By on July 26, 2012

ATS photo

The city of St Petersburg, Florida uses camera systems sold by American Traffic Solutions (ATS, formerly American Traffic Systems) to issue tickets to drivers allegedly running red lights. According to The Newspaper, when the activists at St Petersburg Red Light Cameras reviewed logs of the 21,602 photo tickets issued in the city from October 29, 2011 to April 30, 2012 they discovered that the ATS cameras were reporting that they “measured” Bugatti Veyron level speeds from cars not realistically capable of that kind of velocity.

Florida law prohibits automated speeding tickets, but the ATS cameras used to enforce red-lights still record motorists’ alleged speed. Red light cameras all measure vehicle speed in order to turn on the camera at the correct time. While nobody was cited for speeding due to the aforementioned Florida statute, the fact that ATS’ technology cited literally unbelievable speeds might call into question just how reliable their systems in general are. If they get speed wrong, what else don’t they get accurately? ATS claims that their cameras don’t lie, but the speeds cited are not just incredible but also not credible. At one intersection, a woman was measured as going 157 MPH as she went past the camera. At another, a lady was said to have been gong 170 MPH. While those speeds are unusual, there are indeed a small number of road cars that can see the other side of 150. However, to my knowledge there is only a tiny number cars capable of 210+ MPH, and the car that ATS recorded as going 215 MPH at 66th St and 38th Ave was not made by Bugatti, Lamborghini or a similar exotic car manufacturer.

Those were straight line speeds and, as I mentioned, there are cars on the road capable of those speeds, when going straight. The ATS cameras, though, also recorded cornering speeds that are simply not possible, at least outside of a race track and even then they’re so extreme as to not be believable.

On April 12, 2012, a man was accused of making a right-hand turn at 96 MPH at the corner of 34th Street and 22nd Avenue. Now I don’t race competitively but TTAC has our resources so I asked Jack Baruth if that was physically possible. JB kindly sent me a chart that indicated G forces at particular speeds based on the radius of the turn. I printed out Google’s satellite view of that intersection and measured the turn radii at the two corners under surveillance. Based on the location of the two cameras, the driver had to be traveling on 34th, turning onto 22nd, though the cited speed was not likely achieved on any of that intersections 4 corners.

From a print out of the satellite shot I determined that one corner has about an 80′ radius for the right turn lane. The other corner is a tighter turn, actually a sharp turn in, then a constant radius. I figure the effective radius is closer to 50′ in that turning lane. In either case, 96 mph would be off the chart, literally. Jack’s cornering speed charts don’t go below a 100′ radius. Even bumping up the radius to 150′ maxes out at 94.5 MPH and 4.0 Gs! To give you some perspective, for a road car, anything over 0.9 G is considered to be very good cornering. A small number of the very best handling production cars might slightly exceed 1 G on a skid pad, under steady state conditions. At 4 Gs in a road car, I’d be worried about parts breaking off. Can a road tire withstand 4 Gs without separating from the rim or some other failure?

Now on a race course drivers don’t have to abide by things like right turn lanes. They use as much of the road surface as they can, usually going wide on approach and turn in, hitting the apex tight, and then going wide on exit. What that does is create the widest possible radius on the turn, maximizing cornering speed. Even if the cited driver was genuinely “driving in a racelike manner”, using the entire road, driving in the wrong direction on entry and exit, the radius works out to only be about 200 feet. At 96 MPH, on a 200 feet radius turn, the driver would still have been pulling over 3.0 G.

Maximum loading under cornering in a Formula 1 car on a race track is generally quoted in the 3.0-4.5 G range. ATS cameras say that drivers in St Petersburg are seeing cornering speeds with that level of lateral acceleration. Either people are getting ticketed by a system with proven unreliability (at least in terms of measuring speed), or American Traffic Solutions thinks that there are a lot of budding F1 drivers in the St Petersburg area.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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33 Comments on “ATS Red Light Camera Claims Driver Pulled 4g Turn...”


  • avatar
    RGS920

    Is there anyway you can scan or link to the chart that JB sent you?

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure how the formatting will work out.

