The Truth About Cars » Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Texas: Top State Senator Says Red Light Cameras About Money http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/texas-top-state-senator-says-red-light-cameras-about-money/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/texas-top-state-senator-says-red-light-cameras-about-money/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2012 20:07:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427043

The most senior Texas state lawmaker admitted last week that he voted to save red light camera programs even though he knew they had no effect on public safety.

State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), who was first elected to the legislature in 1973, appeared on KTRH radio’s morning news program to discuss how public opposition to red light cameras persuaded legislators to devote some of the camera profit to trauma centers.

“People went to Austin protesting it, and so John Carona — a senator from Dallas — didn’t want to eliminate them,” Whitmire explained. “He said, you know, it’s obviously a revenue source. Local communities try to sell it as public safety, cutting down on red light running. He and I and I think most people would realize it’s really a revenue source. John Carona in Austin said, I’m not going to eliminate but let the state have half of that revenue dedicated to trauma care which is badly underfunded.”

Though the money was promised to trauma care centers, over $4.1 million of this money has remained in the state’s general fund and not been distributed to the trauma centers.

“The budget writers in an effort to find resources and money to balance the budget never sent that,” Whitmire explained. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”

Whitmire played an essential role in 2005 in blocking House legislation that would have banned red light cameras as well as an amendment that would have forced municipalities to obtain voter approval before instituting a red light camera program. The Senate voted 18 to 13 to against the referendum requirement. Whitmire explained that the mayor of Houston, a fellow Democrat, had pressed him for that vote.

“Bill White came to Austin and he had two issues,” Whitmire said. “The next vote that came up was to try to repeal red light cameras. The vote was whether we’d take that away from the cities. And I don’t think Austin ought to be trying to run the cities on a day-to-day basis.”

Houston’s cameras were ultimately shut down, but only after a heated legal and political battle. A federal judge even intervened to overturn the results of a public vote on the matter.

“It is a bad deal and the people acted on it and repealed it,” Whitmire said. “The issue of red light cameras, I was always suspect about it. I never thought it was about public safety. The greatest number of red light citations are issued to people who don’t come to a complete stop on turning right or similar violations. It’s a civil ticket, that shows you how insincere they are about it.”

This article courtesy of 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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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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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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Another Florida City Settles Suit Over Illegal Photo Ticketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/another-florida-city-settles-suit-over-illegal-photo-ticketing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/another-florida-city-settles-suit-over-illegal-photo-ticketing/#comments Wed, 02 Nov 2011 14:38:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416606

Many Florida municipalities now regret jumping the gun and installing red light cameras before the state legislature authorized their use in 2010. The Hallandale Beach city commission will vote later today to approve a settlement of $375,566 to be repaid to vehicle owners who were mailed tickets before the program was actually legal. American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which controlled the program, will pay $43,221 — its proportional share of the amount.

Attorney Jason D. Weisser had filed a lawsuit against Hallandale Beach, its vendor ATS and all of the other towns that jumped the photo ticketing gun. He argued the city and ATS were guilty of unjust enrichment and the tort of conversion. Fearing legal defeat, Pembroke Pines was among the first to settle in June. Partial refunds will now be given to “all who have been cited and paid fines to the defendants prior to July 1, 2010 for violations of the ordinance.” ATS had already signed off on the deal in February.

“The stipulation is intended by the settling parties to fully, finally and forever resolve, discharge and settle the litigation and all released claims against all released persons,” the proposed settlement states. “The settling defendants have concluded that further conduct of the litigation would be protracted and expensive and that it is desirable that the litigation be fully and finally settled in the manner and upon the terms and conditions set forth in this stipulation. They also have taken into account the uncertainty and risks inherent in any litigation, especially in complex cases such as this litigation ”

Although it authorizes issuance of partial refunds, the settlement stipulates for legal reasons that neither Hallandale Beach nor ATS admit they ever did anything wrong. The settlement allows the city and ATS to pay thirty percent of the amount of money they collected — far less than they would have to pay than if they had gone to court and lost, as happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota over the same issue (view settlement). Settlement allows the city to escape the full cost of refunds and attorneys’ fees.

Cities that adopted the cameras may find themselves in more trouble as new members of the state legislature already have a House majority opposed to automated ticketing machines. Another push will be made to repeal the authorization in the next session.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Missouri Appeals Court Sides with Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/missouri-appeals-court-sides-with-red-light-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/missouri-appeals-court-sides-with-red-light-cameras/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2011 16:44:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416090

A Missouri appellate court judge with family ties to the red light camera industry yesterday led the charge to save photo ticketing programs from legal attack. In a per curiam decision, Eastern District Presiding Judge Robert G. Dowd Jr and two colleagues upheld the ticket issued by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to motorist Mary Nottebrok in Creve Coeur on August 11, 2009.

“Ordinance Number 315.140 did not prohibit ‘running a red light;’ rather, Ordinance Number 315.140 prohibited the presence of a vehicle in an intersection when the traffic control signal for that intersection was emitting a steady red signal for the direction of travel or orientation of the vehicle,” the decision stated in defense of Creve Coeur’s photo enforcement ordinance.

An ATS camera photographed a car belonging to Mary Nottebrok near the offramp for Interstate 270 and Olive Boulevard. ATS demanded payment of $100 based on the alleged violation of an ordinance whose legality is under question because the Missouri legislature has refused to authorize the use of photo enforcement in the state.

Nottebrok moved to have her case dismissed on the grounds that the ordinance is not just unauthorized, but it also conflicts with a state law requiring points to be applied to the license of anyone convicted of running a red light. Most photo ticketing programs outside of Arizona and California do not assess points because of the extra work and cost involved in identifying the driver of a vehicle.

