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Over and over again, a mobile speed camera on I-95 catches speeders and generates way more tickets than any other Maryland State Highway Administration speed camera.

That camera, which sits in the I-95 work zone between I-695 and I-895 in Baltimore, has written 204,779 thousand tickets from November 2009 to March 31st, 2011. The bulk of the tickets came between September 10 and the end of March 2011. 


Some drivers claim speed cameras along Indian Head Highway in Forest Heights, Md. is making rather stark miscalculations. 

Some drivers say the cameras focused on northbound and southbound Route 210 are committing highway robbery. Earl Lomax is a former police officer who says the two speed camera tickets he got along the busy two-lane road this summer are bogus.

“Then, when I opened this thing I’m saying ‘Oh no! No they didn’t! That’s impossible!'” remembered Lomax, who lives in Forest Heights.

Each time, Lomax says based on where he entered Indian Head Highway, he couldn’t have reached the speeds the tickets state. Lomax says there’s simply not enough time for his 40-foot-long, 40,000-pound RV with a car in tow to hit 53 miles an hour after leaving a side street and lumbering up the hill alongside the camera.

“It’s no way I can even get up to 25 miles an hour in that short period of time in this,” said Lomax, pointing to his RV.

Lomax says he’s trying to go to court to fight the tickets but he says they are too backed up now for him to even get a date.

Will Foreman owns Eastover Auto Supply in Oxon Hill. His drivers have gotten so many tickets he’s dubbed the area the “Forest Heights Toll Plaza.”

“We’ve had probably 18 tickets…This summer. And our drivers are responsible for that. I mean, they’re professional drivers but they haven’t done anything wrong,” stated Foreman.

The town approved the cameras in May. State highway officials say they’re within the mandatory one mile radius of a school. The police chief has said the cameras are needed for safety because drivers easily double the 35 mile per hour speed limit there.

Drivers we spoke with disagree.

Don Colbert said, “Sounds like somebody’s making some fast cash…Something’s fishy. Something’s very fishy.”

We tried to reach Forest Heights’ police chief and the mayor but neither were available.


A man says his speeding tickets were thrown out because he proved the cameras were inaccurate. CNN’s Brian Todd reports. 


WSVN — It is a day many of us have been through. It is a day Pedro Dominguez will never forget.

Pedro Dominguez, Mother’s Funeral Ticketed: “That day was just about reminiscing about a wonderful life with my mom and, you know, what a wonderful lady she was and how much she loved us.” 

On that day in May, Pedro buried his mother. Now, a month later, he is in a battle over his funeral procession.

Pedro Dominguez: “In the funeral procession on the way to the park, we got red light camera tickets from the city of Opa-Locka.”

Take a look at the videos.

You can see the red light cameras flashing as the funeral procession goes through 135th Street and 27th Avenue in Opa-Locka.

You may have also noticed the three police officers the family hired, stopping traffic for the procession.

Pedro Dominguez: “You can see my mom’s hearse, the limo, everybody going through the red light at the officer’s advisement. He’s leading us through the red light.”

The limo with family members got a $158 ticket. Pedro got a $158 ticket. At least three other cars got tickets, tickets signed by an Opa-Locka police officer who left his badge number.

Pedro Dominguez: “They ticketed my mother’s funeral. The words just escape me.”

Pedro then filed an appeal with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona company that runs the cameras. They denied his appeal.

Pedro Dominguez: “‘The affidavit of non-responsibility did not establish an exemption and will not result in a dismissal or a transfer of the violation at this time.'”

Pedro says anyone who watches the tape can clearly see the officer in the middle of the intersection stopping traffic, the officer at the top on the right in the intersection and the police officer following the procession.

Pedro says clearly, no one watched the red light tapes.

Pedro Dominguez: “If a technician or a police officer had reviewed this, there is no way they would have sent this violation out. It’s just plain as day. Obviously, it tells me from the get-go that nobody viewed these photos or video.”

No one looked at the tapes, or to be fair, looked at these tapes and somehow didn’t see three police officers with flashing lights around the intersection.

Pedro isn’t buying that option.

Pedro Dominguez: “There is no way anybody looked at this, and that’s what’s upsetting.”

Upsetting, but Howard, is it legal to ticket cars going through a red light if a police officer approves driving through the red light?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “You can drive through the red light if an officer waves you through, and in fact, the law specifically mentions funeral processions being allowed through. In this case, more than one person didn’t do their job.”

When I spoke to American Traffic Solutions, the company that handles the red light cameras, a spokesman told me his company reviews each tape before they are forwarded to the government agency, that they did not make a mistake in this case, that the agreement with Opa-Locka requires them to forward any potential violations with an officer in the intersection to the city for review.

