Ohio Town Refunds 980 Speed Camera Tickets For Only Driving 10mph Over The Limit (Versus 11mph)

from the go-speed-racer dept

A story suggest to us by reader Dan describes how an Ohio town recently issued 980 speeding ticket refunds. The city of Garfield Heights, Ohio, installed two speed cameras, attached to unmanned police cars, and then sent speeding tickets to those that were deemed to be speeding. The policy was to only issue tickets to those driving more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit, so, when it was found that a number of tickets were issued to those driving 10 miles per hour over the limit, almost $100,000 in ticket revenue was refunded. Apparently, city officials had told the public that the tickets would be issued if people were caught driving 11 miles over the limit. So, if that’s the case, then is the speed limit actually the speed limit or not? Once again, this goes to show how completely arbitrary speed limit enforcement can be. Is there really a difference in safety in going 10 mph over the speed limit vs. 11? And, if anything, it seems that widely circulating this policy would simply encourage people to drive 9 miles over the limit.

Clearly, it’s a great money maker for the city. Since the month of June, when the cameras were installed, they sent out nearly 11,000 tickets, representing about $1,000,000 in added revenue. Sure, it’s possible that the city may need to cover a shortfall in a budget, but is the false guise of public safety the appropriate manner in which to obtain this revenue? At least this method is a little more scientific than other Ohio towns, where a policeman can issue a ticket by simply guessing how fast you were going.

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Comments on “Ohio Town Refunds 980 Speed Camera Tickets For Only Driving 10mph Over The Limit (Versus 11mph)”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I guess realated to the inaccuracies of car’s speedos. Manufacturers say (or used to) that speedo readings can be wrong by up to 10% either way.
Police in Australia only used to give tickets if you exceeded the limit by more than 10%, although a couple of years ago they announced they’d stop doing that, because people were driving with their speedo needle on the limit + 10% (duh!).
Not sure whether police really did change their behaviour, or whether they were just bluffing.

Jay (profile) says:

Pretty much all car speedo’s read slightly low, I have some data somewhere I could try to scan in and post. This is thanks in part to litigious countries like the USA where you could sue the car manufacturer if you got a ticket for speeding due to their faulty speedo.

The arbitrary limit is therefore not because of that, but more an acceptance that most people break the law by a small amount and its not worth the hassle enforcing.

The really interesting thing for me is that by having these ‘tolerances’ we effectively have handed the law making power to the police. The police are simply told “you can’t give a ticket to anyone going slower than xx mph”, but the actual ‘limit’ is set arbitrarily by a non-elected official (or worse, decided on the spot by a police officer). It raises all sorts of constitutional issues, such as separation of powers, rule of law, blah blah waffle waffle…

Personally I think its fascinating!


Anonymous Coward says:

So a town mans up and says, basically, “Hey, we messed up and we’re giving back almost 100 grand in ticket money,” and you’re going to bitch about it Mike? I’m almost always with ya on what you write about here, but WTF?

The point is that the town said they would do one thing, made a mistake and did another accidentally, then fessed up and made it right. I think the tone of the article should have been in the town’s favor.

bryan says:

Most police officers will not ticket for much less than 10mph over the limit, at least in my area.

I agree that speed limits with no consideration for other factors do not make people safer. Just like you said, 10 mph is ok then what is the difference with 11 mph.
The line has to be drawn somewhere though.

Speed limit enforcement; like many other traffic laws, is not directly linked to safety. Just think about the different performance capabilities of vehicles on the road. A safe speed for a sports car may be above the speed that is safe for an SUV on the same strip of road.

Jebrew (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I would think the driver has at least as much, if not more, to do with what a safe speed in the car is. How do you set limits for different car/driver pairings? Do you make licenses for different skill levels and then color code license plates or something?

…not trying to be flippant, I’d really like someone to come up with a good, viable solution. Also, I think people should have more schooling in driving before being allowed to hoon a multi thousand pound vehicle around the streets.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here is your viable solution, the lowest safe combination on dry pavement with good visibility is the speed limit. exceeding it will mean you may be detained while your licensee is check to see if you have the right one for going faster. So you could drive above posted if you have the right license but it will probably be slower than if you hadn’t.

Other than that I agree that people need more schooling before driving.

Anonymous Coward says:

two issues:
First, if there was any kind of referendum or public vote, tax increase, etc where these camera’s were authorized, and if part of it was that tickets would only be issued to those over 10 mph, then big problem for the town.

The is usually a large increase in price of a ticket under ten and over ten. The cost to the city for prosecuting and collecting on those lower priced tickets becomes a question of economics.

Because of the above, and the accuracy of the radars/lasers used by police, there would be a lot more fights at the lower priced tickets, making it not worth the cities resources.

