Toss Your Red Light Camera Ticket

July 1, 2009

The Washington Times has exposed the dirty little secret of the red light camera industry in Virginia. Mailed tickets can be ignored.

As The Washington Times reported four years ago, state law says a private company may not simply drop a ticket in a mailbox and expect it to be considered valid service. Unless a driver receives a hand-delivered copy, the citation can be thrown away without consequence. Depriving Alexandria and its revenue-collecting partner of cash is the surest way to ensure this unsafe program disappears for good.

The Times, of course, recommends this drastic course of action for a good reason. Accidents skyrocketed in Washington, DC and Virginia wherever the cameras have been used. In 2005, The Washington Post proved that accidents doubled at monitored intersections in the District. In 2007, VDOT proved injuries and overall accidents likewise increased in the Commonwealth as a whole, and Alexandria in particular.

The Times further nails the city for trying to pull another yellow light scam. A camera on South Patrick & Gibbon has a 4 second yellow, but just one block later at South Patrick & Franklin the yellow is just 3.5 seconds. Same road, same speed limit, but with the shortened yellow you’re much more likely to be zapped by the camera at Franklin. Given these facts, it’s obviously all about the money for Alexandria, not safety.

Read the whole “Toss Your Ticket” editorial here.

Given these facts, it’s obviously all about the money for Alexandria, not safety.

Deadly Red Like Cameras Return to Alexandria, VA

June 17, 2009

Reprinted with permission from thenewspaper.com:

Alexandria will pick your pocket starting July 15.

Alexandria will pick your pocket starting July 15.

Red light cameras have returned to Northern Virginia. The city of Alexandria announced for the first time yesterday that a private company has re-installed cameras at three intersections with citations going out on July 15. Until now, the city has been quiet about the revived program, hoping to avoid a public discussion of the controversy over accidents that persuaded the legislature to shut down the program in 2005.

According to a report by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the total number of accidents increased 43 percent at the Alexandria intersections where red light cameras were used. Across the five main cities in the state using cameras, the report found an overall increase in injury accidents of 18 percent. This time, Alexandria did not consider bringing back cameras for safety purposes.

“The Red Light Camera program is not considered a core public safety service,” Alexandria City Manager James K. Hartman wrote in a March 24, 2008 memo to the city council.

Instead, the city has missed the revenue from the 82,000 tickets issued over the lifetime of the program.

“Collections through May were eleven percent lower than collections last year because of the elimination of red light camera revenue,” Hartman explained in a June 2006 city budget memo after the program was terminated. “Based on collections-to-date and projected collections, staff projects that fines and forfeitures will approximate $3.8 million, a decrease of $0.1 million below the Approved FY 2006 Budget.”

The return of red light cameras is helping to boost ticket collections for Fiscal Year 2010 to $4.6 million, an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year. With three cameras installed, gross photo ticket revenues are expected to be $450,000 per year with private vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) pocketing $180,000. Payments to ATS are made through a “cost neutral” contract which compensates ATS on a per-ticket basis up to a level capped at approximately $5000 per intersection per month. The group CameraFraud.com argues that this arrangement directly violates a state law banning per-ticket payments for red light camera programs.

To deflect the appearance that revenue is the program’s sole focus, Alexandria places general budget expenses on the red light camera program account to reduce the apparent net profit generated. The city is once again adding “special police officers” (SPOs) to the red light camera payroll to “review” citations at a total cost of $115,000 per year in salary.

“Alexandria uses SPOs rather than sworn police officers to review the Red Light Camera images,” a March 2008 city memo explained. “The SPO is a less expensive civilian, uniformed position with limited enforcement powers.”

Vendor presentations explain that it takes less than twenty seconds to “review” and give the private company permission to mail a red light camera citation. In 2005, Alexandria generated an average of 1550 such citations each month, at which rate these two SPOs would split a total of nine hours worth of work per month. In reality, such reviews either are not done or are done as “bulk approvals” where entire stacks of citations are electronically signed with a single mouse click. Evidence shows that Alexandria’s SPOs in reality served as little more than security guards.