This argument follows reasoning found in a 2005 memo from Stinson Morrison Hecker, ATS’s own law firm. A March 2010 state supreme court ruling (view opinion) struck down Springfield’s red light camera program over its administrative hearing procedures, noting that red light camera violations are moving violations — which is to say, they are not like parking tickets. The Eastern District Court of Appeals, led by Judge Dowd, saw red light camera tickets as exactly like parking tickets.

“Consistent with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Kansas City v. Hertz Corporation, Missouri law provides that a municipal ordinance can impose liability on a vehicle owner if another person parks or operates the vehicle in violation of the ordinance,” the decision stated.

The court presumed Creve Coeur’s ordinance was valid on its own terms.

“[State law] required the assessment of points for any moving violation of a municipal ordinance not specifically listed in the statute,” the decision conceded. “However, the plain language of Ordinance No. 315.140 indicated that the city intended a violation of the ordinance to be classified as a non-moving violation.”

Judge Dowd was previously with the family’s law firm Dowd and Dowd, along with his cousin, Edward L. Dowd Jr, who was a paid advocate for automated ticketing. Edward Dowd now serves as a spokesman for Missouri Families for Safer Roads, a public relations front group funded entirely by ATS. Edward Dowd is also a registered lobbyist for ATS.

A copy of the ruling is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Creve Coeur v. Nottebrok (Court of Appeals, State of Missouri, 10/25/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Report Finds Red Light Camera Installation Unjustified http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/washington-report-finds-red-light-camera-installation-unjustified/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/washington-report-finds-red-light-camera-installation-unjustified/#comments Sat, 29 Oct 2011 16:59:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416053

A report released last week by the engineering firm Gibson Traffic Consultants (GTC) found the use of red light cameras unjustified in Bellingham, Washington. The study gathered collision data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the city to conclude the use of an automated ticketing machine at the intersection of Guide Meridian Road at Telegraph Road was unwarranted.

“Based on the five years of collision data obtained from WSDOT and the city of Bellingham, the collision data does not support the introduction of red-light cameras,” GTC traffic engineer Matt Palmer wrote. “Per the ITE collected statistics it only has the potential to reduce at angle red-light running collisions by a less than 1 per year but increase rear ends by an average of nearly 5 per year for this particular intersection.”

The report argues that proper engineering practices require jurisdictions to install photo enforcement only after performing an engineering evaluation and exhausting all possible countermeasures, including adjusting the length of the yellow light and improving signal visibility. Bellingham performed no study before deciding to allow American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to install and operate the camera. Instead, it made the decision after ATS found 34 potential tickets after eight hours of monitoring.

“The reason to conduct such investigation and corrections before resorting to additional enforcement such as red-light cameras is that research has shown that although additional enforcement might reduce the number of potential at angle collisions; it could also increase, rear-end collision frequency,” Palmer wrote.

GTC found in its review that over the course of five years, only one collision was specifically linked to someone running a red light. On the other hand, there were 78 rear-end collisions — two-thirds of the total number of accidents. Making the rear end accident situation worse would make the location more dangerous, not less dangerous.

“With no fatalities or injuries related to the at angle collisions but 30 injuries related to rear end collisions it is anticipated that the proposed red-light camera would not reduce the collision/injury potential of the intersection and potentially increase the collision/injury potential at this particular location,” Palmer concluded.

Photo ticketing in the city is on hold while pending the outcome of an initiative vote on November 8. The Transportation Safety Coalition succeeded in placing a referendum on red light camera use on the ballot, although ATS was able to convince an appellate court to convert the measure into an advisory vote. The coalition commissioned the GTC study.

A copy of the study is available in a 600k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Red Light Camera Review 11-090 (Gibson Traffic Consultants, 10/17/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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California: Despite “Voluntary” Citations, LA County Rakes in Millions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/california-despite-voluntary-citations-la-county-rakes-in-millions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/california-despite-voluntary-citations-la-county-rakes-in-millions/#comments Fri, 28 Oct 2011 12:13:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415994

After news spread that paying a red light camera tickets in Los Angeles County, California is optional, the average number of people paying citations declined by nearly a third. According to an analysis of Los Angeles County Superior Court payment transaction count and revenue data by TheNewspaper, the state, Los Angeles County, municipalities and photo enforcement vendors are losing $1 million per month following the revelation that there is no penalty for tossing a mailed ticket in the trash. The news broke as part of the hearing process while Los Angeles municipal officials debated whether to shut off automated ticketing machines in the City of the Angels.

“What we have here is truly a voluntary citation program,” Los Angeles Police Commissioner Alan J. Skobin said at a June 7 meeting. “It’s voluntary because there’s no teeth in it and there’s no enforcement mechanism.”

The city of Los Angeles ultimately decided to wind down its red light camera program in July, but twenty-two other jurisdictions within the county are still issuing photo tickets. These include Beverly Hills, which pocketed $832,405.67 from May through September this year ($2 million on an annualized basis). Inglewood’s red light camera vendor collected on 2146 tickets worth over $1 million ($2.5 million on an annualized). The Metropolitan Transit Authority collected $515,838.81 in profit ($1.2 million annualized). Overall, the individual jurisdictions split $6.4 million in revenue between their general funds and special traffic funds. On an annualized basis, their profit from the near $500 fines is $15.4 million — but this figure does not count the cut for other governmental agencies.

Vehicle owners paid a total of 25,693 tickets to the superior court from May to September. That adds up to nearly $30 million a year in annual revenue, half of which goes to the state and county government, and the remainder is split between the municipalities and American Traffic Solutions, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and other vendors that do all the work of issuing the tickets.

Los Angeles Court raw citation data supplied courtesy of highwayrobbery.net. A copy of the analysis is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Los Angeles County, CA Ticket Revenue (TheNewspaper, 10/24/2011)

Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com

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Colorado: Another City Looks to Dump Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/colorado-another-city-looks-to-dump-red-light-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/colorado-another-city-looks-to-dump-red-light-cameras/#comments Thu, 20 Oct 2011 14:22:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415328

Add Colorado Springs, Colorado to the growing list of cities having second thoughts about the use of red light cameras. On Tuesday, interim Police Chief Pete Carey discussed his intention to drop the year-old program as the contract with vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expires at the end of the year. The mayor, who asked the previous chief to step down, is behind the move.

“The photo red-light enforcement program did not meet our expectations,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a statement. “It is as simple as that. If a safety program can’t be shown to improve safety, it ought to be stopped.”

Thousands of tickets have been issued at four intersections in the city, primarily to those who made a rolling right-hand turn on red. These tickets failed to reduce side impact collisions at those locations, according to the city’s traffic engineering department.

“The jury’s still out whether it’s making those intersections safer,” Carey said on Tuesday. “There’s some preliminary data we’re looking at that indicates — believe it or not — at some of those intersections accidents have gone up.”

There are also financial reasons for the change. The cash-strapped municipality has been restructuring its police department to make operations more efficient, adjusting to a three percent drop in the department budget. Part of the plan involves dumping red light cameras and reassigning the officers dedicated to reviewing photo citations to more important duties.

“When that program was sold to us, it was supposed to be self-sustaining,” Councilman Jan Martin said. “It was not going to cost us anything and that it would actually pay for itself. That’s why it was so attractive.”

Carey said he “sorely needed” the two officers and sergeant who devoted their time (half of his time in the sergeant’s case) in dealing with photo red light issues. He also noted that public opinion against the use of the cameras was a significant factor in the decision. According to a Rasmussen Results poll released Sunday, less than 44 percent of the 1000 adults surveyed supported the use of intersection traffic cameras. This is the first national survey conducted by a group with no financial interest in the use of automated ticketing machines. The finding is consistent with election results that show no photo enforcement program has ever achieved the support of a majority at the ballot box.

Colorado Springs officials hope to keep running photo radar vans, although it is not clear whether ATS will allow that to happen.

“I’m not sure we’ll pull that off with the vendor allowing us to continue without making some other adjustments,” Carey said.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Judge Throws Out Voter Petition on Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/washington-judge-throws-out-voter-petition-on-red-light-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/washington-judge-throws-out-voter-petition-on-red-light-cameras/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2011 14:27:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414507

A King County, Washington court is unwilling to allow the public to have any input into the question of whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in Redmond. In a ruling yesterday, Judge Laura Inveen quashed the 6050 signatures that had been filed by city residents who wanted the issue to be presented to voters — even if only as a non-binding advisory question. Photo enforcement opponents meanwhile have been mounting their own counter-offensive, hoping the state supreme court will resolve the contradictory legal rulings in the lower courts.

Municipalities have joined with red light camera vendors American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Redflex to openly fight every step of the initiative process across the country, knowing that automated ticketing machines have lost in sixteen of sixteen ballot contests, including a contest last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Inveen sided with the companies, insisting it would be a “useless act” for Redmond to comply with a provision of state law requiring the city to transmit voter signatures to the county as part of initiative process. In doing so, she ignored as “unpersuasive” the applicability of a September finding of the state court of appeals. The appellate court ruled that an anti-camera initiative in Bellingham could proceed as an advisory measure to gauge the sentiment of residents on the issue (view ruling).

“Even if placed on the ballot and passed by a majority of the voters the initiative would have no legal force,” Judge Marlin J. Appelwick wrote for the three-judge appellate panel. “Consequently, it cannot result in actual and substantial injury to ATS’s contractual interests, and ATS cannot demonstrate any injury justifying injunctive relief. ATS’s request to enjoin the election is therefore denied.”

Initiative co-sponsor Tim Eyman blasted city officials for working to deny voters access to the ballot box.

“Even an advisory vote on the initiative, as is the case in Bellingham, will have a political effect,” Eyman said in a statement. “There will be a public debate and public discussion. Citizens will learn about the issue, talk with their friends and neighbors about it, and everyone will get to learn how the people feel about red-light cameras. Everyone’s vote will be counted and that collective voice will be loud and impossible to ignore. Not so in Redmond. They’ve prevented the citizens’ voice from being heard.”

On Thursday, Eyman petitioned the state supreme court to intervene in the Bellingham case. He hopes their decision will settle the question of whether the public ought to be allowed to petition their government on the issue of automated ticketing machines. Eyman is optimistic because the high court decided to allow a vote to proceed in Mukilteo last year, and 71 percent of voters rejected the use of cameras. The Mukilteo case has been pending since May.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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California Governor Sides with Red Light Camera Companies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/california-governor-sides-with-red-light-camera-companies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/california-governor-sides-with-red-light-camera-companies/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 21:13:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414365

California Governor Jerry Brown (D) sided on Friday with red light camera companies and the remaining municipalities that use automated ticketing machines. He vetoed a measure that would have placed the mildest of restrictions on photo ticketing.

“I am returning Senate Bill 29 without my signature,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “This bill standardizes rules for local governments to follow when installing and maintaining red light cameras. This is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials.”

State law already authorizes local officials to use red light cameras and does so by setting a number of standards. The vetoed measure would have added a handful of new restrictions that, for the most part, reflect the current practice of photo ticketing programs in the Golden State. The bill’s most significant provision would have banned the use of “snitch tickets,” which are notices that look like tickets that red light camera vendors mail to registered vehicle owners to trick them into disclosing the identity of the driver in a red light camera photograph. California law requires that only the actual person behind the wheel receive the ticket. The legislation would require a clear and prominent statement on such vendor mailings that there is no penalty for failure to respond. The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), was disappointed by Brown’s move.

“I think we can keep folks safe and still give the driving public a fair shake,” Simitian said in a statement. “I’m sorry the governor didn’t agree.”