Opa-Locka then told me an officer is supposed to look at every ticket but that sometimes things slip through the cracks. A sergeant then looked at the tapes, told me the police officers were clearly visible on the tapes, the tickets should not have been issued and were immediately dismissed.

Howard Finkelstein: “This shows that the red light cameras are truly just a cash cow for the state and government agencies, because obviously, they are not even reviewing some videos to see if the person is innocent or guilty. If you think there is any doubt about your ticket, fight it.”

Pedro is glad he fought the tickets and wonders if other people will come to the same conclusion he has.

Pedro Dominguez: “It’s just sending the message to the media and local government and citizens that this red light camera is just ridiculous. Nobody reviews it. It’s just about making money, and it’s just ridiculous.”

Patrick Fraser: “The politicians say the red light cameras are not about cash, it’s about making people safer. If you go by the people who call the Help Me Howard line, the only thing it’s doing is making them angrier. If you got a violation that you think proves no one is watching the videos, send it to your state legislators. They are the ones who approved the red light cameras.”

Ready to stop a problem bothering you? Give us the green light to help you. We will put you on camera, and a lot of people will watch it.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) — If you’re a commuter or someone who drives into the District from time to time, you’ll be interested in this.

Did you realize that in the last fiscal year alone, the city of Washington issued more than 147,000 mobile speed camera tickets?

And that’s just the total at THREE locations.

Entering D.C. can be an unfriendly welcome.

“It’s like entrapment to me, of some sort,” said one motorist.

“I was mad. I was very, very angry,” said another. 

They’re mobile speed cameras that yank out the welcome mat from beneath drivers who venture into the District.

“With the picture of the car, you can’t argue it,” said a woman on Macarthur Boulevard, notorious for its speed cameras.

9NEWS NOW used the Freedom of Information Act to find out which mobile speed cameras in D.C. caught the most speeders in the last fiscal year. Here are the top three:

On the Southeast-Southwest Freeway at 9th Street in Southeast, a speed camera caught more than 71,000 violators in just one year. And about six car lengths away, a second camera snapped another 49,000 speeders.

Outside the Department of Motor Vehicles, where violators were paying their tickets, there was a flurry of angry comments.

“It makes me mad.”

“It’s ridiculous.”

“That’s crazy. That’s outrageous, really.”

I-295 at Eastern Avenue in Northeast is where the third busiest camera sits. In one year alone, this camera nabbed more than 26,000 speeders.

One motorist asked, “What are they doing with the money? It’s just so much money being made.”

We crunched the numbers for three busiest cameras. Of course, not everyone pays the fine, but even if they paid the minimum — a $75 ticket — DC would be raking in $11,053,800 in one year.

It wasn’t easy to find residents who appreciate the cameras, but we did.

“These speed cameras do something fantastic. They make you aware,” said Dr. Inge Guen, who runs a shop along Macarthur Boulevard.

“Actually I love them very much. These speed cameras tell people they have to be more disciplined when they’re coming here because so many times, women come with their children and they go across the street and suddenly they might get hit,” she said.

But most residents have other ideas.

“Throw the cameras in the trash!” said a disgruntled woman outside the DMV.

Below is a breakdown of the top three mobile speed cameras for FY 2010 (October 2009-September 2010)

–Southeast Southwest Freeway @9th Street entrance SE: 71,591 tickets

–Southeast Southwest Freeway @9th Street entrance ramp: 49,483

–I-295 @ Eastern Avenue, NE: 26,310

These are the top three for FY 2011 (October 2010 through April 2011)

–I-295 SW, 7/10 mile south of Exit 1: 20,548

–Southeast Southwest Freeway @9th Street entrance ramp: 17,330

–I-295 @ Eastern Avenue, NE: 12, 485

NEW CARROLLTON,, Md. – The town of New Carrollton’s new mobile red light cameras are snapping up pictures like the paparazzi and motorists are calling the cameras out. 

Danielle King got two tickets and says she’s been wrongly accused. “I got caught by one up there,” says King referring to the cameras along route 450.

Motorists complain they are being wrongly accused. King says,” I think they need to go away. I just think they are unfair. They need to go away.”

Fox 5 photographers stood at one intersection near 85th Avenue and caught the camera popping off like popcorn. Each ticket is a 75 dollar citation. One motorist shared his ticket.
He got cited in his white van, but a closer look at the ticket shows the vehicle is at a complete stop. Complaints are pouring in.

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend says it appears drivers are getting ticketed; not for running the red light, but for stopping over the white line.

