. For example, if you were driving 55 mph on a wet road and the light turned yellow, you would need to be at least 350 feet away from the intersection to have a chance of stopping in time.

           

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      btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:19pm

      Re:

      > avoiding police detection is in itself a crime

      Not anywhere I've ever heard of.

      So if you rob a bank and do anything other than immediately turn yourself in, they can not only charge you with a crime, but avoiding police detection, also?

      Don't be absurd.

       

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        G Thompson (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Well you still have Misprision of Felony on your books. The UK and us in Australia abolished it years ago.

        Though I seem to remember it can't be used if it means you would incriminate yourself, and required active concealment too?

        But I'm sure this AC will absolutely report any crime they have EVER done to the nearest LEO post haste since they love to 'abey' the law Bwahahahahahahaha

        Question: how does one mispell obey as abey? The a & o keys are nowhere near each other ever!)

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 3:51am

        Re: Re:

        It's called evading arrest in the states. And yes obscuring your plates so they can't tell it's you could be considered evading arrest. Since the only purpose of this "invention" is to avoid getting cited for violating the law.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          > It's called evading arrest in the states.

          And that only applies when *actively* being chased by the police. You can't be charged with evading arrest simply for sitting in your house after you commit a crime and not turning yourself in.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 12:22am

      Re:

      Go look for a single case, darryl, where a person was charged for "avoiding police detection".

      When the law relies on devices proven multiple times to be completely unreliable and arbitrarily unfair, it is a citizen's duty to not "abey the law", because the law is unreasonable.

      But hey, you're a fine specimen of a shitstain who thinks that he's above the average Australian in terms of intelligence; of course you wouldn't understand.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:45pm

      Re:

      Yes, it really is when you consider that something like 70+ percent of red light citations are issued for not stopping long enough (whatever that means) while turning right on red. Most of the rest of them are for violations that occur less than half a second after the light changes. That may be a technical violation but it is not dangerous because traffic on the other side won't be moving yet.

      Are you such a perfect driver that such things can't happen to you? Such a minuscule percentage of citations issues by these profiteering, scamming devices are for the behavior they're allegedly sold to prevent--the deliberate running of red lights while posing a threat to safety.

      It's a racket, it is all about profit, and you do yourself and everyone else a disservice by pretending it to be otherwise.

       

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        ChrisH (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 11:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Yes, it really is when you consider that something like 70+ percent of red light citations are issued for not stopping long enough (whatever that means) while turning right on red. Most of the rest of them are for violations that occur less than half a second after the light changes. That may be a technical violation but it is not dangerous because traffic on the other side won't be moving yet.

        I can see why this could be dangerous. It's not the traffic that's stopped. If you're making a right-on-red, there could be pedestrians in the crosswalk. If you're rushing to turn before the other traffic goes you're not going to be paying as much attention to the crosswalk and will be more likely to hit someone.

         

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    TheLoot (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 8:59pm

    "If the cops don't like this, maybe they should consider the example they set when they flip the light bar on momentarily to blow through traffic signals."

    Sounds as much of an urban legend as flashing your high-beams works. I've never seen nor heard of anyone actually doing that, and it smacks of anti-cop bias, as does the whole concept of ticket-dodging.

    The implementation may be bad (for-profit companies running the cameras), but the idea of punishing people for creating safety hazards is sound.

     

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      TheLoot (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

      Re:

      Oh, and one more.

      How about cops start using flood lights to blind any camera being used to record them? Fair play, right?

       

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 9:19pm

      Re:

      The cops don't flash their lights to get the light to turn green, they flash their lights because they are allowed to run the red light while they have their reds and blues on.

      If you've never seen this, it may be because you don't live in a place that has something called Rush Hour. I see it all the time in Pittsburgh. I've also had a cop turn on his lights just so he could pass me on a blind turn. If you see a cop with just his lights on crossing an intersection or passing someone, that's what they're doing. If they're actually going somewhere, then their siren is on.

      This is not an urban myth, this is quite common.

       

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      •  
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        btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:25pm

        Re: Re:

        > If they're actually going somewhere, then their siren is on.

        That's nonsense. You have no idea what you're talking about.

        Police response is dictated by various codes given by the dispatchers. If they're running full code, they use lights and sirens. Other codes call only for lights. Or no lights or sirens at all. In those cases, the cops will use their lights to expeditiously clear intersections, then turn them off as they approach the target location for tactical reasons. To the cynical bystander it looks like they just didn't want to sit at the light.

