Print 75 comment(s) - last by Boze.. on Dec 26 at 10:41 PM

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’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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 10:15:47 AM , Rating: 0
Fortunately it will mean the end of automated ticket machines.
I don't think that's fortunate at all. Though, I do agree that the current system isn't effective. Improvements could be made, however, and still let officers spend their time solving crimes and preventing others instead of dealing with often petty traffic citations. For example, they could maintain a database of vehicle front/side profiles. In addition to snapping a picture of the license, widen the angle and get a picture of the entire front of the car. And a close up of the driver. When the images get uploaded to whatever machine generates the tickets, the car's front profile is compared against the database. When a match can't be determined, it's flagged. If it's the right car but the front's damaged, for example, you would tell easily. If it's the wrong car, you have a picture of the driver. In this case, you could post the picture in the high school (or compare it against school photos).

Now these improvements wouldn't solve things entirely. For example, the kids could wear a mask. But you'd still have a make/model/color of the car, as well as an approximate height, build, possibly gender. Anyway, it'd be an improvement.

RE: ...
By tastyratz on 12/22/2008 10:33:12 AM , Rating: 4
the photo is not only of the license plate - they get the whole car. If the ticket is incorrect they can fight it it court. Most people wont bother so that's where they get tanked.

Automatic machines are not reliable without the human element and do not capture the whole thing.
For example - what if there's snow/ice on the ground and you did not feel you could come to a stop safely? What if the light malfunctions? What if you had to do so to avoid an accident? there are a hundred reasons and scenarios where an officer might give leniency and a machine will not.

What if there are 2 cars on the road with the radar getting a reading off the incorrect one? You cant really use lidar in a way that's automated and radar requires a level of awareness to be accurate.

Don't think these exist to enforce traffic - they hide these machines as sneaky ways to raise revenue. Traffic enforcement laws only partially exist to protect the people - many speed limits are set artificially low to raise revenue. Several cities have been busted before for changing the yellow light time where red light cameras are installed to raise more money.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 10:43:33 AM , Rating: 1
You said you could contest it in court, and then you went on to provide several examples where the system may not operate exactly as intended ...which is when you would contest it in court.

Don't think these exist to enforce traffic
Enforcing the laws (of which the police officers didn't create, mind you) is exactly what these are doing. Revenue generation is a byproduct. But if you don't want the city/state/county to get your money, the solution is simple: slow down.

RE: ...
By tastyratz on 12/22/2008 11:59:50 AM , Rating: 4
So the solution is to put the burden of evidence on the victims of these units? Guilty until proven innocent? Do you think a judge will care about anything other than the picture he has in his hands?

They BANK on the idea that people can't afford to take a day out of work to deal with it, then a second day to go to court after the magistrate does nothing. Most people just pay the tickets and don't fight even if they are innocent.

The photos wont be of the entire intersection and neighboring roads, or a video showing situational circumstances. They don't paint a full picture of what ACTUALLY happens.

The same token could be said of lidar guns - some of them can download a picture of each speed reading from a camera but none of them are capable of video which would show pan and sweep or similar errors when they take place.

You are far more likely to be wrongly convicted than shown justice with traffic cameras. I would rather people go unpunished for petty traffic crimes committed than punished for ones that are not. These units simply can not function as reliably without the human element, period.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 12:24:59 PM , Rating: 2
So the solution is to put the burden of evidence on the victims of these units? Guilty until proven innocent? Do you think a judge will care about anything other than the picture he has in his hands?
How is that any different than the way it works without these cameras? The cop or the camera claims you did something wrong, and the burden is on you to prove your innocence, or ask for leniency.
You are far more likely to be wrongly convicted than shown justice with traffic cameras.
FUD. You have no proof of that assertion.
These units simply can not function as reliably without the human element, period.
Cause humans are so reliable, and accurate. Ugh. But I never advocated removing humans altogether.

RE: ...
By GregoryCJohnson on 12/25/2008 11:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
Nice try, but you'll get more people to believe Elvis is alive.

Let's not forget that the state is quite literally threatening to execute you. Like the Terminators, they WILL NOT STOP until you comply or you're dead.

RE: ...
By stlrenegade on 12/23/2008 12:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'd have to disagree slightly regarding using photo enforcement strictly as a revenue stream. I work for a city/police and the redlight cameras "profit" tapers off the longer it is in use. This is because initially a lot of money comes in from people running the redlights, and more money is coming in than what is required for monthly maintenance fees on photo enforcement. As the months go by, and people learn to adapt at these intersections, ticket revenue drops, and there is less money that goes to the city/police after paying monthly fees on the cameras.

Initially, photo enforcement does bring in more money, but eventually tapers off and barely covers the cost of running the system. It was initially put in for the sole purpose of reducing accidents/injuries/fatalities. At all of the meetings I attended, making money wasn't a major decision on bringing photo enforcement to our city.

RE: ...
By napalmjack on 12/22/2008 10:36:12 AM , Rating: 5
These cameras are unconstitutional. What happened to due process and the right to confront your accuser? The pranksters raise some valid concerns, such as 'what happens when the computer is wrong?' Are we going to have robots for circuit court judges now as well?