Last, all traffic stops are pretext stops. When an officer pulls a car over for any infraction, he is also/actually looking for drunk drivers, drugs, warrants, weapons, etc. When cameras are used instead, the police lose this advantage. Once again, back to cost to the city vs. income produced.

sketchydave (profile) says:

Obligatory Spinal Tap Quote

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

Ryan Diederich says:

Several Things

Another reason speedometers read a tad higher than actual speed is that they are calibrated for new tires, and no tires are new.

I always limit my speed to 10mph over the speed limit. The speed limit is a meaningless number, because it changes due to weather. You could possibly get a ticket (not for speeding but reckless driving maybe) for doing 30 in a 35 if a storm were bad enough.

Because of that, when I drive, I drive below the safe limit. Therefore, i will never be pulled over.

Im more worried about my rejection sticker anyways…

Montezuma (profile) says:

I am not sure about Ohio law, but Georgia law(I am an ex-law enforcement officer) actually have a provision that restricts all but Georgia State Troopers from issuing ticket for exceeding the posted speed limit by 10 miles per hour, or less. Regardless, Georgia Troopers will(usually) not issue citations for anything at or under 10 MPH because it is a waste of time(there are no points assessed and, really, there are worse things to worry about on a roadway). Of course, there are caveats that comes with all that I am referring to.

If the infraction occurs within a “School Safety Zone”(where the speed limit drops, usually on highways, but really everywhere) and “residential areas”, which is completely ambiguous, as many homes in Georgia are littered along every road(including U.S Highways and major State routes), with the exception of Interstate Highways/”Freeways” and other “controlled access roads”. The first agency I worked for(which was a county police department, and yes, I mean police and not sheriff(created through a county police act)) had a policy that we were not to issue citations for anything at or under 15 MPH, when the driver was not a hazard and when the violation was on a four-lane road. Essentially, it just become more convoluted and asinine, but that is Georgia law, “in a nutshell”.

Law enforcement has so much to worry with, that dinging drivers for anything at or below 10 MPH over the speed limit(depending on the area) is a total waste of manpower. I can think of, just off the top of my head, (quite literally) 300 different hazards on the roadways(and at least double that in incoming 911 calls) that I would be more concerned with. This does not mean that I never stopped someone for going less than 10 MPH over the speed limit(as any speed, in excess of the speed limit, is probable cause to initiate a stop), but I would do that if there was something more serious occurring and I could not quickly observe anything else that would suffice for probable cause.

I mean, Georgia has a law that allows law enforcement to stop a vehicle for not having a light to illuminate a vehicle’s rear tag. In the few years I worked street patrol, I got approximately 600 DUI, about half that number in other various traffic violations and misdemeanors, and exactly 22 felony stops. The law works.

Big_Mike (profile) says:

"Magic" numbers

Magic numbers are numbers that are put in to some kind of rule book. This number is OK but one more and you are in trouble. A deck built at 37 inches off the ground doesn’t need a hand rail 38 inches does. What about 37 and 3/4 inches?

They said 11 miles and they charged at 10. It’s politics, that’s all. We made a cool million and we did it with no one being pulled over. Maybe we need to do something that makes us look good, can we give some of it back?

rec9140 (user link) says:

Its a STATUTORY thing.

There are various laws which cover the use of speed detection devices, their accuracy (or lack thereof), and when a ticket can be issued.

It varies from state to state.. but the general average of this is:

In states which allow locals to use RADAR (NOT PA! thankfully)

The trigger is +5MPH over the limit.

Using VASCAR, accutrex, stopwatch (Local PA) then its +10.

There is guidance that if your reckless and a danger to other motorists then there are ways to be issue a ticket for being +1 over the posted speed.

In some states, mostly southern US…can be far more than just a ticket.

At 20+ MPH over the limit your reach into reckless, careless and endangering… and you COULD be taken to jail.

The +11 and over is there because speed detection devices be it RADAR, LIDAR, VASCAR, Accutrex, pacing etc.. have ERRORS in the systems which measure the speed… these allow for the errors to be taken into account. Flip the switches just a second out of sync for VASCAR and you can be off +-1 to 15MPH! RADAR… tune it up WRONG and you can set the device to read what ever you want. This is why the devices must be re-calibrated and certified every 60-90 days depending on type and state. There also are training requirements for use of RADAR/LIDAR/VASCAR… not that these course don’t teach end arounds either… but it is required to have the certs to use the device.

In the long run… if you have time to run RADAR/LIDAR/VASCAR you HAVE TIME TO DO MORE PATROL that DOES MORE GOOD than creating ill will with the driving public. I can do more to slow traffic down by just sitting in a MARKED UNIT that looks to be doing enforcement than any thing.

