The Truth About Cars » Speed Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Speed Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Italy: More Officials Arrested for Photo Enforcement Corruption http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/italy-more-officials-arrested-for-photo-enforcement-corruption/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/italy-more-officials-arrested-for-photo-enforcement-corruption/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 15:05:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423391

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

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

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

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

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

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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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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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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Costa Rica Unveils Most Burdensome Speed Camera Program Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/costa-rica-unveils-most-burdensome-speed-camera-program-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/costa-rica-unveils-most-burdensome-speed-camera-program-yet/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2011 14:17:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413990

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.

That is a significant burden in a country where the per capita income is $11,300, or less than a quarter of the earning power in the US. In response to the demand for payment options, Banco Popular is offering speed camera loans that pay off the ticket over five years for a monthly payment of 8588 colones (US $16.70).

The impact was felt in a big way by a 22-year-old woman who found she had been ticketed a dozen times in the first publication of notices. She is expected to come up with 3,699,540 colones (US $7188), or about seven months’ worth of her salary. She is appealing her fines.

President Laura Chinchilla has felt the heat from the public and is now calling for the fine to be lowered. The government set up the controversial notification system after finding no way to reliably mail citations in a country that does not have a system of street addresses. Since colonial times, directions have been given by reference to landmarks, as street signs are rare. Officials have been moving to implement a standardized address system for several years in anticipation of an automated ticketing program.

A copy of the first list of license plates is available in a 900k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File La Gaceta No. 184 (Costa Rica, 9/26/2011)

[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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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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Initiatives to End Photo Enforcement Scheduled for Upcoming Elections http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/initiatives-to-end-photo-enforcement-scheduled-for-upcoming-elections/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/initiatives-to-end-photo-enforcement-scheduled-for-upcoming-elections/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2011 14:56:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410043

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.

Albuquerque’s non-binding advisory vote was placed on the ballot by a 5-4 vote of the city council. Officials in Westminster, California unanimously agreed in July to ask voters to decide on a binding red light camera ban on the November 2012 ballot. Everywhere else, the ballot measures were accepted with great reluctance.

“Under duress I’m going to vote yes,” South Euclid, Ohio Councilman Moe Romeo said in moving to place a camera ban on the November 2011 ballot.

During the August 22 city council meeting in the Cleveland suburb, Councilman Jane Goodman argued that the city should ignore the petition submitted by voters demanding a say on the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. City Law Director Michael P. Lograsso said the council had no choice in the matter.

“Based on my research, my recommendation to the clerk is that the petitioners have satisfied all procedural and constitutional requirements and you should send this measure to the board of elections,” Lograsso said. “They have the ability under the charter and the constitution to put this forward. They did it correctly. I don’t know what else to tell you. This amendment was put forth I think you have a duty to send it on to the board of elections… On a charter amendment the case law is very clear from the Ohio Supreme Court that it’s the Ohio constitution that takes precedence over our city charter on this issue. So it’s ten percent of the people voting in the last general election.”

The final vote was 6-1 with Council President David Miller adding he was also allowing the public to vote “under duress.” In East Cleveland, the city council voted on August 30 to allow the referendum on cameras to be placed on the ballot. On August 29, the city council in Dayton, Texas decided to ask voters to vote on red light cameras before entering into a contract with American Traffic Solutions to start an automated ticketing program.

Washington state ballot measures have seen the most fierce opposition. Voters will not have a say in the city of Monroe after Mayor Robert Zimmerman filed a lawsuit that postponed legal consideration of the measure until after the ballots would be printed. Instead, Zimmerman placed his own ambiguous measure on the ballot where either a yes or a no vote could be construed as backing the camera program. The lawsuit filed in Bellingham by American Traffic Solutions resulted in a judgeimposing a $10,000 fine for violating state statutes designed to guarantee public access to the ballot. As a result, the city’s voters will vote on the measure as written. In Longview, a judge ruled that voters would only be allowed to vote on whether to hold an advisory vote on cameras at the next election.

Initiative votes remain pending in a number of other jurisdictions. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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More Ohio Cities to Hold Anti-Traffic Camera Votes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/more-ohio-cities-to-hold-anti-traffic-camera-votes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/more-ohio-cities-to-hold-anti-traffic-camera-votes/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2011 14:15:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406549

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.

Efforts to outlaw speed cameras and red light cameras have picked up steam in the past year. At the direction of the city council, Albuquerque, New Mexico will take an advisory vote on banning cameras in October, and Westminster, California will vote on a binding prohibition in November 2012.

