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Ohio Judge Rules Speed Cameras Are a Scam

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the merger-of-state-and-corporate-power dept.

Transportation 984

Hugh Pickens writes "The Columbus Dispatch reports that southwestern Ohio Judge Robert Ruehlman has ordered a halt to a speeding-ticket blitz in a village that installed traffic cameras saying it's 'a scam' against motorists and blasting the cameras and the thousands of $105 citations that resulted. 'Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty,' Ruehlman wrote. 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.' The village began using the cameras in September, resulting in 6,600 speeding citations in the first month, triple the population of the village of 2,188. Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue — which quickly topped $1 million. But business owners and motorists struck back, charging in a lawsuit that the cameras hurt the village's image and said they were put into use without following Ohio law for public notice on new ordinances. 'This is the first time that a judge has said, "Enough is enough,"' said plaintiffs' attorney, Mike Allen, who called the ruling a victory for the common people. 'I think this nationally is a turning point.'"

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Not true. (-1, Troll)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136701)

" 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.'"

I'm sure they are also against the IRS using computers to catch revenue cheaters, because it gives them an unfair advantage.

Sure they can win, just don't speed. The motorists are just used to breaking the law and not getting caught most of the time.

Did somebody check how many tickets the judge got?

Re:Not true. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136773)

The judge understood it is fascism. No one wants to be regulated in every step, every word, and eventually every thought. Are you offended because you are a Fascist?

Re:Not true. (0, Offtopic)

bytethese (1372715) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136779)

Uh, depends on how this thing is calibrated. Is it set to go off if you are over the white line at a red? Then if I stopped 3-5ft long at a light, I'm getting a ticket for running it? Seems like a scam to me.

Re:Not true. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136887)

Is it set to go off if you are over the white line at a red? Then if I stopped 3-5ft long at a light, I'm getting a ticket for running it? Seems like a scam to me.

How? The law says don't cross the white line if the light is red. You cross it when the light is red, you've broken the rules. It's not exactly a massive safety violation but the number of times I've seen people stop with their back wheels on the line and their nose peeking out into the junction so that it blocks pedestrian crossings is infuriating. You break the rules, you get a fine. Simple. It's not like the rules are obscure or hard to remember, there are signs and lines everywhere they apply.

TFA makes it sound like they're all speed cameras anyway, not line cameras, and points out that of the two cameras which were operating one was in a school zone where you really do want these things enforced. The plaintiff's attorney said "people who were unemployed, working poor and single mothers were hit with $105 citations they couldn’t afford". Well, boo-hoo. Don't speed in the school zone and you won't get fined, simple.

Re:Not true. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136957)

What if to brake safely you come to a stop over the line? (large truck behind you or someone riding your ass, speeding etc?)

Re:Not true. (-1, Flamebait)

Eraesr (1629799) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137029)

Start braking a bit earlier. Jeez, it ain't freaking rocket science.
Besides, I'm sure you can come up with some exotic situation where you absolutely can't help but cross the line, but that doesn't invalidate the whole setup.

Re:Not true. (4, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137079)

The exotic situation is ice or snow on the street.

Re:Not true. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137151)

And the exotic answer is "No, REALLY start braking a bit earlier"

Re:Not true. (5, Insightful)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137121)

Start braking a bit earlier.

You mean when the light is still green?

Re:Not true. (5, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137203)

Actually, in many places with red light cameras, the city has decreased the length of the yellow light below that recommended by national safety guidelines in order to get more ticket revenue.

Let me say that again: they've shortened the length of the yellow lights, not for safety, but in spite of safety, so they get to write more tickets.

At many of these places, it's possible to be driving along at a safe speed and see the light turn yellow, and be put in a situation where you have to absolutely slam on your brakes in order to stop behind the line -- and this is me driving a small passenger car with brakes limited only by the coefficient of friction. Drivers of large trucks which can't brake as hard complain even harder about this.

Re:Not true. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136983)

Like when you make a legal right turn on red, and stop again to make sure it's clear...You missed the part where the judge said it was unconstitutionally difficult to challenge the fine. You're basically at the mercy of the enforcement agency and you have to rely on the accuracy of a company which profits massively from fining you.

Re:Not true. (5, Informative)

fiziko (97143) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137019)

I thought they were speed cameras, not red light cameras. The question is not about lines, it's if they are set to go off when you are going 56 in a 55 zone, and so forth. If they do not allow for imperfections in speedometer readings, they will overticket the population. There is also a question of how many are mounted and where; if you drive down a main thoroughfare going 60 in a 55 zone and get three tickets for it in one day, that's an issue.

Reading the first linked article, it sounds like they one had two cameras total, one where you enter the city and the limit drops from 35 to 25, and the other in a school zone. The town is a small town on an interstate that has a lot of through traffic to get from larger towns to major centres of employment. The city officials are confident this will hold up in appeals court, and I suspect they may be correct.

