Our Daily Saab: Antonov Wanted In Europe, Was Saab "Rescued" With Embezzled Cash?

If GM needed another reason to let Saab die on the vine, it just arrived: Vladimir Antonov, the Russian banking scion, longtime partner with Victor Muller in Spyker, and erstwhile Saab rescuer is wanted in connection with what the UK Press Association [via Google] calls

a pre-trial investigation into an alleged fraud and money laundering case that is threatening to destroy two Baltic banks.

Bertel noted earlier that Snoras, one of Antonov’s banks, had been forced to halt operations, but the issuing of a Europe-wide arrest warrant for Antonov is an even bigger black mark on the Russian financier. And it adds to an already-impressive family resume: Antonov’s father Alexander was shot seven times in a 2009 assassination attempt that has been connected to a Chechen blood feud, and the family has been accused of ties to organized crime by the FBI and Swedish authorities.

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Brazil Investigating High Car Prices

Whenever our man in Brazil, Marcello DeVasconcellos reports on new model introductions in his home country, TTAC’s American audience is consistently blown away by the prices commanded by new cars there. Once, when asked why a new VW Amarok costs the equivalent of about $66,000 US dollars in Brazil, Marcello replied

Besides the very high taxes, there are the very, very healthy margins car makers practice down here.

Perhaps too healthy.

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How To Tell If A Red Light Camera Is A Safety Tool Or A Dangerous Form Of Taxation

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

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

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Is The Supercar's Cool Wearing Off?

The arrest of 13 young supercar drivers near Vancouver, British Columbia is not necessarily the sort of piece I’d jump all over right away, but it did inspire quite a number of emails from readers tipping us to the story. I’m always intrigued by stories that inspire a lot of tips, but after reading the Vancouver Sun follow-up, I was even more disappointed with the story. To wit:

The drivers face charges of driving without due consideration for others, which comes with a $196 ticket and six driver penalty points, which will trigger a $300 penalty point premium.

Gaumont said there is a lot of disappointment that the drivers face only $196 fines, but there is not enough evidence to charge them with the more serious offence of dangerous driving.

“We don’t have police officers who observed the offence, and we don’t have lasers and radars that have the speeds,” Gaumont said. “We have to really depend on third-party individuals who had called in.”

If I’ve got this right, we’re supposed to be outraged by young people in fast cars, and society’s inability to stop them from wreaking their “speeds upwards of 200 km/h” terror. For me, though, the overriding reaction to this story is “how uncool doess this make the supercars look?”

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GHSA Surveys The Science Of Distraction, Finds 15%-30% Of Crashes Involve Distracted Drivers

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association has reviewed a number of studies on distracted driving, and its report [ PDF here] shows a number of disturbing findings. A few of the highlights (or is that lowlights?):

  • At least one driver was reported to have been distracted in 15% to 30% of crashes at all levels, minor to fatal. The proportion of distracted drivers may be greater because investigating officers may not detect or record all distractions. In many crashes it is not known whether the distractions caused or contributed to the crash.
  • In almost 80% of all crashes and 65% of near-crashes the driver was looking away from the forward roadway just before the incident and that secondary task distraction contributed to 22% of the crashes and near-crashes
  • about two-thirds of all drivers reported using a cell phone while driving; about one-third used a cell phone routinely. In observational studies during daylight hours in 2009, between 7% and 10% of all drivers were using a cell phone… about one-eighth of all drivers reported texting while driving. In observational studies during daylight hours in 2009, fewer than 1% of all drivers were observed to be texting.
  • Cognitive distractions by themselves – thinking about something other than driving, without any manual or visual distraction – can affect driving performance. Two recent studies reinforce the conclusion that distractions affect the mind, not just the eyes, ears, or hands
  • [Two] studies found that crash risk was about four times greater when using a cell phone. Hands-free phones did not appear to be any safer than hand-held phones.
  • In the only study of texting bans, HLDI studied their effect on collision claims using the same methods as their 2009 study of cell phone laws. They concluded that texting bans did not reduce collision claims. In fact, there appears to have been a small increase in claims in the states enacting texting bans compared to neighboring states… there is no evidence that cell phone or texting laws have reduced crashes.

If you’re at all interested in a relatively concise (50 pages) overview of the state of distracted driving research, this report is well worth a download. Ultimately, though, the report offers more challenges than easy answers, as it largely debunks the notion that increased enforcement or hands-free laws make much of a difference in the problem. [via AutoObserver]

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IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too

The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC, thenewspaper.com, motorists.org and highwayrobbery.net, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [ PDF here]. The study used the following methodology:

Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston, using random samples of landline and cellphone numbers. For analyses combining responses from the 14 cities, cases were weighted to reflect each city’s share of the total population for the 14 cities.

And what did they find?

