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Using traffic code violations for fun and profit

A handful of Montgomery County, Maryland teens are purposefully using fake license plates to fool local speed cameras, breaking the law, and causing citations to be sent to innocent drivers.

The Montgomery County Sentinel reports the trend to be a fad amongst local high schools, with teachers and fellow students as the most popular targets. Fooling the cameras is easy: the students tape a fake license plate, printed on glossy paper and using license-plate-like fonts downloaded off the web, over their real license plate – then set off cameras. Days later, a $40 citation appears in the mail for whomever the fake plates are actually registered to.

An unnamed parent said students refer to the practice as the “Pimping” game, and some have gone so far as to borrow friends’ cars that are similar to the car they wish to prank.

Montgomery Country police installed the cameras last March, with the intention of reducing traffic accidents and pedestrian collisions. The cameras are typically found in residential areas and school zones with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less.

“This game is very disturbing,” said the unnamed parent. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.”

Local authorities appeared unaware of the issue. Montgomery Country Police reported that they’d never heard of the prank, but told Sentinel reporters that they would “keep an eye out for the issue.”

“I have not heard of this happening among students [here],” said Wootton High School assistant principal Edward Owusu, where the prank is reported to have originated. “It is unfortunate that kids have a lot of time on their hands that they can think of doing such a thing.”

“I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem,” said Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrew. “It will [also] cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it.”

Critics, many of whom have used the cameras’ automated nature as their main argument, now have additional all new reasons to oppose the cameras.

“I've objected to the robotic menaces primarily on the grounds that they were fallible revenue machines for the state rather than legitimate means of protecting life and limb,” said Examiner.com’s J.D. Tucille. “It never occurred to me that the [speed cameras] were also handy tools for wreaking revenge on enemies and authority figures. That was clearly a lapse of imagination on my part.”

Much to chagrin of privacy advocates, speed cameras and other forms of automated traffic enforcement are seeing increasing amounts of use around the world – and are becoming more and more sophisticated. Already a common sight in Europe and Australia, the speed cameras are a newer development for many parts of the United States.



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RE: ...
By SilentSin on 12/22/2008 10:15:01 AM , Rating: 2
I've actually seen these in action as I have friends who live in the Montgomery Co area. The one trap I have seen is not in a school zone at all and is in a mostly commercialized area. My friends who live there find them to be an extreme nuisance as people become overly cautious around them, braking hard in the middle of traffic when they see their speed readout and the sign that says the limit is photo enforced. Braking like that in a high traffic area can be much more dangerous than the act of speeding itself and I'm sure has caused more than one accident.

In my opinion, these kind of tactics used by local governments do not address the actual problem at all. The DC/MD area is notorious for this kind of law "enforcement". The cameras take pictures of anyone traveling 5mph over the posted limit. That is a speed most officers won't ever pull you over for, and insurance companies wouldn't care about. All this will teach people to do is not drive fast in areas marked as being a speed trap. It is much more effective and humbling to be pulled over at random from a cop that you didn't even know was there. This is simply a way to generate revenue off people who don't know the area and the location of the cameras. Everyone who does know about them simply reduces speed there and as soon as the coast is clear it's back to the bad habits.

I realize there are benefits to this strategy: it frees up an officer from having to physically be there, it does effectively reduce people's speeds -in a very specific location, and sometimes in a dangerous manner-, and it can be used 24/7. However there are obviously problems with a system that is left unattended as highlighted by this article.

Check out this link for some examples of what might come next for the speed cameras: http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm . People don't like to be controlled in this way, some faceless robotic camera giving you a ticket is not exactly going to instill a sense of goodwill in your citizens. There's no accountability on the side of the government, and that's why when you get one of these tickets in the mail it's a straight $40 fine, no court appearance, no points on your license, nothing. There would be no representation from the county there to back it up, the only evidence is a photo of a car you might not even be driving. All the government wants is the money.


RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 10:21:19 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
...people become overly cautious around them, braking hard in the middle of traffic when they see their speed readout and the sign that says the limit is photo enforced. Braking like that in a high traffic area can be much more dangerous than the act of speeding itself and I'm sure has caused more than one accident.
I completely agree. People who panic are more dangerous than people who drive past the posted speed limit (for the most part).
quote:
That is a speed most officers won't ever pull you over for, and insurance companies wouldn't care about.
But it's still a speed that breaks the law. And it's a conscious decision to drive that speed.


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