The Truth About Cars » Traffic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Traffic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/traffic-news-blog/ Analysts: Peak Car To Arrive By 2020s http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/analysts-peak-car-to-arrive-by-2020s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/analysts-peak-car-to-arrive-by-2020s/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=756369 Ferrari 550 Pininfarina Barchetta

After a century of motoring, and with several factors rapidly changing the landscape, analysts are forecasting the peak of global automotive growth to come sometime in the 2020s.

The Detroit News reports that as more people join the exodus out of suburbia into major cities, along with other factors such as pollution, gridlock, build quality and the adoption of alternative modes of transportation — particularly among younger generations who cannot afford a car of their own — auto sales around the globe will peak somewhere around 100 million in the next decade, according to several analysts such as IHS Automotive.

Further, 44 percent of Americans surveyed by Intel said they would prefer to live in big cities with driverless cars able to keep traffic flowing smoothly, while one out of 10 households have no car at all.

The coming upheaval is prompting automakers to consider their place in the new scene, where red barchetta owners outrun silver bubble cars, and where car ownership gives way to car sharing. Tim Ryan, vice chairman of markets and strategy for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, puts the future of motoring into perspective:

The key question is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility? If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

With an expected 25 percent to 50 percent increase urban dwelling over the next decade, and 9 billion expected to live in urban areas 25 years from now, the groundwork is being prepared to meet this coming challenge. Gartner Inc. auto analyst Thilo Koslowski predicts urbanites to use ride- and car-sharing services such as Lyft and Car2Go to commute to their destination, with autonomous cars picking up their passengers, and using GPS and other communication technologies to deliver them safely.

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Hamburg to Ban Cars From City Center By 2034 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hamburg-to-ban-cars-from-city-center-by-2034/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hamburg-to-ban-cars-from-city-center-by-2034/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 15:15:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701970 Hamburg

Germany’s presence in the motoring landscape is enormous, from the ongoing ‘Ring Time contests between the world’s automakers and their halo cars, to the famed Autobahn that connects Nürburg — and other cities in the country — with each other. Yet, the nation’s second-largest city, Hamburg, will eliminate Porsches, BMWs and Fords from its city center by 2034, when its car ban goes in effect.

Dubbed the Green Network by city planners, the urban sustainability plan will promote travel to the city center through walking, riding and mass transit along a series of green thoroughfares now in development. In turn, people who would normally be in their cars could instead explore the many restaurants, parks and shops they would have otherwise may have missed, as well as enjoy activities such as swimming, biking and boating.

When completed, Hamburg’s Green Network will connect parks, cemeteries, playgrounds and other green spaces throughout the entire city with each other, covering 17,000 acres — 40 percent — of the city’s entire area. The ultimate goal behind the project is to help the city become carbon neutral while heading off storm flooding; Hamburg’s median temperature has gone up 1.2 C (34 F) to 9 C (48 F) over the past 60 years, while sea levels rose 20 centimeters during the same period.

Currently, the only other European city to ban cars from its center is Copenhagen, Denmark, which is undergoing a plan to establish 26 bicycle superhighways connecting the center to the outskirts of the city in an effort to become carbon neutral by 2050.

While the Green Network has its critics — based mainly upon boosting the city’s economy by using the proposed green spaces for housing and business development — supporters of the plan claim the network will boost the economy anyway by attracting the highly educated into the city. A further claim adds that Hamburgers are willing to abandon their cars for the Green Network, a rare move in a nation defined in part by their contributions to the automobile.

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The bell tolls over Seattle, but not for most commuters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-bell-tolls-over-seattle-but-not-for-most-commuters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-bell-tolls-over-seattle-but-not-for-most-commuters/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 10:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=625873 520_sunset510

It would appear as though the price of admission to traverse the longest floating bridge in the world on a daily basis has had quite the impact on commuting patterns in Seattle. A study to be issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week – barring another tragicomic display by the powers that be, of course – has uncovered that use of the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge – Evergreen Point (colloquially known as the 520 floating bridge) has gone down by half since tolling began near the end of 2011.

The tolls, ranging from $0 for late-night and early morning travelers, to $5.25 for those rush-hour commuters who prefer to pay the man by mail, have caused 9 out of 10 drivers to find another path to work and play across Lake Washington. The majority of those avoiding the toll have annual incomes of $50,000 and under, while those making $200,000 and above (and are no doubt enjoying the more open road) pay little if any mind to being tolled.

On the upside, more commuters are using mass transit due to the tolls – which were enacted as one of the five DOT demonstration projects under their $1 billion Urban Partnerships Congestion Initiative – with around 45 percent preferring to “ride the wave” than drown in a congestion pricing tsunami.

The information provided by the study will be considered by Olympia, Wash.’s best and brightest this week as they debate on whether to set tolls upon the other two floating bridges (both carrying east- and westbound traffic on I-90) over Lake Washington to help fund the construction of the 520’s replacement, set to open in 2014.

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Would License Plate Reader Jammers Work And Be Legal? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/would-license-plate-reader-jammers-work-and-be-legal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/would-license-plate-reader-jammers-work-and-be-legal/#comments Sun, 30 Jun 2013 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493635 camaroplate_r

The news that the police departments in California routinely scan and record license plates to create a database that can be used to retroactively track any driver’s motions and activities broke at political and civil liberty websites and is now percolating through the autoblogosphere. Jack Baruth wrote about it here at TTAC yesterday. Jalopnik has picked up the story today. Like the current issue over NSA monitoring of electronic communication involves balancing national security with Americans’ privacy from government intrusion, recording and tracking license plates can be a useful tool in solving crime but it also seems contrary to American values and rights like freedom of motion and freedom from random surveillance without probable cause. Still, if I had a vote on the matter, since law enforcement in this country hasn’t exactly had a sterling record in protecting civil liberties, I wouldn’t trust them with this technology. Who knows how the political system will eventually deal with this news, but in the meantime remember that for every technology there is some way to defeat it. In this case, it might even be legal.

licenseplatecamera

The law here in Michigan, and I assume it’s the same in most U.S. states, is that the registration information on your license plate has to be clearly legible and free of obstructions. Since people have been ticketed for license plate frames, tinted covers, and laser filters, putting any kind of cover over the plate would be legally problematic, or at least expose you to a traffic stop. I guess it hinges on how your particular cop and judge is going to define “clearly legible” and “obstruction”. It seems to me, though, that those legal terms have to do with human beings so you might be able to get away with some kind of polarized or interference filter that would mess with a digital camera but still be completely legible to a human. Still, as I said, putting anything directly over the plate might still get you a ticket.

Likewise, trying to use some kind of active lighting device that would blind the plate readers might also run afoul of statutes. I suppose there might even be some case law on using a device that interferes with traffic enforcement cameras. Actually, I’d be shocked if the traffic enforcement and municipal revenue industry jurisdictions didn’t already make that illegal. So lasers and LEDs trying to blind the cops’ cameras directly are probably not a good idea.

licenseplatecamera2

“MPH” doesn’t stand for Miles Per Hour here. It’s “Mobile Plate Hunter”. Doesn’t the use of the word “hunter” speak volumes?