Townsend blasted the camera saying, “This is the most egregiousone we’ve seen. It is so beyond the pale. It not only violated thespirit of the law it violates the letter of the law. It may beillegal in the state of Maryland. “

During a short period, the cameras flashed continually and wentoff when cars were at a complete stop. We asked one motorist, “Didyou go past the red light?” The unidentified driver said, “No, Ididn’t. I’m still stopped here at the red light. If I went throughthen you wouldn’t be talking to me now. The camera went off. So amI going to get a ticket? Oh no. “

Townsend said, “These people legally stopped for a red light,but they ventured into this box and they consider that technicallyto be red light running and it’s not. It smacks of I got you; agame just for money.”

As the camera snapped another picture, we asked anothermotorist, “Do you realize you just got a red light ticket?” The unidentified woman said, “You’ve got to be kidding. You arekidding. Did you pass the red light? No!”

Some say it’s not just a camera, but a cash cow–snapping upphotos of unsuspecting motorists.
Townsend said many motorists don’t even contest the tickets,in fact one woman confirmed that saying; “if I got it I wouldn’tfight it no. If the camera is set to do it that way I just have topay the ticket.

Townsend admits he’s one of those recently ticketed, but hefought it.

Fox 5 made an effort to talk with the New Carrollton PoliceDepartment and the city about the issue.
The chief said he’ll answer questions during officehours.

Triple A says they’ve received numerous complaints from severalcities using the mobile red light cameras along the Route 450corridor; including Bladensburg and Riverdale.

Press Writer Fri Sep 11, 9:22 pm ET PHOENIX – A driver has racked up dozens of speeding tickets in photo-radar zones on Phoenix-area freeways while sporting monkey and giraffe masks, and is fighting every one by claiming the costumes make it impossible for authorities to prove he was behind the wheel. “You’ve got to identify the driver, and if you can’t it’s not a valid ticket,” said Dave VonTesmar, a 47-year-old flight attendant said.

It took Arizona state police months to realize the same driver was involved and was refusing to pay the fines. By the time they did, more than 50 of the tickets had become invalid because the deadline for prosecution had passed.

Authorities have since stepped up their efforts to ensure that VonTesmar pays his $6,700 in fines.

On Aug. 19, the Arizona Department of Public Safety served VonTesmar in person with 37 tickets, mostly between 11 and 15 mph over the speed limit. The pictures accompanying the tickets show a driver wearing either a monkey or giraffe masks in VonTesmar’s white Subaru, which has black-and-white checkered racing stickers on its sides and a sticker on the windshield that reads “Bucktooth Racin’.”

Agency spokesman Bart Graves also said authorities have surveillance photos of VonTesmar putting on masks before driving and believes that they will convince justice court judges in three area cities that he was the one behind the wheel and must pay his tickets.

“We have pretty strong evidence against him,” Graves said. “We’re just asking for his fines to be paid.”

Graves said VonTesmar has repeatedly endangered public safety and that the agency is taking his case very seriously.

VonTesmar, who said he simply drives with the flow of traffic, said if the Department of Public Safety does have surveillance photos of him on the road, it proves he’s not a danger to other drivers. If he were, officers would have pulled him over, he said.

Arizona began deploying the stationary and mobile cameras on state highways a year ago, and through Sept. 4 had issued more than 497,000 tickets. Of those, about 132,000 recipients had paid the fine of $165 plus a 10 percent penalty, netting the state more than $23 million. Arizona is the first to deploy such technology on highways statewide.

Many of the remaining tickets are either new, being appealed or have just been ignored. The state didn’t have figures immediately available on the breakdown.

The backlash against the cameras has been fairly constant, however. Arizonans have used sticky notes, Silly String and even a pickax to sabotage the cameras.

Many believe the shooting death of speed-enforcement van operator Doug Georgianni on April 19 on a Phoenix freeway was a result of anger over the cameras, although authorities haven’t made that direct allegation. Three separate citizens groups are targeting the cameras in initiatives for the 2010 ballot. Shawn Dow, chairman of the Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, said he’s not sure whether VonTesmar has affected their cause.

“It is very funny,” he said. “In one sense it shows how silly this whole thing is, so you know I’m glad he’s using a sense of humor. The fact that he did it 90 times, I don’t want to drive around the guy.”

Dow said he finds it interesting that DPS conducted surveillance on VonTesmar.

“They’re out staking out a guy with a monkey mask?” he said. “They watched him break the law and didn’t do anything about it? If they had pulled him over, they could have pulled the mask off. It just proves photo radar is not about safety, it’s about money.”

Officials say the photo-enforcement program is designed to slow drivers down and keep the roads safer. But VonTesmar sees it a different way.