Re:Not true. (2, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137073)

I hate those towns. They are built as speed traps. If they took the money and used it to build a raised road with on/off ramps and under the road crossings or even bridges to cross then fine away but they don't. They put their citizens at risk and pocket the money or use it for unrelated improvements so they can keep the money rolling in.

If you can't survive as a town without ripping people off who just want to get to work, you should just board up and move.

Re:Not true. (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137161)

If they do not allow for imperfections in speedometer readings, they will overticket the population.

I can't say for sure about the US, but over this side of the pond speedos cannot read less than the actual speed i.e. if you're doing 30mph the speedo must read at least 30mph. I would think it safe to assume the US has similar requirements.

We have the technology to eliminate speeding (4, Interesting)

cnaumann (466328) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136797)

Between automatic cameras, GPS, and OBD we could completely eliminate speeding. Or, at the very lease, insure than anyone who speeds _even a little_ is instantly ticketed. If speeding really is dangerous, maybe we should take these steps to eliminate it. If speed limits are too low, maybe we should raise them. But we seem to prefer these strange cat and mouse games.

Re:We have the technology to eliminate speeding (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136861)

The cat & mouse game is all about money feeding the government, while attempting to look like they want to 'protect' people. Which works great until things like this point out that nearly everyone speeds at some time and the specific wording of the law doesn't really care if you 'speed' for half a second or half an hour, so they can easily rack up large amounts of money... 6,600 tickets at $105 each is just shy of $700,000 in one month...

Re:We have the technology to eliminate speeding (3, Funny)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137177)

So you think some government agency should have GPS trackers on cars to monitor speed?

What could possibly go wrong with a government agency knowing the location, velocity, and owner of every car on the road at any given time?

Re:We have the technology to eliminate speeding (4, Insightful)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137185)

insure than anyone who speeds _even a little_ is instantly ticketed

Then you'd have an entire country of drivers staring at their speedos instead of looking at the road.

hello New Rome, Ohio (1, Flamebait)

charlesr44403 (1504587) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136807)

you sound exactly like the "public officials" of New Rome, Ohio defending their utterly corrupt "village". As a native and lifelong citizen of Ohio I am ashamed of this too-common "tradition" of my state with $$$$$$-inspired enforcement of traffic laws.

Re:hello New Rome, Ohio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136945)

As a non-native and never-living-in-Ohio person, I too applaud [darwinawards.com] speeding there [bash.org] .

Re:Not true. (5, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136811)

You're not really wrong here, but there's something awful about being watched all the time and being busted for every minor and often harmless infraction. There's also something awful about being fined and then told you have to pay to contest the fine.

The mere fact that they issued 3 times as many tickets as there are people in the town is an indication that something is wrong here. That the company gets 40% of every ticket they issue is a massive conflict of interest. It's been proven before that some municipalities do fun things like shorten yellow lights so they can ticket more people. If these cameras are to be used at all, it should be for public safety, not making the roads less safe (yellows lasting 0.9 seconds in some cases I recall) so some company can rake in more money.

Re:Not true. (1, Troll)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137039)

You're not really wrong here, but there's something awful about being watched all the time and being busted for every minor and often harmless infraction.

I understand the sentiment but speeding is not an "often harmless" infraction. It endagers yourself and those around you. (Semantics about whether the speed limits are set at the right level or not are here as well, but still).

Re:Not true. (5, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137067)

I'd like to know how incidences of rear-end collisions are affected in areas where red-light cameras are installed, and how many of those who are involved in rear-end collisions (the collisionee, if that is a word) have been subject to fine by one of these cameras, especially if the ticket was later contested because the amber phase was shortened to increase revenue.

Back of the napkin math here; Breaking distance from 30MPH (14m/s) is 23m [passmytheory.co.uk] including a thinking distance of 9m in ideal conditions. Therefore, you require 23m to stop your car from 30mph, but are only given 12.6m to do it in (14m[distance travelled in 1s] * 0.9[length of amber phase]) and 3/4 of that is going "Yellow light... I had betOHSHITITSREDNOW." It's demontrably impossible.

Re:Not true. (5, Interesting)

GauteL (29207) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136829)

You missed the part where the judge said it was unconstitutionally difficult to challenge the fine. You're basically at the mercy of the enforcement agency and you have to rely on the accuracy of a company which profits massively from fining you.

I'm not totally against speed cameras, but I believe in one important thing about parking and traffic enforcement; nobody should ever profit from issuing fines, because the incentives to be arseholes are just too big.

Parking and traffic enforcement on public property and public roads should always be performed by public employees and the fines should go to a random, approved charity. The costs of running the operation should come out of tax income and no bonuses or "performance related pay" should ever be given. At least this way you take away the very real profit incentive for fining as many as possible. The sole purpose of parking and traffic enforcement should be to improve safety and flow of traffic.