Votes are also possible in Murrieta, CaliforniaPort Lavaca, Texas; and in the Washington state cities of Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Wenatchee — although photo enforcement vendors Redflex and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) are exploring every available legal avenue to keep the issue out of the hands of voters. Organizers are prepared for the use of similar tactics in the Buckeye State.

“We would hope that the city council would vote to put it on the November 2011 ballot for the voters of South Euclid to decide,” Grant McCallum told city leaders on the day he handed in the signed petitions. “If the council fails to do that, we will file a lawsuit against the city to give the voters of South Euclid a voice — for all those people who told us it was a scam, a money grab, and they do not want it in the city.”

In East Cleveland, WTAM radio personality Art McKoy had helped collect signatures to put an anti-camera measure on the ballot in 2007, but the vote was blocked on a technicality. This time around, his group expects to make it onto the ballot. Organizers in the much larger city of Cleveland are collecting signatures with the hopes of securing a vote on photo ticketing in March 2012. Cameras have already been banned in Garfield HeightsChillicothe, HeathCincinnati and Steubenville.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Australia: Speed Camera Deployments Examined http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/australia-speed-camera-deployments-examined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/australia-speed-camera-deployments-examined/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2011 13:49:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406417

The auditor general for New South Wales, Australia last month issued a report on speed camera use in the state. The Liberal Party government had ordered the review after it took power at the end of March. Following the results, thirty-eight camera locations have been taken offline.

As with the like-minded Conservative Party in the UK, NSW Liberals did not set out not to end the use of photo enforcement which generated 371,015 tickets worth $58,117,038 last year. Instead, the party’s leaders are taking steps reduce the number of cameras and reverse the ruling Labor Party policies that kept safety, operational and revenue data for individual cameras a closely guarded secret. No effort had been made to evaluate the program since 2005.

Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat set out to answer whether speed cameras were located in areas identified as having greatest road safety risk and whether the number of crashes were reduced following their installation. Achterstraat pronounced the system a success.

“Overall speeding and crashes reduced after the introduction of fixed speed cameras,” Achterstraat wrote. “The results are mixed when examining individual cameras, with crashes decreasing at some locations but not at others.”

The audit’s formal definition of a “successful” speed camera location included those places where there was no change in the number of accidents at all. The analysis found that 141 fixed speed camera locations, only 40 had statistically significant accident reductions, 38 had increases and 63 saw no significant change. This distribution of variation in crash rates is consistent with the assumption that cameras have no effect at all.

The audit looked at three years of data before and three years after, even though most of the cameras have been in place for at least eight years. In the US, the fatal accident rate has dropped significantly over time without significant speed camera use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled last year, down from the 1.13 fatality rate for 2009 — the lowest rate since 1949. The rate was 1.73 in 1994.

Achterstraat noted that one out of five speed camera citations are issued to drivers exceeding the speed limit by 6 MPH or less for a $90 fine, but this did not mean that the cameras were set up to be a monetary trap. Seventy-three percent of tickets went to those accused of driving between 7 and 12 MPH over the limit for a $211 fine. The maximum speed camera fine in NSW is $1987.

“We found no evidence that potential revenue is a factor in decisions on where cameras are located,” Achterstraat wrote. “Some [members of the public] sought to break the nexus between speeding and revenue-raising by suggesting abolishing monetary fines for speeding and replacing them with non-monetary sanctions…. All of these suggestions would impact on the revenue to government and therefore on the level of services that government could fund.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Washington: Court Denies Attempt to Block Public Vote on Traffic Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/washington-court-denies-attempt-to-block-public-vote-on-traffic-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/washington-court-denies-attempt-to-block-public-vote-on-traffic-cameras/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2011 14:06:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=405781

Voters in Bellingham, Washington are likely to have the final say in whether or not to continue using red light cameras and speed cameras. A Whatcom County Superior Court judge yesterday threw out the attempt by photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to immediately block the measure from being considered. The court believes ATS has an uphill battle to prove its case.

“ATS has not demonstrated that it will suffer immediate and irreparable injury if the temporary restraining order is not granted,” Judge Steven Mura ruled. “ATS’s motion for a temporary restraining order is denied.”

Vanessa Soriano Power, the attorney representing ATS, attempted to rush the case through the system. She served notice emailed initiative sponsorBanCams.com on Sunday afternoon informing the group that it was suing to stop the initiative.