“The SPOs handled all reviews of the citation images while performing their primary security duties at 2003 Mill Road and the police offices at 2034 Eisenhower Avenue,” the March memo explained. “Their security functions at 2003 Mill Road had been largely assumed by the Sheriff’s Office, which screens all visitors as they enter the parking lot.”

Revenue may not meet expectations once motorists who receive citations from the new Alexandria or Virginia Beach red light camera program realize that they may safely discard them without payment. Although the legislature reinstated the red light camera program in 2007, it did not change the requirement that tickets must be personally served to be valid. VDOT explained this issue in 2005.

“Although the statute permits the jurisdiction to make the initial attempt to summon the accused to court via mail, if the person fails to respond, he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice,” VDOT explained (view report). “The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact.”

Original article here.


Deadly Red Light Cameras Spread in Virginia

June 5, 2009
Redflex Doesn't Care How it Gets Your Cash

Redflex Doesn't Care How it Gets Your Cash

Virginia Beach has the only red light camera program currently active in Virginia, but more cities are desperate to get on the gravy train — and they’re willing to do whatever it takes. Even if that means lying.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to install traffic cameras, citing bogus statistics to an unquestioning media. Even the Virginia Department of Transportation’s regional engineer joined with misleading statements about his department’s own findings. From NBC29:

According to VDOT, the cameras have been proven to reduce crashes by 42 percent, but they’re only successful if intersections are a good match.

Well, no. That’s actually the exact opposite of what the VDOT report found. We think it’s important to explain the statistical scam used to generate the “42%” figure which NBC29 obediently misreported.

The VDOT engineer selectively cited a made-up category called “red light running related accidents” out of the agency’s comprehensive 2007 study of every red light camera program in the Commonwealth (see for yourself). Why is it made-up?  Because the only types of accidents you’re going to find based on the accident forms used in the field are Angle, Rear End and Sideswipe with severities like Property Damage Only, Injury and Fatal. These accident types are recorded by showing where the vehicle is hit on a diagram. (View the official Virginia Accident Form in PDF). These categories are based in fact and are not subjective.

The “red light running” category is fake because it has a singular purpose: to exclude by definition rear end collisions. Take them out of the way and suddenly cameras look much better.

But you would never do that if you were honest in your concern about safety. There is only one question worth answering in evaluating a red light camera program: What was the overall effect? In other words, were there fewer injuries and fewer accidents, or more accidents and more injuries? When you use questions that cut to the bottom line, you find the VDOT report is very clear:

Based only on the study results presented herein and without referencing other studies, the study did not show a definitive safety benefit associated with camera installation with regard to all crash types, all crash severities, and all crash jurisdictions (page xv)

The cameras were associated with an increase in rear-end crashes. The EB method showed a significant increase in four of the five jurisdictions and a nonsignificant increase in one jurisdiction (Fairfax City)… the EB results suggest that the point estimate of this increase is 42%. A simple before-after comparison after normalizing by time and ADT suggested an average increase of 27% by intersection…. (page 48)

The cameras were associated with an increase in total crashes. Arlington and Fairfax County saw significant increases, Falls Church and Vienna saw nonsignificant increases, and Fairfax City saw a nonsignificant decrease. The aggregate EB results suggested that this increase was 29%, whereas a simple before/after comparison that controlled for time and ADT suggested an increase of 12% per intersection… (page 48)

The association of the cameras with angle crashes differed among jurisdictions, although a preponderance of test results suggested an increase… (page 48)

The cameras were associated with an increase in the frequency of injury crashes. Significant increases were noted in Arlington and Vienna, nonsignificant increases were noted in Falls Church and Fairfax County, and a nonsignificant decrease was noted in Fairfax City. The aggregate EB results suggested an 18% increase, although the point estimates for individual jurisdictions were substantially higher (59%, 79%, or 89% increases) or lower (6% increase or a 5% decrease). (page 49)

The Empirical Bayes (EB) method produces the most sophisticated results, which are summarized as follows:

  • Rear end accidents increased 42%
  • Angle accidents increased 20%
  • Injury accidents increased 18%
  • The total number of accidents increased 29%

More accidents. More injuries. Period.