Re:Not true. (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136961)

You're basically at the mercy of the enforcement agency and you have to rely on the accuracy of a company which profits massively from fining you.

I wonder if the judge stopped to think that this is no different than without the cameras. Tickets are a major revenue source for police departments, to the extent that it is not uncommon to hear of stations which have ticket quotas.

I'm not totally against speed cameras, but I believe in one important thing about parking and traffic enforcement; nobody should ever profit from issuing fines, because the incentives to be arseholes are just too big.

Parking and traffic enforcement on public property and public roads should always be performed by public employees and the fines should go to a random, approved charity. The costs of running the operation should come out of tax income and no bonuses or "performance related pay" should ever be given. At least this way you take away the very real profit incentive for fining as many as possible. The sole purpose of parking and traffic enforcement should be to improve safety and flow of traffic.

I can agree on taking the incentive out of ticketing for the sake of ticketing, but unfortunately, it would never happen. There's way too much money to be made.

The real tragedy here isn't that the cameras were installed. On general principle, if we could trust authorities, red light cameras are a really good idea. It's rare that I see a light change without at least one person running the red, and speeding is so common that you actually have to drive 5-10 mph over just to keep with the flow of traffic. The problem is the money.

Re:Not true. (1)

GauteL (29207) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137031)

"I wonder if the judge stopped to think that this is no different than without the cameras. Tickets are a major revenue source for police departments, to the extent that it is not uncommon to hear of stations which have ticket quotas."

This is in principle just as bad. It is just difficult for the police to be as ruthlessly efficient in person as it is with cameras. And at the very least you get to see the person that issues you a ticket and can ask for the officer's name and number. But mainly just because you are losing one battle doesn't mean you can't go for another.

Re:Not true. (2)

Albanach (527650) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136977)

You missed the part where the judge said it was unconstitutionally difficult to challenge the fine. You're basically at the mercy of the enforcement agency and you have to rely on the accuracy of a company which profits massively from fining you.

And if you get a ticket from a police officer in the US? At least in some states, the officer doesn't need to present any evidence other than their own testimony and you'll be fined. Unless you can present some evidence that you were not speeding, did not run the light, did not fail to completely stop for a stop sign, then you're getting a ticket.

Here they have some red light cameras. If you get a ticket for running them you also get a link to a website where you can view a video of the offense. That may be very different from the Ohio system, but it's certainly a whole lot easier to challenge than a similar ticket issued by a police officer.

Re:Not true. (1)

GauteL (29207) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137059)

"And if you get a ticket from a police officer in the US? At least in some states, the officer doesn't need to present any evidence other than their own testimony and you'll be fined."

As I've stated in a reply to someone else, this is in principle just as bad, but simply another battle which may prove more difficult to win. My principle about "no profits in fining" applies to all situations a fine is issued for whatever purpose. There should never be a profit motive involved. That doesn't mean there are no other sinister motives (like a policeman or parking warden with a personal vendetta against you), but I'm willing to bet the profit motive is more common and hurts more people.

Re:Not true. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137165)

Parking and traffic enforcement on public property and public roads should always be performed by public employees and the fines should go to a random, approved charity.

There's an argument to be made that fine revenue should be used to defray the costs of parking and traffic enforcement. The problem, of course, is that if the actual crime goes down, the meter maids and policemen are motivated to keep their jobs by making up crimes or issuing dubious but legally justifiable tickets.

A community adjacent to mine, notorious for funding almost their entire city government on traffic tickets, had to cool it, but for the worst possible reason: They pulled over a state legislator who threatened to take away their power to pull over anyone on the highway, which was their cash cow.

Re:Not true. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136849)

The issue is that the cams issue the ticket to the CAR, not the driver. Months ago I got a warning in the mail saying my car ran a red light. There was a nice picture of my car with a blow up box around the license place. Sure enough, it was my car. However, I was at work and someone else was driving. See, they didn't have a picture of the DRIVER. If it hadn't been a warning the ticket would have been around $150.

Interestingly enough, I called the city where the cam had taken the picture of my car and asked how they determined who to ticket when two peoples' names are on the registration. For some reason they were reluctant to answer.

Re:Not true. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137003)

The answer is that they ticket the first person on the registration list. My wife, bless her beautiful self, went to college out of state and internalized the idea that parking tickets need not be paid. I almost got my driver's license revoked because she ignored a parking ticket in the city where we live, and while the car is registered in both our names, mine is first.

Re:Not true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136911)

I think the difference is that there is social acceptance for the fact that almost everyone exceeds the speed limit occasionally, if only to keep up with traffic. I have no idea how many people cheat on their income taxes but it's not socially acceptable.

Re:Not true. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136947)

If a law is broken by a significant fraction of people on a regular basis, then it is a poorly-written law. See: Prohibition, DMCA.

Re:Not true. (2)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137057)

So Greece should just stop trying to collect taxes?