        Regardless of the reason, you can't know without having heard the radio call what the reason is for the lights and your claim that a siren is required 'if they're really going somewhere' is nonsense.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 2:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Believe what you want. We've had a few officers get caught running their lights just to get to the station faster at the end of their shift. What code is that, I wonder? It was suspension in two cases, and removal from the force for another who caused an accident.

           

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            btr1701 (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            > Believe what you want.

            I will, since I worked with local law enforcement on many occasions and have been in radio cars when this sort of thing happens.

            > We've had a few officers get caught running
            > their lights just to get to the station faster at the end
            > of their shift.

            So exactly how does that mean every instance of using lights to clear an intersection equals abuse? And it certainly doesn't validate your silly claim that a siren is required 'if they're really going somewhere'.

             

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    •  
      identicon
      Joe Barr, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:44am

      Re:

      I've seen cops turn on their lights to get through an intersection and I've heard of it from plenty of others.

      Maybe you're either a) sheltered, or b) pushing a pro-cop agenda.

       

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      Gwiz (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:34am

      Re:

      Sounds as much of an urban legend as flashing your high-beams works. I've never seen nor heard of anyone actually doing that, and it smacks of anti-cop bias, as does the whole concept of ticket-dodging.

      If you are talking about warning oncoming traffic about a speed trap you just went past by flashing your brights, then that's not urban legend. I used to do it all the time and have been saved from a speeding ticket or two from this. Cops get pissed off about this, but there really isn't much they can do about it.

      The practice fell out of favor with most people sometime in the 90's, I believe, when there were plenty of rumors floating around that gang members were selecting their victims of gang initiation rituals by driving around with their headlights off and the first person who flashed their brights at them was the unlucky winner.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      "I've never seen nor heard of anyone actually doing that"

      Fist hand witness here. Happens all the time in a city, usually when a cop wants to ignore a 'no left turns' or 'no uturns' sign.

       

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    artp (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

    "There's already a law against obscured license plates."

    I got pulled over in Houston once because I hadn't cleaned off the good ol' Iowa dirt off my license plates. Living on a gravel road can do the same thing as all that fancy technology. So why don't you just tape over your plate and be done with it?

    I've gotten camera tickets, and I don't like them at all. But despite my dislike of camera tickets, I would never support circumvention measures. If someone feels like they don't have to obey the law AND they don't want to pay the consequences, then they really aren't safe to be on the road with.

    The law that says that license plate has to be unobscured is one of those unenforced laws. I wish they would either enforce it or repeal it. Whether it is red covers or license plate frames, the fact is that I can't read your license plate half the time. Moisture, snow and street dirt can make the cover opaque. So your fellow citizens whom you just cut off in traffic can't call you in either. It's not just the police who need to see your plates.

    Even frames obscure information on some state's plates. Just leave off that stuff, and use a novel strategy to avoid tickets (other than camera-issued) -- Just pay attention! You will not only see the police car ahead, but you will be a safer driver.

    Thanks for sharing the road!

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 9:55pm

      Re:

      Technically not an obscured plate. The plate is perfectly legible except for a microsecond where there is too much light for the camera to handle. Your edict to 'just pay attention' does nothing for lights that have had their timing illegally shortened, or cameras that take a picture despite no red light. It's your word against... a machine that can't appear or say anything in court. So in the end it is you against the government. Good luck with that.

       

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        btr1701 (profile), Oct 24th, 2012 @ 10:27pm

        Re: Re:

        > Technically not an obscured plate. The plate is
        > perfectly legible except for a microsecond where
        > there is too much light for the camera to handle.

        And even then it's still legible to human being looking at it. It's just not photographable for that brief moment in time.

         

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      •  
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        Niall (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:43am

        Re: Re:

        And this is the point about a 'reliable witness' being absent. It wouldn't stop a human seeing it, so could be argued to be at least as legal as the locality's use of a camera to bypass Fourth Amendment concerns.

         

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        artp (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:48am

        Re: Re:

        Then you won't technically get the ticket, and won't technically have to pay the fine. Let me know how that works out for you.

        I've seen jailhouse lawyers with better logic than that!

        Any system can be subverted. It is up to citizens to make government accountable. And government is not accountable today, so whose fault is that? Get off your duff and do something about it -- other than playing jailhouse games with flashes.

         

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    John B, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 11:02pm

    Not a new thing

    By the way, this is really not a new invention. Has been around for decades in various formats. In principle it's just a slave flash. And there are laws against it. At least in Northern Europe where I'm from. It's obstruction of the police in their rightful duty of enforcing trafic security or some bollocks like that.

     

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      btr1701 (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:46am

      Re: Not a new thing

      > And there are laws against it. At least in Northern
      > Europe where I'm from.