Mulling this over, I thought about some of my own experience taking digital photos of cars (and license plates). I’m not a particularly great photographer, mostly a point ‘n shoot guy, but over the past three years I’ve taken tens of thousands of stereo pairs for the 3D content at Cars In Depth so it’s not like I’ve never tried to get a photo of a car’s license plate. Actually, once at a Camaro show I spent much of the day just shooting vanity plates. As I thought about jamming a plate reader and started going through Michigan state laws about registration plates and what’s legal and what’s not, if you’ll pardon the phrase, a light bulb went on. It’s possible that the very solution may exist in the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Every car in Michigan has to display its registration plate on the back of the car in, as mentioned, a clearly legible manner. Older cars that don’t have them as standard equipment are grandfathered in and exempt, but if your car was built after the federal motor vehicle safety standards were first introduced in the 1960s, your car must have a white light that illuminates your license plate at night, rendering it clearly legible at 50 feet behind the car.

MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE (EXCERPT)
Act 300 of 1949
257.686 Rear lamps; exemption; requirements for implement of husbandry; pickup camper.

Sec. 686.

(2) Either a tail lamp or a separate lamp shall be constructed and placed so as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear. A tail lamp or tail lamps, together with any separate lamp for illuminating the rear registration plate, shall be wired so as to be lighted whenever the head lamps or auxiliary driving lamps are lighted.

257.689 Clearance and marker lamps and reflectors; color.

Sec. 689.

(c) All lighting devices and reflectors mounted on the rear of any vehicle shall display or reflect a red color, except the stop light or other signal device, which may be red or amber, and except that the light illuminating the license plate shall be white.

So the law here says that I have to have a white light that illuminates my rear license plate that makes it clearly legible from a distance of fifty feet. Note that the law does not say that I can’t use a light that’s bright enough to make it visible at even longer distances. How bright my license plate lamp (and a “lamp” can have more than lighting element) can be does not appear to be regulated, provided it meets the minimum standards.

One of the things that I’ve learned shooting and processing those photos is that the human vision system is so much more sophisticated than even the most advanced digital or chemical camera. Your eyes can move in their sockets, your head can swivel and in real life your brain has terrabytes more information to work with than with photography, still or motion. What causes distortion or visual confusion in photography is not even noticed in real vision.

licenseplate_r

The above photograph of the ’63 split-window Corvette coupe was taken at the General Motors Heritage Center a couple of years ago and has not been modified other than cropping. I hadn’t yet learned that unless you’re using auxiliary lighting, when shooting in a large room, it’s best to turn off the flash and either let the cameras autoexpose or use manual settings. Otherwise, the flash ends up lighting the near field and everything in the background is dark. Also, when you use a flash you run the risk of the cars’ safety reflectors shining the light back at the camera, washing out part of the image.

As you can see from the photo, the effect also works with reflective license plates. The law says that I have to have a white light for my license plate that makes it visible from 50 feet. The law doesn’t say that I can’t make that light so bright that bouncing off the reflective surface of the license plate it would blind a digital camera. It also doesn’t say anything about light that is beyond the visible spectrum, like infrared. Since at least some of the plate readers use IR cameras, mixing in some IR with white doesn’t seem to me to violate the law. Actually, if the cameras work in the infrared spectrum, perhaps an array of heating elements that sufficiently warm the plate might defeat them.

It occurs to me that strobing the light at the right frequency might further interfere with the plate reader’s frame rate, but except for turn indicators, flashing lights are generally prohibited on non-emergency vehicles. As a matter of fact, most exterior lighting not used for road illumination or as otherwise required by law is prohibited. So undercarriage neon lights, or a neon license plate frame must not be illuminated when on the road. I’m not sure about coach lamps on broughams and landaus are quite legal then, but this would be another reason why an active system of additional lights trying to blind the cameras would be legally problematic.

That’s why using a super bright license plate light (or lights, the law doesn’t say you can’t have more than one) strikes me as an elegant solution. It’s not only legal, but you’re using equipment that the law says you must have on your car.

Please join in the conversation. Those with expertise  in the law, optics and digital photography are particularly encouraged to share their informed opinions.

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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Feds Push NY Towards Full Ban On Electronic Devices In Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/feds-push-ny-towards-full-ban-on-electronic-devices-in-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/feds-push-ny-towards-full-ban-on-electronic-devices-in-cars/#comments Wed, 15 Feb 2012 20:35:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431003

Citing New York’s leadership in banning hand-held cell phone use in cars, NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart urged the Empire State to become the first to ban all use of personal electronic devices while driving. Though careful to call it a state issue, Hart did hint that state compliance with forthcoming NTSB recommendations could be tied to federal highway funds (he has separately called for a national ban).

And indeed, New York’s legislators seemed to see the issue of distraction as an issue for federal action (but then, why not make the feds pay for it?). At the same time, everyone understands that the problem is near-ubiquitous and any full ban on personal device use in cars would be near-impossible to enforce (short of Assemblyman McDonough’s suggestion that automakers equip cars with cell-phone signal blockers)… which raises huge questions about federal-level action.

Hart says enforcement will be a major topic of an NTSB forum, scheduled for March 27 (note: the forum is not yet listed on the NTSB’s events page). With the NTSB pushing hard on what was once largely a rhetorical issue, goading the notoriously-nannying New York government towards a full ban on in-car device use, this forum should be a good measure of the feds’ resolve.

After all, everyone knows that distracted driving is wrong (with the possible exception of automakers, who load ever more distractions into their cars)… it’s just a question of how much government intrusion would be necessary to stop it. If Ray LaHood’s minions go for broke and pursue an enforcement rather than an education approach at their forum (as they did with their NY pilot program), this debate could blow up into pitched political warfare overnight.

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Ohio: Yanking Motorist Out of Car Is Not a Welfare Check http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/ohio-yanking-motorist-out-of-car-is-not-a-welfare-check/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/ohio-yanking-motorist-out-of-car-is-not-a-welfare-check/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2011 14:57:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423560

Cops in Ohio may not rip a motorist out of his vehicle to “check on his welfare.” The state court of appeals handed down a decision earlier this month in a case involving a man parked on the side of the road in a quiet Columbus residential neighborhood who was “helped” out of his car with physical force.

Al E. Forrest sat in the driver’s seat of a 2003 Ford Explorer with another man in the passenger seat as two police officers came up on either side of the vehicle. According to Officer Kevin George’s testimony, he just wanted to see if the Explorer driver was okay. The officers had no suspicion of any criminal activity prior to approaching the Explorer. When George poked his head into the driver’s window, Forrest looked surprised to see a cop staring at him through the window. George said this was a sign of “nervousness.” When George saw money in Forrest’s left hand, he ordered the man out of the SUV. This was the beginning of the legal problem for the Columbus officer.

“We note initially that the police needed no suspicion of activity, legal or illegal, in order to walk up to or approach the Ford Explorer,” Judge G. Gary Tyack wrote for the appeals court. “What a person willingly displays in public is not subject to Fourth Amendment protection. However, Officer George went far beyond approaching the vehicle.”
Forrest did not immediately get out of the Explorer. Instead, he rolled up the window and removed the keys from the ignition. Unsatisfied with this response, George pulled open the car door and yanked Forrest out. George had no warrant and had still not observed any illegal activity. Because of this, a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge suppressed evidence obtained from arresting Forrest. The state appealed. The three-judge appellate panel found the prosecution’s claim that exceptions to the Fourth Amendment applied to be entirely unpersuasive.

“The state argues probable cause to arrest and then search incident to arrest are present, but both fail because they are premised on Forrest’s wrongfully refusing to obey the order to step out of the vehicle,” Judge Tyack wrote. “The officer, however, had no basis to order Forrest out of the vehicle because he lacked reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity when Officer George reached across Forrest’s body to grab his hand and pull him out of the vehicle. Since there was no lawful arrest, the search and seizure cannot be justified as a search incident to a lawful arrest.”