Re:Not true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137207)

What GP's truism would actually say is 'Greece has a poorly written tax code.' With a little generalization to 'Greece has poor way of handling economics' this becomes shockingly accurate.

Re:Not true. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137167)

No, that means it is poorly enforced.

Re:Not true. (4, Interesting)

FireFury03 (653718) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136965)

" 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.'"

I'm sure they are also against the IRS using computers to catch revenue cheaters, because it gives them an unfair advantage.

Sure they can win, just don't speed. The motorists are just used to breaking the law and not getting caught most of the time.

Did somebody check how many tickets the judge got?

I think the issue is not that people are getting caught, but that there is a lack of due process when they are; which inevitably leads to some innocent people being wrongly convicted.

I don't know how things work in the US, but in the UK it works thusly:
- You get somehow "caught" alledgedly committing a traffic offence. This may be that a speed camera photographed you speeding, or a traffic warden decided that you were parked illegally or whatever.
- You get notified by post (note: if a member of the general public needs to send legal documents to someone they are required to employ a process server to ensure they got there. On the other hand the police are allowed to just pop them in the post and retain proof of posting (*NOT* proof of delivery) so its entirely possibly that you will never even get the notification and still a court will deem that it has been served and that you were responsible for responding to the notice you never received.
- You will be offered a choice: Accept a fixed penalty notice (a fixed fine (probably £30 - 60) and possibly a fixed number of points on your licence); you *may* be offered a "training course" instead of a fine and points; or you can decline the "fixed penalty" notice and have an automatic criminal conviction, £1000 fine.
- If you want to appeal, you are required to decline the fixed penalty notice and training course; therefore you voluntarily agree to be convicted and be fined £1000. Once you have been convicted, you may take the case to the appeals court and appeal the conviction.

The upshot of this is that if you believe you were wrongly accused, you have to be *absolutely* sure you would win in court before you can risk appealing, because if there's even the slightest chance that the court will side with the police then you're risking an enormous fine. I know a good few people who have just accepted the fixed notice, even though they believe they were not in the wrong, because they simply can't risk the possability that they would be hit with a £1000 fine if they lost the case.

In order for things to be just, the cards should not be so heavily stacked against the accused that they can't risk defending themselves when they believe the accuser (the police or traffic warden) is wrong.

Re:Not true. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137155)

- You get somehow "caught" alledgedly committing a traffic offence. This may be that a speed camera photographed you speeding, or a traffic warden decided that you were parked illegally or whatever.

You are conflating speeding tickets with parking tickets and, hence, deliberately mis-representing the issue in the UK.

Obviously, for parking tickets you can appeal to the local council after they have been issued and have them cancelled. If your appeal fails, then no harm done - just pay the £30. I've done this and it relies on you collecting evidence to show you were not at fault (lines not painted correctly / visible etc...). Also, there are no points on your licence for parking tickets - stop lying about this. And there are no "courses" for parking offences.

Much of what you wrote only applies to speeding tickets which are entirely different. You either don't drive or aren't from the UK.

Re:Not true. (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137047)

Given the tolerances most radar based speed cameras operate at and the fact that 2 cars travelling side by side can totally screw the results anyway. I'm surprised most speeding tickets don't get laughed out of court anyway. Especially given that most of them are simply employed as a revenue stream for local authorities.

Re:Not true. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137135)

The point is that if you receive one of these tickets, it often costs you more to fight it, even if you were not speeding, than it does to just pay it and go on with your life, especially if you are not a resident of the town. This is always true, but when the municipality must pay someone to actually stop a motorist and write the ticket it costs the municipality enough that writing bogus speeding tickets is not profitable.

New Rome (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136707)

This sounds like New Rome all over again:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Rome,_Ohio#New_Rome_speed_trap

Another outbreak of common sense! (4, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136713)

I don't know what's happening recently, but it's a pleasant surprise to see these kinds of article cropping up more frequently on /.

Now if only we had the same kind of possibilities here in Europe, where there are more and more cameras everywhere, and the margin before you get a ticket is in some places ridiculosly low. I'm all for enforcing safer driving, but many camera emplacements are obviously for revenue-generating rather than safety.

They don't do anything to discourage the single-biggest cause of road deaths either, drunk driving.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136783)

Automobile accidents cause far more road deaths than alcohol. Alcohol is connected to 1 in 3 roadside deaths, while distracted driving ( texting, phone use, etc.) is linked to 1 in 4 accidents. Health issues account for a disproportionate number of accidents and deaths, so they should be regulated. Choose your statistics more wisely.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136981)

I should have qualified my remark - I meant "easily preventable". I think history has shown that technology, (anti-lock brakes, stability control) has had a bigger impact on road safety that driver education. It seems it's really hard to stop people having accidents because they are 'distracted', (or old, or young, or sick)...but we can and should do more to stop them having accidents because they are drunk.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136989)

Your post is confusing. Wouldn't alcohol be the cause of accidents, or are there automobile deaths with alcohol involved that are not accidents? Also, you're mixing deaths (which would presumably be a subset of accidents) with accidents in total. Without the total numbers, the figures "1 in 3" and "1 in 4" are completely useless seeing as it's "1 in 3 apples" vs "1 in 4 fruits".