Traffic enforcement for the most part is one thing… REVENUE GENERATION! Period.

trrll (profile) says:

speed limit and enforcement

The speed limit advises the driver of a safe speed. The enforcement threshold is normally set a bit above this, which allows for errors in speedometers and radar guns, the fact that drivers cannot and should not stare constantly at the speedometer, etc., such that drivers who are honestly attempting to observe the speed limit will not be penalized. So yes, you can get away with driving a bit faster than the speed limit, but you are reducing your margin for error, and increasing your risk of getting ticketed.

Is this really news to anybody.

RobertM467 (profile) says:

Speed Camera Refund

I think that the police should not publicize the miles per hour over the speed limit that the tickets will be issued for. This only makes drivers exceed the limit. The overage should be meant for a driver to go with the flow of traffic. There is too much speeding going on making roads unsafe for other drivers and pedestrians. The speed cameras help to slow down speeding drivers.

rec9140 (user link) says:

Re: Speed Camera Refund

Regardless of if they publicize them, they are already public knowledge if you bother to look up the laws of your state.

The devices can ONLY be set to issue a ticket at the point which the law allows, the jurisdiction could decide that if the law allows +5, that its only worth it to do it at say +12…and then not publicize that… but the devices have to be set in accordance with the law and in this case looks like they decided to set it lower than is allowed for a RADAR device.

neverenough says:

Well played sketchy dave

Spinal Tap was the first thing I thought of when I read this.

+10 mph is a standard I have always used since I was a kid and it seems to work. I actually think it is fine that the police list the speed that the cameras are targeting because it just makes everyone think about it more and be focused on what speed they are actually driving.

Gregg L. DesElms (profile) says:

One time I saw a motorcycle officer in a gas station lot using the radar gun, and I pulled-in and boldly asked him if he’d help me figure out how accurate was my car’s speedometer. To my surprise, he agreed. Pretty nice guy, actually. More on that in a second.

So we agreed that I’d approach him going precisely 30 MPH (according to my speedometer); and that I’d make a couple of passes and we’d compare the results.

His radar gun said I was doing 28 MPH both passes. And on both passes I had managed to by-golly set the needle right on 30 MPH.

This result squared with one of those automated, lighted speed warning signs that I knew of where the digital display thingy tells you how fast you’re going as you approach the sign. It, too, said that I was going 28 MPH when my speedometer said 30 MPH.

And as expected, one day when I found one of those lighted digital sign thingies on a street with a 50 MPH limit, my speedometer was about 4 MPH off when I pegged the needle at 60 MPH (in other words the digital sign said I was going 56 MPH.

So then I repeated the entire process with my wife’s car… and it, too, had around a 2 MPH speedometer error at around 40 MPH, and around a 3 MPH error at 60 MPH… in both cases, she was actually going slower than the speedometer said she was going.

Three or four miles per hour error at 60 MPH is not insignificant. Assuming that most cars have a minimum of that level of error, and others are even a little bit worse, then it seems only fair that there should be around a 10% allowance.

And, indeed, that’s what the motorcycle cop said was his policy… though he confessed to just making it 5 MPH rather that calculating things in his head. He said that anyone going up to 5 MPH over or under was fine with him; but that anyone going over 5 MPH faster than the limit earned them, at minimum, a written warning; and depending on how fast they were actually going, whether or not they were staying with traffic, and what was their driving history, he’d either give them a written warning or a ticket, at his discretion…

…which is exactly as it should be. Cops should (and in most jurisdictions, do) have that discretion, and that they actually use it does not make anything “arbitrary.”

There must be lines drawn somewhere, so there will always be someone who isn’t punished on one side of a line, and someone who is on the other. That’s just the way of things. How else can it be handled? It’s the way in court, too. It’s one level of severity for a speeding ticket up to 15 MPH over the limit, and an entirely different (and higher) level of severity for driving more than 15 MPH over the limit. And at some point (I think, in most jurisdictions, it’s 25 MPH over the limit and higher), the becomes, categorically, “reckless driving.”

Those demarcation points aren’t “arbitrary.” They’re just demarcation points… because the lines have to be drawn SOMEWHERE… and, again, there will always be people on either side of those lines who get, because of that, treated differently.

I suppose a more fair way would be to have some kind of point system so for each MPH over the limit, the severity is increased by one point; and points convert into fines or jail time or whatever. But that’s not how most states do it. And I don’t think any of them are going to change how they do it anytime soon.

It seems to me that Garfield Heights was kinda’ silly, in this case, though. Had I been running that show, here’s how I would have done it…

Anyone going from zero to five MPH over the limit gets a letter explaining that up to five MPH falls within typical speedometer error, and so there will be no consequences; but please slow down and try to do better.

Anyone going six to ten MPH over the limit gets a written warning if they haven’t had a ticket in… oh… I suppose five years would be a good number; and anyone who has had one or more tickets in that time period get a ticket.

Anyone going 11 MPH or faster over the limit gets a ticket; and the severity of the ticket would, of course, increase as the number of MPH over the limit increased, per state law.

