Speed Cam Contractor Responds To Challenged Tickets By Cropping Photos, Moving Cameras

from the if-you-can't-fix-the-system,-just-'fix'-the-output dept

While the discussion over whether red light and speed cameras are helping or hurting continues, there's no denying they're very profitable. In most communities, the beneficiaries of the additional income are extremely reluctant to unplug the cash cow (if you will...). The beneficiary least likely to welcome any dip in income are the companies supplying the camera systems.

American Traffic Solutions is one of two major traffic cam contractors. Its DC-Maryland camera system has recently run into a few snags in the money-making department due to challenged tickets. In one documented case, a driver had his ticket thrown out because the photographic "evidence" showed two vehicles in frame -- and in radar range. (This leads one to speculate whether ATS simply decided to issue two tickets...)

Rather than simply toss out any questionable photos, ATS has decided it would be simpler (read: more profitable) to do a little creative work to alter the output.

The firms operating red light cameras and speed cameras in the District of Columbia and Maryland are working to suppress evidence that could be used to prove the innocence of a photo enforcement ticket recipient. In Washington, the Arizona-based vendor American Traffic Solutions has repositioned cameras and cropped photos so that it is impossible to determine whether another object or vehicle happens to be within the radar unit's field of view.

The change is important since DC hearing adjudicators have been throwing out citations whenever another vehicle was visible, creating the possibility of a spurious radar reading (view ruling). The cropping also makes it extremely difficult to use pavement lines to perform a secondary check of the speed estimate provided by the radar. Lines painted on the road for this purpose are visible in one photo, but not the other (view first photo, view second photo).
Even though the cameras are also video-capable, no corroborating video evidence is provided to ticketed drivers. The efforts being undertaken to ensure ATS can "write" as many tickets as possible are questionable at best. As The Newspaper notes, they bear every resemblance to suppression of evidence. Cropping a second vehicle out of frame in order to push a ticket through unchallenged is legally dubious. Ethically, it's just plain wrong.

This isn't ATS' only experience in the ethically/legally dubious arena. Its system in Florida now sports one of the shortest yellow lights in the country, just a shade above the absolute minimum. Decreasing a yellow light by a half-second can result in double the amount of tickets issued. Of course, it also increases the number of accidents, but that's hardly of concern to the red light cam contractor. (It would seem to be a problem for the complicit DOTs, but the ultra-cheap source of revenue is apparently too good to pass up -- or even use responsibly.)

And it's not just law enforcement and traffic cam contractors reaping the benefits of cropped photos and shortened yellow lights -- the money goes all the way up. A reform bill aimed at red light/speed camera systems tanked earlier this year in the Maryland legislature, thanks to nearly $100,000 in direct contributions from camera companies (and their subcontractors) to lawmakers in Annapolis.

There's nothing behind these programs that indicate "safety" or "better driving" is the intended outcome, not when a camera contractor needs to resort to cropping photos and moving cameras just to ensure the income continues to roll in. The complicit government entities are only making it worse with their tendency to become swiftly addicted to new "revenue streams" -- ones that often complement campaign contributions from these same contractors.

The losers here are members of the public who are now more likely than ever to be slapped with bogus tickets, often without any reliable form of recourse.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 4:59am

    Uh... I hate to be the one who points this out, but those lines weren't cropped out. They were Photoshopped out.

    Cropping the photo would have left the lines in the photo.

    This is more serious than "cropping". It's tampering with evidence in the most heinous of ways.

     

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  2.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    Re:

    PS: as noted by the time stamp on the photo itself.

     

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    McCrea (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:15am

    Re: Re:

    The T 0.200s indicates the photos were take 1/5 of a second apart. The car was blocking the view of the lines in the first, and moved forward enough so that you can see the lines in the second.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:33am

    It's for the children! Everything is justified if it's for the children! Whatever it means.