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (4, Funny)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137089)

As such, I favor a drunk driving course -> professional drinkers will show you how to drive, on a closed speedway, at top speed, with half a bottle of a single malt in your stomach. Successful completion of the course results in a reduction of your insurance premiums, as you've shown you're a safe drunk driver.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136789)

I think cars should be equipped with a simple reaction-time game that enables them to start. This would stop people from driving over-tired, intoxicated on any substance, or just plain too old to be driving. Old people would raise hell, so it will probably never happen.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136835)

That's the fucking greatest idea I've ever heard. Of course, as a tertiary student, I am near-fatally exhausted almost every time I drive, so I would never actually support it.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136995)

Of course old people would raise hell. They don't want to get their car the hell off my lawn.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136791)

No it isn't, speeding, is the main cause of road deaths.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136823)

way to drink the kool aid.
Hint - cars do not spontaneously crash when some arbitrary number is reached.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136889)

People are more likely to die in a high speed collision than a low speed one.
Hint: It's to do with physics.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136953)

No, actually the OP is correct. If the car wasn't moving fast, then the driver might possibly have had the reaction time to respond to changing road conditions, etc. Higher rates of speed also turn a survivable accident into one where dead bodies need to be peeled out of the vehicle.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (3, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137061)

Stupidity is the main cause of road deaths. Everything else is accidental or malicious, and almost less than a rounding error.

"Hey kids, watch me lane change while I text (with both hands) on my phone, in the middle of heavy traffic!" -> Give me the drunk driver / speeder any day of this nonsense. At least I know that I need to watch that person...finding the subversive SUV / mini-van driving mom or daughter of mom texter in regular traffic is like trying to find the Red October in the Atlantic. Blink, and she's lane-changing on top of you.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137159)

Speed does not kill. It is the sudden absence of speed that kills... You know... Hitting something.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136863)

Here in the UK 65% of fatal road accidents [telegraph.co.uk] are caused by "driver error or reaction". This is poor but legal driving. Speeding (14%) and drinking (10%) are nowhere close to being the major causes of accidents.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136927)

Yes but how many of the 'driver error' deaths would not be deaths at a lower speed.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137041)

I don't know what's happening recently, but it's a pleasant surprise to see these kinds of article cropping up more frequently on /.

Now if only we had the same kind of possibilities here in Europe, where there are more and more cameras everywhere, and the margin before you get a ticket is in some places ridiculosly low. I'm all for enforcing safer driving, but many camera emplacements are obviously for revenue-generating rather than safety.

They don't do anything to discourage the single-biggest cause of road deaths either, drunk driving.

Indeed. In principle I have no problem with enforcing the speed limit in places where excess speed is a safety problem. But whenever someone suggests installing speed cameras, I have to ask them what the purpose is:
1. Is it to improve safety?
2. Is it to blindly uphold the law, irrespective of safety?
3. Is it to generate revenue?
The only one of these I see as valid is (1). And all to often I am unconvinced that a speed camera will actually improve safety - if people are driving too fast and the introduction of a speed camera causes more accidents by encouraging harsh braking then it has failed at improving safety. I'm not blaming the camera for this - clearly the motorists who are going too fast are at fault; but however you slice it, if the introduction of the camera causes more accidents then it has failed at improving safety and should be removed (and possibly replaced by some other method of reducing speed in a safer way).

As for (2) - if you are installing the speed camera because "people should adhere to the law" rather than to improve safety, then I tend to think the law should be examined more closely. If people are speeding in a particular location and there isn't a problem with speed-related accidents then maybe the speed limit should be raised a bit rather than enforcing the existing limit?

And as you point out, speed cameras only catch one specific instance of poor driving whilst ignoring other instances which may be significantly more dangerous. It is very common for me to see people tailgating or cutting people up whilst driving within the speed limit and I would argue that these activities are far more dangerous than most speeding incidents; the only way to crack down on that kind of thing is to put more police on the roads who can pull motorists over when they are spotted driving dangerously, but this is something that actually seems to be being reduced in an effort to save money.

Secondly, I would say that even in the speeding incidents, often an on-the-spot ticking off by a police officer would be more effective than getting a bit of paper in the post 2 weeks later.

Re:Another outbreak of common sense! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137133)

They don't do anything to discourage the single-biggest cause of road deaths either, drunk driving.

Not true in general.

The number one reason for traffic deaths is speeding in the UK [rospa.com] (430 vs 250) and it's speeding (by far) as well in Austria [bmi.gv.at] (29,5% vs 7,5% in 2011).