“ATS seeks injunctive relief to prevent inclusion of proposed Bellingham initiative No. 2011-01 on the general election ballot on November 8, 2011,” Power wrote.

The company claimed the public could not have a say on the issue because city officials signed a contract with ATS in May for the provision of automated ticketing services. Interfering with such a contract would violate the Constitution, Power said. In addition, ATS lawyers argued that the public referendum power can only be used for “legislative” purposes but the proposed initiative touched an “administrative” matter. The initiative sponsors issued a statement celebrating Judge Mura’s initial skepticism of these claims.

“We are absolutely thrilled with resolving this case so quickly and 100 percent of the credit goes to the arrogance and belligerence of the red-light camera company itself,” Tim Eyman, Johnny Weaver, Nick Sherwood and Alex Rion wrote. “Their actions today serve as a perfect metaphor for how they do business. They don’t care about anyone but themselves.”

Bellingham officials decided not to intervene either way in the lawsuit, and legal opinion on the matter has split. In Wenatchee, a Chelan County judge granted an order blocking the collection of signatures for an anti-camera ballot measure (view ruling). In Mukilteo last year, a Snohomish County Superior Court denied an attempt to block an anti-camera vote (view decision). The state supreme court’s only input on the issue sided with Snohomish County (view order). The high court is expected to release a more complete decision. The anti-camera initiative sponsors argued that the attempt at forum shopping in this case backfired.

“The attorney for the powerful Seattle law firm who represents ATS traveled up to Bellingham for a one-on-one meeting with the judge where they were asking for an order shortening the time to hear the case,” the sponsors wrote. “After finding out Judge Ira Uhrig, who is battling cancer, was unavailable, they bulldozed into the courtroom of Judge Charles Snyder, the chief justice, who was hearing criminal cases. He eventually booted them out of his courtroom. They then moved on to Judge Steven Mura, demanding that their motion be heard. Oh, he heard it — and then some. He read the pleadings and decided that oral argument was unnecessary.”

A further hearing will take place on August 17.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Richard Retting Cashes in on Lifetime of Traffic Camera Advocacy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/richard-retting-cashes-in-on-lifetime-of-traffic-camera-advocacy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/richard-retting-cashes-in-on-lifetime-of-traffic-camera-advocacy/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2011 14:09:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404467

The one man most responsible for the spread of red light cameras in the United States is now enjoying the fruit of his labor. Richard A. Retting was New York City’s deputy assistant commissioner for traffic safety programs as the Big Apple considered becoming the first in the US to operate intersection cameras. Planning for the program began in 1983 and continued through 1991 when then-Mayor David Dinkins activated the system. For this achievement, Retting was dubbed the father of the red light camera in America, and today he is earning money directly from the systems that have followed New York’s lead.

Brekford Corporation is a Maryland-based firm that sells police car equipment, including video and surveillance systems. In December, the company decided to take on market leaders American Traffic Solutions and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia in offering red light cameras and speed cameras to this existing client base. Brekford hired Retting to be a partner focusing on the automated ticketing business line.

“Brekford’s automated photo enforcement program was implemented during December 2010, and the company is starting to see a fresh stream of revenues from this newly introduced program,” CEO C.B. Brechin said in a February statement. “Brekford has been awarded automatic traffic enforcement contracts by several municipalities during the past several months and the implementation of these contracts we anticipate will bring added revenues and profitability to the company beginning this quarter.”

So far, the company has so far lined up contracts with five Maryland towns: Fairmount Heights, Landover Hills, Laurel, Morningside and Salisbury. Revenues from the photo enforcement division grew from $100,000 in the start-up year to an expected $8 million by the end of this year. For 2012, the company forecasts $15 million as it lines up contracts in other East Coast states. If the firm is successful, Retting can expect to be well compensated.

That is the reward for Retting’s eighteen years spent advocating red light camera and speed cameras for the insurance industry’s lobbying arm, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To this day, reference is made to Retting’s 1999 IIHS study on the effectiveness of red light cameras in Oxnard, California — the first study of its kind in this country (view study, 1mb PDF). This work and a follow-up study in 2001 was criticized by a 2001 congressional report and an independent analysis appearing in a peer-reviewed journal in 2008 (read analysis). Retting’s conclusions and comments on the topic have since appeared in thousands of news articles and influenced every city that has a program.