    Ahem. My friend was recently caught on one of these devices but I know first hand he doesn't speed (I admit I do when the road is in good conditions - which includes them being flat and straight - and there are very few/no cars in it). He told me it was a moment of distraction and he got caught 2 miles above the speed limit. TWO goddamn miles.

    I'd argue that more than simple law enforcement the problem would be solved if a few steps were taken forward. One would be to increase the speed limit at least large, well conserved roads and places where this is feasible and the second would be an educative campaign. As for red lights allowing better reaction time (ie: NOT decreasing the yellow light) would greatly reduce any issues. But that's not in the best interests of the Govt and the corporations behind the sheme, is it?

     

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    Gabriel J. Michael (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:37am

    Those photos don't provide evidence of cropping...

    But the positioning/timing is wrong. As McCrea notes, the car is simply blocking the view of the lines in the first photo. But normally citations will offer photos where lines are visible in both frames.

    Because the lines are blocked, there is no way to double-check the speed reading. Having received one of these before, I used the timing information and the car's length to calculate my speed and compared it to the citation. (The citation actually understated my speed slightly, but was thrown out on another technicality).

    The whole point of having the lines is to be able to check the calibration of the radar gun against something else, so they ought to always be visible in both photos. Even when they are, you still have to trust the timing information from the cameras.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    In San Diego, they've been removing the red-light cameras. Nothing is more annoying than sitting at an empty intersection for green light, when FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!. I mean, really, red-light photos when the intersection is empty?

     

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  7.  
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    Shon Gale, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    Serve and Protect?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    Blind the cameras with lasers.

     

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    Greevar (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    6th Amendment?

    Doesn't this violate the 6th amendment where one has the right to face one's accuser and question them in court? You can't question a machine as a witness.

    It's clear that these speed cams are not to deter speeding, but to merely to make money for the state and the contractors. As far as I see it, abusing the law to make money from the citizenry is coming damn close to institutionalized slavery.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yep,

    Its just a piss poor attempt at allowing you to measure the vehicles speed.

    In the UK that ticket would have been thrown out as they require two photos both clearly indicated by white lines equally spaced apart (cant remember distance or times).

     

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  11.  
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    Pat, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    the two pictures

    The two pictures are actually, and obviously, different pictures of the same car at different positions in the same intersection.

    A VERY simple examination of the photo reveals that ,my ten year old daughter could tell that the stains on the pavement, the reflection on the back window CLEARLY show that the camera is in exactly the same place, and the fram is EXACTLY the same size and angle. Only the position of the car changed either due to a different speed, or a slight variation in shutter activation.

    There is no editing there. Period.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Re:

    I was under the impression that tampering with evidence was a crime. Was that repealed when I was out for a few minutes?

     

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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ah! Good catch. I was focused on the other time.

    Ignore my post. It's incorrect. Sorry about that.

     

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    bob, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    no cropping or editing that I can see

    I agree with McCrea.
    Those photos certainly aren't cropped.
    and the lines aren't photoshopped out, they're simply behind the car in one of the photos.
    if you flip back and forth a couple of times, you'll see the frame of the photo is the same (ie. no cropping).
    and the lines would be in such a place as to not be visible behind the car in the other photo.
    BUT... if you are looking for fault, and this could be conspiracy or incompetence, is placing the camera in that position with that timing would make it impossible to use the lines as a comparison for speed. it looks like the camera should be in line with the lane, allowing the lines to be visible in both pictures for comparison purposes without being blocked in any of the shots.

     

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    Forge, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The cropping complaints aren't what you think, they are, in fact, about cropping. The cam operator has cropped in the original photo tightly around the car in question. Those speed calibration lines are multiple dashed lines across the entire road. They should be visible to the LEFT of the car in the 0.000 photo, if it hadn't been cropped as much. With those lines visible in both photos, you'd be able to calculate the speed of the vehicle, assuming the clock timer on the camera is also correct.