It would be interesting to see ... (3, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136719)

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the speeds that people were going when they received a citation. If it's within 10% of the speed limit, then yeah it's probably a scam. Yet my experience is that speeders tend to go over 20% faster than the posted speed limit. In that case, it's not a scam. You break the law, you pay the price. As long as people are receiving notification of a speeding ticking before receiving their next speeding ticket, the police are perfectly within their rights to use highly efficient technology to catch those law breakers.

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (1)

hunter44102 (890157) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136785)

what if the camera loses its calibration? how do you fight that without knowing?

you appeal and ask for the camera to be tested? (1)

fantomas (94850) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136951)

"what if the camera loses its calibration? how do you fight that without knowing?

- you appeal on the grounds that you believe the camera wasn't correctly calibrated and demand a calibration test by an independent tester? Costs to be picked up by the loser in the court case?

  I am assuming this is unlikely to be an intermittent fault, what do you think? (not my area). There are millions of speed cameras around the world, there must be some evidence on how often/likely "losing calibration" is and what forms it takes.

Re:you appeal and ask for the camera to be tested? (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137111)

Costs to be picked up by the loser

Your optimism is showing. Doesn't work that way in real life.

Re:you appeal and ask for the camera to be tested? (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137205)

There have been cases where I live (Europe) where missing calibration certificates caused a ticket to be cancelled when it was appealed

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137021)

A lot of these systems aren't radar-driven, but use a two sensor approach, where the distance between the two sensors is a known value. The vehicle triggers the first sensor, and a picture is taken. When it triggers the second sensor, another picture is taken. The time difference is compared. If a vehicle is speeding, this ticket is more difficult to dispute, as there are two pictures with time stamps.

Most jurisdictions roll these cases as civil charges instead of criminal or traffic. It gives the jurisdiction a lot more latitude as to the amount of the infraction and lowers the burden of proof since there are no criminal penalties involved. Unless you don't pay the fine, of course. Then you face contempt of court charges.

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137023)

Most people who aren't speeding know they're not speeding. So they know to challenge the evidence. Since the camera is the only thing to question, its calibration is going to be challenged.

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (2)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137027)

Ever been in a traffic court? The judge is not interested in hearing you say anything other than "I'm guilty." As a matter of fact, if you don't say that, then he will say it for you, "You're guilty," even when evidence eventually proves that you are not. The entire design of this legal system is so hopelessly lopsided that trial by gladiatorial combat might be considered fair in comparison. Well, if you're one of the common people, anyway. If you're a judge, police officer, or government worker, then apparently the laws do not apply to you, and tickets can be dismissed at will.

Honestly, I do not know how a traffic court judge gets up in the morning, and can look himself in the mirror. He knows the system is hopelessly corrupt, that the laws are complete and utter bullshit, that the cops lie (he has the internet, and TV, presumably...he must have caught something over these past ten decades); and yet he sits on his throne, looks all angry and condescending like, and tells people how he never, ever had anyone fuck up this bad before, and that the cop over there is an angel that would never steal the kid's weed. Or something similar. Wat.

And people wonder why I want to leave this country. Everything is pay to play. We outlaw happiness, and regulate pain. *shudders* I'm sure if this is the implementation of the utilitarian philosophy, then somewhere, someone is extremely happy.

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136831)

the police are perfectly within their rights to use highly efficient technology to catch those law breakers

While I agree that the police need appropriate tools and some latitude to do their jobs, I firmly believe their job is what the people (as in "we, the people") say it is. So whether speed cameras help their job depends on what their job is. My preference is for the police to concentrate on public safety, not revenue generation, so if the voters agree with me the police should only try to catch speeders to the extent necessary to keep the streets safe.

Re:It would be interesting to see ... (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137097)

The typical speed limit on American freeways is 70-75 MPH, depending on whether you are in the East or the West. Driving 84-90 MPH will get you a ticket for sure, but it's not normal. I drive 5-7 MPH over the limit as a general rule and have never been ticketed for doing so (in 23 years of driving I've gotten 3 speeding tickets, all for > 10 MPH over the limit). At that speed, though, I'm passing about 90+% of cars. Most people really don't drive that fast. Badly, yes, but not fast.

About time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136721)

Just because one judge finally got his head out of his ass long enough to breath in the fresh air does not mean it is a turning point. Corruption is massive across the country and this is but one example.

If the courts do not put an end to it quickly, I will not be surprised to see civil war break out in the next few years.

That's a fair judge (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136743)

People learned to avoid this town and its $105 speeding tickets ($25 to appeal, you lose anyway), and business owners began to complain they were losing business due to the get rich quick scheme. Judge sounds like a good man.

Not the First (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136747)

Virginia Courts threw those things out long ago.

IIRC, they ruled that they clearly did not affect public safety, they were just a disguised revenue generation plan. And since only the General Assembly had the constitutional right to institute new revenue, the cameras were illegal.

..