In a November article for the Institute of Transportation Engineers journal, Retting provided his lessons learned from the use of photo enforcement over the past two decades. Out of thirty-two footnotes, Retting cited himself ten times, highlighting his central role in the debate. Retting also works at Sam Schwartz Engineering, a consulting firm, where he offered the following advice to cities with red light camera programs: “Appearance of a revenue motive negatively affects public attitudes toward automated traffic enforcement.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Spain: Speed Camera Gives Ticket for Driving Too Slow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/spain-speed-camera-gives-ticket-for-driving-too-slow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/spain-speed-camera-gives-ticket-for-driving-too-slow/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2011 13:55:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401542

Drivers who pass a photo radar location frequently drop their speed far below the legal limit to be absolutely certain no citation will come in the mail weeks later. In response, officials in Valencia, Spain have begun issuing photo tickets to drivers who are moving “too slow.” Motorist Jesus Llorens received just such ticket in the mail on June 14 for sluggish driving past a camera in an Opel Vectra. The alleged offense happened in February at 11am in the tunnel of the Avenida del Cid.

“Passing through, I was going no more than 35 or 40km/h, because I was trying not to go 50km/h because I suspected a radar was there,” Llorens told Levante-El Mercantil Valenciano.

The notice sent to Llorens demanded payment of 200 euros (US $290) for traveling “at an abnormally reduced speed without just cause, obstructing the progress of another vehicle.” The fine drops to 100 euros (US $145) if paid early as an enticement for people to pay rather than fight their tickets in court. View a copy of the citation. The incident has left Llorens disillusioned with the photo enforcement process.

“It’s a pure tax collection effort,” Llorens told Levante. “They want to make money, not control traffic.”

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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UK Government Ends Speed Camera Secrecy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/uk-government-ends-speed-camera-secrecy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/uk-government-ends-speed-camera-secrecy/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2011 13:45:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=400722

The UK government on Sunday officially terminated the policy of concealing safety and revenue information for individual speed camera locations. The Labour government had held this information secret, but Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, a member of the Conservative Party, insisted on making it readily available to the public online.

“We want to improve accountability and make sure that the public are able to make informed judgments about the decisions made on their behalf,” Penning said in a statement. “So if taxpayers’ money is being spent on speed cameras then it is right that information about their effectiveness is available to the public.”

Each local jurisdiction has until July 20 to provide a website address to the Department for Transport (DfT) where the information will eventually be uploaded. The DfT website will serve as a centralized index pointing to the data maintained by each local authority. The department requires posting of annual collision data for each fixed camera location dating back to 1990. The number of tickets and driver education courses generated by each device must also be reported.

“In relation to offense data the department considers there is a strong justification in terms of public transparency and accountability to publish this information site by site for fixed camera sites,” the department explained.

For mobile cameras, each local authority must release its strategy for deciding where to place cameras. Releasing collision data for mobile locations and red light cameras is considered optional.

A working group of parties with a stake in speed camera use determined that the collision information would be reported using “STATS19″ data with killed and seriously injured figures combined into one “KSI” statistic. DfTadmitted in 2009 that police undercounted serious injury accident after the installation of speed cameras in their STATS19 KSI figures. The revelation followed a British Medical Journal (BMJ) expose that showed injury accidents were not decreasing after cameras came into widespread use (view 2006 BMJ study).

A copy of Penning’s letter to local authorities is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Letter from Transport Minister (UK Department for Transport, 6/26/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Australia: Lawmakers Reject Call for Speed Camera Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/australia-lawmakers-reject-call-for-speed-camera-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/australia-lawmakers-reject-call-for-speed-camera-review/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2011 14:01:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=397026

A November study by the University of Adelaide recommended that a commission be established to review the placement and use of speed cameras in South Australia. Last month, the state parliament rejected any suggestion that policies relating to automated ticketing could be questioned.

As part of a parliamentary internship program, a research report reviewed existing research and applied the findings to the road safety situation in South Australia. The results were provided to Ivan Venning, a Liberal Party member of House of Assembly, who attempted on May 19 to win approval for a select committee to examine the use and effectiveness of photo enforcement. During debate, Venning pointed out several other states were currently conducting reviews of their own.

“People are fed up with being used as cash cows by the government when the accuracy of the use of speed lasers is called into question, and it compounds public frustration and anger,” Venning said. “The New South Wales O’Farrell government is, today, undertaking an audit on speed camera use and effectiveness, and I commend it for that. The Victorian government is also undertaking an examination of the issue; Ted Baillieu has appointed a camera ombudsman. I think it is high time for a full scale review to be undertaken here.”