    They cropped away the lines on the left side of the photo.

    No one is saying they photoshopped away the lines on the right side.

     

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  16.  
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    Forge, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re:

    Most of the Constitution is now actively ignored by the government, along with all dependent laws (which is all of them), at least when they aren't convenient to the government.

    Now if YOU break any, God help you.

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:43am

    Re: 6th Amendment?

    Doesn't this violate the 6th amendment where one has the right to face one's accuser and question them in court? You can't question a machine as a witness.

    No, because the machine isn't accusing you. If you don't pay your automated ticket you will be issued a uniform traffic citation (usually for a greater amount) signed by an officer who will be accusing you, using the camera as evidence.

     

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  18.  
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    Forge, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:44am

    Re: the two pictures

    You have also misunderstood. Might I refer you to the linked article?

    The photos are BOTH tightly cropped in around the target vehicle. This cropping means that the speed lines are visible in only one of the two photos. Those lines go all across the entire road, and would be visible just to the left of where the photo ends. Since the cam company cropped in so tightly, the lines are visible only in one of the two photos and cannot be used to verify/deny the cited speed.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike C. (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:45am

    Insurance companies and accidents

    I wonder if the shortened yellow lights thus resulting in higher accident rates will eventually raise the ire of insurance companies having to pay out for said accidents. It probably wouldn't take much to add a state DOT on as a contributing factor via negligence to the cause of the accident.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    Step #1 to fix these ticket scams, ban private companies that run these red light and speeding cameras from collecting ANY ticket money.

    Often the private company that runs these cameras collects over 50% of the ticket money, which is REALLY outrageous.

    Pay an individual over $60 an hour to manually go through all the pictures the cameras take and send the tickets out and the government raking in the ticket money would STILL come out ahead, even if the individual could only read 5 pictures an hour.

    This is why the private company is manipulating and covering up evidence on their own, they stand to make over 50% of the ticket money, a HUGE conflict of interest.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That makes a lot more sense. Now that you mention it, the car is suspiciously off center in the photo, and it's peculiar that only one set of lines would be visible.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: the two pictures

    i had the same thoughts..

    or maybe even a second vehicle was cropped out

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 8:46am

    I'm not sure if they are "cropping" photos, or they just adjusted the cameras to provide a tighter zoom. If they actually are cropping the photos, I fail to see why they should not face criminal charges relating to evidence tampering along with a civil suit from every single affected person for violating their rights.

    If they merely zoomed in and there is no wider angle photo of an incident, then I'd settle for the tickets being thrown out. Purposely failing to collect evidence that might result in the ticket being thrown out is not acceptable, but it's not criminal either.

     

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  24.  
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    Steevo (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    The conflict of interest and forgery.

    I am against such automated enforcement, I like to face my accuser.

    In California we used to have red light camera contracts which allowed the camera vendor to share in the fine. So the more fines, the more money they and the government agency made.

    This was all changed some years ago and now camera vendors do not participate in any "profits". They are paid a flat rate, monthly fee for the camera system, they don't make any more money if more citations are issued.

    So the camera vendors have no incentive to do anything like they did in this MD case.

    As I said, I am against the whole thing, but my approach would be for the citizens in every jurisdiction to tell their elected representatives they want all conflicts of interest removed and cameras either made illegal or the payments to the vendors should be volume neutral.

    No funny business.

    As to this case, I think the camera vendor should be prosecuted, and if they are found to have forged evidence they should be fined and the corporation dissolved.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:11am

    At the very least

    These photos need to cover the same field of view and angle as the radar system itself. Everything covered by radar should appear in the photo. I think a reasonable argument could be made in court that if this isn't the case, then the evidence doesn't actually prove anything at all.

     

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  26.  
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    Disgusted, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    The real problem here is the privatization of public law enforcement activity. Any good capitalist knows that profit is the end-all-be-all of business. That's the entire purpose of "business". As we have repeatedly seen, until it gets smacked down, any business will do anything it can get away with. This is just one more example. We need to remove the profit motive from ALL law enforcement, including seizures (stay outta Texas, people).