Albemarle doesn’t care. Neither do Newport News and Fairfax City which joined Virginia Beach in thumbing their noses at state law by inking illegal per-ticket contracts with an Australian company, Redflex Traffic Systems, to outsource ticketing.

They don’t care about the law, they don’t care about the truth and they don’t care about your safety –  for one simple reason: It’s all about the money.


Deadly Red Light Cameras Issue Tickets in Virginia Beach

April 15, 2009
Karen Finley wants your cash

Karen Finley wants your cash

After a scathing reports by the Virginia Department of Transportation documented that red light cameras caused an increase in the number of accidents and injuries, the deadly devices have returned to roads in the Commonwealth. Virginia Beach this week became the first city to resume issuing $50 citations.

At the moment, two intersection cameras are generating tickets with a third expected at the end of the month. The first phase of the “open-ended” contract between Virginia Beach and Redflex anticipates ticketing at ten intersections. The partnership between the city and the Australians eventually will expand to allow 43 automated ticketing machines to  generate revenue — the maximum allowed by state law.

How did this happen when the evidence shows that the program was a colossal safety failure? Redflex Board Member Karen Finley answered the question in an October press release to the Australian Securities Exchange. (press release PDF)

“As the true pioneer of the photo enforcement industry, Redflex has been an active leader in legislative initiatives in more than half of the 21 states in which it operates,” Finley said. “To ensure the industry’s successful propagation, Redflex has made a strategic investment in a team of legislative experts with a keen knowledge of working the delicate, formal, legislative processes and grass root efforts. When the original 1995 Virginia photo enforcement legislation was not renewed, we implemented a focused legislative effort: two-years later, these efforts were successfully received by the Virginia General Assembly as referenced by the state-wide enablement of photo enforcement programs.”

In other words, it used high-priced lobbyists to buy the votes of legislators willing to sell out the safety of their constituents. “Strategic investments” means cash in the pockets of lawmakers. “Grass roots efforts” mean setting up phony corporate front groups like the Campaign to Stop Red Light Running that gullible media use as a source of “victims” of red light running in their stories. The campaign’s paid drama queens talk up the horror of  red light running as if a red light camera would have prevented a single death or accident.

Instead, Redflex cameras just take photographs of these tragedies while creating hundreds of new accidents, injuries and tragedies nationwide — as seen in the national studies that were not paid for by the camera industry’s legislative experts.


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).


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


Virginia Beach Begins Installing Deadly Red Light Cameras

March 4, 2009

Virginia Beach pic by Jason Pratt

In the race between Arlington and Fairfax City to be the first to slap the public with tickets from deadly red light cameras, it appears that Virginia Beach has emerged victorious. Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems once again has won the contract to take pictures, determine who’s guilty, mail citations and collect the revenue. Virginia Beach has won the right to keep a slice of the profit. WVEC-TV has the scoop:

Construction and wiring is underway at Kempsville and Indian River Roads and will begin soon at Independence and Virginia Beach boulevards.  Work is expected to take about a week, so there could be some delays for drivers using those areas. The cameras’ initial operation is expected to take place in mid-March and will begin with a 30-day warning period for each intersection as the cameras become operational.

What’s strange is that VDOT had previously rejected Virginia Beach’s scamera application. Right now, the VDOT website does not acknowledge the new scamera sites as approved. So it appears the weak-willed bureaucrats at VDOT don’t have the spine to say no to a program that significantly increased accidents the last time around.

Let VDOT know what you think by emailing or calling:

Michael O. Clements

Phone: (804) 786-9609

Fax: (804) 225-3761

E-mail: Michael.Clements@VDOT.Virginia.gov


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