Falls Church, VA Sneaks into the Deadly Camera Game

March 27, 2009
Falls Church City Council

Falls Church City Council

Like most cities that operate photo enforcement programs, Falls Church, Virginia doesn’t want the public to know what’s happening. Since August, the city has been holding quiet negotiations with private companies interested in setting up a red light camera program for profit. The first and only public mention of the city’s machinations appeared in a tiny mention today in the equally tiny Falls Church News-Press. It mentioned that the city council already approved a contract with American Traffic Solutions.

Falls Church is following in the footsteps of Fairfax City which held city council deliberations on red light cameras in secret before announcing their decision in an open meeting — at 1 a.m., long after the public had departed.

Why the secrecy, you might ask? Because Falls Church has had red light cameras before, and the results are documented. The city council knows its claims of “safety” have been debunked by no less an authority than the Virginia Department of Transportation. It found in Falls Church:

  • A 136% increase in rear-end collisions
  • A 79% increase in injury accidents
  • Overall, accidents increased 38%

See the results yourself.

If residents knew what was happening, they would be outraged. Despite the phony surveys cooked up by the ticket profiteers,  politicans realize that they can only get away with the scam while the public isn’t watching. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public referendum.

So let Falls Church know what you think. Contact information is provided after the jump. The city memo for the contract is available here: Falls Church Contract memo

Read the rest of this entry »


Washington, DC Declares War on Drivers

March 24, 2009
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty

Faced with a massive budget deficit, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is dialing American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for help. Need cash? ATS will set up a massive ticketing operation that can be adjusted to fit the needs of any big-spending bureaucrat. In Fenty’s case, the motorist pain threshold will be set to maximum. Check out what he’s proposing:

  • Mobile red light cameras to create deadly traps for drivers just like in New Carrollton, MD. These portable scameras can be set up anywhere, meaning drivers won’t be able to avoid dangerous red light camera intersections any more. This will cause surprise, panic stops and more rear-end collisions.
  • Turn red light cameras into speed cameras. This gives a speeding ticket to a driver who needs to accelerate to make it through Fenty’s intersections that have been set with dangerously short yellow times. The District has had “speed on green” in its enforcement contract for several years, but now is the time to cash in.
  • Speed cameras in every tunnel using laser instead of radar.
  • Gridlock enforcement” which means drivers will get a photo ticket if they are trapped in an intersection during heavy traffic.
  • Overweight vehicle tickets. A new ATS scamera will guess your weight as you drive past. If the machine thinks your vehicle is too heavy, you get a ticket in the mail. In other words, don’t have that extra donut before driving to work.
  • Insurance tickets. According to Fenty’s budget proposal, “Other new initiatives include… making use of real-time access to insurance.” That means you’ll get a hefty scamera ticket if the D.C. insurance database thinks you’re late on your insurance payment. D.C. isn’t exactly well known for the accuracy of its computerized information services. But don’t worry, you’re guilty until proven innocent with scamera tickets. Just pay and everything will be ok.

See page 97 of the Budget Executive Summary (large PDF).

Combine the above with D.C.’s plan to use federal “stimulus” dollars to take away lanes of traffic from automobiles so the city can run a money-wasting trolley boondoggle, and it’s clear that D.C. has declared war on the motorist.

If you’re willing to join us in fighting back, let us know.


Judge Throws Out New Carrollton Scamera Tickets

March 24, 2009

A Prince George’s County District Court has thrown out several red light tickets issued under New Carrollton’s Red Light Camera Scam after deciding that the city did not have evidence that the accused drivers had run a red light. The drivers challenged the citations after seeing that they had received a ticket stating that they had “run a red light”, while showing that they in fact were not moving. The citations said nothing about “crossing a white line” or “entering a crosswalk”.