      G’s – 100′ – 150′ – 200′ – 300′ – 400′ – 500′ – 750′ – 1000′ – 1320′
      0.50 – 27.3 – 33.4 – 38.6 – 47.2 – 54.5 – 61.0 – 74.7 – 86.2 – 99.1
      0.52 – 27.8 – 34.1 – 39.3 – 48.2 – 55.6 – 62.2 – 76.2 – 88.0 – 101.0
      0.54 – 28.3 – 34.7 – 40.1 – 49.1 – 56.7 – 63.4 – 77.6 – 89.6 – 103.0
      0.56 – 28.9 – 35.3 – 40.8 – 50.0 – 57.7 – 64.5 – 79.0 – 91.3 – 104.9
      0.58 – 29.4 – 36.0 – 41.5 – 50.9 – 58.7 – 65.7 – 80.4 – 92.9 – 106.7
      0.60 – 29.9 – 36.6 – 42.3 – 51.7 – 59.8 – 66.8 – 81.8 – 94.5 – 108.5
      0.62 – 30.4 – 37.2 – 42.9 – 52.6 – 60.7 – 67.9 – 83.2 – 96.0 – 110.3
      0.64 – 30.9 – 37.8 – 43.6 – 53.4 – 61.7 – 69.0 – 84.5 – 97.6 – 112.1
      0.66 – 31.3 – 38.4 – 44.3 – 54.3 – 62.7 – 70.1 – 85.8 – 99.1 – 113.8
      0.68 – 31.8 – 39.0 – 45.0 – 55.1 – 63.6 – 71.1 – 87.1 – 100.6 – 115.6
      0.70 – 32.3 – 39.5 – 45.6 – 55.9 – 64.5 – 72.2 – 88.4 – 102.0 – 117.2
      0.72 – 32.7 – 40.1 – 46.3 – 56.7 – 65.5 – 73.2 – 89.6 – 103.5 – 118.9
      0.74 – 33.2 – 40.6 – 46.9 – 57.5 – 66.4 – 74.2 – 90.9 – 104.9 – 120.5
      0.76 – 33.6 – 41.2 – 47.6 – 58.2 – 67.2 – 75.2 – 92.1 – 106.3 – 122.2
      0.78 – 34.1 – 41.7 – 48.2 – 59.0 – 68.1 – 76.2 – 93.3 – 107.7 – 123.8
      0.80 – 34.5 – 42.3 – 48.8 – 59.8 – 69.0 – 77.1 – 94.5 – 109.1 – 125.3
      0.82 – 34.9 – 42.8 – 49.4 – 60.5 – 69.9 – 78.1 – 95.6 – 110.4 – 126.9
      0.84 – 35.3 – 43.3 – 50.0 – 61.2 – 70.7 – 79.0 – 96.8 – 111.8 – 128.4
      0.86 – 35.8 – 43.8 – 50.6 – 62.0 – 71.5 – 80.0 – 98.0 – 113.1 – 130.0
      0.88 – 36.2 – 44.3 – 51.2 – 62.7 – 72.4 – 80.9 – 99.1 – 114.4 – 131.5
      0.90 – 36.6 – 44.8 – 51.7 – 63.4 – 73.2 – 81.8 – 100.2 – 115.7 – 132.9
      0.92 – 37.0 – 45.3 – 52.3 – 64.1 – 74.0 – 82.7 – 101.3 – 117.0 – 134.4
      0.94 – 37.4 – 45.8 – 52.9 – 64.8 – 74.8 – 83.6 – 102.4 – 118.3 – 135.9
      0.96 – 37.8 – 46.3 – 53.4 – 65.5 – 75.6 – 84.5 – 103.5 – 119.5 – 137.3
      0.98 – 38.2 – 46.8 – 54.0 – 66.1 – 76.4 – 85.4 – 104.6 – 120.7 – 138.7
      1.00 – 38.6 – 47.2 – 54.5 – 66.8 – 77.1 – 86.2 – 105.6 – 122.0 – 140.1
      1.02 – 39.0 – 47.7 – 55.1 – 67.5 – 77.9 – 87.1 – 106.7 – 123.2 – 141.5
      1.04 – 39.3 – 48.2 – 55.6 – 68.1 – 78.7 – 88.0 – 107.7 – 124.4 – 142.9