      It's been my impression that it would be quicker and more efficient for you guys in Europe to just list the stuff the government lets you do rather than the stuff it doesn't. It would be a much shorter list.

      Not that America is much better these days.

       

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    Richard (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 1:52am

    Not the first

    I remember hearing about a similar system - called flashback in the UK several years ago.

     

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      Andrew (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:47am

      Re: Not the first

      Yes, I was going to say the same thing. If I remember the reports correctly, it didn't really work. Plus, in the UK at least, there's been a move towards using average speed cameras that monitor cars' speeds between 2 camera positions and, perhaps more pertinently in this context, don't use a flash.

       

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    Chilly8, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 2:07am

    That would not work on newer red light and speed cameras which shoot continous video and do not need a flash. NoPhoto will not work on red light cameras in Saramento, Ca, since they use continous video streaming instead of flash photography.

     

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    lfroen (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 2:43am

    I call it "only in US"

    Only in US you can see this sort of crazy discussion. Red light cameras are widely used _all_ _over_ _the_ _world_. As any technology it has a potential for abuse.
    But, techdirt reader would say "you don't blame technology, you blame (ab)user". Hint: guns are abused match frequently, where's outrage about "police abusing guns"?
    Running to red light is real, very dangerous thing. Hard to protest false accusation? Protest broken legal system. City officials turning it to profit center? Fight corruption (US is democracy, right?).
    But obscuring license plate is offense in same category as speed radar jammer - fun until you caught.
    And clam about " circumvent the constitution" is complete nonsense. What is this "no certifiable witness" ?! Camera IS "certifiable witness", it's a f..ng camera, you know.

     

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      Niall (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:46am

      Re: I call it "only in US"

      We would happily complain if there was an example of police (or anyone) abusing guns, tasers, or even nightsticks. Usually though, this being a tech blog, it's when it's in connection to tech or rights issues, such as police objecting (maybe violently) to someone filming them.

      And in some jurisdictions this kind of circumvention *is* illegal. In others, it isn't, so could be seen as 'harmless fun'. And as numerous posters have indicated, it might not work at all. In the end, the user/driver is responsible for what they do, and should be held (accurately) to account. So should police and government officials, especially if there are suspicions that they themselves are bending the law or blindly using cameras inaccurately.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 5:38am

    It looks like the indiegogo page for nophoto no longer exists...

    http://www.indiegogo.com/noPhoto

     

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  •  
    identicon
    abc gum, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:18am

    What do these idiot red light camera companies do about the obvious errors which result from their flawed implementations?

    http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2010/01/21/Speed-camera-tickets-parked-car/UPI-66911 264102518/



    the speeding ticket cameras need some lovin too.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100121/0946107858.shtml

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 6:57am

    Looks like a scam. Their website says sold out, then says not ready, check our project, and the project is dead.

    Fake.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Amber, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:23am

    Red Light Camera Defeated By Ape Suit

    There was a guy in Iowa, where these red light cameras are rampant, who put on an ape suit, then went around and purposefully got as many tickets as he could from these devices. He won in court because they couldn't prove it was him driving.

     

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    •  
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      artp (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 9:03am

      Re: Red Light Camera Defeated By Ape Suit

      I would love to take credit for that, being from Iowa and all, but at least in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the ticket is issued to the car owner, and the city doesn't CARE who was driving. At least it doesn't go against your driving record, so I guess that is their justification for doing it that way.

      So there is no court to appeal to because it isn't a moving violation. The ticket is issued by some company out of state and not by the city. You can write to them with a sob story, but they'll eventually get their money. I was going to check their website to get the details, but they have broken links. What an outfit - they shouldn't be using technology at all.

      OTOH, there is a true story that is relevant. Back in the early 70s in Iowa City, First National Bank was robbed. The police report said that the robber was wearing a gorilla mask, a bright yellow raincoat and rollerskates. He left the bank and disappeared into the crowd. I loved Iowa City back then. The crowd was very colorful!

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 7:39am

    Wow, Tim, that's like the most brilliantly one-sided and narrow-minded TD post I've read in a while. You're doing it as a parody, right?

    Red light cameras have problems and horror stories, to be sure. But red light cameras have also led to reductions in the running of red lights. Speed cameras have led to reduced speeding. These are good things, because they lead to fewer and less serious injuries. Are there devious cops who fiddle with cameras or traffic lights to play gotcha? Sure. Should they be called out on it? Yes, and I'm sure TD will be there to do the calling. I don't expect TD to run posts about that awful crash on the other side of town the other day, where some guy ran a red light and smashed into a pedestrian/mini-van full of kids/little old lady. That's just the kind of local news that happens every day. But could you at least acknowledge the blatantly obvious? That drivers who run red lights are breaking a perfectly sensible rule (red=stop; green=go) designed to prevent crashes and injury, and that often, their actions result in serious harm?