With the suppression motion upheld, the state has no case against Forrest. A copy of the decision is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Ohio v. Forrest (Court of Appeals, State of Ohio, 12/6/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Italy: More Officials Arrested for Photo Enforcement Corruption http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/italy-more-officials-arrested-for-photo-enforcement-corruption/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/italy-more-officials-arrested-for-photo-enforcement-corruption/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 15:05:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423391

A pair of senior police officers in Brindisi, Italy were arrested Tuesday in a speed camera bribery scheme. The owner of a BMW X6 blew the whistle on officers Giuseppe Manca and Antonio Briganti after a speed camera accused him of driving 160km/h (99 MPH) on state route 16, where the limit is 110km/h (68 MPH).

The driver faced a fine of between 500 to 2000 euros (US $650 to $2615) plus license points. The officers offered to make the conviction disappear for payment of 250 euros (US $327) in cash. The officers were able to erase the conviction from the speed camera logs to prevent detection of their tactics.

The attempt at secrecy failed when the BMW found he was out of cash. The driver’s account of what transpired is supported by surveillance video showing one of the policemen escorting him to a bank in the village of Pezze di Greco to withdraw money. Judge Paula Liaci ordered Briganti and Manca to be placed in preventative detention.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor in Grosseto conducted four raids on the offices of speed camera companies in Capagnativo and Scarlino. Investigators uncovered irregularities in the way speed camera contracts were handed out in those jurisdictions between 2005 and 2007. Previously, local police handled speed camera operations, but prosecutors insist forgery, corruption and bid rigging led to the decision to contract out the photo ticketing services.

Investigations into Italian speed camera fraud have been in the works for years. Earlier this month, seven were arrested in Frosinone for rigging speed camera contracts. In March, the Guardia di Finanza announced five indictments in Brescia. In August 2009, speed cameras were shrouded in black plastic as up to 200 officials faced charges in Caserta. In September, a judge ruled that a group of 15 mayors, cops, speed camera company employees should stand trial on fraud charges.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Federal Appeals Court Embraces DC Speed Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/federal-appeals-court-embraces-dc-speed-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/federal-appeals-court-embraces-dc-speed-cameras/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2011 13:19:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423274

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Tuesday rejected a class action lawsuit filed against the speed camera program in the nation’s capital. Motorists Henry Dixon and Cuong Thanh Phung argued the city violated their constitutional guarantee to equal protection of law by treating drivers pulled over for speeding more harshly than drivers mailed photo tickets for speeding.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against Nixon and Phung, finding no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (through the Fifth Amendment) because drivers apprehended for speeding by police officers are not similarly situated to motorists photographed and accused of speeding by a photo radar device. The district judge reasoned that the camera is unable to confirm that the owner was the driver, so the greater punishment should not be imposed. The three-judge appellate panel agreed with the lower court’s conclusion, but for a different reason. The speed camera law can stand under the “rational basis test” used to insulate government actions from constitutional challenge.

“The District’s disputed traffic enforcement policies neither burden a fundamental right nor target a suspect class,” Judge Harry T. Edwards wrote for the appellate court. “Therefore, in attacking the rationality of the District’s legislative classification, appellants have the burden to negative every conceivable basis which might support it. Appellants have not met this burden.”

Drivers who exceed the speed limit by 30 MPH — and this could include driving as little as 55 MPH on a wide, six-lane boulevard — are subject to a $300 fine and ninety days in jail if pulled over by the Metropolitan Police Department. If, on the other hand, American Traffic Solutions decides a vehicle is speeding, the company can only issue a civil ticket.

“The District has decided that the best way to deter speeding is through the creation of some variability and uncertainty in the city’s enforcement schemes,” Edwards wrote. “The wisdom of such a determination is not the appropriate subject of equal protection review.”

Washington’s cameras have issued more than $312 million in citations since 1999. The appellate judges found aspects of the program that increase that revenue actually help the city’s legal case.

“Because automated traffic enforcement (ATE) does not require police officers to pursue, detain, or arrest speeding motorists, it is axiomatic that the District’s use of this enforcement system substantially increases the number of speeding motorists who will be detected and face a monetary penalty,” Edwards wrote. “It is true that the owner of a vehicle who receives a citation may request a hearing to demonstrate that he or she was not driving the car when the speeding violation occurred. But the District has good reason to assume that most persons who are cited via the ATE will not contest the fine, either because they are actually guilty of speeding or because objecting is not worth the aggravation.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 45k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Dixon v. District of Columbia (US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, 12/20/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Federal Appeals Court Backs Traffic Stop Patdown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/federal-appeals-court-backs-traffic-stop-patdown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/federal-appeals-court-backs-traffic-stop-patdown/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2011 13:29:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423083

As long as a police officer cites his own safety as the reason, he may frisk any motorist during a traffic stop and remove objects from his pockets, according to a ruling handed down Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. A three-judge panel evaluated whether Officer Joe Moreno was following the law when he searched driver Ivan Rochin after he was pulled over in Albuquerque, New Mexico for driving with an expired registration.

“No one likes being pulled over for a traffic violation,” Judge Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Still, for most drivers the experience usually proves no more than an unwelcome (if often self-induced) detour from the daily routine. But not every traffic stop is so innocuous. Sometimes what begins innocently enough turns violent, often rapidly and unexpectedly. Every year, thousands of law enforcement officers are assaulted — and many are killed — in what seem at first to be routine stops for relatively minor traffic infractions.”

According to the latest available Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics, six officers were killed while pursuing a ordinary traffic infractions in 2009. That represents 0.0008 percent of the 706,886 sworn officers nationwide. Four of these patrolmen were gunned down as they approached the stopped vehicle, and only one was shot while standing at the offender’s vehicle window.

In this case, Rochin happened to match the description of someone wanted for a drive-by shooting. Moreno ordered him out of the car and performed a pat-down search that turned up glass pipes containing drugs. Rochin objected that it was absurd for the officer to remove the pipe from his pants on “officer safety” grounds, but the court ruled such a search was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

“A reasonable officer could have concluded that the long and hard objects detected in Mr. Rochin’s pockets might be used as instruments of assault, particularly given that an effort to ask Mr. Rochin about the identity of the objects had proved fruitless,” Gorsuch wrote. “To be sure, the pipes Mr. Rochin turned out to have aren’t conventionally considered weapons. But a reasonable officer isn’t credited with x-ray vision and can’t be faulted for having failed to divine the true identity of the objects.”

The court upheld Rochin’s conviction. A copy of the decision is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File US v. Rochin (US Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, 12/13/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Colorado: Auditor Blasts Denver Photo Ticketing Program http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/colorado-auditor-blasts-denver-photo-ticketing-program/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/colorado-auditor-blasts-denver-photo-ticketing-program/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2011 14:28:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422907

After performing a thorough performance audit, Denver, Colorado’s city auditor is no longer convinced of the value of red light cameras and speed cameras. The Denver Police Department (DPD) deputized the Dallas-based firm Affiliated Computer Services (ACS, a division of Xerox) to issue red light tickets at four intersections and speeding tickets throughout the city with five roaming vans. The program has little more to show for itself than a profitable bottom line.

“Unfortunately, DPD has not demonstrated that the photo radar program has a positive impact on public safety,” City Auditor Dennis J. Gallagher wrote. “Because these programs were sold as public safety enhancements but are widely viewed as a cash grab, it undermines public trust to maintain photo enforcement programs that are profitable but whose safety impact has not been conclusively shown. If this situation persists, then the photo enforcement programs should be shut down.”
The audit noted the speed van program has been operating since 2002 without any objective measurement of the impact on safety. Instead, city officials relied on the report of the number of violations generated by ACS as the sole measure of effectiveness.