Labor Party member of parliament Tony Piccolo succeeded in a 23-18 vote to replace Venning’s motion with a statement that the parliament “has confidence in and supports the efforts of the Commissioner of Police in ensuring the effectiveness of speed cameras.”

The South Australian report noted that from 1990 to 2002, South Australia issued 2.4 million photo tickets and collected A$283 million in revenue, but road deaths in 2000 were higher than they were in 1992. In terms of camera placement, the most lucrative photo ticketing locations were not on the list of most dangerous roads — with the exception of sites in Adelaide and Morphett Vale.

“Thirty-seven percent of cameras in the study were placed directly inside a rural town on a rural street, even though the data above demonstrates that only 4.2 percent of accidents occur in these areas,” the report noted.

The study recommended giving local police responsibility for positioning cameras instead of the current system where locations are selected by the state police. It also recommended increase transparency and consideration of alternatives to cameras.

“The idea that speed cameras reduce speeds, accidents and fatalities is often too simplified,” the report concluded. “As studies have shown, there are a number of other factors that can affect the use of speed cameras and a number of road safety measures that can help reduce the road toll… by simply focusing on speed and speed cameras to reduce the road toll, policymakers are ignoring other factors which contribute to the complex causes of accidents.”

A copy of the report is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Speed Cameras: Life Savers or Revenue Raisers? (University of Adelaide, 11/8/2010)

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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Does France Hate Speed Cameras More Than America Loves The El Camino? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/does-france-hate-speed-cameras-more-than-america-loves-the-el-camino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/does-france-hate-speed-cameras-more-than-america-loves-the-el-camino/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 16:55:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395137

Today’s sign of the times comes courtesy of the world of social media, and calls into question some of our most basic assumptions about the world of cars. France, it seems, experienced a 12.8% increase in on-road fatalities in the first quarter of this year, and the New York Times reports that the French government is responding by banning devices that scan the road ahead for speed camera radar waves.

A decade ago, the death rate on French roads was among the worst in Europe, and the government reacted in 2002 with what some drivers called repressive tactics. Radar cameras were erected at intersections throughout the country, which captured a motorist’s license plate if the car surpassed the speed limit by more than 5 kilometers an hour (3 m.p.h.), deducted points off a motorist’s license and sent a fine through the mail.

The measures were deemed successful. The International Transport Forum said France achieved a reduction of 47 percent in its road-death toll in the first decade of the century, relative to the 1990s. The ministerial report said the average speed in France also dropped 10 kilometers an hour since 2002, or 11.7 percent.

The radar cameras, however, spawned a thriving market in radar-warning devices. According to AFFTAC, 5.1 million drivers in France use them. Under the new law, users would face fines of up to 1,500 euros, or about $2,100.

The French government’s decision to not only ban radar detectors, but also to remove signs warning motorists of fixed radar cameras has generated some serious backlash. Apparently over 80,000 people “liked” the Facebook page of AFFTAC, a group opposing the measures and calling for nationwide protests, over the course of two days. By comparison, the most optimistic count of hand-raisers for a possible future Chevy El Camino is “possibly as high as 18,000 people.” Call us crazy, but we thought America’s oft-cited “love affair with the automobile” would have created some slightly different results.

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Australia: Employee Alters Traffic Camera Ticket Data http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/australia-employee-alters-traffic-camera-ticket-data/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/australia-employee-alters-traffic-camera-ticket-data/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 14:43:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391322

The employee of a photo enforcement firm was arrested in Victoria, Australia yesterday after being accused of adjusting the speed readings in a database of photo tickets. Police believe the man identified as a 36-year-old from Craigieburn changed the date, time, speeds and other variables on a total of 67,541 red light camera and speed camera citations. The data were altered between February and March while the man worked for Serco, the private firm in charge of ticketing operations.

“The data changes have had no impact on any infringement issued in relation to the speed or red light camera system,” a police news release claimed. “No infringements have been issued to motorists with incorrect data and there is no ongoing impact to any infringements to be issued.”

Victoria police have a history of insisting all of its tickets are accurate, regardless of problems uncovered with hardware. Last year, cameras run by Redflex Traffic Systems were found to have faulty speed calculation mechanism, but officials only conceded that nine tickets out of the 68,000 issued were bogus. Similarly, in 2003 police insisted speed cameras on the Hume Highway were accurate until extreme public pressure forced the refund of $26 million in tickets.