    I'm going to start a Kickstarter project myself, that I promise will be far more effective that this snake oil flashbulb doohicky. It's called "Don't run f-king red lights." Early contributors to the project will get (a) a reminder that the best way to avoid a red light camera ticket is to stop running red lights, and (b) that's it, that's all you get.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Gwiz (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:50am

      Re:

      But red light cameras have also led to reductions in the running of red lights. Speed cameras have led to reduced speeding. These are good things, because they lead to fewer and less serious injuries.

      Do you have a citation for these assertions? The articles I have read kind of say the opposite:

      http://articles.philly.com/2011-10-25/news/30320420_1_red-light-cameras-automated-red-l ight-enforcement-red-light-intersections

       

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      •  
        icon
        ChrisH (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 11:10pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, the article doesn't say the opposite. It says the number of accidents have increased. That's the only statistic it mentions. The quote from AC says they have reduced the running of red lights.

        How about Wikipedia for a reference?
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_light_camera#Studies_and_politics

        Most of the referenced studies show a reduction in injuries by around 30%. Focusing on the number of accidents misses the most important part of the story. The point of the cameras is not to reduce accidents but to reduce injuries. Intellectually honest observers can see the difference between these two measurements.

         

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        •  
          icon
          Gwiz (profile), Oct 26th, 2012 @ 8:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Most of the referenced studies show a reduction in injuries by around 30%.

          I looked through some of that data and I'm sure that's true.

          That data is very conflicting - some show increases in injuries, others don't. A lot depends on the specific intersection.


          The point of the cameras is not to reduce accidents but to reduce injuries.

          Not so sure of that. It's really about money. The municipalities want to generate revenue and the insurance companies want reductions in claim payouts. I would venture a guess that a rear end crash would be a cheaper payout than a right-angle collision.


          Intellectually honest observers can see the difference between these two measurements.

          Right. I was looking at the serious injury numbers and like I said, those numbers seem to be vastly different at different intersections.

           

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    •  
      icon
      nasch (profile), Oct 26th, 2012 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      Isn't increasing the length of yellow lights just as effective at reducing red light running and decreasing injuries (and decreasing number of accidents too)?

       

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      •  
        icon
        ChrisH (profile), Oct 27th, 2012 @ 5:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Good question. What about increasing the delay from when the light turns red and the light for the cross street turn green? I'm sure when faced with these choices, the revenue generating aspect of the cameras will factor in.

        I don't believe that anyone would intentionally run a red light, at least not after it has been red for a few seconds and the cross traffic has started to move. I can only imagine that those people must have gotten distracted and not seen the red light at all. Wouldn't the cameras have no effect then? Maybe the thought of the tickets sits in the back of people's mind and raises their alertness around intersections. Not saying it actually works, just a theory.

         

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  •  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    What about the even bigger threat?

    Red-light cameras are a terrible thing, but I want to see a countermeasure to the even bigger threat that is posed by automated license plate readers.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Henry, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    If you visit California or live there

    In California there is a NO COST way that about half of all tickets could be avoided.

    Everyone living in California, or visiting, needs to know about Snitch Tickets, which are fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out by the police in an effort to fool the registered owner into identifying the actual driver of the car. (Over 30 CA cities use them, and in some they are more than half of everything the city mails out.) Snitch tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don’t say “Notice to Appear,” don’t have the court’s address and phone # on them, and usually say, on the back (in small letters), “Do not contact the court about this notice.” Since they have not been filed with the court, they have no legal weight whatsoever. You can, and should, ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term.

    Also, a REAL camera ticket from ANY city in Los Angeles County can be ignored, as the LA courts do not report ignored tickets to the DMV. (This was revealed in multiple LA Times articles last summer. It is applicable ONLY to cities in LA county.)

     

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  •  
    icon
    Corwin (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    Globalize it

    Have the gizmo made in China, sell it on eBay, get paid in Bitcoin.

    Who's going to stop that, then?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Gregg, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 10:19am

    Put some mud on your license plate. Cheaper and nothing they can do about it.

     

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    icon
    iambinarymind (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

    Beautiful Example...

    This is a beautiful example of the voluntary market finding solutions to the coercion/force of the State.

    As for people claiming "there are studies that show red light cameras reduce people running red lights", there are also studies that show they increase car accidents.

