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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’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 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.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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