These cameras are not installed to make anything safer. Ask any city/county councilperson; they are revenue machines, pure and simple.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 10:46:00 AM , Rating: 3
These cameras are unconstitutional.
I disagree. You still have due process, and you can still confront your accuser.

I was making the argument that these could be modified so that the computer is more accurate, but when it can't make a definitive conclusion the information is directed to a human who ultimately makes the judgment call. And if the driver disagrees, he can contest it. Just like if I'm hauling to get to the hospital 'cause my wife's giving birth, and I get pulled over and cited. I can contest that all I want.

RE: ...
By HVAC on 12/22/2008 11:19:25 AM , Rating: 3
No. Some "courts of record" do not have normal due process. It is a travesty, but it happens.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 5:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
That's not a problem with the cameras. That's a problem with the system, and how your legislators have chosen to run it.

RE: ...
By therealnickdanger on 12/22/2008 11:38:29 AM , Rating: 3
As someone in the business of traffic safety engineering, I can say whole-heartedly that red-light-running cameras and speed cameras WORK!

Suggested reading:

I've got a file cabinet loaded with reports from agencies around the globe with hard data proving the effectiveness on safety that these PhotoCop-tools provide. Is it then end-all, be-all solution? Of course not, there are even a few select sites where the benefits are not significant, but when used as part of a larger safety program, the benefits are staggering.

RE: ...
By ZmaxDP on 12/22/2008 12:25:53 PM , Rating: 4

Trust me on this one, surgically altering all males and females to be infertile between the ages of 12 and 30 would be an extremely effective way to lower the birth rate and control world population. Sure, a few people would find the effects to be irreversible; but the benefits in reducing world hunger and environmental damage would be staggering!

Also, humanely euthanizing all children who are drug dependent or with a potentially fatal disease would be an extremely effective way to reduce the monetary impact of these cases on our healthcare system. Sure a few healthy babies would accidentally be offed, but the benefits would be staggering on the overall health of our population and cost of heathcare.

I can come up with 100 situations where violating individual's rights would be beneficial in a "staggering" manner, where the solution would "work" great, and with tons of "data" proving it. In NONE of these cases does it mean it is right, legal, constitutional, or even a moderately good idea. There are a number of reasons why these things are unconstitutional, and hopefully our court system will work for once and they will be made illegal for good in all 50 states (and outlying territories).

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 12:33:20 PM , Rating: 2
I can come up with 100 situations where violating individual's rights would be beneficial in a "staggering" manner, where the solution would "work" great, and with tons of "data" proving it.
And the two examples you provided as examples permanently and physically damage (or at least affect) the person involved. You're comparing apples to Oreos.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 12:34:19 PM , Rating: 2
"examples as examples" eh? ::sigh::

me. proofing. fail.

RE: ...
By therealnickdanger on 12/22/2008 12:43:10 PM , Rating: 1
There is nothing unconstitutional about photo enforcement, no matter what a handful of scare-mongering activists like yourself believe.

RE: ...
By hashish2020 on 12/22/2008 11:20:49 PM , Rating: 3
Wait. Are you telling me the IIHS and other car insurance rackets found evidence speed kills?

I mean, it's not like they make a ton of money by jacking up the rates stupidly high for insurance every time you get a few points for going 10 over. Conflict of interest anyone?

RE: ...
By Tewal on 12/22/2008 11:40:07 AM , Rating: 2
with regards to photo enforcement, your due process rights have been all but eliminated. most states have changed camera captured infractions from a criminal offense to a civil offense. what this means is that you, the violator, are responsible for proving your innocence. you are in fact guilty until you prove otherwise. cities get away with this by "ticketing" the registered owner of the car and not the driver who committed the moving violation. by doing this, no points can be assessed to you license as would be if an actual LEO were to stop you. this duplicity of law is certainly unconstitutional and many state high courts have agreed.

RE: ...
By ebakke on 12/22/2008 12:37:24 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that they are not being used properly today, but I don't think the technology or the premise is inherently bad. The crime should be the same regardless of whether a person spotted you, or a camera spotted you. But the technology allows for greater efficiency. It allows police departments to either devote more resources to other issues, or decrease their size (and thus, taxpayer burden).

RE: ...
By stlrenegade on 12/23/2008 12:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
Where I work, photo enforcement goes through 3 levels of officers reviewing material before sending out a citation. I've watched a few co-workers (officers) over their shoulder as they approved/denied redlight citations. They consider several circumstances when determined if an infraction was committed. There is leniency on "right turns on red" and if you are over the line when the light turns red, and it's 0.15 seconds or below, they don't issue the ticket.

RE: ...
By MamiyaOtaru on 12/22/2008 11:43:48 PM , Rating: 2
whoo! panopticon here we come

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
Related Articles

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Laptop or Tablet - Which Do You Prefer?
September 20, 2016, 6:32 AM
Update: Samsung Exchange Program Now in Progress
September 20, 2016, 5:30 AM
Smartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki