By on September 9, 2009

Officials in charge of red light camera and speed camera programs claim it is “rare” for erroneous tickets to be issued because a human police officer diligently verifies each and every citation for accuracy before it is issued. If confronted with clear evidence that their cameras have made a mistake, the camera companies insist that it’s an “isolated incident.” Here are seven of the more ridiculous “isolated incidents” from across the country:

7) It’s Never Too Late to Attempt a NASCAR Career
In 2008, a Montgomery County, Maryland, speed camera accused an elderly man of racing through a busy neighborhood at 100 MPH — during rush hour. The automated ticketing machine snapped two photos of a Toyota Echo economy car belonging to Silver Spring residents Terence Brennan, 68, and Helga Brennan, 76. Only after the local media got involved did Montgomery County admit that the camera, which had all the usual certifications of accuracy, was flat out wrong when it came to measuring speeds.

6) I Didn’t Go To Atlanta and All I Got Was this Lousy Ticket
In 2008, Hollywood, Florida resident Evelyn Singer received a ticket for running a red light in Atlanta. Singer responded with a certified letter explaining that her white Acura looked nothing like the black Pontiac committing the offense alleged in the ticket photograph. Moreover, she had not been to Atlanta in thirty-five years! While a Miami television station’s cameras were rolling, Singer later called to confirm whether the ticket had been canceled or not; the courthouse employees put her on hold or hung up. After several frustrating attempts, Singer reached a human and asked how often the cameras make mistakes. “It doesn’t really matter as far as what we’re trying to accomplish,” the unidentified Georgia courthouse official responded.

5) Ticket Cameras Are No Match for Photoshop
Last year, students at Montgomery High School in southern Maryland reprinted copies of vehicle license plates belonging to people they didn’t like, attached them to their own cars and drove past the nearby speed cameras at high rates of speed. This resulted in $40 fines to innocent victims of their choice.

4) Like Stephen Colbert, Ticket Cameras Don’t See Race
In 2006, Paul Stevens, another victim of a freeway ticket camera, noticed something strange. “When I looked at the picture [on the ticket] the male driving the car is Caucasian,” Stevens told a local television station in an interview. “As you can see I’m a Black-American.” Scottsdale wanted Stevens to pay $157 for driving 78 MPH on the 65 MPH freeway — even though neither the Camaro Z-28 in the photo, nor the vehicle’s license plate belonged to Stevens. To even the score, in 2008, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, accused Alan Dukes, the Caucasian owner of a 2005 Honda motorcycle, of speeding. Yet the photograph of the alleged violation clearly showed a black man riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

3) When It Comes to Ticket Cameras, No Speed Is Impossible

In 2007, the city of Cleveland, Ohio, insisted that Christopher Johnson’s 56-year-old Korean War-era Blue Willys Jeep blasted past East 71st Street and Chester Avenue at 48 MPH on September 1, even though the military machines’s top speed is well below 35 MPH. When Johnson tried to resolve the problem through letters and phone calls, he was ignored. However, after a local newspaper called the Cleveland Municipal Court, Johnson’s ticket was quickly dismissed.

2) I’ve Heard of Cities Fishing for Tickets, But This Is Ridiculous…
On December 10, 2007, according to a ticket camera in Manhattan, Russell Falkena ran a red light. The city even sent him a $50 souvenir, in the form of a ticket, to mark the occasion. The photos accompanying the ticket showed a black SUV, with the license plate 3702PH, running the light. Mr. Falkena was understandably confused because he didn’t own a black SUV. He did have a fishing boat registered with that number, but that couldn’t have been the reason he was sent the ticket. But of course it was.

1) Oops, We Forgot to Construct the Sign
In 2007, a former police captain sued Albuquerque, New Mexico, to force the city to refund speed camera citations that were improperly issued. Leeper, who left the Albuquerque Police Department in 2006, had been accused of driving 42 MPH in a 40 MPH construction zone. The camera, however, had been set to ticket people exceeding 30 MPH, even though there was no 30 MPH sign posted. Leeper later teamed up with several other defendants and attorney Paul Livingston to demand refunds for up to 1300 motorists wrongly accused.

These seven examples of ticket camera errors are just the tip of the iceberg. A 60 MPH error in the speed reading is obvious to the public. But what about a five or ten mile per hour error accidentally — or deliberately — incorporated into the timing system? Who would ever know?

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17 Comments on “Seven Ridiculous Ticket Camera Blunders...”

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The guy with the old Willys skated. Most of em are re-powered somewhat and surely will top 35 mph.

  • avatar

    If confronted with clear evidence that their cameras have made a mistake, the camera companies insist that it’s an “isolated incident.”

    And if confronted with clear evidence of a mistake, the local governments hide behind “complain to the company,” but still enjoy their cut of the revenue. These cameras are terrible, but blame falls to the local governments that sign the deals too, not just the hucksters who sign up the governments.