“It’s a peaceful act of resistance — that’s what this country was founded on,” VonTesmar said. “I’m not thumbing my nose at DPS, but photo radar is not a DPS officer protecting public safety. It’s nothing but a speed tax.”

CLEVELAND — One of Cleveland’s red-light cameras went on the blink Tuesday at one of the city’s busiest intersection, adding fuel to the fire for drivers who already don’t like the cameras.The camera that malfunctioned is located at East 30th Street and Carnegie Avenue, and drivers are wondering if they will get a $100 ticket for doing nothing wrong. 

Thousands of motorists pass through the intersection every day, and most, if not all of them, were obeying the law when the camera took their picture, something the cameras are supposed to do when a motorist runs a red light.But on Tuesday, even when the traffic light was green or at a complete standstill, the cameras still flashed.It got to the point where you could time the flash every 15 seconds, then every 10 seconds.

Fifteen minutes after NewsChannel5 contacts City Hall to alert them about the issue, a worker came out and apparently reset or shut the camera down.But now some drivers are wondering if the cameras malfunctioned Tuesday, how often do they malfunction?A City Hall representative said that no tickets will be issued for the malfunctioning camera.But write down Tuesday’s date if you traveled East 30th and Carnegie and keep an eye on your mailbox.

Getting caught by a red-light camera can be pricey — especially in California. With fees, traffic school and court costs, a single ticket can cost $500 or more. 

More than a dozen states have banned those cameras, as voters see them as unreasonable revenue generators for hard up local governments. But some people argue these devices help curb traffic accidents. 

 

Moneymakers

“These are machines,” says substitute teacher Robert Zirgulis. “They don’t care. You go one foot over the line — bam, $500.” 

He’s been campaigning against the 18 red-light cameras set up in Culver City, west of downtown Los Angeles. 

“They are designed to get as many tickets as possible,” Zirgulis says. “They’re not designed to make it safe to drive.” 

Zirgulis made an anti-camera crusade the basis of his bid for the local City Council, and he’s been talking to drivers like Michael Fucci at busy intersections. 

“I just paid $540 for a ticket last month for a red light,” Fucci says. “It’s completely preposterous.” 

Motorist Neil Wax stopped to say he got a point on his driver’s license, and his insurance rate skyrocketed after two red-light cameras caught him in the act. He says they ended up costing him about $900. 

“It’s obviously a profit stream,” he says. 

Every year, Culver City’s photo and video enforcement program catches thousands of violators and generates about $2 million in fines. Most of the revenue goes to the private red-light camera vendor and to the state. 

And to help solve California’s $20 billion dollar crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has suggested retrofitting 500 city and county traffic cameras to generate even more money. 

But Los Angeles City Council member Dennis Zine thinks the citations are excessive. 

“The punishment must fit the crime,” Zine says. “You don’t want to be oppressive. And when you get to $500, are you now starting to verge on oppressive government?” 

The city of Los Angeles collects $3.8 million a year from traffic tickets, and city officials are talking about doubling the number of red-light cameras to make even more money. But Zine, a former L.A. cop, suggests lowering the fines but keeping most of that money for the cash-strapped city, not the state. 

“We could lower those fines; more people would probably pay and not opt for community service,” he says. “In other words, we’d collect more fines. It’d be more fair to the individuals. Bottom line is, drive careful. The light’s yellow; slow down, prepare to stop and go by the speed limit. If you follow the rules, you’re not gonna have a problem.” 

More Harm Than Good?

But for some motorists, the red-light cameras create anxiety and confusion. 

“I’m paranoid,” says Peter Davis, “because I don’t want to get a ticket.” 

During his three-mile daily commute to work, Davis has to navigate past three red-light cameras. So he ends up making all these split-second decisions. 

“If the light turns yellow, and I’m confident I can get over the crosswalk while it’s still yellow, then I’m going to accelerate to get through the traffic light,” he says. But Davis also worries about rear-end collisions. “There’s always the concern of someone behind me, are they going to ram me from behind,” he says. 

Several states have banned the cameras already. In Louisiana, state Rep. Jeff Arnold tried to do it, saying the cameras are used to generate dollars, not to improve safety. 

But the House Transportation Committee rejected his argument that the cameras increase rear-end collisions because people slam on their brakes rather than risk getting a ticket. 

In fact, the cameras do prevent more serious crashes, says Michael Manville, a researcher at UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. 

“It’s an effective deterrent,” Manville says. “After the lights are put in place, the evidence seems pretty conclusive that you do see a substantial, probably overall 20 to 30 percent, reduction in collisions. That includes the slight uptick in rear ending.” 

