A Chicago Tribune investigation has uncovered that the city’s speed cameras have nabbed school bus drivers, police, public employees and city bus drivers more than 8,000 times over the past two years.
In most cases the tickets were passed on to the drivers, but in some cases — bus drivers and police driving unmarked cars who could justify speeding — those fines were either paid by the Chicago Transit Authority or waived altogether.
The Chicago Tribune’s fine, fine, fine reporting work uncovered 714 bus violations and more than 2,000 police tickets in two years. (Read More…)
While use of red-light and speed cameras are on the wane, support for automated enforcement depends upon where and who the constituent is.
Speed cameras are the bane of any driver’s existence, especially if they’re more trouble than they’re worth for the municipality who experiments with them for a contract period of several years. Future Hyundai Genesis owners in Korea, however, may have a new tool at their disposal that should make dealing with the long lens of the law much easier on the wallet.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Since September 8, motorists in Costa Rica have been racking up speed camera fines worth 308,295 colones (US $600) each. Sixteen speed cameras have been flashing around the city of San Jose at a rate of a thousand per day as part of the brand new program. Those fines — among the world’s highest — are not being mailed to vehicle owners, as is the case elsewhere. Instead, motorists are expected to check their plate number on a regular basis to see if they need to pay up.
On September 26, the first set of license plates was published in the form of a 120-page list in La Gaceta, the government’s official journal. The alleged violations are sorted by day, so all of the country’s vehicle owners must scan each day of the week looking for their vehicle. Those among the 15,429 plates that have been listed so far have until October 17 to come up with the $600 in cash.
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.
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.
Voters in at least seven cities will soon have a chance to decide whether to prohibit the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Initiatives are being certified for the ballot in five states across the country, despite an all-out effort by photo ticketing firms to block any public role in the matter. Early voting is already underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the October 4 municipal election.
“Shall the Albuquerque city council continue authorizing the ‘Safe Traffic Operations Program,’ commonly called the ‘red light camera program’?” the city ballot asks.
In the past five years, five Ohio cities have voted to ban photo enforcement, and two more might be added to the list. The Cuyahoga County Board Of Elections is now counting signatures from residents in South Euclid and East Cleveland who are determined to prohibit automated ticketing in November. On August 3, organizers in East Cleveland handed in 1624 signatures, well more than the 358 needed to qualify in the city of 18,000. South Euclid activists turned in 1076 signatures on July 25.