     

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  27.  
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    Disgusted, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    BTW, unless Photoshop is a lot better than I think, those lines DO NOT extend across the entire street. They end at the right-side tires of the vehicle. So, they are hidden in the first photo, and revealed in the second. I agree that the camera angle is poor, and that the lines SHOULD extend across the street, but that costs money.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    By what Forge is saying, there should be second, matching set of lines in view of the photos to the left. That's what's missing, either by cropping, or creative camera placement/zoom.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re: The conflict of interest and forgery.

    IF it were truly about safety, they'd stick a black and blue out there with his blue and reds flashing.

    How many people would blow by that guy?

    Instead we get inconspicuous speed cameras at the bottom of hills where the limit conveniently lowers by 10mph


    give me a break. i see speed camera vandalism kicking into high gear soon. i know you've all thought about it too

     

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  30.  
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    DSchneider (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    THIS. I never understood why law enforcement ever allowed them a portion of the ticket revenue. They make the camera's and I'm assuming the software that runs the cameras. They should be selling all of that for X dollars with a yearly maintenance fee of Y dollars to fix and maintain the software and the cameras. Those costs shouldn't change whether the camera issues 1 ticket or 1 million tickets.
    This is how all other hardware and software vendors that I'm aware of due business, why are the red light camera companies different?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: 6th Amendment?

    The officer doesn't have first hand knowledge of anything, it's just a picture which the officer didn't take, and that might have been tampered with, like cropped or PS'ed.

     

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  32.  
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    Steevo (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    You're kidding, right?

    Why are they wanting to bill by the citation? It's 1000x more profitable and a much easier sell.

    IMHO the voters should pass an initiative setting the automated enforcement ticket at a $4 fine, and that money can only be used for affordable housing.

    No money to run the camera system. That'd solve the problem completely.

     

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  33.  
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    DSchneider (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    No, I understand WHY they want to bill by the citation, just not why the Law Enforcement Agencies ALLOWED them to do so.

    All it would take is all the the various Law Enforcement Agencies that are looking to purchase these systems to just say no to that part of the contract. Eventually one of these camera companies will agree to the terms and that will be that for the rest of them.

    As I said almost all other hardware/software agreements operate on the initial price to buy + yearly maintenance costs model, so I don't see why the camera companies can't do the same.

    I mean look at paper tickets. Does the company that prints out the ticket form get a cut of the citation? What about the company the provides the pens, what about them. It doesn't make sense there and it certainly doesn't make sense for the camera companies as well.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    "No, I understand WHY they want to bill by the citation, just not why the Law Enforcement Agencies ALLOWED them to do so."

    Because they got this salesperson who told them that if they just let them set up their magic cameras - with no up front cost to the government - then they would generously share half the revenue! Hey, free money with no risk, from the point of view of the government.

    What I fail to understand is how the voters left them in office after that.

     

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  35.  
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    Tman, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    Law Enforcement Agencies have very little input on this. Local governments decide that this will generate revenue (sometimes just to their friends) and it makes it look like they're addressing public safety.

     

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  36.  
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    Steevo (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    Why did government agencies allow per ticket commissions?

    Because they just didn't think it was going to be a problem. At the time, they couldn't see a problem.

    They had no idea that dishonest camera vendors would think that manipulating the evidence, blatant forgery, stuff like that was somehow OK. They just didn't think it would be a problem.

    In government affairs there are always unintended consequences.

    This unintended consequence is that dishonest vendors were desperate for more revenue, and realized that even if they get caught it's not likely anyone would think to prosecute them for forgery. They knew it was just illegal. They're not stupid.

    That's what we need to prove them wrong on. Prosecute them, both the employees and the company.