In this case, the police E-Crime Squad began investigating after the contractor noticed changes had been made to the database records. National Motorists Association Executive Director Gary Biller believes this sort of problem is to be expected from a system that dispense tickets without human intervention.

“Stories of hackers accessing and tampering with stored data in red-light and speed cameras are not unique to Victoria,” Biller told TheNewspaper. “This latest incident does highlight the problem of trying to track crime by database, which is an apt description of photo enforcement. Can a defendant’s rights truly be protected without the ability to question in court a live witness to the alleged crime?”

Just such a mistake saw Harmony Henke, 29, falsely arrested in Maroochydore, Queensland on February 25. Henke had received a speed camera ticket for allegedly driving 72km/h (44 MPH) in a 60km/h (37 MPH) zone, but the penalty and points were canceled after she explained that she became sick behind the wheel while pregnant. She received another speed camera ticket in the mail in August, but she had not been behind the wheel. A friend accepted responsibility and Henke’s record should have been cleared — but it was not. She was pulled over on October 31 for driving on a suspended license after a database failed to reflect that her license points had been canceled, the News Mail reported. In February, Henke was stopped again but this time she and her six-month-old baby were processed through the jail. She was cleared only after Queensland Transport supplied a letter confirming that her driving record was clean.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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Canada: Group Protests Winnipeg Speed Camera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/canada-group-protests-winnipeg-speed-camera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/canada-group-protests-winnipeg-speed-camera/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2011 13:57:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390991

Activists in Winnipeg, Canada have hounded city officials about problems with the photo radar program. The group WiseUpWinnipeg caught the city using improper warning signs, hiding information from freedom of information requests and exploiting short yellow timing at intersections. The group’s leader, Larry Stefanuik, believed it was time to “amp it up” after his findings have been ignored.

“Mayor Sam Katz, Police Chief [Keith] McCaskill, ACS, councilors, Premier [Greg] Selinger and provincial politicians all turn a blind eye from the qualified research, the increased collision statistics and the success of real safety programs in other cities and countries,” Stefanuik wrote. “They do not want to hear them or test them because they know revenue will drop quickly and the city will be on the hook for $5 million a year regardless. That leaves we the people no other choice the to force an intervention with the addict and try and get them off the juice by slowing or stopping the supply of cash earned in a predatory fashion. Yes it’s time to hit them in the pocketbook.”

The group is offering free warning signs that say “Slow Down, Photo Enforcement Ahead” and encouraging motorists to park behind photo radar vans and display the signs to warn fellow drivers in advance of the speed trap. Once the sign are up, Stefanuik finds that people slow down and the speed camera van no longer flashes.

“We figure a couple of really good months shutting them down will make an impact on the city’s budget,” Stefanuik told TheNewspaper.

Photo enforcement systems typically depend on surprise for maximum effectiveness. WiseUpWinnipeg caught city officials actively taking down photo enforcement signs from medians in order to increase the number of citations issued. The group compared recent photographs of photo ticketing locations with Google Street View imagery from 2009 and found a number of signs had disappeared.

Stefanuik last week pointed out that the desire to remove warning signs is at odds with publicity materials developed in in 2005. Winnipeg ran a campaign devoted to the message: “Thank you for seeing the signs and slowing down.” Since Winnipeg has reduced the number of municipal signs, WiseUpWinnipeg hopes their privately funded warning signs will slow people down as well.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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Speed Camera Firm a Millionaire Factory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/speed-camera-firm-a-millionaire-factory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/speed-camera-firm-a-millionaire-factory/#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2010 15:05:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374088

Millions of dollars paid by motorists in red light camera and speed camera fines end up in the pockets of a handful of individuals. In the United States, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is responsible for about 41 percent of the nation’s photo enforcement business, but as a private company its dealings are well concealed from public scrutiny. Based on a review of documents marked “confidential — attorneys’ eyes only,” the ATS leadership team has reaped significant personal profit in a short amount of time.

“I paid through sweat equity of becoming a member of the leadership, and I made a financial investment in the company,” former Wall Street analyst Adam Draizin explained in a December 3, 2009 deposition discussing his joining ATS in May 2004.