New Carrollton Mayor Pro-Tem James Wildoner defended the practice in an interview with Fox 5 News, and said anyone who got a ticket for crossing the white line should “just pay the ticket”. Wilborner pointed out that, under transportation article 21-202, drivers are supposed to stop before the white line. HOWEVER transportation article 21-202.1 is in fact the section of maryland transporation code which permits the use of red light cameras, and it includes the following
(5) “Traffic control signal monitoring system” means a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors working in conjunction with a traffic control signal to produce recorded images of motor vehicles entering an intersection against a red signal indication.
The transportation article also states that the court is considering evidence that a vehicle “passed through the intersection”. Article 21-202 also distinguishes between the intersection itself and the white line or the crosswalks. Courts accept red light camera tickets only because article 21-202.1 lowers the burden of proof on that specific offense and states that for that specific offense they are admissible without witnesses capable of exercising human judgment. Moreover neither Maryland Transportation Article 21-202 nor 21-202.1 specify any penalty entering a crosswalk of stopping past the white line.

Despite the fact that the court did not agree with his interpretation of the law, and despite the fact that they are forcing drivers to choose between getting into rear end collision or side impact collision if they want to avoid getting a ticket, the Mayor Pro-Tem Wildoner assures that the city’s practice will continue. This is no doubt in hopes that most drivers will not take the time to challenge them. AAA has stated that they plan to file an injunction to stop the the cameras, according to an interview with Fox DC.

These red light cameras were also vigorously defended by New Carrollton’s Police Chief David Rice, who is currently under investigation by state police and the FBI over unrelated charges.

New Carrollton first proposed installing red light cameras on these roadways in February of 2000, when one city council member was quoted by the Gazette as saying “I say we move forward and investigate it to the fullest. It’s a sure, good revenue source.”


Fairfax, VA Finalizes Illegal Contract with Australians

March 20, 2009

In a press release to the Australian Securities Exchange last week, Melbourne-based Redflex Traffic Systems announced that it had executed a contract with the city of Fairfax, Virginia. In a closed-door meeting earlier this year, the Fairfax City Council had approved this agreement which is built upon a per-ticket bounty scheme specifically outlawed by the General Assembly in 2007. In case you don’t believe that red light cameras aren’t the gateway drug for photo radar, check out what Redflex has to say:

“With heavy population densities and substantial red-light and speed market development opportunities, the
expansion into the Mid-Atlantic, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C metropolitan areas is an important
achievement for Redflex. We are confident that building out our footprint by fostering a world-class public safety
program with the City of Fairfax will provide ample near and long-term opportunities to extend Redflex’s market
leadership” said Karen Finley, CEO Redflex Traffic Systems.

Release is here (PDF).


Montgomery County MD Will Double Speed Cameras

March 17, 2009

The Examiner did a great piece on the plan to balance the Montgomery County budget using speed cameras. This is a case where just a few words  tell the entire story:

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is proposing to almost double the number of speed cameras in Montgomery County, from 36 to 66.

The cameras may be the bane of leadfoots, but they are a boon for the county, which estimates that the cameras will bring $22.6 million in revenue in the current fiscal year.

Asked at a news conference whether the proposal for more cameras was designed to bring in more money during a lean budget year, Leggett said: “Oh no, we wouldn’t do that,” drawing big laughs from the overflow crowd.

“It is for safety purposes,” Leggett emphasized, again getting more laughs.


Maryland Red Light Cameras Caught Issuing Bogus Tickets

March 12, 2009

Fox 5 News has reported that red light cameras in New Carrolton, MD have been issuing large numbers of bogus tickets to cars which in fact stopped for the red light. The cameras were apparently issuing tickets to anyone who crossed the white line at the intersection, even if they came to a complete stop. A senior representative of AAA Mid Atlantic received one of the citations after he stopped at the intersection.

One driver interviewed by Fox news after being “flashed” while stopped at the intersection indicated “If I got it I wouldn’t fight it no. If the camera is set to do it that way I just have to pay the ticket.” In fact many drivers with less means than media clout than a senior representative of an organization like AAA might not make a challenge, given that Maryland law permits jurisdictions to threaten to raise the fine for citations from $75 to $100 and tack on court costs to anyone who takes their red light camera ticket to court.