“A reduction in violations does not necessarily entail a significant reduction in speed, nor does it indicate a decrease in accident rates or pedestrian injuries,” the audit report noted. “Further, a 2006 internal DPD assessment suggests that DPD believes driver’s habits adjust as citizens become familiar with the locations of the photo radar vans. Therefore, a decrease in violations does not directly correlate to a sustained decrease in speeds after photo radar is deployed to a different location.”

Photo radar generated $3.6 million in revenue in 2010 and that amount is expected to top $7 million by the end of 2011 because ticketing operations expanded to seven days a week. With the red light camera program, certain types of accidents did decrease at the camera intersections, but the audit pointed out the city could not legitimately credit the improvement to cameras.

“At three of the four intersections with red light cameras, the number of right angle accidents was decreasing before the red light cameras were installed,” the report explained.
The full safety impact is impossible to gauge because city leaders increased the duration of the yellow lights, enlarged signal heads and installed countdown timers at the intersections where cameras were installed. The engineering improvements helped make the intersection safer, but also reduced the number of violations issued. To boost the number of tickets, ACS and Denver began ticketing people who stopped at red lights — but their car was photographed protruding a few inches beyond the stop bar. No other jurisdiction in the state tickets drivers who fully stop at red lights.

“Program revenues spiked largely due to more precise stop line enforcement,” the audit explained, “By April 2011, ACS was able to dramatically increase the number of incidents captured by the red light cameras due to the upgrades.”

These extra picky violations are the sole reason Denver’s red light cameras are profitable.

“DPD should also be aware that while program revenues recently increased in Denver, if DPD or Denver policymakers change the violation point to better align with practices in other municipalities, program revenues may decline to the point where they do not meet the budget for the program,” the audit explained.

In its response to the report, Denver police insisted it was impossible to conduct a study that would satisfy the auditor’s concerns. The most the department would do would be to have ACS conduct a study to justify continuing the ACS program by June 30, 2013.

A copy of the audit report is available in a 4mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Denver Photo Enforcement Program (Denver, Colorado City Auditor, 12/15/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Florida Appeals Court Sides with Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/florida-appeals-court-sides-with-red-light-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/florida-appeals-court-sides-with-red-light-cameras/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2011 16:42:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420940

The Florida legislature’s authorization of red light cameras last year was superfluous, a divided state Court of Appeals panel ruled yesterday. The majority sided with the city of Aventura in overturning a Miami-Dade County Circuit Court decision from last year that found Aventura had jumped the gun by giving American Traffic Solutions (ATS) a green light to mail out automated tickets without waiting for the state’s permission.

Florida law does not allow a city to adopt an ordinance in conflict with a state statute. The majority argued a provision requiring traffic officers only to issue traffic tickets for violations they personally observed is not in conflict because the same officers can “observe” the infraction on video under the Aventura photo ticketing ordinance.

“The ordinance allows for a traffic control infraction review officer, who although sharing the qualifications of the type of officer referenced in section 316.640(5)(a), is instead appointed by the city pursuant to the ordinance and for the distinct purposes of viewing recorded images and issuing corresponding citations in accordance with the ordinance,” Judge Angel A. Cortinas wrote for the majority. “Accordingly, we find the trial court erred in its determination that section 48-26 allowed the cameras to serve as the sole basis for issuing a notice of violation in direct conflict with section 316.007, Florida Statutes.”

The majority also noted that the state legislature authorized the use of red light cameras in 2010, without mentioning that lawmakers specifically rejected attempts to include retroactive language legitimizing camera programs that started before 2010.

Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg disagreed with her two colleagues with a dissent that noted the state specifically abolished municipal courts. She argued Aventura created a different standard of proof and liability for red light violations with penalties conflicting with those set by the legislature. The state punishes the driver with a $60 fine, but the city goes after the vehicle owner with a fine of up to $500. These standards are judged by a Aventura’s own special master, not through a judicial officer established by the legislature.

“The city is essentially utilizing the state’s uniform traffic control devices (traffic lights), approved and regulated by the state for enforcement of the state’s uniform traffic control laws, to punish violators through the city’s own enforcement program and to pocket the revenues it collects for its own benefit,” Rothenberg wrote in her dissent. “This is exactly the sort of inconsistent application of traffic laws and traffic penalties the people and legislature of this state sought to preclude by abolishing all of the municipal courts and enacting a uniform statewide traffic control system.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 140k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Aventura v. Masone (Court of Appeals, State of Florida, 11/30/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Maryland Court: No Redress When City Violates Speed Camera Law http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/maryland-court-no-redress-when-city-violates-speed-camera-law/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/maryland-court-no-redress-when-city-violates-speed-camera-law/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2011 21:26:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420391

Maryland state law prohibits municipalities from paying contractors to operate speed camera and red light cameras on a per-ticket basis. In an October 27 ruling, the Court of Special Appeals found that localities are free to ignore this legal requirement.

A group of motorists in 2008 filed a class action lawsuit against Montgomery County, the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, and Chevy Chase Village because each paid Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) $16.25 for each ticket the company issued, in violation of the statute.

“If a contractor operates a speed monitoring system on behalf of Montgomery County, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid,” state code section 21-809 states.

According to the county’s original contract, ACS was to “install and support all traffic camera equipment” and “supply an automated violation processing services solution that is capable of supporting high volume program operations.” Montgomery County was first given authorization to use cameras over the veto of then-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) in 2006 and the grant was later expanded to all other jurisdictions in 2009. The motorists argued they have the right as private citizens to pursue a claim against the state government to remedy an illegal act. The General Assembly took no action to bar such suits. The appellate court insisted the legislature only allows fighting a ticket in a lower court and that broader challenges taken to a circuit court are not allowed.

“Although appellants argue that it is impractical to bring an action challenging the propriety of a contingency fee in the district court, we see no other way to interpret the plain language of this provision — appellants are permitted to raise any defense in the district court regarding the legality of the citation,” Shirley M. Watts wrote. “Appellants, therefore, had the opportunity — which they failed to exercise –to challenge in the district court the speed citations they received, presenting the argument that the contracts between appellees and ACS were unlawful.”

Prince George’s County district court judges have already stated that they will not consider evidence that a driver is innocent of a speed camera accusation at trial. On September 4, 2008, Montgomery County changed the wording of its contract to state: “Contractor provides vehicles and equipment, but does not operate the speed monitoring system.” The appellate court accepted this as sufficient, even though there is no difference in the way the system is operated.

“We are aware of appellants’ insistence that the amendments to the contracts between appellees and ACS do not resolve the contention that ACS is an operator of the speed cameras,” Watts wrote. “We discern, however, no basis to look beyond the plain, unambiguous language of the contracts, which specifically provides that appellees and not ACS are operators of the speed cameras in Montgomery County.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Baker v. Montgomery County (Court of Appeals, State of Maryland, 10/27/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Ten Years Of Traffic Fatalities In One Interactive Map http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/ten-years-of-traffic-fatalities-in-one-interactive-map/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/ten-years-of-traffic-fatalities-in-one-interactive-map/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 21:40:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419739

Some 369,629 Americans lost their lives on the road in the period from 2001 through 2009. Now ITO World has mapped every single one of them onto an interactive map that promises hours of morbid fun. Where do accidents happen? Who do they happen to? What kind of vehicles tend to be involved? Are there high-fatality areas near you? The answers to these questions and more await in this one-of-a-kind map.