    What is incomprehensible is that the workers at those companies who forged the evidence likely made no extra money themselves for their forgery.

    I have never had an employer ask me to do something illegal or even dishonest for the company, and I wouldn't be involved in anything like that.

    Clearly there are people who think lying, cheating, stealing for an employer is somehow proper.

    I am not doing jailtime for an employer.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:57am

    Our Local City

    A local city I used to live in got red light cameras YEARS ago, probably close to around the year 2000. The cameras were so bad, you could sit at the intersection with cars in every direction, none moving, due to turn signals. Then the flash of the cameras would go off, with no vehicles moving or even over the white line. Photos would leak out occasionally from the camera review people that showed no vehicles whatsoever in the shots; they simply were going off randomly. Rather than address the clear issues of not entirely functional cameras, the city instead removed the ability to challenge red light camera/speed camera tickets. Problem solved!

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    I can't see the driver in these pictures so there is no evidence of who the ticket should really go to.

     

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    Bad Mood Trolling, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    I see why it always reads high...

    In the article, there is a link to the full size picture which has the info bar at the bottom. In the bottom right corner, does that actually say "Batsometer"? As in, a meter to measure batso?

    There is the problem! The whole system is completely batso, so it is always pegging the meter!

     

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  40.  
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    Wally (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Story...

    Licking County, Ohio had red light cameras made by the same company....they also fail at securing the cameras....hackers got in and set it to take a picture every 2 seconds.

     

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  41.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    They had no idea that dishonest camera vendors would think that manipulating the evidence, blatant forgery, stuff like that was somehow OK. They just didn't think it would be a problem.


    If that's so, then they're guilty of gross incompetence and failure to engage in even the most basic due diligence. Somehow, that seems even worse to me.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Step #1 to fix this, ban private contractors from collecting ticket money

    "If that's so, then they're guilty of gross incompetence and failure to engage in even the most basic due diligence."

    Typically punishable by 2 weeks paid vacation and re-election.

    Unfortunate, but likely true.

     

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  43.  
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    s7, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    Re: The conflict of interest and forgery.

    California resident here as well... When it moved to a flat rate the state would pay, the state soon found out that they were losing money. Paying high "rent" on the cameras, cameras reduced people running lights, less ticket money.. In my area (SoCal) they removed all of the cameras. There was also shortening of the yellow light duration.

    One notorious intersection had over 30 cameras and many flashes. I've had my photo taken sitting still at a red light, another taken inching forward trying to trigger the light change sensor embedded in the road, and also going through a green light.

     

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  44.  
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    Rob, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 1:13pm

    Re:

    What they send you is a non-moving type citation, like a parking ticket. It's charged against the car's owner. If you say it was someone else, they tell you it's your problem to get actual operator of your car to pay you back for it.

    Now, sometimes people on the internet will write things like "well, my car was stolen," or "I was letting a guy test drive my car." I'm pretty sure the courts have heard that one before.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re:

    They can't hold me responsible for someone else speeding in my car. It's unjust. What law says they can?

     

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    @ern, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 1:45pm

    Speed camera's

    I have a problem with the legality of private companies doing the job of law enforcement. It should not be legal for companies to do the job of the police and the judicial system. Not long ago a system was setup in our town that started sending out tickets that could not be disputed. It's just not legal.

     

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  47.  
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    Henry, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:01pm

    Here's what the companies do in California

    Here in California a red light camera ticket needs to be filed in the name of the actual driver of the car, so the red light camera companies print up Snitch Tickets, fake/phishing camera tickets, which they mail out to bluff registered owners into ID'ing the actual driver of the car. Over 30 California cities use the fake tickets, and in many cities the fakes are more than half of everything the city mails out. The fake tickets have not been filed with the court, so they donít say ďNotice to Appear,Ē donít have the courtís address and phone # on them, and usually say (in small letters), "Courtesy Notice - This is not a ticket." Since they have not been filed with the court, they have zero legal weight. You can, and should, ignore a Snitch Ticket. Unbelievable? Google: Snitch Ticket.