      1.06 – 39.7 – 48.6 – 56.2 – 68.8 – 79.4 – 88.8 – 108.7 – 125.6 – 144.3
      1.08 – 40.1 – 49.1 – 56.7 – 69.4 – 80.2 – 89.6 – 109.8 – 126.8 – 145.6
      1.10 – 40.5 – 49.5 – 57.2 – 70.1 – 80.9 – 90.5 – 110.8 – 127.9 – 147.0
      1.12 – 40.8 – 50.0 – 57.7 – 70.7 – 81.6 – 91.3 – 111.8 – 129.1 – 148.3
      1.14 – 41.2 – 50.4 – 58.2 – 71.3 – 82.4 – 92.1 – 112.8 – 130.2 – 149.6
      1.16 – 41.5 – 50.9 – 58.7 – 72.0 – 83.1 – 92.9 – 113.8 – 131.4 – 150.9
      1.18 – 41.9 – 51.3 – 59.3 – 72.6 – 83.8 – 93.7 – 114.7 – 132.5 – 152.2
      1.20 – 42.3 – 51.7 – 59.8 – 73.2 – 84.5 – 94.5 – 115.7 – 133.6 – 153.5
      G’s – 100′ – 150′ – 200′ – 300′ – 400′ – 500′ – 750′ – 1000′ – 1320′
      1.25 – 43.1 – 52.8 – 61.0 – 74.7 – 86.2 – 96.4 – 118.1 – 136.4 – 156.7
      1.30 – 44.0 – 53.9 – 62.2 – 76.2 – 88.0 – 98.3 – 120.4 – 139.1 – 159.8
      1.35 – 44.8 – 54.9 – 63.4 – 77.6 – 89.6 – 100.2 – 122.7 – 141.7 – 162.8
      1.40 – 45.6 – 55.9 – 64.5 – 79.0 – 91.3 – 102.0 – 125.0 – 144.3 – 165.8
      1.45 – 46.4 – 56.9 – 65.7 – 80.4 – 92.9 – 103.9 – 127.2 – 146.9 – 168.7
      1.50 – 47.2 – 57.9 – 66.8 – 81.8 – 94.5 – 105.6 – 129.4 – 149.4 – 171.6
      1.60 – 48.8 – 59.8 – 69.0 – 84.5 – 97.6 – 109.1 – 133.6 – 154.3 – 177.3
      1.70 – 50.3 – 61.6 – 71.1 – 87.1 – 100.6 – 112.4 – 137.7 – 159.0 – 182.7
      1.80 – 51.7 – 63.4 – 73.2 – 89.6 – 103.5 – 115.7 – 141.7 – 163.6 – 188.0
      1.90 – 53.2 – 65.1 – 75.2 – 92.1 – 106.3 – 118.9 – 145.6 – 168.1 – 193.2
      2.00 – 54.5 – 66.8 – 77.1 – 94.5 – 109.1 – 122.0 – 149.4 – 172.5 – 198.2
      2.25 – 57.9 – 70.9 – 81.8 – 100.2 – 115.7 – 129.4 – 158.4 – 183.0 – 210.2
      2.50 – 61.0 – 74.7 – 86.2 – 105.6 – 122.0 – 136.4 – 167.0 – 192.8 – 221.6
      2.75 – 64.0 – 78.3 – 90.5 – 110.8 – 127.9 – 143.0 – 175.2 – 202.3 – 232.4
      3.00 – 66.8 – 81.8 – 94.5 – 115.7 – 133.6 – 149.4 – 183.0 – 211.3 – 242.7
      3.25 – 69.5 – 85.2 – 98.3 – 120.4 – 139.1 – 155.5 – 190.4 – 219.9 – 252.6
      3.50 – 72.2 – 88.4 – 102.0 – 125.0 – 144.3 – 161.3 – 197.6 – 228.2 – 262.2
      3.75 – 74.7 – 91.5 – 105.6 – 129.4 – 149.4 – 167.0 – 204.5 – 236.2 – 271.4
      4.00 – 77.1 – 94.5 – 109.1 – 133.6 – 154.3 – 172.5 – 211.3 – 243.9 – 280.3