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Georgia: Feds Deny Relief to HOT Lane Gridlock http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/georgia-feds-deny-relief-to-hot-lane-gridlock/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/georgia-feds-deny-relief-to-hot-lane-gridlock/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 15:32:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419688

The Federal Highway Administration this week turned down the state of Georgia’s request to relax the occupancy requirement on the new Interstate 85 high occupancy toll lanes (HOT lanes) in Gwinett County. In October, the state imposed the toll on the existing carpool lane, raising the number of occupants qualifying for a free ride from two to three.

The initial $5.50 on top of the occupancy change proved too much and traffic ground to a halt in the general purpose lanes while the toll lanes remained relatively unused. In a panic, Governor Nathan Deal (R) moved on October 6 to slash the toll and request a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration to drop the occupancy requirement back down to two.

Groups opposed to the tolling are now redoubling their efforts to pressure state officials to cancel the project they see as an absolute failure. The Stolen Lanes coalition held a town hall meeting on Saturday featuring two state senators convinced that the tolls ought to be removed. The State Road and Toll Authority (SRTA), in a written response to a set of coalition questions, emphasized that the tolls are only meant to reduce congestion.

“The Express Lanes project was never intended to be a revenue generating system,” the agency’s letter stated. “Though we do not expect any excess revenue for several years, a final determination of the use of excess funds has not been made at this time. We are collectively working with other transportation agencies both at the state and federal level to determine how those funds would be utilized in the future, if and when excess revenues occur.”

Chris Haley, a co-founder of the Stolen Lanes group, insists the HOT lanes are making congestion worse, and not better, so the system ought to be scrapped entirely.

“In my opinion, a system to ‘collect money to pay for a system to collect money to pay for a system’ is clearly an example of government run amok,” Haley told TheNewspaper.

SRTA officials touted the issuance of 108,000 Peach Pass toll transponders as evidence that drivers are slowly embracing tolls and insisted that the HOT lanes need more time to prove themselves. Only 23,762 were used on I-85, and the number includes 6231 “toll-exempt” passes, 2761 passes for “emergency” vehicles, and 791 government passes.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Maryland: Innocence Not a Defense to Speed Camera Citation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/maryland-innocence-not-a-defense-to-speed-camera-citation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/maryland-innocence-not-a-defense-to-speed-camera-citation/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2011 14:55:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419592

Prince George’s County, Maryland judges are tired of complaints that photo enforcement citations are inaccurate or otherwise invalid. To speed proceedings on “speed camera day” when automated citation cases are heard, at least one judge is cautioning motorists not to bother attempting to prove their innocence, regardless of the merit of their argument.

“This is a speed camera violation session,” District Judge Jean S. Baron said on November 9. “The only defense the court is going to accept is if you were not the driver of the vehicle and you have the name and the address of the person who was driving and you present that to the court under oath, I will accept that as a defense. Please don’t tell me that you know you couldn’t have been going that fast or there’s something wrong with the equipment.”

Will Foreman, owner of Eastover Auto Supply, has infuriated local prosecutors by offering a mathematical proof that his delivery vehicles were incorrectly accused of speeding. He used the photographs taken by the speed camera vendor Optotraffic to create a time-distance calculation showing his vehicles could not possibly have traveled at the velocity alleged. To counter this, Optotraffic press spokesman Mickey E. Shepherd, who is not a scientist, would present evidence at trial that the camera equipment verifies its own accuracy.

“There’s someone here from the jurisdiction who testifies that the equipment was calibrated and validated — or it is self-calibrating — then I’m not going to be able to accept that as a defense,” Judge Baron said. “Keep that in mind. Now if you want to accept responsibility and enter a guilty plea, I will take that into consideration and in all probability I will give you a probation before judgment and greatly reduce the fine. Now that’s up to you” (listen to the judge’s full statement).

Foreman’s concern about camera accuracy is echoed in correspondence between the town of Cheverly and Optotraffic. Cheverly this month stopped letting Optotraffic issue photo tickets and switched to Brekford, an upstart rival to the established players American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia.

“Not only are the cameras still not functioning properly, they now are producing violations for invisible vehicles going 76 miles per hour and bicycles going 38 and 57 miles per hour and now violations with just a part of a vehicle in only one photo,” Town Administrator David Warrington wrote in a July 26 letter to Optotraffic. “Finally, we continue to get false speed readings for vehicles that have an irregular size such as buses and trucks with ladder racks. Rather than have meeting to have Mickey tell us ‘that it’s technical’ we would like you to have an explanation for the equipment problems provided to us in writing. I look forward to hearing from you in the next ten days.”

On September 23, Judge Gerard F. Devlin prohibited Foreman from introducing the letter as evidence. Judge Devlin then took matters a step further by jailing James Bradford, 71, for contempt for saying “I was not speeding” after Devlin told him to stop repeating an argument he rejected (listen to the exchange in court).

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Louisiana Court Affirms Citizen Right to Make DUI Arrests http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/louisiana-court-affirms-citizen-right-to-make-dui-arrests/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/louisiana-court-affirms-citizen-right-to-make-dui-arrests/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:17:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419466

Private citizens can arrest other motorists suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), the Louisiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. A three-judge panel considered the case of Tracy L. Common who was stopped in Westwego by Gretna Police Detective Brian Rico at 9pm on December 31, 2006. Rico was off-duty and outside his jurisdiction.

That night, Rico saw Common’s Chevy S-10 pickup truck swerving on the road and felt the driver was seriously impaired. He activated the lights on his unmarked car and conducted a stop without waiting for the local police to arrive. When Common hopped out of the car, Rico conducted a pat-down search which turned up 50 pills and $1100 in cash. A later search of his car by local police uncovered $2000 and some marijuana.

Though Rico was a police officer, the court assumed he was acting as an ordinary citizen, citing the 2008 appellate case Louisiana v. Lavergne which upheld a DUI traffic stop performed by a volunteer firefighter from Texas.

“Our brethren on the First Circuit held that the defendant’s erratic driving was sufficient to justify a stop for the felony offense of aggravated obstruction of a highway of commerce, which authorized a private citizen to make the arrest,” Judge Susan M. Chehardy wrote for the Fifth Circuit panel. “In this case, as in Lavergne, Detective Rico observed the defendant driving erratically when his vehicle swerved across three lanes of traffic on the Westbank Expressway and nearly collided with Detective Rico’s vehicle…. Here, as in Lavergne, we see no error in the finding that a private citizen who witnessed aggravated obstruction of a highway is authorized to arrest a defendant.”

State law allows private citizens to make arrests for felony offenses, and driving in a way that endangers human life qualifies under the highway obstruction statute. As a result of Rico’s search, Common was found to be in possession of MDMA or ecstasy, for which he was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. The sentence was later upgraded to ten years after the lower court learned it was Common’s fourth felony conviction. Common argued the evidence should be thrown out because it violated his constitutional rights. The court disagreed.

“Evidence seized pursuant to a search by a private citizen, acting in his capacity as a private citizen, is not excluded under the Fourth Amendment because the amendment only protects individuals against governmental intrusion,” Chehardy wrote. “Thus, the pills confiscated by the private citizen would not be excluded under the Fourth Amendment.”