     

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  48.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re:

    What they send you is a non-moving type citation, like a parking ticket.


    In most states, if you receive a citation like this, it will be dropped immediately if you sign an affidavit to the effect that it wasn't you driving.

    I think (but I'm not certain) that New York is the main exception to this.

     

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    Anonymous, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:33pm

    Re:

    A 12 gauge might work too.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:40pm

    Re:

    Springfield MO deactivated theirs a while back, and they've stayed deactivated. The PHOTO ENFORCED signs have been taken down too.

     

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

  51.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 2:52pm

    Re:

    I'd argue that more than simple law enforcement the problem would be solved if a few steps were taken forward.

    Having law enforcement officers, instead of contractors who are paid from the proceeds would be a much better solution to the problem. A person going two miles more than the speed limit can be dangerous, depending on the road conditions, but it is doubtful in all but a very limited number of situations. Hell, most people don't have accurate speedometers, so even traffic officers give people some leeway (usually about 5mph.) There is no way a traffic camera, or a contractor sitting miles away after the fact can determine the conditions of the road based on looking through a soda straw.

    One would be to increase the speed limit at least large, well conserved roads and places where this is feasible

    The speed limit is usually set by the traffic engineers (who aren't law enforcement officers,) who usually base it on an average of the speeds over a set period of time. This doesn't take into consideration the conditions of the road at any particular time. Thus, during rush-hour, the speed limit on the road may be dangerously high, while at other times where the road is free and clear, the speed limit might be too low. To get around this, most states have "hedge" speed-laws which state that you should only go as fast as a reasonable person would, given the conditions of the road. Much harder for a police officer to prove than a simple number, but in many ways, much safer.

    and the second would be an educative campaign.

    Nail hit squarely on the head on this one. But the education must be based on reality. All too often, the education they offer is based on the same talking points the MPAA uses for "streaming movies..." They don't like it, so nobody should do it. Most people who speed know very well why they are doing it, and know the risks. However, they likely ignore risks or genuinely don't know all of them. The reason the speed limit on a certain road is set to 25 mph may be because senior citizens or blind/deaf people live in the area, and 25 mph gives plenty of room to stop if one of them should happen to run out in front of traffic. The guy going 35 mph may not realize this (or maybe they are driving an expensive car, are rich, and don't care.)

    As for red lights allowing better reaction time (ie: NOT decreasing the yellow light) would greatly reduce any issues. But that's not in the best interests of the Govt and the corporations behind the sheme, is it?

    The best way is to go all-way red for a period of time, say 15 seconds, then switch to green. I've actually seen this used quite effectively on the intersection a couple blocks from my house, which is near a fire-station. When the fire-truck is running down the street with its lights and sirens on, the intersection becomes all-way-red (well, usually except the way the truck is going, so cars can get out of its way,) and everyone has plenty of time to stop. Once the truck goes through the intersection, the lights switch to green again and traffic moves normally. I am not sure why this hasn't caught on, but I am sure it has something with the best interests of the corporations.

     

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  52.  
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    meddle (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Re: 6th Amendment?

    In Baltimore, a policeman "signed" automated tickets for nearly a year after he died.
    http://www.wbaltv.com/I-Team-Dead-Officer-Signed-Red-Light-Citations/-/9380084/8917492/-/esx7l2/-/ index.html

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 3:49pm

    Re: Re:

    "The best way is to go all-way red for a period of time, say 15 seconds"

    Um. We DO want traffic to actually move.

    "The reason the speed limit on a certain road is set to 25 mph may be because senior citizens or blind/deaf people live in the area, and 25 mph gives plenty of room to stop if one of them should happen to run out in front of traffic."

    Do you get a lot of senior citizens and blind/deaf people running into traffic where you're from?