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    …perhaps they left the camera on during the St. Pete Grand Prix?

  • avatar
    gator marco

    And as is classic for a bureaucracy, they are going to keep writing red light tickets while they work out the bugs. A local judge who handles appeals of red light tickets hasn’t seen any of the excessive speed tickets turn up in his court yet, so move along, nothing to see here.
    Apparently the speeds are determined by road sensors they may or may not be set correctly. So the ridiculous speeds are calculated by the exact same mechanism that determines whether a red light ticket will be generated.
    As they say, close enough for government work.

    The local news media have doggedly been playing up the ridicule, but really haven’t dug deep. The below link is probably the most complete story about the St Pete red light situation. It isn’t much:
    http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/19037795/2012/07/16/red-light-cameras-show-speeds-of-215-mph

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “If they get speed wrong, what else don’t they get accurately?”

    So you test and fix them. This is why I personally prefer cameras: there’s an audit trail, and you can test them. Whereas with a human officer it’s your word against his/hers.

    Perhaps I’m a little slanted having had to deal with traffic officers that lie in court, but I’d take a machine eight days a week.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Even aside from lying, human memory is unreliable. I really want a black-box event recorder in my car with speed, G-sensors, vehicle systems logs (i.e. whether headlights/signals are on), video rolling.

      I don’t want my word against someone else’s… I want undisputable proof against someone else’s word.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I’d take a machine eight days a week.”

      If we rely upon machines, then they’ll figure out how to issue tickets eight days per week.

      One of the problems with cameras is that they make enforcement very cheap. This creates an incentive for the camera operator and their civic partners to game the system, since they can increase revenues at minimal cost with just a few easy tweaks (read: shortening the length of the yellow light.)

      There are engineering standards for yellow light lengths. They often get forgotten when the cameras are installed.

      Law enforcement and the accompanying judicial process should be a PITA for the government. Making it cumbersome and costly to them will force them to ration their exercise of power. Unfortunately, traffic enforcement has become a sort of unique profit center, since your average driver is more likely to pay fines than would your neighborhood rapist, armed robber or murderer. Some crime does pay, after all.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Making it cumbersome and costly to them will force them to ration their exercise of power.”

        Very much agreed.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I would have NO problem with red light cameras if they were only setup to catch things that are actually dangerous. Blowing the red by a second because you mis-judged the yellow time is not dangerous, blowing through after the other direction has turned green is. Rolling right on reds at 2mph are not dangerous, whipping around the corner without slowing down at all is. But all we get is profit motive.

        Just recently I had a close call in that the light turned green, and as is my custom, I paused to check traffic in both directions before proceeding. Stereotypical Trophy Wife with cell phone clasped firmly to head in expensive SUV sailed right on through the intersection without even slowing down. Had I gone when the light turned she would have nailed me. She went through long enough after for my light to turn green, me to see it, put clutch to floor and shift from neutral to first, and look both ways. Several seconds anyway, maybe as many as 10, not sure of the time between red and green at that intersection. THIS is the sort of thing that should get a big, fat, automated fine in the mail.

    • 0 avatar
      Don Mynack

      Are you kidding me? It took years in court to get the camera’s source code…do you think an average citizen has the cash for a prolonged lawsuit to produce your so-called “audit trail”? The point was the camera produces inaccurate data, was revealed to do so, and yet nothing at all has been done about it, since there is no incentive to do so.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    What a city!

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    I was doing a power plant installation in Kiowa, OK for about 9 months. My apartment was next to a traveling judge. He would preside over all sorts of legal proceedings in small towns in OK. Kiowa was a speed trap. One time I was talking to the judge, and he told me that of 114 tickets issued by the police, only 3 people were going to fight it. With those odds, it is no wonder why cities are seeking ways to generate revenue by questionable means. It beats raising taxes. Too bad it cheapens the image of the police, but who cares, money talks, and politics is all about the money.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I drive US-69 a lot. Kiowa is one of many annoying small towns on the highway, but it’s not the worst speed trap on that highway. I always see a police car waiting to ticket motorists in Tushka, OK. Sometimes 2 police cars for a town of 345 people! What Kiowa needs is a separate frontage street and higher speeds on US-69 set up as a limited access highway.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to drive 69 every day on my way from Texas to Atoka, and I know what you mean. Usually one on the highway itself, outside of town in the same place, and one next to the deserted convenience or gas station. I always do the exact limit when I go between Tushka and Atoka.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If they aren’t issuing speeding tickets, then the speed reading has no bearing on the citation. If the light is red and the car is far enough into the intersection to qualify at the time that the photo is taken, then it’s reasonable to surmise that the driver ran the light.