    There has also been a creeping trend of governments reducing the length of time the light is yellow in order to boost revenue from the red light camera tickets.

    The red light camera's set up horrible incentives that just build upon more State force/coercion.

    I say bravo to the individual that created another fantastic way to "break bad".

     

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    ChrisH (profile), Oct 25th, 2012 @ 9:49pm

    I've been waiting for more products like this to come out.

    We had red light cameras here in Houston, TX. Instead of a photo, it recorded about 5 seconds worth of video which they send you as part of the ticket. I'm sure you could have the video reviewed by the court if you wanted to contest it. Maybe it doesn't work this way everywhere but an officer reviews the videos and decides whether or not to send a ticket. The cameras were eventually removed by a ballot initiative.

    Statistics are tricky things. People read that the cameras have increased accidents and conclude that they're reducing safety. But are all accidents equal? If you only look at those accidents involving injury, the cameras have actually reduced those accidents. It's pretty obvious what's happening. People are stopping quickly to avoid the tickets which is increasing the number of rear-end collisions. At the same time, the number of T-bone collisions have gone down since people are more aware of the lights, leading to less serious injuries.

     

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    identicon
    SlackwareRobert, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 12:37pm

    traffic cameras

    The women is an idiot, you charge the NJ dmv in colorado court for slander and defamation. They have to come to you, not the other way around.
    But you would have to have the strobes charged so they are available on a moments notice, do you charge them when the brake is touched? I would think the circuit wouldn't like holding the charge for long periods of time without burning out something. I know my strobes wouldn't like it. But they are bright. For home made, look for aircraft strobe lights.

     

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    identicon
    Steven Rogers, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 7:01pm

    Thanks for the info. My father used to work for a license plate frames company, but he got to old to keep working there. He was struck with Alzheimer’s disease and … why am I telling you this? I don’t even know you people.

     

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    identicon
    Juleit, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 7:37pm

    Good Idea

    I like this idea, way to stick it to the man with a cool custom license plate frame. I want one!

     

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    identicon
    Bay Area Resident, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 7:46pm

    Red Light Camera tickets are $480. The fine is so high that it is abusive and an innappropriate punishment for the minor crime. Remember that over 90% of these tickets are for safe right hand turns that were made a fraction of a second after the light changed. In addition to the pain in the bewildered driver's wallet, this ticket will count as a CONVICTION in some permanent EMPLOYMENT records because it is over $400. Ridiculous that this could cost someone their job. If you work for a city or state agency, look on the "Conviction History Form". You are required to report traffic violations with fines over $400. Those forms were generated long before red light cameras and their exorbitant fines. They should distinguish between through-light violations and right turns, between safe driving and unsafe driving and proximity to pedestrians. You know, use judgement like traffic cops were supposed to.

     

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      nasch (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:24pm

      Re:

      Remember that over 90% of these tickets are for safe right hand turns that were made a fraction of a second after the light changed.

      Where did you find that information?

       

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    identicon
    Mark Sommerland, Apr 26th, 2013 @ 5:14am

    Camera defeating License Plate

    Only one problem... in most states it's illegal to mount a rear facing light source. That was inacted back when all the 4-wheel drive trucks got roll bars and mounted lights facing backwards in the 70's and 80's. You have to have a cover physically blocking the light source on it while driving on the street. this would qualify as a light source and in fact might be considered dangerous to boot, leaving you liable in an accident. it will be interesting to see how it holds up.

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 26th, 2013 @ 6:27am

      Re: Camera defeating License Plate

      Only one problem... in most states it's illegal to mount a rear facing light source.

      Sounds like these flash towards the license plate to overexpose it, so no problem there.

       

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    identicon
    CoalMineCanarry, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Even worse than you thought!

    I am in the investigative industry we just acquired the ability to receive data on all your plate hits, one person we ran came back with over 25 data points going back almost four years. These hits were all taken by mobile LRP devices, although I don't know if they were from private cameras mounted in cars or LEO vehicles. Either way red light cameras are the least of your problems, as more surveillance cameras are networked, all of us will be tracked more extensively. Even worse all of the information is owned, bought, and sold by private companies. Contact your state rep and attempt to outlaw this type of data gathering in your state, this type of thing must be stopped.

     

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    identicon
    Thomas, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Interesting idea

    These guys seem to use Infrared light to confuse traffic cameras. Its an interesting idea, but would it work? I am considering giving them a try. http://www.sunflexzone.com/product/stealth-anti-tracking-ir-infrared-license-plate-privacy-frame-alp r-countermeasure

     

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


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