6 teens killed in Ohio SUV crash (3, Interesting)

pentadecagon (1926186) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136771)

6 teens killed in Ohio SUV crash [wdtn.com] is the next article on the same site. Quite consistent, both articles show that reckless driving is high priority for the people in Ohio.

Re:6 teens killed in Ohio SUV crash (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136837)

I'm sorry but going 27-29 after you exit a 55 highway down a short ramp is NOT reckless driving, that's what the majority of the tickets this system issued were for and it's a crock. I don't even live in the area and I think it's a pure revenue grab. We had a little village near here that did the same sort of thing, nailing people for doing 2 over on the highway, the state legislature finally shut them down by raising the number of residents required to operate a mayors court.

Re:6 teens killed in Ohio SUV crash (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136855)

Apples and peanuts. Put 8 kids ages 14-19 in a vehicle and something bad is bound to happen. Speed cameras are not going to stop kids from being kids. The problem here was a lack of parental guidance.

Wait, do I get this right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136787)

The speed cameras correctly measure speed transgressions, the drivers have sued the city, and the judge calls the speed cameras a scam? Provided that the cameras work correctly, what's wrong with making these asshole drivers pay?

Re:Wait, do I get this right? (1, Flamebait)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136925)

Well, for starters, the lie by omission you are currently experiencing. You know, the piece of information that everyone has guessed is missing for such a small town to have arrived at such an astronomical number of tickets? Yeah.

'Tis quite alright, I've been in your position before myself, many times. It's human nature to exaggerate the facts, or to leave out a small piece of information that completely tilts the argument to the opposing side.

If only... (5, Interesting)

swinferno (1212408) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136813)

If only this would hold up in The Netherlands, where speeding camera's are everywhere.
Nowadays, we even have systems in several places that measure average speed over a certain distance, meaning braking for the camera won't work.

Re:If only... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136907)

How about breaking the cameras?

Fight back, this judge is a good start, but make the camera's too expensive to maintain is a good start too...

Re:If only... (1)

ballpoint (192660) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136933)

speeding camera's are everywhere.

"Catch me if you can !", said the speeding camera.

Re:If only... (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137183)

Speed cameras are mostly a Dutch product (though the concept isn't). By far the majority of speed cameras are produced by a Dutch company and the Netherlands seems to be testing ground for all of them. I've rarely seen speed cameras in places where they would serve a public good. Mostly they are placed in unpopulated areas with relatively low speed limits, on the edge of areas with speed limit differences and on down-hill stretches.

Only in America (5, Insightful)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136819)

Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue

So 40% of all fines aren't actually fines, but revenue for the camera company. Holy shit, that's flawed.

This sort of setup doesn't exactly persuade the camera company to ensure the correct margins to adjust for measurement errors are used either. Who checks if the camera's comply with the spec? The company who receives 40% of the revenue or the government who receive 60%?

Re:Only in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136881)

This sort of setup doesn't exactly persuade the camera company to ensure the correct margins to adjust for measurement errors are used either. Who checks if the camera's comply with the spec? The company who receives 40% of the revenue or the government who receive 60%?

The tech the company hired for minimum wage.

Re:Only in America (0)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136931)

Only in small hick towns

They pass this to keep property taxes lower and still fund their lifestyle

Re:Only in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137131)

The people generally do not pass red light/speeding cameras. They are forced upon them by douche or turd, whoever is in office.

On a side note, the only way these cameras would be about safety is if the red light cameras all had 4-5 second yellow lights. In fact, if they did that, the roads would be safer and there would be almost no infractions. But then they don't get paid, so they don't do that.

Re:Only in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137045)

So 40% of all fines aren't actually fines, but revenue for the camera company. Holy shit, that's flawed.

Why would that make them not be fines? If the amount paid to the company was 100% of the fine then you might assume that the fine was inflated to cover the amount demanded by the company, but 40% is perfectly compatible with it being the amount that's set to punish the violater.

Re:Only in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137101)

The situation is a little different in the UK: the parish council (smallest area of government) wanted a camera on a particularly dangerous road (we have corners over here in Europe ;-p ). The cameras are operated by the district (larger area), who would do it, if they could charge the parish for the cost, as the fines go to straight the county (even larger) local police!

Regardless of the revenue-generation potential of cameras, and their perverse effect on traffic safety, I personally don't agree with prosecuting people for speeding. On a stretch of nearly empty rural 40mph road (my commute), someone paying attention in good conditions at 50 is safer than someone doing 35 and on a phone, or 30 in icy conditions. On the other hand, idiot parents doing 35 past the local school in the morning should be hauled over the coals. Places likely to have children/elderly pedestrians are pretty much the only places that should have speed cameras IMO.

Joke (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136885)

I remember a stand-up comedian once saying that he'd received a ticket in the mail for $140 and a picture of himself speeding, so he took a photo of $140 and sent it back to them.