Quick Yellows

But many drivers are skeptical and question exactly how these cameras are calibrated — specifically, how long yellow lights last. In Collier County, Fla., a math tutor successfully challenged the credibility of the red-light camera system and found the yellows were too short. 

According to California’s Department of Transportation, the length of the yellow light correlates to the posted speed limit. For example, in a 35 mph zone, the yellow light should last 3.6 seconds. 

Detective Doug Marks and Sgt. Omar Corrales accompanied NPR to put Culver City’s cameras to the test with a stopwatch. The result: The left-arrow yellow light at one intersection, with a speed limit of 35 mph, repeatedly timed out at 3.7 seconds. 

Culver City was one of the first places to start using the red-light cameras 11 years ago. Marks and Corrales say there used to be one or two fatalities a year, but there hasn’t been one since the cameras were installed — “knock on wood.” 

Corrales says he doesn’t know if that reduction can be attributed directly to the cameras, but he wants to think so. When people tell him they are more careful at those intersections now, Corrales is happy. “That’s all we want,” he says. 

For those drivers still apprehensive about red-light camera tickets, there’s now an iPhone app warning where they’re located. And here are a few tips for Californians from Orange County attorney Stan “The Radar Man” Alari: 

— Ticketed drivers should opt for traffic school or do community service to reduce or avoid costs. 

— Beware of so-called snitch tickets — when you’re asked to rat out whoever was driving your car. “You’re under no obligation whatever to incriminate anybody else,” says Alari. “Ignore that letter. Just go to court and say, ‘That’s not me.’ ” 

— Because the photo tickets must have a clear picture of the defendant’s face, you can drive around with your visor down, Alari says, joking, “or maybe drive around with a mustache or a beard. Or a Frankenstein mask on. Get creative. They’re getting creative. Why can’t we?” 

Of course, when the light turns yellow, you could always just slow down. 

Original story at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125990368&ps=cprs


Authorities in Iowa’s second largest city have activated the first of more than 20 red light and speed cameras, but drivers who are caught on camera breaking traffic laws won’t have to pay a fine just yet. Instead, for the next 30 days, Cedar Rapids drivers who break the law will receive a warning. 

However, in mid-March, motorists who are caught running red lights or speeding could receive a citation in the mail and pay fines of up to $100. The cameras are expected to generate about $750,000 a year but Cedar Rapids Police insists it’s not about money.

Sergeant Cristy Hamblin says the cameras will help prevent accidents and injuries. “We have found — not just here in Cedar Rapids, but nationwide — that angle crashes…90-degree or 45-degree angle crashes produce the most injuries,” Hamblin said. All of the cameras in Cedar Rapids will be active by this summer.

“We’ve got 10 different locations selected, not just for red light camera violations, but also for speed enforcement as well,” Hamblin said. The cameras in Cedar Rapids will be clearly marked with signs to notify drivers where they are located. In Iowa, red light cameras are also active in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Clive and Davenport.


COLLIER COUNTY, FL. – A judge in Aventura, just north of Miami, ruled to get rid of red light camera fines because they’re unconstitutional. Will Collier County soon be following in their footsteps? 

On local woman is hoping commissioners that that initiative. Especially, after a camera at the intersection of Golden Gate Parkway and Collier Boulevard gave out a ticket she says may not have happened just a few counties away.

“It’s not always cut and dry,” Marcella Johnson tells me of the recent red light camera citation that left her fuming.

“I was behind the bus. The bus ran the late yellow light and by the time I was at the intersection and I could see the light above the bus, I was in the intersection and the light was red.”

In the video of Johnson’s violation from the cameras at that intersection, you can see the bus in front of her and her van appears behind it just a few seconds later.

“I’m not tailgating the bus. I was going way under the speed limit. I was going 31 and it’s 45,” Johnson explains.

She thought inspectors for the tape would see the bus was blocking her view of the light and thought if she got a ticket she would fight it in court.

That is until she got a surprise in the mail, “I did not expect it to come in my husband’s name. The car loan is under his name but I was the one driving it, so now I can’t even fight the ticket.”

Johnson’s husband would have to go to a hearing to contest the violation, something that he can’t take off of work to do. Marcella Johnson says this leaves her wondering if Collier County should reconsider the accuracy of these cameras, just like another county in Florida did. “It’s unconstitutional, it’s not right.”

Commissioner Donna Fiala says the ruling in Aventura was discussed by commissioners Tuesday. They decided to keep the cameras rolling until the appeals court has decided whether or not to uphold the ruling.

A growing number of police departments are turning to mobile camera systems to fight motor vehicle theft and identify unregistered cars.