Draizin’s contribution was $500,000 for which he earned an share equal to that of the company’s other three partners. That investment paid off in a big way when Goldman Sachs became the largest shareholder in 2008 with a 30 percent stake. Draizin, John Petrozza, Adam Tuton, James Tuton each share an equal 16.7 percent stake. James Investment (Robert Alpert) held a 3 percent share.

Goldman paid $58 million for its slice of the automated ticketing industry, of which $45 million was invested in the company. The original four partners pocketed $3,250,000 each — a six-fold return for Draizin, a Harvard Business School graduate. Goldman retains significant influence over the business. The deal required that ATS change from a subchapter S corporation to a C corporation, that Goldman representatives sit on the ATS board of directors and that the board meet on a quarterly basis.

“They had a requirement to — I think if there were any — I think if there were any, you know, significantly material transactions that we undertook, like an acquisition of size, they would have to approve that,” Draizin said. “I think if we made any significant changes to the capitalization of the business, they would have to be able to participate in that decision. I think those are the big ones.”

Draizin early on attempted to expand the ATS business line to include consulting for businesses like BP.

“We were considering having fuel services consulting as part of our line of business, and so we folded that contract in,” Draizin explained. “At the time, it was helping oil companies — helping — well, in that case helping British Petroleum market to its customers better and improve their efficiencies with how they managed information.”

As part of the Goldman transaction, ATS Consolidated Inc was set up as a holding company for the firm’s real estate and commercial services business. Other subsidiaries include PlatePass LLC, which allows rental car companies to charge for toll road use through rental agreements; Easy Shield LLC, which no longer operates but has a patent for a device that shields toll transponders; Mulvihill ICS and Mulvihill Electrical Enterprises, the company that provides automated ticketing machines to New York City; ATS Processing Services LLC, which handles processing business for commercial services; Cary 503 LLC, a piece of real estate in New York housing Mulvihill’s operations; and American Traffic Solutions Inc, the main company.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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Federal Court Green Lights Anti-Camera Lawsuit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/federal-court-green-lights-anti-camera-lawsuit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/federal-court-green-lights-anti-camera-lawsuit/#comments Thu, 11 Nov 2010 15:54:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=372343

A federal appellate court ruled Tuesday that a portion of a lawsuit against the red light camera and speed camera program in Cleveland, Ohio could proceed. Daniel McCarthy and Colleen Carroll argued that the city had unconstitutionally deprived them of their property after the Parking Violations Bureau fined them $100 when the municipal traffic camera ordinance did not give the city any authority to impose a fine on someone who leases his vehicle. A district court judge threw out the case, but the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found merit in the state law aspects of their argument.

Under Cleveland’s photo enforcement ordinance, liability for the tickets is imposed on the registered owners of the vehicle. Neither McCarthy nor Carroll owned their respective vehicles, nor were they listed as the owners in state records. The city ticketed them anyway.

“Under the plain text of Cleveland’s ordinance, plaintiffs were not liable for the tickets,” Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr wrote for the court.

The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled against Cleveland on this point in a separate case, and the city modified its ordinance to cover leased vehicles. McCarthy and Carroll want the city to refund every fine collected before the change was made because those takings lacked legal sanction.

The Sixth Circuit did not believe that this issue was appropriate for federal court. It suggested that supreme court precedents tend to indicate that a Fifth Amendment “taking” would only occur if the city had seized the bank accounts of ticket recipients. The court found it premature to assert that they had been denied compensation for property taken if they had not first appealed their citation through the entire legal process and received a final decision — even though the cost of the challenge would far exceed the price of the citation.

“Because the challenged ordinance does not seize or otherwise impair an identifiable fund of money, plaintiffs have failed to plead a cause of action under the Takings Clause,” Mays wrote. “We therefore affirm the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claim.”

McCarthy and Carroll fared better with their claim that Cleveland took their property in violation of the Ohio Constitution’s Takings Clause, which the state supreme court has ruled offers greater protections than the Fifth Amendment.

“The district court did not analyze Count I of plaintiffs’ amended complaint, which asserted that Cleveland’s enforcement of the traffic camera ordinance unjustly enriched the city,” Mays ruled. “We, therefore, must reverse the judgment of the district court on these state law claims and remand this case for further proceedings.”