The judges found procedural errors with the penalty imposed, so they ordered him resentenced. A copy of the decision is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Louisiana v. Common (Court of Appeals, State of Louisiana, 11/15/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Photo Ticketing Investors Content with Declining US Performance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/photo-ticketing-investors-content-with-declining-us-performance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/photo-ticketing-investors-content-with-declining-us-performance/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 15:30:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419136

Investors in Redflex Traffic Systems were resigned toward the photo enforcement vendor’s declining US performance at Wednesday’s annual shareholder meeting in Melbourne, Australia. The company has lost significant US market share and profit as more cities reject automated ticketing machines. Nonetheless, large executive compensation packages were approved without the dissent found in past meetings.

Shareholders signed off on a $324,926 salary for chief executive Graham Davie, plus $194,956 in stock for a total of $519,882 — a raise of 3.6 percent. Board member Karen Finley’s salary increased 3 percent to $318,270 plus $196,060 in stock for a total of $514,330. Finley is in charge of US operations which saw a drop in profit from the first and second half of the year of 7.4 percent.
Redflex has also lost its position as the dominant player in the automated ticketing market to American Traffic Solutions which has used funds invested by Goldman Sachs to buy out smaller competitors and take on their municipal contracts. ATS now boasts the greatest number of cameras deployed.

Those numbers are at risk to voter revolt, however. On November 8, two-thirds of voters in Monroe, Washington moved to send Redflex packing and 55 percent did so in South Euclid, Ohio. So far, twenty-one cities have held ballot initiatives to force the elimination of red light cameras and speed cameras. Other city councils have seen the results and canceled expected programs.

In her annual meeting presentation, Finley promised her company would “avoid ballot initiatives” by blocking voter access to the ballot and “create positive environment for renewals and expansion” by increasing the use of front groups to support automated ticketing machines.

The company is also looking to expand operations by turning school buses into photo ticketing vehicles and bringing more red light cameras to Alabama, Florida and Canada. It has also followed the lead of ATS and filed a lawsuit against its customer, Farragut, Tennessee, because a state law prohibiting photo tickets for right hand turns on red is costing the company significant revenue.

Redflex stock currently trades at $1.70 on the Australian Securities Exchange, down 34 percent since May.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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California Court Criminalizes Using Cell Phone While Stopped http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/california-court-criminalizes-using-cell-phone-while-stopped/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/california-court-criminalizes-using-cell-phone-while-stopped/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 15:33:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418903

In a decision with wide-ranging implications for people who might check their email on an iPhone while stopped at a traffic light, the California Court of Appeal ruled Monday that it was a crime to use a phone at any time behind the wheel of a stationary or moving vehicle.

Three days after Christmas in 2009, a motorcycle cop in Richmond pulled up to a red light and noticed Carl Nelson, driver of the stopped car next to him, appeared to be making a cell phone call. Nelson put down the phone as soon as he saw the officer. Nelson said he was just checking his email while waiting for the light to turn green. The Golden State banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving in July 2008.

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving,” the law states.

A subsequent update to the statute made it also illegal to read or write an email while driving. Nelson was fined $103, and he challenged the fine by arguing that he was not “driving” when he used the phone. He added that if the prosecutors were correct, drivers stuck in dead-stop traffic for hours behind a major accident would not be allowed to make a call while the road is cleared.

“One can [use] a cell phone while stopped at a red light (because it is safe to do so) without having used it while moving the vehicle to the red light and without using it when one resumes one’s voyage after the traffic light turns green,” Nelson argued. “Thus, the fact that one is using a cellular phone while stationary simply cannot give rise to a reasonable inference that one was using the phone before or after the period that one was stopped at a red light.”

The three-judge appellate panel was not persuaded. It argued that the word “drive” applies even when the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light, citing a number of cases interpreting search and seizure and drunk driving laws.

“Any mom or dad driving kids to school can expect to stop while parents in cars in front of them are unloading their kids,” Justice James A. Richman wrote in a concurring opinion. “A shopper driving to a store near Lake Merritt in Oakland may have to stop while a gaggle of geese crosses the street. A couple going for a Sunday drive in West Marin County may have to stop for a cattle crossing. And, of course, all of us are expected to stop for red lights, stop signs, crossing trains, and funeral processions. In short, all drivers may, and sometimes must, stop. But they do so while ‘driving.’ Just like defendant.”

The court majority went on to argue that allowing cell phone use in motionless vehicles would create a safety hazard.

“Were we to adopt defendant’s interpretation, we would open the door to millions of people across our state repeatedly picking up their phones and devices to place phone calls and check voicemail (or text-based messages) every day while driving whenever they are paused momentarily in traffic, their car in gear and held still only by their foot on the brake, however short the pause in the vehicle’s movement,” Justice James Lambden wrote. “This could include fleeting pauses in stop-and-go traffic, at traffic lights and stop signs, as pedestrians cross, as vehicles ahead navigate around a double-parked vehicle, and many other circumstances… Drivers paused in the midst of traffic moving all around them (behind them, in adjacent lanes, in the roadway in front of them) would likely create hazards to themselves and public safety by their distracted use of their hands on their phones and devices.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 220k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Nelson (Court of Appeal, State of California, 11/14/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Anti-Camera Initiative Sponsors Seek Rehearing in Court http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/washington-anti-camera-initiative-sponsors-seek-rehearing-in-court/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/washington-anti-camera-initiative-sponsors-seek-rehearing-in-court/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:12:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418402

Although the city council in Redmond, Washington has decided to cancel its red light camera contract, the city continues to block the effort to let voters have a say in the decision. In court papers filed Monday, local activists cited election results in the cities of Bellingham, Longview and Monroe to convince King County Judge Laura C. Inveen to reconsider her October 11 ruling that it would be a “useless act” to put an advisory measure on the ballot.

“Under the local initiative process, the city clerk had a clear duty to transmit the petition to the county auditor,” Judge Inveen ruled. “That mandamus will not lie to compel the useless act of transmitting the initiative to the county auditor where the initiative is invalid according to the Court of Appeals’ recent decision, American Traffic Solutions v. Bellingham.”

On September 14, local activists Scott Harlan and Tim Eyman submitted petitions containing 6050 signatures calling for a vote on a red light camera and speed camera ban. Though the number of unverified signatures was more than sufficient, Redmond refused to transmit the petition to the county auditor for validation of the signatures, with Inveen’s approval. Daniel Quick, attorney for the initiative’s sponsors, argued that a refusal to process a petition violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Article I of the Washington State Constitution.

“Striking down the initiative at such an early stage infringes on the rights of the Redmond voters that signed petitions with the expectation that their voices would at least be heard,” Quick wrote. “If the initiative is validated, state law requires that the city adopt the initiative or put it on the ballot for a public vote. Regardless of what the city chooses to do with the initiative, the mere process of validation will spur further discussion and further debate on the issue.”

Inveen had cited Bellingham appellate ruling (view ruling) as her authority for calling the Redmond vote useless. However, the appeals court refused to block the vote (modified to an advisory measure) and two-thirds of the city rejected the use of automated ticketing machines.

“Even an initiative that has no legal effect retains political effects, making it a ‘useful,’ not a ‘useless,’ act,” Quick wrote. “The voters in Mukilteo were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Bellingham were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Longview were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Monroe were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. Every initiative in every other city where sponsors submitted signatures, those signatures were counted and the initiative resulted in a public vote. In none of these cases did a court stop the people from having their signatures counted and having their voices heard.”

Initiative sponsors are worried that the longer signature verification is delayed, the more people who signed the petition will change their address. Beyond a certain point, the measure may not qualify simply because of intentional legal delays.

