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.
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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.


Protest Activities This Weekend (April 4-5)

April 3, 2009

With Maryland legislature on the verge of enacting a law putting speed cameras on every freeway, with D.C. declaring automated war on drivers with massive new ticketing blitz and with Virginia cities scrambling to reinstall deadly red light cameras, the National Capital branch of CameraFRAUD.com is taking action. The greed of the big-spending bureaucrats will only stop if they hear a resounding “NO!” from the public. So come be part of that voice.

On the Virginia side of the Potomac, we will distribute this flyer to drivers in Falls Church on Saturday, April 4, starting at 1 p.m. We want to let the public know that re-installing a camera program that caused a 79% increase in injuries is unacceptable. We reject the concept that cities can ignore the law and adopt illegal per-ticket contracts with foreign companies. Shoot an email to capitalfraud at gmail.com if you want to help.

In Maryland, we will be having a protest at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 5, at the 4661 Randolph Road scameras in Rockville, MD View map. Please contact StopBigBrotherMD@gmail.com for more details if you wish to participate.

Update: Please note change in Maryland location.


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 »


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).