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

Source: PDF File McCarthy v. Cleveland (US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 11/10/2010)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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Redflex Executive Salary Exceeds Shareholder Profit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/redflex-executive-salary-exceeds-shareholder-profit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/redflex-executive-salary-exceeds-shareholder-profit/#comments Tue, 19 Oct 2010 12:33:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=369364

Morale at Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian photo enforcement company with more contracts in the United States than any other firm, has never been lower. Yesterday, the company faced the real possibility that the state government in Victoria, Australia would sue for the recovery of $15 million in citations issued by a faulty Redflex freeway speed camera system. Although the government currently refuses to issue refunds, it issued equally stern denials before giving in to public pressure by refunding $26 million worth of tickets over a high-profile accuracy failure in 2003.

The latest bad news comes as employees in the US office fear layoffs in the wake of the cancellation of the multimillion-dollar Arizona freeway photo radar program. Some workers at the company have privately expressed anger that, despite firm’s precarious financial state, the head of US operations will receive a substantial raise. Shareholders are no more likely to be pleased to learn at the November 19 annual meeting that Karen Finley will be paid US$498,108 in a year when net profit for shareholders dropped 92.6 percent to a total of just $437,300.

This year, Finley boosted her salary by $9000 to $309,000 in addition to requesting 79,701 shares of stock incentives worth US$189,108. Other company directors can look forward to lavish increases as the annual meeting will vote on increasing the maximum annual payment to company directors from $396,000 to $693,000. Redflex CEO Graham Davie will be paid slightly less than Finley at $496,637– $310,375 in salary and $186,262 in stock.

In the past five years, that stock has dropped 19 percent compared to a 7 percent gain on the ASX 200 with shares currently trading at just US$2.41 on the Australian Securities Exchange. This poor performance has made the company an attractive buyout target. Toll road giant Macquarie Bank made an offer to buy out the firm, and more recently the German conglomerate Siemens AG has expressed interest.

Shareholders must approve the raises for company directors, the performance rights granted to Finley and Davie and the overall remuneration report.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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Arizona: Racketeering Suit Filed Against Speed Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/arizona-racketeering-suit-filed-against-speed-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/arizona-racketeering-suit-filed-against-speed-cameras/#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2010 13:30:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=368489

A motorist is using federal anti-racketeering statutes to go after the red light camera and speed camera program in Tempe, Arizona. Dan Gutenkauf filed his complaint last week in the US District Court for the District of Arizona and happened to land the same judge, Frederick J Martone, who presided over the recent American Traffic Solutions (ATS) vs. Redflex case which is currently under appeal. The suit names Redflex employees, police officials, politicians and judges as defendants.

“I feel this lawsuit is very comprehensive and I have spent a lot of time over the last two years doing the legal research, gathering evidence and drafting the complaint,” Gutenkauf told TheNewspaper. “And I have my appeal victory from the lower court propelling me into federal court.”

In his filing, Gutenkauf carefully laid out the circumstances of his February 17, 2009 trial in Tempe Municipal Court before Judge Mary Jo Barsetti. Traffic aide Bianca Gallego and Tempe Police Officer Aaron Colombe both testified that they had no way to confirm whether Dan Gutenkauf or his identical twin brother, Dennis, had been behind the wheel, based on the photographic evidence and that no attempt at positive identification was made before the ticket was issued. Both Gutenkauf brothers are listed on an insurance policy for the van that was photographed.

Barsetti found him guilty over numerous objections Gutenkauf made about the admissibility of the evidence provided by Redflex. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eartha K. Washington overturned the ruling on appeal, and Gutenkauf received a refund check in December 2009 for the $197 fine, but Gutenkauf wanted to recover the additional $699 he spent in filing the appeal. Tempe agreed to pay back the $699, but only if Gutenkauf signed a contract containing language preventing him from filing suit against Redflex. Gutenkauf refused, knowing the company’s manuals direct employees to “issue citation” based solely on a match between the sex of the driver in the photograph and the vehicle registration records, not on the positive identification required by Arizona statute.

“Matthew Degraw knew that the photo speed enforcement citations sent to Daniel Gutenkauf through the mail by Redflex’s back office citation program contained knowingly false representations, creating the false impression that the actual driver had been identified, in a fraudulent scheme and artifice for the purpose of obtaining money from him by false pretenses,” Gutenkauf’s filing stated.

Gutenkauf argues that the police officer who certified the citation violated the same law requiring positive identification before approving the ticket. This violation, combined with his inability to cross-examine the witnesses against him represented a deprivation of his constitutional right to due process, he argued. Tempe officials have not yet filed a response.

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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