The FAQ on the New Carrolton Police website makes it clear that automatically issuing tickets to large numbers of cars which in fact did stop for the light was deliberate:
“Q: I received a Red Light Camera ticket in the mail, but I am sure I stopped for the light. Why did I receive this?
A: In addition to vehicles which proceed through the intersection while the light is in the red phase, red light camera violations are also triggered by vehicles which pass the clearly marked “stop line” or enter the pedestrian crosswalk. “

Transportation Article 21-202.1, the section of the Maryland code which authorizes the use of red light cameras defines a “Traffic control signal monitoring system” as “a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors working in conjunction with a traffic control signal to produce recorded images of motor vehicles entering an intersection against a red signal indication.” and does not authorize their use against cars which stop before the intersection.

Forcing cars to stop too quickly might put drivers in the position of either being rear-ended or having to actually run the red light.

“Numerous” complaints have been received not just from New Carrolton but also Bladensburg and Riverdale, all in Prince George’s County, MD. Prince George’s County is currently requesting authorization from the Maryland legislature to permit the use of speed cameras, including one bill that would allow them on “primary highways”.

Remember that the choice to use photo enforcement to defraud passing motorists is a political decisions, made by elected officials in PG County and New Carrollton.  Please give them an earful.  Using cameras for this purpose is clearly neither fair nor is it in the interest of safety.

New Carrollton Mayor:
Andres Hanko 301-577-0256
ahanko@new-carrollton.md.us

New Carrollton City Councilmembers
Duane H. Rosenberg 301-441-3324
drosenberg@new-carrollton.md.us
James A. Wildoner 301-577-0992
jwildoner@new-carrollton.md.us
David L. Anderson 301-459-6100
danderson@new-carrollton.md.us
Katrina R. Dodro 301-513-9239
kdodro@new-carrollton.md.us
Liza Fenton 301-459-6100
lfenton@new-carrollton.md.us

Prince George’s County Executive: 301-952-4131
County Council:   301-952-3700
Council member emails: TEDernoga@co.pg.md.us, WACampos@co.pg.md.us,
EOlson@co.pg.md.us, IMTurner@co.pg.md.us,
councildistrict5@co.pg.md.us,  SHDean@co.pg.md.us, CAExum@co.pg.md.us,
TKnotts@co.pg.md.us, mmbland@co.pg.md.us


Parking Ticket Scameras Hit DC on March 30

March 7, 2009
D.C. street sweeper photo by kalavinka

D.C. street sweeper photo by kalavinka

The days of returning to your car and finding a ticket on the windshield could be coming to an end. The new meter maid in town is the street sweeper and the tickets will now just show up in the mail a few weeks after your “crime.” According to the D.C. Department of Public Works:

daytime mechanical street sweeping will resume in scheduled, signed residential neighborhoods on Monday, March 23, 2009. Alternate-side parking restrictions in these areas will go into effect as well. Parking tickets, which carry a $30 fine, will be issued, beginning March 30, to vehicles parked during street sweeping hours in areas posted with “No Parking/Street Cleaning” signs.

Beginning March 30, parked cars also may be towed to allow the sweepers access to the curbside. Generally, parking is prohibited for two hours while sweeping is underway.

Each of those street sweepers, which do very little to actually clean D.C.’s filthy streets, is now equipped with a camera designed to generate at least $2 million in revenue so Mayor Fenty and his cronies can continue their reckless spending spree. Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) will be in charge of the program to ensure it generates the maximum revenue possible.

If you don’t get the ticket in the mail, don’t worry.  D.C. is also using its cameras to conveniently boot or tow your vehicle so that you have the opportunity to pay hundreds in towing fees on top of that $30 fine.

The meter maids haven’t been fired yet and will keep issuing tickets. But it’s only a matter of time before they’re replaced with cameras that communicate wirelessly with the new multi-space electronic parking meters. Because it’s all about safety, right?