The cameras read license plates of parked and moving cars — hundreds per minute — and check them against vehicle databases, said Lance Clem, a spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which purchased several systems for its police vehicles last fall.

Departments in Denver and Colorado Springs; South Portland, Maine; Gwinnett, Douglas and Cherokee counties in Georgia; and Clinton, Conn., are planning to deploy or have already added License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems this year, officials from those agencies said.

Also, about 40 law enforcement agencies in the Washington, D.C., metro area are deploying LPRs this year, according to Nate Maloney, a spokesman for their supplier, ELSAG of Brewster, N.Y. The district has had them since 2005, he said.

Newark, Albany County, N.Y., and Ann Arbor, Mich., added them in 2009 using federal stimulus funds, according to recovery.gov.

Last October, Lt. Scott Burke of the Portsmouth, Va., Police Department said he took one of their new systems out for a test, and in 33 minutes got a “hit” on a sedan reported stolen in a carjacking.

“We called in the troops, made an arrest, and the vehicle was returned to the owner,” Burke said. “That was way cool.”

Mark Windover, CEO of ELSAG, one of several companies selling the camera systems, said they can also help in AMBER Alert child searches.

Elsewhere:

  • Norwalk, Conn. Police Lt. David Wrinn said the department deployed three LPRs in September and recovered seven stolen cars, found six stolen plates being used illegally and tracked down four missing or suicidal people by November.
  • Louisville. Metro Police have used the technology since early 2007, said Lt. James Mueller, especially during big events such as the Kentucky Derby, when large crowds increase the potential for stolen vehicles.

AAA national spokesman Troy Green said the auto club supports the readers being used to recover stolen cars, but he said the organization is concerned about their use “solely as a revenue generator” or to create records of vehicle movements.

Maine state Sen. Dennis Damon, a Democrat, said he’s worried about the potential for abuse. He has sponsored a bill requiring any Maine department using the camera systems to purge the stored images of scanned plates after 21 days. The bill was approved by a transportation committee last month, he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union also is concerned about the systems being used to compile vehicle movement records, legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese said.

Hughes reports for the Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Contributing: Jessie Halladay, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

Motorist learns the value of contesting all citations as Washington, DC admitted accuracy of photo radar ticket was doubtful.

Doubt over the accuracy of the speed camera equipment led to the dismissal of a Washington, DC photo radar ticket last month. On May 7, a 34-year-old engineer from Alexandria, Virginia had been driving on Interstate 295/395 near 9th Street on a sunny morning when a mobile speed camera operated by American Traffic Solutions snapped a photo of the engineer’s car. The camera claimed that the Audi was traveling at 51 MPH, 11 MPH over the District’s 40 MPH interstate speed limit.

The motorist, who requested anonymity, decided to fight the citation out of “spite.” He arrived at the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles on August 17 unprepared with an argument that would beat the ticket. He fully expected to lose, but thought it was right to “cost the city more money” because he saw the photo radar program as little more than an illegitimate money grab. The motorist was surprised, however, when Adjudicator Stephen Reichert took one look at the ticket photo and noted that a second vehicle had been within the radar’s field of view. Radar guidelines suggest this situation could cause a spurious radar reading, especially since the District’s contractor provided no video or other secondary verification of speed.

“In as much as the government-submitted photograph shows multiple vehicles traveling through the radar zone in a receding direction, the government has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that respondent’s vehicle was identified as the vehicle speeding,” Reichert wrote. “Thus the ticket is dismissed.”

The motorist was glad he did not need to give the speech against the system that he had planned to give.

“I said ‘no’ when asked if I had anything else to add, and out I went with my cash remaining in my pocket,” the motorist told TheNewspaper. “Cost to me: $3.30 in Metro fares. Win.”

As of last month, the District’s private photo enforcement contractors had mailed a total of 4,019,023 tickets worth a total of $305 million. That is equivalent to one ticket not just for every resident of Washington, DC, but for every single resident of the District plus surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

A copy of the adjudicator’s decision is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Department of Motor Vehicles Hearing Record (Government of the District of Columbia, 8/17/2009).

If you are a driver in the Chicagoland area then you know your worst enemy. No, not the bikers who fail to see instructions on the road or the traffic wardens who spot out an expired parking meter just seconds before you run back to your car. The real enemies of any driver in Chicago are those ever vigilant red-light cameras. Their purpose appears simple: to accurately catch and fine those who do not respect the rules of an intersection. However, their true nature stems from a much more evil, corporate mindset.