The California Department of Finance, which serves as the chief fiscal policy advisor to the governor’s office, offered the only written opposition to the bill.

“Department of Finance is opposed to this bill because it would make the installation and operation of red light cameras more cumbersome for local agencies, which is likely to result in their reduced or discontinued use,” the Senate legislative summary explained. “This could reduce annual revenues to the state and to local jurisdictions by approximately $140 million annually.”

The state Senate will now decide whether to override Brown’s veto. The bill passed the body by a 38-0 vote on September 1, a more than sufficient amount. It sailed through the state Assembly by a similarly large 70-4 vote on August 30.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Texas City Works with Traffic Camera Company to Nullify Anti-Camera Vote http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/texas-city-works-with-traffic-camera-company-to-nullify-anti-camera-vote/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/texas-city-works-with-traffic-camera-company-to-nullify-anti-camera-vote/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 14:15:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413331

A red light camera company and officials in the city of Baytown, Texas are conspiring to nullify the results of an election. In November, 58 percent of voters approved a ballot measure prohibiting the use of red light cameras unless a police officer is present to witness any alleged offense. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed suit in February to overturn the result of this vote, and city officials on September 22 asked Harris County Judge Michael D. Miller to sign off on a settlement of this suit that was prepared by ATS.

“The court, after considering the agreed statement of facts and applicable law, is of the opinion that the contested election held on November 2, 2010 for the approval or rejection of a proposed initiative, related to Baytown’s automated photographic traffic signal enforcement program, was an election on an untimely referendum and, therefore, void,” stated the proposed judgment drafted by ATS attorney Andy Taylor and signed by Baytown City Attorney Ignacio Ramirez. “It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the results of the special election are hereby declared void and without any legal effect for all purposes.”

Judge Miller has yet to indicate whether he will accept the settlement struck between ATS and Baytown. Byron Schirmbeck, author of the initiative petition as director of saferbaytown.com, is hoping he does not. Schirmbeck points out that unlike other anti-camera ballot measures, the one approved by Baytown voters was clearly not a referendum. Baytown’s red light camera ordinance was not repealed, and the city is free to use automated ticketing machines — so long as a police officer witnesses each alleged offense. Baytown dropped the program rather than incur the cost involved in complying with the terms of the ballot measure.

“Baytown city council has no right to sell our election to a corrupt corporation to protect them against further actions of the people,” Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. “This is a slap in the face to the people’s right to self govern.”

ATS had been so desperate to nullify the election that it spent over $140,000 to block it at various stages. The Arizona company went so far as to file court briefs citing the 1965 Voting Rights Act to charge photo enforcement program opponents as anti-black racists, even though analysis of precinct voting patterns in Houston showed that black neighborhoods were more opposed to cameras than white neighborhoods.

Judge Miller, a Democrat, won his election in 2008 with just 51 percent of the vote. He is up for re-election next year.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: City Goes All Out to Defend Dangerous Camera Program http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-city-goes-all-out-to-defend-dangerous-camera-program/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-city-goes-all-out-to-defend-dangerous-camera-program/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2011 14:43:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412957

The city of Redmond, Washington decided last week that it had no intention of putting the issue of red light cameras and speed cameras to a vote of the people. The mayor refuses to transmit the completed petition signatures for an initiative on the topic to the county auditor, despite a state law that sets a three-day deadline for the city administration to do so. On Tuesday, Redmond police released data that show accidents have increased since at the photo enforced locations since the program started in February.
On September 14, activists Scott Harlan and Tim Eyman handed the city clerk a stack of petitions containing 6050 signatures — just under half of the city’s active voters and far more than needed to qualify for the ballot. State law says the city “shall transmit the petition to the county auditor” within three days of filing.

“Following the city’s legal review, we are advised the proposed Redmond initiative is virtually identical to the city of Bellingham initiative deemed invalid by a recent Court of Appeals ruling and not subject to the initiative process,” Mayor John Marchione said in a statement.

That appellate decision (view ruling) stated that the measure would stay on the ballot as an advisory measure. The state supreme court also saw no problem with allowing the city of Mukilteo to hold a vote on cameras. A high court ruling on photo ticketing initiatives is pending. On Monday, initiative guru Tim Eyman filed suit to force Redmond to move forward with the election process.

“They just blatantly violated the law by not turning over the petitions forcing us to sue our government to turn over the petitions — something they’re required to do by the law.” Eyman told TheNewspaper.

Redmond is following in the footsteps of the city of Longview, which spent $47,886.25 in litigation costs in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the anti-camera initiative off the November ballot. In the wake of the dispute, Longview’s mayor has decided not to run for re-election and several city councilmen are facing stiff election challenges.

“You couldn’t ask for a worse poster child of how to handle an initiative than Longview, but these guys [in Redmond] are just playing that same playbook,” Eyman said.

According to a memo by Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson, all three red light camera intersections saw accidents go up after the cameras were activated. Overall, the increase was 35 percent — from 14 collisions before the cameras were installed to 19 afterward.

Chief Gibson pointed to the 43.7 percent reduction in the number of $124 tickets issued by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) as evidence that the camera program has been successful. Harlan pointed out that this statistic is misleading because two locations were idle for several months because the cameras malfunctioned. Moreover, Harlan discovered the police started throwing out more tickets after the initiative was filed in March. The rejection rate climbed from 11 percent in March to 38 percent in August.

“The police department really started vetoing and rejecting tons of ATS recommendations,” Harlan told TheNewspaper. “The unintended consequence of that was that the data look like violations have dropped by a lot when in reality the behavior hasn’t changed hardly at all.”

Harlan calculated the actual reduction was closer to seven percent.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Missouri: Violations Still Down with Longer Yellows http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/missouri-violations-still-down-with-longer-yellows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/missouri-violations-still-down-with-longer-yellows/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2011 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412580

Photo enforcement advocates downplay the benefit of increased yellow time in addressing the problem of red light running. New evidence from Arnold, Missouri shows that red light cameras continue to flash at a much lower rate since the state mandated longer signal timing at a number of photo-enforced intersections.