    I oppose camera enforcement generally, and privatized camera enforcement in particular. But this isn’t germane to that argument with respect to red light cameras.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Seems to me it’s grounds for reasonable doubt.

      • 0 avatar
        BrianL

        Reasonable doubt is for criminal trials, not civil proceedings like traffic court.

        Also, some of these cameras also store the video of the incident. My dad got a ticket from one of these. You could view the video of it online.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        In some states, traffic citations are a criminal matter.

        But in any case, if there is a photograph that shows the position of the vehicle and the color of the light, then the speed isn’t particularly relevant as to whether a violation has been committed.

        Whether the light is run at 5 mph or at 50 mph is immaterial. If you’re at the wrong place when the light turns red, then you’ve probably violated the red light statute in your state.

  • avatar
    shearwater26

    Getting back to the issue of using photos to record red light violations, what’s the issue here? That we value individual rights over safety? If St Petersburg is anything like my city, drivers routinely fly through lights long after they’ve turned red. In fact, it’s common practice to accelerate upon seeing the flashing walk signal or yellow.

    The argument I most often hear against these cameras is not that drivers have been wrongly accused, but that driver’s aren’t able to face their accusers. This absolute refusal to be held accountable is the root of what is wrong with so much in our society now, from politics to sports to child rearing to traffic safety.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Great work! This is what happens when you outsource anything important to money grubbing corporations. They don’t give a rat’s a$$ about what they are doing. They just want to win the contract, and bribe the local pols with campaign donations so they could continue to get the contract year after year.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Everything you say about corporations could as easily and as justifiably be said about government. The local pols are bribed by appointed traffic court judges and various government workers who owe their positions to the pols. That is certainly how it works in Rhode Island and I’d be surprised if it not the case in some other states, too. Entering government service sanctifies no-one.
      If the speeds are wrong, suppress them until such time as you can make them right. They aren’t directly used here, although I could sure see where a ticket recipient would be intimidated by a BS number into not contesting the ticket. Also, why not slightly lengthen the yellow so you only pick up the truly egregious violators?

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I confess. I took the corner at 96 mph. It felt good!

  • avatar
    iainthornton

    Guilty as charged. It was me in a Suzuki SJ. No tyre squeal at all at 4.0g.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    90° Hard right, then corrects without leaving it’s lane. All at 96 MPH. Quick, get that car to Chrysler/Fiat! Maybe they can use it and learn how to pass the Swedish Moose Test.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    St Petersburg, FL a haven for retired moonshiners? Sadly some tickets are the gray area of “It’s a PITA to pay it but it’s not worth burning a vacation day to fight it.”

  • avatar
    drewtam

    Don’t need a chart for constant speed, constant radius to know the lateral acceleration; there is a very simple physics equations for such a situation.

    a = s^2/r

    “a” is the acceleration, lateral acceleration in this case.
    “s” is the speed
    “r” is the radius of the curve

    let s = 96mi/hr = 140.8ft/s
    let r = 50ft
    Therefore: a = 396.5ft/s^2 = ~12.3g’s

    12g’s are higher than the highest fighter jet limit due to pilot blackout. Unmanned fighter vehicles and missiles might hit this much turning accel.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Yay so now I’m going to have to install a GPS tracking system and dash cams just to protect myself from stuff that doesn’t work.

    Gotta love it.

  • avatar
    henrythegearhead

    Every motorist who drives in California (including visitors) needs to know about Snitch Tickets, the fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out by California police to bluff the registered owner into identifying the actual driver of the car. Snitch Tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don’t say “Notice to Appear,” don’t have the court’s addr. and phone #, and usually say (on the back, in small letters), “Do not contact the court about this notice.” Since they have NOT been filed with the court, they have no legal weight whatsoever. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term. And once you understand how tricky a Snitch Ticket is, tell your friends who live in or visit California about them, so that they won’t get tricked. (This is one of those only-in-California things.)


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