  • avatar

    The frustrating thing about these blatantly errant tickets is that you have to jump through the biggest hoops and untangle the largest wad of red tape to get it resolved, as illustrated in the case of number 6.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if either the persons who are supposed to deal with such calls are told specifically how to ignore them, or if the DMVs simply have not set up a method to deal with errant tickets, because they think the system is perfect, or that they think there are not enough ticket-fighters to warrant having a system in place.

  • avatar

    I like Jay Leno’s idea personally.

  • avatar

    1. Start a company (doesn’t really need to do anything) and register the car in the company’s name and address.
    2. Take off your front license plate — leave the screws and replace the plate when you park if need be.
    3. Get a good radar detector — speed cameras are always radar, never laser.
    4. Wear a hat with mosquito netting and dark glasses.
    5. Observe traffic ahead and look for brake lights.
    6. Only speed on open roads where you can see well enough ahead.

    Any others?


  • avatar

    Mt favorite is the “what we are trying to accomplish” line.

    Whatsa matta? Youse gat a problem with safety?
    Who cares if we got the wrong car and wrong person, it’s really about preventing red light running and if you pay 130 dollars then we know you’ll stop for sure in the future. And you’ll tell all your friends.

    Intimidation accomplished.

    I like the tag flip best. I need to incorporate that into my ride somehow. There are two cars nearby like mine, same year model and color that would be excellent donors for a tag.

  • avatar

    So I figure you’d guys would like these….

    And this one:

    4800km/h in a 40km/h zone

  • avatar

    All of these screw ups are really the result of human error.

    If a camera is certified accurate but in reality is wrong (#7), then the certifier is either incompetent or a liar (i.e. said it was tested when it wasn’t – which I suspect is what really happened).

    #1 is human error for setting the speed threshold too low (or for ticketing in an area with no posted speed limit — not clear which is at fault)

    #5 was intentional deception that should’ve been caught by human review of the license plate against the make/model of the car registered to that plate. The rest were unintentional misreads of the license plate that should’ve been caught by the same type of basic review.

    It’s like the price scanner at the grocery store. It’s only as accurate as the person inputting the prices.

  • avatar

    These exposés should keep ‘local media’ popular for another couple of years?

  • avatar

    Never mind photo radar, a while back Detroit had a great scam going. Parking cops would run registration checks on random license numbers and copy the vehicle descriptions onto bogus parking tickets. The average out-state recipient of the follow-up would shrug, say it’s only $50 and no points, why bother driving five hours each way to Detroit to contest it.

    I think the way they finally got busted was some retiree from the Upper Peninsula decided he had nothing better to do and was able to demonstrate conclusively that neither he nor his car could possibly have been in Detroit on the date in question.

  • avatar

    I like Jay Leno’s idea personally.

    That might have been the idea behind the guns being sold at the dealership

  • avatar

    I know health care is important but if Obama really wants his ratings to improve all he needs to do is make a speech about this camera crap.

    In fact promise to get rid of these and I might support any health care plan they dream of. I would rather just waste money than have someone steal it from me.

  • avatar

    This is both sad and hilarious. Thanks for posting the stories.

  • avatar

    The bit on the Detroit parking ticket scam reminded me of the time several years ago when I got a ticket in Henderson, Nevada, for parking in a red zone. The southern Nevada sun hadn’t been kind to the red paint which had darkened to a reddish brown color, and I hadn’t noticed it. Called up the Henderson cops and found that the fine for the ticket was $150. My wife and I talked it over and decided to ignore the ticket, judging correctly that Henderson wouldn’t follow up on it because we were driving a rented car with plates from a different state than the one we live in.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    Yeah, these things are weird. Until a few months ago, I owned a 1991 Volvo 740 sedan, which my dad had given me for my kids to drive around town (there’s still one at home). A night time photo radar ticket showed up in my mailbox, photo enclosed. The photo was of a Toyota Tercel Wagon that had the same license plate as my Volvo Sedan. I went to the trouble of photographing the rear of my Volvo at night (with the car’s lights on), replicating the angle of the radar camera. It was obvious that they were very different cars, from the arrangement of the taillights. So, I sent my documentation in and got the ticket cancelled without any particular drama.

    I have no idea how someone else got a duplicate of my plate. (It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they were issued one.) But clearly, there’s no human cross referencing the plate number with the description of the car to which it is registered before mailing out these tickets, despite the fact that, on the face of the citation, the make, model and year of the car associated with the license plate was printed. In other words, all someone would have to have done is to have looked at the document they sent me and said “Hey, that’s not a Volvo in that picture; it’s a Toyota! It says so right on the car.” Of course, that’s expecting too much.

  • avatar

    Three or four years ago I got a ticket in the mail for having not paid a toll on some tollway outside of Atlanta. I did live in Georgia at the time, but across the state from Atlanta and I had never heard of said toll road. I called and reached a person with little difficulty who quizzically asked if my plate number was not xxx-xxM? while it was in fact xxx-xxW. The ticket did not include a photo, but the person asked if I didn’t drive a blue Ford Explorer, which must look nothing like my silver Dodge Ram. Person assured me the ticket was issued in error and would be canceled. Had no issues renewing my plate the next year.

    There must either be zero error-checking in place or the error checkers are minimum wage incompetents or even worse, temps.

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