Arnold was the first jurisdiction in the Show Me State to allow a private company, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), to mail traffic tickets to residents. Since 2005, ATS has handed out more than 30,000 tickets worth over $3.1 million. In 2010, tickets were being pumped out at an average rate of 800 per month. With longer yellows, that figure averaged just 113 through July and August using the most up-to-date data available.

Timing changes were made at and near the red light camera intersections. Yellows increased from 4.0 to 5.0 seconds at three intersections along Missouri Route 141 on February 24. Smaller changes were made on April 15, including a boost from 4.0 to 4.4 seconds at northbound 141 and US 61/67, a 4.0 to 4.5 second change at northbound US 61/67 at Rockport School, and from 4.0 to 4.7 seconds at southbound Vogel Road at Richardson Road (4.3 seconds at the northbound approach).

While a difference of 0.4 to 1.0 seconds in the length of the yellow light might seem insignificant, the extra margin of safety is critical. The vast majority of straight-through red light “violations” happen when a driver misjudges the end of the yellow light by less than 0.25 seconds — literally the blink of an eye (view Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) chart). With those longer yellow times, the city and ATS are losing $780,000 in annual revenue — an 86 percent drop.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s former top researcher, Richard Retting, argued strongly against the use of yellow signal timing beyond the bare ITE minimum values. His research is cited by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in its “Toolbox of Engineering Countermeasures,” which is used by cities to set up intersections prior to the use of automated ticketing machines.

“Present thought is that longer intervals will cause drivers to enter the intersection later and it will breed disrespect for the traffic signal,” the FHWA document explains. “The tendency for motorists to adjust to the longer interval and enter the intersection later is referred to as habituation. The before-and-after study by Retting and Greene evaluated the presence of habituation to the longer yellow… The authors concluded that habituation to the longer yellow did exist….”

Retting is now employed by a red light camera company.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Texas: Red Light Camera Tickets a Man Running a Green Light http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/texas-red-light-camera-tickets-a-man-running-a-green-light/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/texas-red-light-camera-tickets-a-man-running-a-green-light/#comments Sat, 24 Sep 2011 17:10:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412438

Cities that use automated ticketing machines at intersections routinely assert two things: The camera does not lie, and at least three humans review each citation before it is dropped in the mail. That did not happen in Port Lavaca, Texas. On September 12, Port Lavaca Police Sergeant Kelly Flood signed a ticket accusing Dale Price of running a red light and demanding he pay $75 by October 12, but the light was green.

“Based upon my review and inspection of the recorded images, I state that a violation of ordinance #S-1-08 did occur,” the ticket stated just above Flood’s signature. “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Texas the foregoing is true and correct.”

On September 6 at 12:04pm, Price drove his grey 2009 GMC pickup through the intersection of US 35 and Travis Street. He was making a left-hand turn, with turn signal active, at 17 MPH. According to the red light camera, the light had been red for more than a minute. According to the photographs (view first photoview second photo), and the video evidence, the light remained green throughout his turn. After being notified of the citation, local officials scrambled to order Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the program, to cancel the ticket (view ticket). That is not good enough for Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras, a group working on a petition that would allow voters to decide the camera program’s future.

“This is one of the reasons that we’d want to shut down the program,” group co-founder Dwayne Buehring told The Newspaper. “We don’t know how many people have paid tickets without looking at the video. Because of the scare tactics they use, some people are just going to pay. This cop down there is just mailing them out to everyone.”

The group is looking to collect the 200 signatures needed to place a ban on red light cameras before voters. Earlier this year, the group succeeded in gathering those signatures, but the city cited the court case in Houston as a reason not to place the measure on the ballot. With a new petition, activists are say the law is now firmly on their side. They cite the very ruling of federal Judge Lynn Hughes that attempted to save Houston’s red light cameras as a reason why the Port Lavaca vote must proceed (view ruling).

“Clearly the city was in error when they rejected placing our petition on the ballot,” Carl Baugh and Dwayne Buehring wrote in a June 20 letter to the city council. “The case you were waiting on for vindication of denying a vote has not gone your way. While the judge did rule that Houston was in error for placing the issue on the ballot it was merely because it was untimely as Houston has a thirty-day limit on referendums. The Port Lavaca charter has no such restriction. By your own statements as well as your ministerial duty to the citizens of Port Lavaca you have an obligation to immediately proceed with the process to place our petition on the next legal election.”

Buehring, who recently moved to Houston, is still helping to collect signatures.

“We know the 500 people who signed it last time, we just have to go see them,” he said.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Louisiana: Legality of Municipal Red Light Camera Contract Questioned http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/louisiana-legality-of-municipal-red-light-camera-contract-questioned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/louisiana-legality-of-municipal-red-light-camera-contract-questioned/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2011 13:36:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411864

Red light cameras and speed cameras may not be legally operating in Lafayette, Louisiana, according to current and former city officials. Councilman William G. Theriot was first to suggest that the city-parish President Joey Durel did not have the authority to unilaterally extend the contract with Australian automated ticketing vendor Redflex Traffic Systems when the agreement expired in June.

“I think a lot of people want to have a say so in what’s involved in it,” Theriot told KATC-TV. “Secondly if it is extended, we don’t know if the terms were negotiated or what was involved.”

When city staff in Los Angeles, California attempted to renew a photo ticketing contract, massive public opposition swayed elected leaders into deciding to drop the program. By having a purchasing clerk sign a renewal contract with Redflex, Durel avoided public notice and controversy, quietly keeping alive the program that is expected to generate $1.3 million in revenue this year. Durel and his staff contend that such renewals are routine business matters and do not require the attention of the full council.

