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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 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

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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