Man beats speed camera by using their own data against them

Blind_Io

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http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/20/business-owner-casts-reasonable-doubt-on-accuracy-/?page=all

Remember that time in school when your math teacher said you would need to know the stuff you were learning later in life? This is that time.

Will Foreman has beaten the speed cameras.

Five times and counting before three different judges, the Prince George?s County business owner has used a computer and a calculation to cast reasonable doubt on the reliability of the soulless traffic enforcers.


After a judge threw out two of his tickets Wednesday, Mr. Foreman said he is confident he has exposed systemic inaccuracies in the systems that generate millions of dollars a year for town, city and county governments.


He wasn?t the only one to employ the defense Wednesday. Two other men were found not guilty of speeding offenses before a Hyattsville District judge during the same court session using the same technique.

?You?ve produced an elegant defense and I?m sufficiently doubtful,?
Judge Mark T. O?Brien said to William Adams, after hearing evidence that his Subaru was traveling below the 35-mph limit - and not 50 mph as the ticket indicated.

The method?
Mr. Foreman, the owner of Eastover Auto Supply in Oxon Hill, examined dozens of citation photos of his company?s trucks that were issued along a camera-monitored stretch of Indian Head Highway his employees frequently travel.

The camera company, Optotraffic, uses a sensor that detects any vehicle exceeding the speed limit by 12 or more mph, then takes two photos of it for identification purposes. The photos are mailed to violators, along with a $40 ticket.

For each ticket, Mr. Foreman digitally superimposed the two photos - taken 0.363 seconds apart from a stationary point, according to an Optotraffic time stamp - creating a single photo with two images of the vehicle.

Using the vehicle?s length as a frame of reference, Mr. Foreman then measured its distance traveled in the elapsed time, allowing him to calculate the vehicle?s speed. In every case, he said, the vehicle was not traveling fast enough to get a ticket.
So far the judges have agreed.


?I?ve never seen this before,? Judge O?Brien said, as he examined a superimposed photo presented by Mr. Adams, who also employed the technique. ?How much time did you spend on this??

Mr. Foreman said he is awaiting trial on about 40 more tickets, all of which he called ?bogus.?

Speed cameras ?can be good, but not if they?re abused,? he said after the hearing.
The Maryland General Assembly approved speed cameras in 2009 for school and highway-work zones, two years after a pilot program in Montgomery County. Prince George?s officials have long resisted speed cameras, but many municipalities began implementing them in fall 2009.

Supporters of the devices have argued they reduce speeding over time and increase safety, while many opponents call them a cash cow for local governments.
Mr. Foreman?s tickets were all issued in Forest Heights, a town of about 2,600 where officials expected $2.9 million in ticket revenue this fiscal year, about half the town?s $5.8 million budget.

In Prince George?s County, cameras are operated entirely by municipalities, which can set them up within half-mile school zones. The devices are installed by vendors that typically receive about 40 percent of the payout on each ticket, with the rest going to local, county and state government.

Municipalities other than Forest Heights also use Optotraffic cameras. The Lanham-based vendor also serves New Carrollton, Mount Rainier and College Park as well as the city of Cambridge in Dorchester County, Md.

Optotraffic representatives said the photos are not intended to capture the actual act of speeding, and are taken nearly 50 feet down the road from sensors as a way to prove the vehicle was on the road.

?No one has come to us with a proven error,? company spokesman Mickey Shepherd said Tuesday. ?Their speed is not measured by the photos. The speed is measured before the photos are taken.?

An Optotraffic technician was sworn in and offered the company?s defense in the courtroom on Wednesday to no avail.

Mr. Foreman didn?t buy it either. He said it was unlikely that his vehicles slowed significantly after passing the sensors, as photos typically show them with their brake lights off.

While Judge O?Brien let Mr. Foreman off the hook, he ruled against several other accused speeders who based their not-guilty pleas largely on gut feelings that the cameras were flawed, while reducing the fines for some who pleaded guilty.

A Forest Heights official declined to comment after court proceeding.
 

WillDAQ

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Happened here in the UK as well 'you were doing 48 in a 40' says UK plod, 'let me see those pictures' says NASA image processing specialist. Suitable data produced, one ticket overturned.
 

otispunkmeyer

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If the photos are taken just to prove the vehicles are on the road, why do they take 2 photos in quick succession and why do they mail them as proof? Surely if the speed is measured earlier on either by laser/radar/loops in the road, why do they need 2 photos?

The cameras here that work by a loop in the road basically take a photo of you just after you cross the timing loops, but they only take one I'm pretty sure. Other method is of course, two photos of the vehicle with markers on the tarmac so that a speed can easily be calculated. If that was the way they calculated the speeds, surely the cameras would be set up like that with markers on the road. But if the cameras take the picture after the fact then im not sure you should be using them as evidence because you may of already begun to slow down quite rapidly.

Not sure who to believe to be honest. Part of me thinks that there are people out there who would willingly fiddle the system to make a quick buck (after all they have a vested interested) and part of me thinks the defendant might of just dazzled the judge with some pretty maths.
 

LeMans GTR

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I don't think the math is that pretty. It's just that no one has really stopped and thought about if they'd really been speeding before. Most people just pay the ticket to avoid the hassles.
 