A legal analysis of the situation offered on Saturday by a former assistant city attorney disagreed. Lester J. Gauthier Jr, now in private practice, sent a written opinion to council members arguing that the contract extension was invalid. The original four-year contract with the Australian photo ticketing vendor was adopted on June 5, 2007. It stated that the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (LCG) had the option of extending the contract annually. Lafayette’s home rule charter expressly states that the government decision to “grant, renew or extend a franchise” requires an ordinance approved by the council.

“Thus it is my considered opinion that the granting, renewal and any extension of the franchise agreement by and between LCG and Redflex required council action by ordinance,” Gauthier wrote. “I do not believe that the Redflex contract with Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government has been properly extended.”

Gauthier further argued that a purchasing clerk does not have the authority to sign a contract or extension, even when the item is approved by an ordinance.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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How To Tell If A Red Light Camera Is A Safety Tool Or A Dangerous Form Of Taxation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/how-to-tell-if-a-red-light-camera-is-a-safety-tool-or-a-dangerous-form-of-taxation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/how-to-tell-if-a-red-light-camera-is-a-safety-tool-or-a-dangerous-form-of-taxation/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 20:34:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411789

[Editor's note: The following was sent to us by Donald Sawicki of Copradar.com, a site where Mr Sawicki offers insight and literature on radar and red light camera safety issues to victims, defendants and legal professionals.]

The first step towards determining if a red light camera exists to make money is to answer the question: Does the traffic light force drivers that just happen to be in the wrong spot (worst case) when the light changes yellow to brake safely (worst spot at worst time)? If the answer is “safe braking for worst case” the camera probably exists for legitimate reasons of safety. If the yellow light forces unsafe or even dangerous worst case braking, the camera is strictly a source of money (a dangerous tax) that goes to cities or states and equipment suppliers (which typically split the booty). To catch (trap, trick, hook or crook) more redlight runners some municipalities shorten the yellow time forcing drivers (even NEAR worse case distance) to run the light. It gets worse: many jurisdictions use outdated driver reaction times (some established over half a century ago) when determining yellow duration, resulting in short yellow light times and unsafe worse case braking.

There are a number of reasons a large number of stoplights have too short yellow times’. One reason is when stoplights (3 color system patented in 1922) were introduced in the first half of the 20th century (when vacuum tubes were new) reaction times were “estimated” to be 1 to 1.5 seconds — stilled widely used in the early 21st century. In 1999 a detailed controlled study (on a controlled track and in a driving simulator using licensed drivers with various skill levels) determined average driver reaction time to be 2.3 seconds. California uses 2.5 seconds, the National Safety Council (NSC) and Great Britain use 3.0 seconds.

Another reason for short yellow times is many intersections that have been improved and changed (widened, crosswalks added, lane usage changed, etc.), some multiple times, were not reevaluated for yellow duration (an oversight or mistake). Another common error is a speed limit is increased but yellow times stay the same (and now too short for the increased speed).

A second more or less can make a huge difference between safe and dangerous braking. At the beginning of 2011 the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot) started reevaluating and adjusting all state controlled traffic light yellow times. MoDot is serious about public safety. So far MoDot has increased yellow duration’s ranging from 0.3 seconds to 1.3 seconds. This summer one ot the traffic lights reevaluated and yellow time increased had a redlight camera. Red light runners dwindled to a trickle from over 1500 per month to less than 20 per month, a 99% DROP!

A traffic light’s safety can be subjectively established using a few measurements and a little mathematics. Only 5 parameters are needed to determine worse case braking; speed limit, road grade, yellow light duration, distance from “stopline” to “in the clear”, and driver reaction time. Knowing just these 5 factors a signal light’s worse case braking (and safety) can be objectively established and degree (or lack) of safety.

Speed limits are usually posted, road grade is 0 for flat level terrain. Yellow light duration is best measured with a video camera and counting yellow light frames. Stop to clear distance varies with intersection and state. In many states the official “Rules of the Road” cite something to the effect “When the red light appears, you may not enter the intersection”*, setting the clear line at the cross-street curb line. *From Illinois Rules of the Road.

The mathematical formula for traffic light timing is widely published (the Institute of Transportation Engineers – ITE for example). The formula calculates yellow light time, by rearranging the formula deceleration can be obtained to get worse case braking. Once worse case deceleration is established an intersection’s safety can be subjectively determined and compared (light, moderate, hard, driver maximum, dangerous or vehicle maximum braking).

How to Safety Rate Redlight Cameras” discusses in detail the parameters (and formulas) involved, and has an online calculator that computes braking action given speed, road grade, stop-clear distance, yellow duration, and (a safe for EVERYONE) driver reaction time (2.3 seconds minimum recommended). 

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Missouri: Lawsuit Challenges Red Light Camera Legality, Astroturf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/missouri-lawsuit-challenges-red-light-camera-legality-astroturf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/missouri-lawsuit-challenges-red-light-camera-legality-astroturf/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 14:14:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411634

Lawyers for motorists in Missouri are looking to capitalize on recent discoveries regarding deceptive marketing campaigns orchestrated by red light camera companies. On Wednesday, The Simon Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and the city of Hazelwood seeking refunds for thousands of photo enforcement tickets issued without the sanction of state law.

“In bringing this class action, plaintiffs seek to expose what they and other Missouri citizens believe is an unscrupulous business venture between an out-of-state for-profit corporation and a municipal government seeking to fill city coffers,” attorneys Ryan A. Keane and John E. Campbell wrote.

The suit argues that ATS used Hazelwood Police Chief Carl Wolf to head Missouri Families for Safer Roads (MFSR), a front group created to enhance the revenue generation efforts of ATS.

“ATS recruited Chief Wolf to essentially market and promote ATS and red light cameras,” Keane and Campbell wrote. “Upon information and belief, Chief Wolf, as the president and sole corporate officer of MFSR and an unofficial ATS spokesman, has accepted gifts and other gratuities from ATS.”

The suit also mentions how Wolf appeared in commercials for the National Coalition of Safer Roads, which, like MFSR, has been exposed as entirely funded, operated and controlled by ATS. The suit argues that these groups helped deceive the public in an effort to conceal an illegal operation. Both the city and ATS were aware that their red light camera ordinance was void under state law.

“Simply put: if the goal of red light cameras is to enforce public safety, then drivers should be assessed points on their driver’s license just like other moving violations and like they would if pulled over by a police officer for running a red light,” Keane and Campbell wrote. “Instead, the city of Hazelwood has deliberately and unlawfully misclassified moving violations of red light signals as a ‘non-moving infraction’ for which ‘no points will be assessed’ against a driver’s license. There is no rational basis for defendant Hazelwood to circumvent a Missouri state law designed to keep dangerous drivers off the road.”

This line of reasoning has a great deal of legal support, including a 2005 memo from Stinson Morrison Hecker, ATS’s own law firm. The memo explained red light camera tickets in Missouri would not hold up in a court of law (view full letter) because the state legislature has refused to authorize the use of automated ticketing. Cities cannot enact such ordinances on their own, a Missouri circuit court judge ruled in May (view ruling). A March 2010 state supreme court ruling (view opinion) struck down Springfield’s red light camera program over its administrative hearing procedures, while also noting that red light camera violations are moving violations.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Photo Radar Revolt Spreads to Canada http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/photo-radar-revolt-spreads-to-canada/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/photo-radar-revolt-spreads-to-canada/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2011 14:23:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411422

Jurisdictions throughout the United States have been dropping the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. On Tuesday, the revolt spread to Strathcona County, Canada where the county council voted 5-4 to replace automated ticketing machines with real, live police officers.

“As far as we can tell, other than British Columbia a few years ago, we’re the first jurisdiction in Canada to remove photo radar,” Councillor Brian Botterill told TheNewspaper in an interview.

In 2001, Liberal Party leader Gordon Campbell campaigned in the province of British Columbia with a promise to ban speed cameras. When election day arrived, voters threw out the incumbent NDP party and handed Campbell 77 out of 79 seats in the provincial legislature. Now Botterill and his colleagues are conservatives opposing a policy originally put in place by conservatives in the province of Alberta.

“We see photo radar as a social experiment that failed,” Botterill said. “It was an interesting attempt, but in the end it didn’t work.”

Instead of mobile speed camera vans, Strathcona County will hire five new enforcement services officers, use radar-activated speed boards to warn drivers to slow down and conduct an engineering analysis to maximize safety. The photo enforcement contract with Affiliated Computer Services expires on September 30, so the county will go month-to-month until the new officers are hired, which could take up to nine months. After that happens, the speed vans will be eliminated.

The goal of switching from unmanned enforcement to manned enforcement is to redirect the focus away from ticketing those driving slightly above an underposted speed limit to going after the egregious violators who Botterill contends are the most dangerous. In Canada, 37 percent of fatal accidents were caused by drunk drivers. One out of five accidents were caused by distracted drivers.

“Photo radar could never stop those root causes, but manned enforcement could,” Botterill said. “Let’s focus our limited dollars on the root causes.”

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report predicted that if the mobile speed cameras were kept they would issue 13,911 tickets and generate $1.2 million in revenue. Of this amount, a $512,000 surplus would be added to county coffers, while five additional officers would cost $270,540 — after taking into account the 8,428 tickets worth $727,010 they would be expected to issue.

“Automated speed enforcement continues to be a significant tool in the long term goal of improving road safety in Strathcona County,” RCMP Sergeant Christian Narbonne argued. “Its use is economical, socially sustainable and environmentally sensitive as per the Strathcona County Strategic Traffic Plan mission statement.”

The majority did not agree with Narbonne. Although the speed cameras will be removed, the red light cameras that generated $237,350 in revenue last year would remain. Instead of removal, the council voted to investigate engineering improvements that would sharply cut down on the number of citations issued.

“We probably shouldn’t be ticketing until the all-red is over,” Botterill said.

The council is also working on a number of other changes to improve safety on county roads. Staff will review and cut on down the number of unnecessary school zones, reducing the current 250 zones to 30 where children actually likely to use the road.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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National Coalition for Safer Roads Run by American Traffic Solutions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/national-coalition-for-safer-roads-run-by-american-traffic-solutions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/national-coalition-for-safer-roads-run-by-american-traffic-solutions/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 15:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411239

Last month, a group calling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).

As previously reported, NCSR is the creation of David Kelly, the head of the public relations firm Storm King Strategies, and ATS is just one of Kelly’s many clients. According to congressional records, Kelly has received at least $580,000 since 2009 to lobby in favor of ticketing for the National Safety Council; for legislation mandating ignition interlocks on behalf of interlock manufacturers; and for reduced CAFE standards on behalf of Jaguar-Land Rover.

Documents incorporating NCSR Inc as a nonprofit entity in the state of Missouri confirm that NCSR is anything but the independent campaign of “victims, parents, medical professionals and first responders” as the group’s publicity material suggests. NCSR’s board of directors instead consists of three individuals: James D. Tuton, ATS president; George J. Hittner, ATS General Counsel; and Charles Territo, ATS spokesman.

While NCSR’s website does mention that it is “supported by American Traffic Solutions,” it fails to disclose the complete control ATS has over the entity’s operations. Matt Hay, former city councilman for the city of Arnold, Missouri and creator of the WrongOnRed website, suggests NCSR is, in effect, misusing public funds.

“In Missouri, we had public officials on the public payroll filming commercials and participating in other advertising for the National Coalition for Safer Roads,” Hay told TheNewspaper. “With the revelation that these two entities, American Traffic Solutions and National Coalition for Safer Roads, are the same, it raises real concerns over the legitimacy of what amounts to propaganda they produce as well as the ethical issue of public employees advertising for a private firm on taxpayer time.”

For Stop on Red Week, NCSR released a glossy, 18-page manual for elected officials and police chiefs to use to celebrate the benefits of red light cameras. It included sample letters to the editor, press releases talking points and city council resolutions. Those playing ball with the effort have been rewarded with highly lucrative jobs. John Wintersteen, the former chief for photo radar pioneer Paradise Valley, and Ron Reagan, the former state representative responsible for legalizing cameras in Florida, both are now part of NCSR-ATS.

Each new city that signs up for a photo ticketing contract represents millions in revenue for ATS. In 2005, the firm attempted to trademark the phrase “Safety Pays.” A copy of NCSR’s incorporation filing is available in a 550k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Certificate of Authority, Foreign Non-profit (State of Missouri, 2/23/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Traffic Camera Company Runs Press Relations for Lynnwood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-traffic-camera-company-runs-press-relations-for-lynnwood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-traffic-camera-company-runs-press-relations-for-lynnwood/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2011 14:07:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410840

The distinction between employees for a private photo enforcement firm and taxpayer-funded public servants blurred in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. Emails between city officials and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) suggest a cozy relationship developed where both sides were willing to perform the duties of the other in terms of marketing and public relations.

Lynnwood Police Sergeant Wayne “Kawika” Davis, for example, used official government resources and time to come up with a marketing plan to sell for the privately held firm at a conference held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in June.

“Ray, I really believe this is a great venue for ATS exposure,” Davis wrote in a May 19 email to ATS project manager Ray Pedrosa. “I have some ideas that really could market ATS in WA, ID, OR and Canada. I know you are already in some of these areas; however, there is a lot more business to be had. Is there someone in marketing that you might
turn me on to?”

ATS was equally generous in inviting municipal employees from across the country to attend a complimentary seminar in Arizona discussing “tips and tricks for speaking with the media” regarding red light cameras and “when to panic, when to relax” regarding efforts in the state legislature to restrict automated ticketing. Airfare, lodging and wages during such events is considered official business and paid by taxpayers. ATS picked up the rest of the tab, for which municipal employees expressed gratitude.

“I had another wonderful time in AZ,” Sergeant Davis wrote in a May 9 email to ATS spokesman Kate Coulson. “ATS is the greatest host, and put on a great conference. I really get irritated at the media, and I find it hard to keep my mouth shut, so I don’t.”

Davis and other Lynnwood officials were concerned as the Everett Daily Herald newspaper widened its investigation into the operations of the automated ticketing program. ATS offered to write responses for the city.

“Our public relations department has great information on the safety aspects of the cameras and they are available to you to create an opinion editorial so the Herald can cover the safety message in next month’s article,” Claudia Garibay with ATS wrote in an April 26 email. “Would you like for the public relations manager Kate Coulson to get in touch with you and discuss ideas and information to provide the Herald?”

Coulson ensured whenever Davis conducted interviews with reporters that he used ATS-approved talking points and materials. It did not help, as Davis did not think the Herald’s May 2 online article was fair. Reporter Scott North had described city officials as “a bit prickly” when responding to questions about the photo enforcement program that had generated $4.7 million in less than a year and a half, which did not sit well with Davis.

“I will need to wait some time before I call Scott North about this,” Sergeant Davis wrote in an email after reading the article. “Because if I call him now, it won’t go well!”

A set of ATS emails is provided in a 1.6mb PDF file at the source link below. Pictured: ATS entertainment as provided after conference in photo taken by Davis.

Source: PDF File ATS emails (City of Lynnwood, Washington, 9/9/2011)

[Courtesy: thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Appeals Court Blocks Binding Vote on Photo Ticketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-appeals-court-blocks-binding-vote-on-photo-ticketing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/washington-appeals-court-blocks-binding-vote-on-photo-ticketing/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 12:36:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410519

The Washington Court of Appeals yesterday delivered a big win to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the photo enforcement firm that has fought hard to prevent the public from voting on red light cameras and speed cameras. A three-judge panel overturned last month’s decision by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig that had found the ATS suit was specifically crafted to block public access to the ballot.

The appellate judges sided with ATS, which argued Bellingham residents have no right to decide whether or not automated ticketing machines can be used in their city.

“RCW 46.63.170 specifies that in order to use automatic traffic safety cameras for the issuance of traffic infractions, the ‘appropriate local legislative authority must first enact an ordinance allowing for their use,’” Judge Marlin J. Appelwick wrote for the court. “For more than 70 years, Washington courts have consistently construed similar provisions as the grant of authority to the local legislative body. Initiative No. 2011-01 expressly restricts that authority by conditioning its use on a concurrence by the majority of the voters. The subject matter of the initiative is therefore clearly beyond the scope of the local initiative power. Initiative No. 2011-01 is invalid.”

The ATS victory, however, may prove hollow. The court denied the ATS demand to block the initiative from ballots which will start being printed later today. Because the initiative would have no legal force if approved by voters, ATS could not prove no tangible harm would come from voters enacting the unenforceable measure. In effect, the judges converted the November election item into an advisory vote. Initiative sponsors believe that will ultimately prove to be the end of cameras in Bellingham. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.

“Bottom line, we are thrilled that we’ve successfully prevented the red-light camera company from blocking this citizen initiative from appearing on the November ballot,” Stephen Pidgeon, attorney for the sponsors, said in a written statement. “The voice of Bellingham’s citizens will be heard.”

The precedent set today could also change as a case on the legality of an identical traffic camera referendum in Mukilteo is pending before the Washington Supreme Court.

A copy of the appellate decision is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File ATS v. Bellingham (Court of Appeals, State of Washington, 9/6/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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