“This is the first initiative in Redmond’s city history,” Quick wrote. “If the city succeeds in stopping the initiative at such an early stage, it will deter future citizens from exercising their right to initiative, something that is supposedly guaranteed by Redmond’s city charter.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Drivelapse USA: The Great American Road Trip In Five Minutes, Fifteen Seconds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/drivelapse-usa-the-great-american-road-trip-in-five-minutes-fifteen-seconds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/drivelapse-usa-the-great-american-road-trip-in-five-minutes-fifteen-seconds/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 00:40:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418361

Americans may no longer be as completely obsessed with road travel as they once were, but for first-time visitors to the USA, a round-the-nation roadtrip is always the ultimate fantasy. And really, what better way is there to appreciate the great expanse and diversity of this great nation than by car? Luckily for those of us without the time, money or reliable transportation to discover America by highway, we can now get a taste of the magic in an internet-attention-span-friendly morsel: five minutes, fifteen seconds. Someone named Bryan DeFrees condensed a 12,225 mile-long road trip in a giant loop across the US into this film, making one of life’s epic adventures available from your desk or smartphone. Warning: Video may cause sudden desire to “hit the road”…

[via: Laughing Squid]

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Alaska Appeals Court Upholds Burnouts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/alaska-appeals-court-upholds-burnouts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/alaska-appeals-court-upholds-burnouts/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2011 15:24:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418284

Drivers cannot be pulled over if they peel out from an intersection with a bit of tire squeal, Alaska’s second-highest court ruled Thursday. In countries like Australia, a similar chirp of the tires could lead to the impounding of the vehicle under “anti-hoon” laws that generate millions in revenue. A three-judge panel in The Last Frontier was more forgiving when considering the fate of Vernon Burnett who was pulled over after midnight on September 20, 2009.

Alaska State Trooper Lucas Altepeter saw Burnett’s truck stop, then spin its tires one-third of the way through the intersection while turning left in the city of Bethel. Burnett made no driving errors, but Trooper Altepeter decided to stop him anyway, as he had “never seen somebody accidentally lose traction and spin their tires as fast and as far as this particular vehicle did.” The trooper believed he could write a citation for the tire spinning alone. A district court judge agreed, saying the the spinning was sufficient proof of negligent driving. The appellate court sided with Burnett.

“Under (state law), a person commits the offense of negligent driving if they drive in a manner that creates an unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property, and if their conduct actually endangers a person or property,” Judge David Mannheimer wrote for the court. “Altepeter did not assert that Burnett’s driving endangered Burnett or anyone else, or that Burnett’s driving put property at risk.”

Prosecutors countered that spinning tires represented a potential threat to everyone on the road, and that the trooper had reasonable suspicion to effect a traffic stop, or issue a safety warning to the driver. The three-judge panel found this line of argument unpersuasive.

“A person can not be convicted of negligent driving for creating a theoretical or speculative danger,” Mannheimer wrote. “The statute requires proof of actual endangerment.”

The appellate court also rejected the safety warning concept as there was no evidence Burnett was pulled over because he needed assistance or because intervention was needed to protect the public. The last ditch effort of prosecutors was the claim that a peel out gives rise to the reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. No testimony was given to back up this claim. Similar claims have also been rejected in cases before the New Hampshire Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Because we conclude that the traffic stop of Burnett’s vehicle was unlawful, the evidence obtained as a result of this traffic stop must be suppressed,” Mannheimer concluded. “And because the primary evidence of Burnett’s impairment was obtained as a result of this traffic stop, Burnett’s conviction for driving under the influence is reversed.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 275k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Burnett v. Alaska (Court of Appeals, State of Alaska, 11/10/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Federal Appeals Court Upholds Forced Home Entry Over DUI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/federal-appeals-court-upholds-forced-home-entry-over-dui/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/federal-appeals-court-upholds-forced-home-entry-over-dui/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2011 15:08:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418053

The US Supreme Court ruled 27 years ago that police could not forcibly enter someone’s home over suspected drunk driving. The Fourth District US Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision is looking to change the precedent. A three-judge appellate panel considered the case of Alan J. Cilman who had filed a false arrest lawsuit after Officer M.A. Reeves busted down his door, without a warrant, on October 3, 2004.

Earlier that day, Cilman had left Neighbors Restaurant where he watched a football game and had dinner and drinks. Reeves claimed Cilman drove out of the Neighbors parking lot at a “high rate of speed.” Reeves followed, noting that Cilman had run a stop sign, failed to signal and accelerated quickly in turns. Accounts differ over whether Reeves turned on his police lights before Cilman made it to the driveway of his home, which was not far away. Reeves got out of his cruiser as Cilman was walking briskly to the door. Reeves told Cilman to stop, but he did not say the man was under arrest. Cilman told the officer to get off his property as he went inside and locked the door.

Reeves waited for backup, then kicked in Cilman’s door and arrested him for being drunk in public and evasion without force — not driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Prosecutors later dropped those charges. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia agreed that kicking in Cilman’s door without a warrant was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but a jury awarded Cilman $0 in damages as compensation. Officer Reeves appealed the judge’s finding that he had violated the Constitution, because under state law he would be forced to resign if found guilty of a second constitutional violation.

In the 1984 US Supreme Court case Welsh v. Wisconsin, the high court ruled that “police may not make a warrantless entry into a home to make an arrest for DUI.” The US Court of Appeals panel ruled this precedent did not apply because Virginia imposes a higher fine and longer jail sentence than Wisconsin for DUI.

“No controlling Supreme Court or Fourth Circuit precedent speaks to a person’s right to be free from a warrantless entry into his home in circumstances like those in the case at hand,” the appellate judges ruled in a per curiam decision.

Cilman charged that Vienna’s police exhibited a pattern of Fourth Amendment violations, but the appellate panel dismissed this by calling the reports “isolated, unprecedented incidents.” The judges reversed every judgment in Cilman’s favor and ordered the case dismissed in its entirety.

A copy of the ruling is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Cilman v. Reeves (US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, 11/4/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Tennessee: ATS Sues City Over Right Turn Ticket Money http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/tennessee-ats-sues-city-over-right-turn-ticket-money/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/tennessee-ats-sues-city-over-right-turn-ticket-money/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2011 15:37:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417771

Automated ticketing vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed suit Tuesday against Knoxville, Tennessee for its failure to issue tickets for turning right on a red light — and that is costing the company a lot of money. A state law took effect in July banning the controversial turning tickets, but the Arizona-based firm contends the law should not apply to their legal agreement with the city, which anticipated the bulk of the money to come from this type of tickets.

Municipalities were disappointed in August when Attorney General Robert J. Cooper Jr shot down the argument that this statute somehow did not apply to existing contracts, writing that “the parties have no vested right in a particular level of revenue” (view opinion). ATS disagrees.

“Because of the uncertainty caused by the attorney general’s opinion, Knoxville has been compelled to cease issuing citations to the owners of vehicles detected making illegal ‘right turns on red’ by traffic cameras based on the attorney general’s opinion,” ATS attorney C. Crews Townsend wrote. “In 2010, right-turn-on-red violations accounted for substantial fines collected by Knoxville pursuant to their respective ordinances. A portion of these fines were remitted to ATS pursuant to the agreement. This was a critical component of the agreement’s consideration supporting the parties’ contractual rights and obligations.”

ATS bases its argument on the “legislative history” of the new law. Many friendly state lawmakers assured the company that a grandfather clause would be slipped into the bill. The final, adopted version contained no such language exempting existing photo enforcement programs from the law’s provisions. ATS insists the lack of this provision is hurting the company’s bottom line.