     

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  54.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Um. We DO want traffic to actually move.

    So, in your eyes, the occasional traffic accident that results in a complete shutdown of the road for 45 minutes to an hour is more important than 15 seconds. I am glad you aren't a traffic engineer.

    Sure, 15 seconds may be too long, depending on the road conditions (the slower the traffic, the longer the delay will have to be.) A competent traffic engineer, using safety as the guide, should set the lights appropriately.

    Do you get a lot of senior citizens and blind/deaf people running into traffic where you're from?

    Yes. So much so that the city put up signs saying "Warning, Senior Citizens Center, please slow down" and "Deaf People Near." With senior citizens, you tend to have folks who aren't completely in control of their mental facilities, and they sometimes run out in front of cars.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Re:

    "The speed limit is usually set by the traffic engineers (who aren't law enforcement officers,) who usually base it on an average of the speeds over a set period of time. "

    You really think that most speed limits are set based on average speeds? Come on. If that were the case, the speed limits would go up every time they measured. Nobody drives on roads BEFORE they have a speed limit, and that speed limit itself is going to influence how fast some drivers go.

    The vast majority of speed limits are set by specific formulas and laws. 25 for residential, 15 for school zone, whatever-your-state-felt-like for interstates, etc. Then they go and make exceptions for specific roads if they feel like it. I know of a road where they actually made the road safer by reducing the size of the hills, but they REDUCED the speed limit because responsibility for the road passed from the county to the township.

    "But the education must be based on reality."

    Then prepare for it to do a whole lot of nothing. People KNOW speeding is dangerous - and if they've convinced themselves that it's not dangerous when THEY do it, you aren't going to change their mind with an education campaign.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "all-way red for a period". That's bloody funny!
    "We do want traffic to actually move". Yep, wouldn't want to impede the FLOW, would we?

     

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

  57.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You really think that most speed limits are set based on average speeds? Come on. If that were the case, the speed limits would go up every time they measured. Nobody drives on roads BEFORE they have a speed limit, and that speed limit itself is going to influence how fast some drivers go.

    Based on my knowledge and experience, yes, that is the case. They do use formulas, and often the initial speed is based on this, but I've seen speed limits change on a number of roads, and talking with friends in the community in other states, they've seen the same. A road right down the street from me switched from 40 to 50, and another from 35 to 30 based on traffic surveys. There are many factors which go into selecting a speed limit for a road, but often it is based on an average.

    While that may not be true for all states, my understanding is that part of the traffic survey for determining a speed limit is based on an average speed limit of drivers driving on the road.

    The California Department of Transportation has a nice document discussing how this is accomplished in California:
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist05/traffic/Realistic-Speed-Zoning.PDF‎. Googling speed limit survey produces a number of applicable hits as well, across the gamut of states. If you have a document which points out I am wrong on this, please feel free to post it here so I can stand corrected.

     

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  58.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "So, in your eyes, the occasional traffic accident that results in a complete shutdown of the road for 45 minutes to an hour is more important than 15 seconds."

    You said that backwards. I think the occasional traffic accident is LESS important than those 15 seconds. Do the math. Assuming the light changes once every three minutes, and assuming the intersection is 100% blocked for a full hour after each accident, you would need to prevent two accidents per day per intersection just to break even.

    Yes, an intersection being shut down for an hour straight is more disruptive to traffic than the intersection being shut down for an hour 15 seconds at a time, and yes, you want to avoid accidents in general; but unless your intersection is ridiculously dangerous, your "solution" is stupid.

    Not to mention that if drivers know the red light is going to be 15 seconds long, they are going to make a habit out of running the red. Because they know that they've really got 15 more seconds.

    "the slower the traffic, the longer the delay will have to be."

    That's backwards. At higher speeds, traffic is less able to stop quickly, and safety is more important. But with appropriately timed yellows, two seconds should be plenty for the all-way red.