Re:Joke (1)

codegen (103601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136921)

And they sent back a photo of handcuffs... Old joke..

Re:Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136941)

And as a response to that he got a picture of a pair of handcuffs....

Or the easy solution... (1, Troll)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136903)

Don't speed or run red lights. You'll put these guys out of business and make the streets safer. Everybody wins.

Re:Or the easy solution... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136993)

It doesn't work like that. Quite often the red lights with cameras are calibrated so the yellow/amber light is shorter than others on the same stretch. Drivers get caught out and either have to slam on the breaks and be rear-ended by the pickup sitting a few feet from their bumper, or risk running the red. If the light were genuinely about safety, all yellow lights would be set to hold for the same time, and they would also show a countdown. This move alone would cut out the vast majority of crashed at signals. Alas, it's not about safety, it's all about revenue for the local city/county and company running the cameras.

Re:Or the easy solution... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137149)

The city sets the timing of the yellow light. How sure are you that you can stop on a dime?

How about if you don't speed? Judge busted? (1, Flamebait)

fantomas (94850) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136905)

"It is a scam that motorists can't win."

- so the judge got caught speeding in the cameras and is unhappy? :-)

Reading the article, it looks like the argument is that not enough notice was given before putting the cameras up.
Were the cameras correctly indicated according to the laws?
Are speed restriction signs correctly posted on the roads?
If so, surely you can "win" as a motorist by just *obeying the speed limits*?
If you've been caught speeding and fined, isn't your argument "previously I ignored the speed limits which were correctly marked, but now I got caught and fined without due notice they would actually enforce the speed limit"?

Can anybody comment on whether the cameras were signed correctly and the speed restrictions correctly flagged on the roads? Just trying to understand the dispute here.

I'd definitely agree that a company getting paid a percentage of fines has an incentive to collect fines and that seems very suspect, I wouldn't like that, but hey, it's the USA, you guys prefer payment-by-results model rather than payment-for-a-public-service model so I guess we have to ride with that.

If you are unhappy with being fined for speeding, and the cameras and signs are legitimate, then is the argument not with the cameras but with the speed limit?

Do people object to slowing down to 25mph near a school where children are walking? or is the argument about being fined when you choose to go at a higher speed there?

"just don't speed" (1, Flamebait)

gonk (20202) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136909)

On some level, I agree with the "just don't speed" people. The real problem is the traffic laws themselves. They are far too rigid. Rigid laws can lead to rigid enforcement, which I don't think is generally what people want to see. Unfortunately, it is easier to write a ticket for "56 in a 55" and demonstrate that "my laser gun measured it" than it is to write a ticket for something like "driving at a dangerous speed for the conditions". I guess. I don't know.

Re:"just don't speed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137007)

Every ticket I've ever seen has included a specification as to why the infraction represented a danger to public safety.

State police in Pa allow one 15 over the speed limit at highway speeds (save for instances of posted rigorous enforcement) and that seems pretty typical.

Best response ever on this sort of thing though, an Air Force Base Commander was once asked in an interview if the base's Security Police had a quota to meet for speeding tickets --- his answer, ``100%. I expect every person speeding to be caught and ticketed. Breaking even the slightest rule is incompatible w/ the Air Force's standards.''

Governments need revenue. People need safety. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43136917)

Governments need increased revenue to cover their deficits, so why not allow speed cameras? Obviously a fair and reasonable amount of leeway should be given (e.g. 10km/h). We have other sin taxes, cigarettes, alcohol etc... If you don't want to pay the "tax" then don't speed, and as a result our communities and roads are safer.

Pointless article (0)

wesleyjconnor (1955870) | about a year and a half ago | (#43136963)

It doesnt make a mention of why the cameras are ineffective.
The people are aware there are cameras.
They know the speed to go.
They are getting caught.
PANIC?

Easy solution (4, Interesting)

zigziggityzoo (915650) | about a year and a half ago | (#43137113)

Change the penalty for moving violations from a monetary fine to a mandatory community service.

The incentive for police to write frivolous tickets will disappear, and people who are caught will be made to spend real time helping their community in some way, benefitting them, and costing them time, which is more valuable than money.

Ohio.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43137145)

Here in lower Michigan, Ohio has kind of gotten a reputation for this kind of thing. We used to drive through a small town on our way to Toledo, after about the third or fourth ticket for a few MPH over the speed limit everyone in our family was warned to avoid it at all costs. The one officer in a town of at most a hundred seemed to focus his full attention on a single blind corner just before the town where the speed limit dropped from 55 (before the corner) to 35 (Just after the corner). I've also heard of stories where officers actions were tantamount to extortion, pulling individuals over for minor infractions and offering them a choice 1: Going down to the courthouse, waiting for a judge for a couple hours, having your license taken and held after court officers record your full information OR 2: (officer pulls out device) We can take your credit card, debit card, check or cash right here to pay off your ticket.

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