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Blind_Io

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There have been a number of cases in the US of then private management companies manipulating light timing to get more ticket revenue from red light cameras, these are often the same companies that do speed cameras. The was even a case in Berkeley, CA of a technician at the company using the cameras to stalk women and find out where they lived and worked.
 

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The cameras in the UK and elsewhere take two pictures for this very reason. It is also why calibrated white lines are painted in the camera's view so that the evidence can be verified.

One of the most common defences against fines and points is to ask for evidence of when the camera sensors were last re-calibrated. If it wasn't done as scheduled then the prosecution rests, m'lud. Same applies for the laser devices and other kit used in the mobile units.

So few drivers are aware of this that they accept the camera never lies, cough up and take the points. Sure the camera might not lie, but the machine getting it to take the pictures often is.

And well done that man.
 

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If the photos are taken just to prove the vehicles are on the road, why do they take 2 photos in quick succession and why do they mail them as proof? Surely if the speed is measured earlier on either by laser/radar/loops in the road, why do they need 2 photos?

The cameras here that work by a loop in the road basically take a photo of you just after you cross the timing loops, but they only take one I'm pretty sure. Other method is of course, two photos of the vehicle with markers on the tarmac so that a speed can easily be calculated. If that was the way they calculated the speeds, surely the cameras would be set up like that with markers on the road. But if the cameras take the picture after the fact then im not sure you should be using them as evidence because you may of already begun to slow down quite rapidly.

Not sure who to believe to be honest. Part of me thinks that there are people out there who would willingly fiddle the system to make a quick buck (after all they have a vested interested) and part of me thinks the defendant might of just dazzled the judge with some pretty maths.
Those loops in the road can't distinguish between your car and someone else's. One good example is that if you trip the first loop and I just happen to change lanes a second or so later (but ahead of you) and trip the second loop with my bike, guess who gets a ticket? (Hint: not me.)

I also recently got a red light camera ticket in the mail which clearly showed my 700 sitting behind the balk line (i.e., legally waiting for the light to change) but ahead of the loop that picked up the magnet on the underside of my frame. What tripped the camera? Someone turning left from the cross street (legally, with the light) came across the other loop and made the computer think that someone was running the light.

They just rubberstamp these damn things. There isn't any element of safety improvement involved, it's all revenue generation.

Edit: At least this time I didn't have to go to court to get it dismissed. Last time I had to because the dumbass Redflex idiots couldn't be arsed to look at their own pictures or video.
 
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otispunkmeyer

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I don't think the math is that pretty. It's just that no one has really stopped and thought about if they'd really been speeding before. Most people just pay the ticket to avoid the hassles.
Well no its not pretty, especially to people with numerical backgrounds like engineering or mathematics or science... but I know a lot of people very good at politics and law and all things like that who really were not put on this earth to deal with numbers (I'm the opposite, hopeless with words, good with numbers). But you're right, most people don't try to argue the case either because $40 isn't a large sum of money or that they think its going to be more than their jobs worth to try fight it (ie too much time, not enough chance of success)
 

WillDAQ

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Also,

Remember that time in school when your math teacher said you would need to know the stuff you were learning later in life? This is that time.
I'm a rocket scientist, it's always that time!
 

MWF

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Actually I was just thinking of the phrase "it's not rocket surgery"......
 

Cobol74

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There should be no way that evidence can be contested - that is the system should be set so that there is no way any doubt can be raised - clearly this has not happened in this case. This is what you get when lawyers and admin people do the procedures in technical situations.

It will not be the first time some government numpty has said "saves lives, is accurate and correct in all cases . ? blah, blah. ?".
 

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There should be no way that evidence can be contested - that is the system should be set so that there is no way any doubt can be raised - clearly this has not happened in this case. This is what you get when lawyers and admin people do the procedures in technical situations.

It will not be the first time some government numpty has said "saves lives, is accurate and correct in all cases . ? blah, blah. ?".
As many courts in other parts of the US have found, this is impossible unless the speed checkpoints are manned. Basically, unless there is an operator on site, there is no way that you can't punch holes in their testimony.

What they do instead is try to make the fines so low that it isn't worth your time to fight it, let alone hire a lawyer and experts.
 

Blind_Io

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Many states and cities are also changing the way unmanned camera citations are charged, they are no longer moving violations so people are more willing to plead guilty and pay the fine since it won't go on their driving record or be reported to the insurance company. In the places where it is still a moving violation more and more people are contesting the tickets and getting them dismissed.
 

JCE

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As many courts in other parts of the US have found, this is impossible unless the speed checkpoints are manned. Basically, unless there is an operator on site, there is no way that you can't punch holes in their testimony.

What they do instead is try to make the fines so low that it isn't worth your time to fight it, let alone hire a lawyer and experts.
Also to add to this is these (at least here locally) do not go on your driving record. I got caught running a left turn arrow in Plano when it went red. I was already traveling about 48 to beat the light and it JUST turned red right when my van (yes it was the van) crossed one of the lines indicating I ran it. They sent me a letter with a link to an online video -- which was pretty clear that I did it. I paid my $75 fine and went on my way. I never saw that on my driving record.

P.S. Spectre and any other North Texans it was the Coit and Park intersection going from Coit to Park.
 
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