“Without a court order clarifying that Public Act 425 does not impact the agreement, the injury to ATS will remain significant, immediate and continuing,” Townsend wrote. “If, as the attorney general has opined, Public Act 425 applies to existing contracts, including the agreement, then Public Act 425 has substantially impaired the agreement. Indeed, Knoxville has ceased prosecuting certain violations as required under the otherwise existing, valid, and enforceable agreement, and is causing ATS to lose substantial revenue.”

ATS asked the Chancery Court for Knox County to declare the right turn law unconstitutional because it discriminates against traffic camera companies.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: More Anti-Camera Initiatives to Come http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/washington-more-anti-camera-initiatives-to-come/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/washington-more-anti-camera-initiatives-to-come/#comments Thu, 10 Nov 2011 15:11:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417638

Washington State ballot initiative guru Tim Eyman vowed Wednesday to put even more pressure on municipalities he sees as dependent on automated ticketing revenue. Eyman is feeling good after voters on Tuesday rejected cameras by comfortable margins in three of three contests on Tuesday. Larger jurisdictions are now in his sights.

“For us, it’s full steam ahead,” Eyman told TheNewspaper. “I’m gung-ho to do a couple more cities and keep the ball rolling. I’ve never found a more effective way to lobby the legislature than to say, ‘You either do it, or we’re just going to pick you off one city at a time.’”

Last year, 71 percent of voters in Mukilteo approved a measure outlawing cameras. On Tuesday, 65 percent of the voters in Bellingham, 65 percent in Monroe and 59 percent in Longview felt the same way. Local politicians in some jurisdictions are starting to realize the public is not on their side. Last week, Redmond’s city council voted 7-0 to allow its red light camera contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to expire on January 31, 2012.

“Collision data indicate that the impact of traffic safety cameras on collisions in Redmond is inconclusive,” Police Chief Ron Gibson wrote in a memo to the city council.

Voters in Redmond had submitted a valid petition to order the issue placed on the ballot earlier this year, but ATS convinced a judge to block citizens from petitioning their government, even in an advisory-only vote. Lawsuits on the issue remain pending from the county court level all the way up to the state supreme court. The ongoing litigation is racking up substantial legal bills for the municipalities that decided to fight the citizens’ initiatives in court. In Longview, legal costs have nearly exhausted the city’s share of the profit generated by cameras.

“If I don’t get a Christmas card from Stoel Rives law firm, which is representing several of the cities, I’m going to be hurt,” Eyman said.

In most cases, efforts to block initiatives have backfired showing an unseemly coordination between the private vendors and municipalities. Groups like Campaign for Liberty, which co-sponsored the anti-camera initiatives, are using the votes to convince lawmakers in Olympia to repeal the authorization they gave to photo enforcement.

“There’s just no other way to uncover how sleazy the companies are and how unpopular the cameras are than doing these citizens’ initiatives,” Eyman said.

An ATS executive lost his job after he was caught acting as a “sock puppet” posting pro-camera comments on online forums as if he were a local resident. In Lynnwood, emails were released showing police officials sought to do favors for ATS in hopes of landing a lucrative job with the firm. City councilmen like Ted Heikel, the primary defender of cameras in Lynnwood, lost his seat Tuesday.

“If you’re a politician in bed with the red light camera companies, it’s bad for your political career,” Eyman said. “It’s making all the pro-camera politicians look bad.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Voters in Seven Cities Reject Photo Enforcement http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/voters-in-seven-cities-reject-photo-enforcement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/voters-in-seven-cities-reject-photo-enforcement/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2011 15:15:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417314

Voters in eight cities in three states cast ballots Tuesday to decide whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in their communities. Seven of the races went against the use of photo ticketing.

The night’s first results came from Ashtabula, Ohio where 60 percent of residents approved an amendment to the city charter stating that the city “shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device” unless a police officer personally issues the citation.

“I feel that the citizens of Ashtabula stood up,” Mark Leatherman, chairman of the Citizens of Ashtabula Camera Committee told TheNewspaper. “We had the police chief attacking and fighting citizens on this issue on Facebook. We stuck to our guns to get this passed.”

Leatherman and fellow volunteers held twenty rallies in support of the ballot measure, ensuring that voters understood that a “yes” vote meant no more cameras. In Garfield Heights, officials were far more aggressive in pushing cameras. Voters in the city had struck down photo enforcement last year, but the city council proposed a charter amendment permitting photo monitoring devices “in school zones and/or park and recreation areas only.” This idea found even less support than the cameras received last year. Fifty-four percent opposed the school zone speed cameras.

Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia kicked in at least $108,000 to fund the Safe Roads Ohio front group to campaign for cameras in both Garfield Heights and South Euclid — the equivalent of $15 per vote. This compares to the unfunded effort in South Euclid to put a stop to the cameras, which won 55 percent of the vote.

In East Cleveland, local officials went to the most extreme lengths of any contest to date to badger voters into supporting cameras. Off-duty police officers, in uniform and with their police cruisers parked on the curb, were ordered to go door-to-door to convince residents to vote to return the cameras. Last month, Mayor Gary Norton mailed layoff notices to thirty-six cops and fourteen firefighters, claiming the city would have to fire them if it lost the photo ticketing revenue. The strong-arm tactics worked, as the city picked up 54 percent of the vote.

In Washington State, municipalities and vendors like American Traffic Solutions (ATS) turned to the courts in an attempt to keep anti-camera initiatives off the ballot. As a result, most of the measures appeared as “advisory” votes that allow the city council to make the final call on camera use. In Longview, 59 percent of voters approved Initiative Measure Number 1, which was submitted as a complete ban on cameras but was watered down into a requirement that camera use be subject to advisory votes. Residents split on two city-proposed measures that stated red light cameras and speed cameras would continue to be used until May 1, 2012. Voters also elected anti-camera initiative co-sponsor Mike Wallin to the city council over speed camera proponent Steve Moon.

“Local activists in cities throughout the state began asking us (me, Nick and Tiffany Sherwood of BanCams.com, and Alex Rion of Washington State Campaign for Liberty) to help them rid their communities of camera surveillance from those obnoxious ticketing cameras,” Washington initiative guru Tim Eyman said in a statement. “Across the political spectrum, the citizens are rebelling against the unholy alliance of government and corporations profiting off the citizens with their taxation-through-citation scheme. The legislature made a huge mistake when they allowed cities to get hooked on camera profits and to get in bed with sleazy red-light camera companies. Olympia better start cleaning up the mess or else the people are going to do it for them.”

In both Bellingham and Monroe, the votes were 65 percent against the use of cameras. Dayton, Texas voters rejected red light cameras by the largest margin of the night, 70 percent.

Automated ticketing has lost in 22 of 23 ballot contests. Last month, voters rejected cameras in Albuquerque, New MexicoDuring the 2010 midterms, voters in Houston and Baytown, Texas as well as Garfield Heights, Ohio rejected red light cameras. The vote in Mukilteo, Washington was 70 percent against the cameras and 73 percent in Anaheim, California. In May 2010, 61 percent of Sykesville, Maryland voters overturned a speed camera ordinance. In 2009, eighty-six percent of Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras. The November elections included three votes: 72 percent said no in Chillicothe, Ohio; Heath, Ohio and College Station, Texas also rejected cameras. In 2008, residents in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio voters rejected photo radar in 2006. In the mid-1990s, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. In 1997, voters in Anchorage, Alaska banned cameras even after the local authorities had removed them. In 2003, 64 percent of voters in Arlington, Texas voted down “traffic management cameras” that opponents at the time said could be converted into ticketing cameras.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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