Among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety. Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer. Almost half know someone who received a red light camera citation and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).

Sounds like those red light cameras are pretty great after all, doesn’t it? That’s certainly the IIHS’s takeaway…

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US Supreme Court Confirms Confrontation Right in Radar, DUI Cases

In a decision that has wide-ranging implications for photo enforcement, speeding tickets and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) charges, the US Supreme Court yesterday reconfirmed the Sixth Amendment right to confront one’s accuser applies to analysts who claim to have certified evidence from a machine. The 5-4 decision concluded that “stand-in” expert witnesses are not a substitute for the individuals who actually conducted the tests. The decision broadens the applicability of the landmark Melendez-Diaz ruling from 2009, which has already led to appellate division cases in four California counties to throw out red light camera evidence.

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Australia: Lawmakers Reject Call for Speed Camera Review

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.

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What's Wrong With This Picture: Charlie Sheen's Other Escort Edition

The Washington Post‘s Paul Duggan blogs that Charlie Sheen arrived late to his Washington DC show after being escorted by local police officers at speeds of at least 80 MPH, an incident the actor documented in the tweet shown above. And lest TTAC be accused of pandering to lowest-common-denominator Charlie Sheen voyeurism, Duggan teases an interesting question out of the situation: can just anyone get a police escort and drive legally at illegal speeds? Hit the jump for your answer…

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LA Court: Ticket Quotas Not Cool

Ticket quotas seem to be one of those facts of life that exists, unexamined, in law enforcement departments around the country. But this week the concept has been dragged out into the light of the justice system, as two LAPD officers have won a lawsuit against their department’s ticket quota system. The LAT reports:

Officers Howard Chan and David Benioff, veteran motor officers with the LAPD’s West Traffic Division, sued the department in 2009, alleging that their captain mandated each motor officer to write 18 tickets a day, according to the suit.

In addition to the quota, officers were told the tickets they gave out had to be for “major movers” such as speeding, lane straddling or running a red light — offenses that could each generate revenue of several hundred dollars each.

The civil court jury sided with the officers by a vote of 11 to 1. The damage award [of $2m] was for loss of reputation and specific employment actions against the officers by the department affecting their careers after they reported the misconduct and refused to meet the quotas.

The department defended itself by arguing that, rather than a specific quota, the department had broad goals intended to reduce injuries and fatalities. That argument was roundly rejected by the jury, which found in favor of the suing officers 11-1, after a former LAPD commander testified that gas prices and paramedic response times had far more to do with injury and fatality levels. With any luck, this ruling may even create precedent to eliminate quota systems around the country. Meanwhile, MyFoxLA reports that the LAPD is appealing the ruling.

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Arizona Senate Committee Approves Photo Radar Ban

Arizona is home to the oldest continuously operating speed camera programs and the US headquarters for the two largest private companies that operate the equipment. It could also be the latest state to join the fifteen jurisdictions that ban automated ticketing machines. The Arizona Senate Government Reform Committee voted 5 to 1 on Wednesday to approve legislation repealing the statutes that have allowed the use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the state. The move represents a significant reversal for a legislature that in the previous session introduced no significant legislation to curtail photo enforcement thanks to a leadership that fully backed the program.

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  • El scotto Hyundai/Kia's true masters are finally revealed.
  • El scotto Stirring up some more. The GSA is required to buy vehicles from the Big 3. This shows the Federal Government tacitly supports the UAW. Yeah I've seen some Hyundai or Kia hybrids. I didn't pay much attention the EV/American parts percentage tax credits. It looks like a lot of skullduggery. The UAW coming to SEC-land may be the beginning of the end of SEC-land being the US's internal third world country.The US is bringing more manufacturing back from China. Our demographics are shrinking. Unskilled labor will cost more, a union job might not pay enough.
  • El scotto I look forward to watching MTG and Tommy Tuberville when the UAW comes to their states.
  • El scotto Vehicle company white collar (non-union) engineers design the parts and assembly procedures. The UAW members are instructed on how to install the parts. Engineers are also in charge of quality control. The executives are ulimately responible for the quality of their products.
  • Chris P Bacon I don't care either way, the employees have the right to organize, and I'm never going to buy a VW. But.... It would be interesting if the media (HINT HINT) would be able to provide a detailed look at what (if anything) the VW workers gain by unionizing. There will be dues to pay. How much? I bet the current policies, pay and benefits mirror other auto companies. When all is said and done an the first contract signed, my money is on the UAW to be he only ones who really come out ahead. That leads into my next comment. Once a union is voted onto the property, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. Even if the membership feels the union doesn't have their best interests in mind, the hurdles to get rid of them are too high. There were a lot of promises made by the UAW, even if they don't deliver, they'll be in Chattanooga even if the membership decides they made a mistake.