As far as the refund, had it been set up the way I just described, they’d not have had to have refunded very much; and I don’t believe I’d have refunded anything at all.

The police saying that they’d only cite for 11 MPH or more over the limit was not legally binding, and I believe I’d have just shrugged my shoulders and said, had I been the police chief, “oh, well.” And the reason I’d be unapologetic for it would be because, no matter what, those going up to 10 MPH over the limit were speeding. Not citing them would have been a gift; and so the police ended-up not giving that gift after all. So, what: They were still speeding.

Proper policy for ANY jurisdiction should be to allow up to 5 MPH over the limit, with verbal or written warnings at the officer’s option for those drivers; written warning or citation for 6 to 10 MPH over the limit (at the officer’s discretion); and then pretty much (but not necessarily) mandatory citations for 11 MPH or more over the limit, again at the officer’s discretion.

One time my car’s speedometer cable broke, and I was literally on the way to the ARCO station where the mechanic I liked said he had just received the one he ordered for me, and was waiting for me to arrive so he could install it. I went with traffic on the way there, and got stopped by a police officer for speeding. He said I was going 12 MPH over the limit…

…as, even he admitted, was everyone else. When I told him about the cable, and offered to have him follow me just three more blocks to the station so he could confirm that, indeed, that’s where I was headed, and that there was a new cable awaiting me there, he balanced that against that I hadn’t had a ticket in something like 17 years, and he let me go without even a verbal warning. Even told me to have a nice day.

Every moment of any situation has context; and reason and fairness should rule such moments. Sadly or not, sometimes there are demarcation points involved, and those on one side get treated one way, and those on the other get treated a different way, and we rely on the fairness, reason and mercy of cops and prosecutors and judges to mete out justice. It is what it is, and I’m not sure there’s any one right or wrong way to do it.

What more or less can anyone say?

Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com

Mary (profile) says:


“So, if that’s the case, then is the speed limit actually the speed limit or not?” EXACTLY! These people broke the law, and I think it sends a bad message by giving the fines back due to a technicality. We should be teaching our kids to obey the speed limits (not see how fast they can go without getting a ticket), and when the law is broken, show them that there are consequences.

Frank R. (profile) says:

skirting responsibility

This is insane. Yes the city sais that they were only going to ticket drivers for going 11 mph over the speed limit and it is honorable that they are sticking to that, but these drivers broke the law, were caught and need to be held responsible for their actions. The lesson to be learned is don’t publicly announce what speed will trigger the cameras.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Speeding tickets for 11 mph over limit

While I agree that in an ideal world, 0.1 mph over the limit is speeding, this is not a world of make-believe. It is a real world.
Instruments can be wrong, and you have to determine an error budget – only then can you say “no more than….”. As to nit-picking 9 to 11 mph – once the error budget is set, that is IT! You can’t have people saying, well, “cutting a tenth of the liver out is okay, so let’s take the whole liver out” or similar subjective calls.

They SAID 11; so it is 11.

Hillbillywanderer33 says:


So I don’t mind that they are refunding people that were only blowing the speed limit by 10 miles, because technically, they told people that would be in the “safe zone” which of course, people will push because you give and inch and they take a mile. But at the end of the day- they were still speeding so they should take their money and be thankful and watch their speeds.

Neutronman's neighbor says:

Fair is Fair

All law enforcement needs to be equal, if the law says 10mph is “ok” then writing tickets for that is wrong. In truth this is a major advantage to speed cameras over cops, if you were doing 10mph over the speed limit do you think the cop would let you off over 1mph? Good luck. Bonus is that the city mails you the evidence to acquit yourself if you feel you were in the right. Sounds like a win-win to me.

lines-dots (profile) says:

It’s easy to be cynical about government these days – glad to see that regardless of anything else they’re sticking to what they stated. That said – people will always try and get away with whatever they can and somehow this is especially true with traffic laws. I can’t even count how many cars I saw today speeding up to catch a red light to make a left. It makes me cringe . . . .

Roger says:

No refund

Honestly I don’t think the city should have refunded the money for such a minor difference, but I can understand the technical set. I think the reason it’s set that much higher than the actual limit is to give flexibility (and a lot of it too) to small inaccuracies in speedometers. It’s a good rule of thumb. And really anyone doing 11+ on the speed limit deserves their ticket.

Anonymous Coward says:

From A Garfield Hts Resident...

In Garfield Hts the “main street” is called Turney Road, the speed limit jumps back and forth between 25 and 35 mph a number of times in a couple miles. Guess where they put the cameras… that’s right in the 25 mph zones. Also there are no speed limit changes ahead signs so you think you are at the speed limit but you’re not, you just got a $100 ticket and helped the city balance the budget… I mean helped keep the children safe.

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