Starting out in 2003, at a few test intersections, the red-light cameras in Chicago have now spread to nearly 200 intersections all over the city. Yet, few people seem to know that the city is not the one who keeps tabs on them. The cameras are installed and maintained by Redflex Traffic Systems, a private firm who provides the same services to 240 other cities in the U.S. This Orwellian idea parallels the recent privatization of the parking meters, where the city government is no longer the one providing services to its people. The red light cameras are owned by a company who is trying to make a buck out of our mistakes. Sure, the fine you pay goes to the city of Chicago, but a portion of it falls right on some corporate bonus. Furthermore, like any self-respecting company, Redflex Traffic Systems is going to try and increase its profit margin. This means reducing the time yellow lights are on and being extremely precise on whether your car crosses the white line or not.

I can rant on the privatization of city services for hours but at its core, this is not the real problem with the red-light cameras. The underlying issue here is that these “virtual law enforcers” are exploiting a loophole in criminal law. When you are stopped for speeding by a police officer you have the chance to plead your case and provide an excuse for your actions and if this fails, you will receive a traffic offense and a strike on your driving record.

I am aware that there is a website where you can view a video of your car committing the offense and even take the case to court. However, said video simply shows your vehicle and a detailed scan of the license plate. If you are in the middle of a medical emergency, any police officer stopping you would try and help you get to the hospital despite the fact you are bypassing speeding laws by doing so. If a camera spots you rushing to the hospital, it wont care, you will receive the fine in the mail right next to the emergency room charges.

Finally, I come upon my biggest gripe against red-light cameras. As I mentioned before, when a trooper stops you and finds you guilty, you receive a strike on your driving record. This is considered a moving violation. Receive too many of these and your license is revoked. When a camera mails you a ticket for the same reason the cop stopped you, it is the equivalent to a parking ticket. This means there is no effect on your driving record. Therefore, it is possible to have reckless drivers remain on the streets as long as they have the money to afford the tickets they receive. The cameras do not protect drivers, they are annoying roadside attractions meant to make our lives just a little harder.


Chicago – Here’s a number to consider the next time before you blow through a red light in Chicago: $64.1 million. That’s the financial haul the city’s red light cameras raked in in fines last year. 

It’s far more than the color red that’s now torquing motorists, but what they view as a lack of yellow.

“Why can’t the city afford to give us all citizens and motorists one more second of yellow?” said Barnet Fagel, a safety advocate and traffic researcher for the National Motorists Association.

PDF: Fines from Chicago Red Light Cameras (2007-09) >>

LINK: Ticketed Drivers Can Watch Video of Red Light Run >>

Fagel claims the three-second yellow light used at intersections in Chicago where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour or less, is not nearly enough time.

“It may be posted for 30 miles an hour. The light may be timed for 30 miles an hour, but the traffic is moving at 35 to 40 miles per hour,” he said. “That’s the speed traffic signals should accommodate.”

A study conducted by Texas A & M University found that adding one second of yellow decreases crashes 35 to 40 percent and violations by 60 percent. But Brian Steele, Chicago Department of Transportation director of communications, said he envisions more crashes if the city were to add an extra second of yellow at its intersections.

“We think it will decrease safety,” Steele said. “Motorists will use that extra second of time not to slow down but to speed up as an extension of their green time. We see that a lot in Chicago and we think we could see more. “

There are 184 camera intersections in Chicago, with an average of two cameras per intersection. Steele said CDOT follows federal and state guidelines with its yellow light times at city intersections.

But Barnet Fagel insists the city has steered away from that three-second yellow. He said he shot video this winter, which he posted on YouTube.com, showing red light intersections with yellows under three seconds.

“Which proves undeniably, unequivocally, the cameras profit and the safety cannot coexist at the same intersection,” Fagel said.

Steele, of the Chicago Department of Transportation, disagrees.

“I don’t know their methodology or the methods they have. I do know anyone suggesting Chicago’s yellow lights are less than three seconds are flat out wrong,” he said.

We went to Chicago’s top 10 revenue-grossing red light intersections, all of which generated more than $1 million each last year. Fagel featured many of these very intersections in his YouTube video. But time after time, each one clocked by FOX Chicago News came out to three seconds exactly. Not a hair longer or shorter.

Chicago mother Tiffany Moeller said that ever since the city expanded red light cameras citywide three years ago, the yellows have gotten shorter.

“I find myself speeding up through the yellow or slamming on the breaks, because I’m scared to go through the yellow. Sometimes I find myself stopping on green,” said Moeller, who estimated she passes a dozen red light cameras to take her kids to and from school. “I’m afraid of getting rear-ended. That’s my worst fear, getting rear-ended with the kids in the backseat. If they come into the rear of the car, that’s my children’s life.”

The outcry against red light cameras has mushroomed into a full fledged legislative battle in Springfield.