    "I am glad you aren't a traffic engineer."

    Right back at you. Also, just because I can: http://xkcd.com/277/ (although 1116 and 386 also apply here.)

     

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  59.  
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    JustMe (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:36pm

    Typo

    "for the complicit DOTs" should be DsOT for Departments of Transportation, just like Attorneys General.

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 5:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, they CAN do this, but that is not done for the MAJORITY of roads. From your link:

    "Speed zoning should be reserved for thoroughfares with appreciable volumes of traffic where such zoning can be shown to facilitate the orderly movement of traffic by increasing driver awareness of a reasonable speed."

     

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  61.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's backwards. At higher speeds, traffic is less able to stop quickly, and safety is more important. But with appropriately timed yellows, two seconds should be plenty for the all-way red.

    At 25 mph, if you enter an intersection on a yellow light, how long does it take to proceed through the intersection? At 50 mph, how long does it take to proceed through the intersection?

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "At 25 mph, if you enter an intersection on a yellow light, how long does it take to proceed through the intersection? At 50 mph, how long does it take to proceed through the intersection?"

    Which is why I said you need to appropriately time the yellows. If the light is turning red while a car is still in the intersection, then either the light or the car is doing something wrong.

    If you double the speed they will be in the intersection for half the time, but the braking distance is quadrupled, so they will be more likely to have to enter the intersection from farther away. It's going to be a parabolic curve where extremely fast and extremely slow cars will take the longest. I don't feel like doing the math to get the exact values, and it would depend on the driver, the road, the weather, and the vehicle anyway, so an exact calculation would be difficult.

    And it's more likely that the 50 MPH car will not be in the field of vision of the driver which is about to get the green, because they will be twice as far away. At the extreme, imagine a car going 5 MPH - it would take forever to get through the intersection, but you'd have to be totally not paying attention to actually hit it, because it would be right in front of you.

    And, you know, they'll be going twice as fast, making the accident much more severe.

     

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  63.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 7th, 2013 @ 9:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Which is why I said you need to appropriately time the yellows. If the light is turning red while a car is still in the intersection, then either the light or the car is doing something wrong.

    Understood, however, in California, CVC 21453 states that a driver cannot enter the intersection if they are facing a red light. I have not checked the laws in other states, but I am sure there are a couple atleast that have the same laws. In California, if any part of the vehicle is already in the intersection when the light turns red, then they can legally traverse the intersection. Thus, the car may be doing something wrong, but at least in California it isn't being unlawful. Thus, at least in California, shortening the yellow light prevents the driver from stopping in time, but so long as they enter the intersection before the light turns red, they need time to get through the intersection before the other cars run into them. Most people wait a few seconds for the intersection to clear, but like speeders, there are folks that take off the moment the light turns green. Having all ways red for a few moments would allow the intersection to clear.

     

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  64.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wisconsin law says something similar. I admit I didn't know that - I thought it was illegal to be in the intersection when the light was red. Of course, it also mandates that you stop on yellow unless you cannot do so safely, so this isn't a loophole or anything.

     

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  65.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 8th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re:

    Not as well as a paintball gun.

     

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  66.  
    identicon
    zerostar83, Aug 10th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    Got one recently

    Got one photo speeding ticket. One picture that would have shown the car behind us being in front of us was cropped and zoomed in to cut the car out of view. Wasn't speeding, but car to left was. The rules of the ticket were the following: Pay $40 by a certain date, or the ticket is $109. Will not go on driving record. If you contest it, you must show up in person (and pay the parking $10 daily fees when you go) by said date (not allowed to call, mail, or go online to dispute) to dispute ticket. THEN you have to show up for arraignment, then again on the court date/time regardless of work schedule.
    So...at least $30 in parking fees and probably miss time at work, or pay $40 for the ticket. Oh, and a $1 fee for paying online, they will only consider it on time if they receive it by the due date, regardless of post date.

     

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


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