“We’re told this is about safety. It’s not. It’s about money. It’s causing more dangerous intersections,” said Scott Tucker, a Republican candidate for State Representative in the 11th District, which spans the city’s DePaul and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

Tucker and State Sen. Dan Duffy have become two of the louder voices pushing for a repeal of all red light cameras in Illinois — and longer yellow lights.

“You have another second, second and a half to bring your vehicle to a full stop behind the line, especially if you’re going 35 miles per hour. A three second yellow is not enough,” Duffy said.

Many of Chicago’s suburbs seem to concur. In Skokie, Winnetka and Evanston we found yellow lights lasting more than four seconds, time after time after time.

Critics of Chicago’s red light enforcement argued that although the city is sticking to the letter of the law, they said the city’s motives seem to be rooted in revenue.

“Our city used to feed the whole world from its stockyards. Now, they’re feeding off the drivers and visitors,” Fagel said.

TACOMA – A driver ticketed by an automatic speed camera fought it in court and won because of a pair of mistakes printed on the ticket.

The camera is located along East Bay Street. Tacoma received special state permission to put the camera there because police consider that stretch of road dangerous. 

When Terry Fiber was out driving one night early this year, he saw the flash from the camera. At the time, he didn’t think anything of it. He thought it was for somebody or something else. Two weeks later, he got a $101 ticket in the mail for going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone. He didn’t think he was going that fast.

“I wanted to review the law, ’cause I wanted to defend myself. So, I started pulling up the RCWs and the codes and I couldn’t find this one,” said Fiber.

He took used that evidence to fight the tickets in Tacoma Municipal Court, and won.

“He dismissed it, as soon as I brought up the RCW. And he was ready to dismiss the charges,” said Fiber.

First, the ticket cites the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.440.  That concerns speeding through a school zone. Fiber was nowhere close to a school zone.

Second, the ticket cites RCW 46.61.170.csc. If you search for that on the state’s website, you can’t find it.

Fiber wasn’t the only ticket holder to make that argument and he wasn’t the only one to get his ticket dismissed.

Tacoma says the Arizona company, which runs the camera and mails out the tickets after a Tacoma police officer reviews the evidence, put down the wrong law.

Tacoma Municipal Court says about 8,000 of the bad tickets were issued between Dec. 2, 2009 and March 9, 2010.The court is now checking the tickets every day.

What do you do if you think you have one of these tickets?

“They should just write a letter to the court and we’ll send it to the commissioner and the commissioner can review the ticket and see if it’s the right RCW or not,” said Yvonne Pettus, Tacoma Municipal Court Administrator.

Tacoma officials believe that the camera on East Bay Street is the only camera that is having this problem.

HOUSTON – The red-light cameras are back on in Houston and, technically, not all of the red-light cameras are issuing tickets. 

But HPD will not reveal which are and are not.  The department said it is still evaluating the system, including the placement of the cameras.

Of the 70 red-light camera locations in the city, there are several intersections that stand out as generating the most tickets. In fact, between the top five locations, there have been more than 50,000 tickets issued in just a year.

The fifth-highest number of tickets came from the camera at Wilcrest northbound at the Southwest Freeway, with 8,032 tickets in fiscal year 2010.

The next-highest location is on the north side of Houston. Westbound Greens Road at the North Freeway has produced 8,171 tickets.

The third-highest is Hillcroft and the Southwest Freeway Feeder, which has generated 8,680 tickets.

There is a big jump up at the second-highest ticket intersection — Westheimer eastbound at the 610 Loop. That location produced 9,904 tickets in 2010.

Drivers like Sam Feleki have a theory about this one.

“Especially in this area, if you don’t make the light, you know that you are going to wait for another five minutes. Everybody has places to go you know,” he said.

Then there is the huge leading location of Bellaire at the Southwest Freeway, with 16,008 violations.

We watched the light for 10 cycles and saw the white flash of 15 potential tickets, all with one thing in common — right-on-red turns.

Robbi Duggins Jr. drives through the intersection all the time.

“You are going to turn even if the light is on red,” he said.

Chanell Mathews watched with us and said it was clear what was happening.

“Basically, if you are not making a complete stop before you turn you just got yourself a ticket,” Mathews said.

“I’m with it, and I am also against it. Like I said, that turn is going to kill everybody,” Duggins said.

HPD would only say that there was no solid evidence of what may be pushing the citation numbers at these intersections, but it seemed that traffic density may have something to do with it.

There are also low-citation locations, like the camera at Brazos and Elgin in Midtown. In 2010, that camera issued 249 citations — about as many in a month as we saw in an hour on Bellaire.

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