'If I Went Through, Then You Wouldn't Be Talking to Me Now'

The Fox TV station in Washington, D.C., catches a traffic light camera in New Carollton, Maryland, "popping off like popcorn," generating tickets for motorists who stop a little bit over the white line:

AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend...blasted the camera, saying, "This is the most egregious one we've seen. It is so beyond the pale. It not only violated the spirit of the law it violates the letter of the law. It may be illegal in the state of Maryland. "

During a short period, the cameras flashed continually and went off when cars were at a complete stop. We asked one motorist, "Did you go past the red light?" The unidentified driver said, "No, I didn't. I'm still stopped here at the red light. If I went through, then you wouldn't be talking to me now. The camera went off. So am I going to get a ticket? Oh no. "

Townsend said, "These people legally stopped for a red light, but they ventured into this box, and they consider that technically to be red light running, and it's not. It smacks of 'I got you'—a game just for money."

More Reason coverage of traffic cameras here.

[Thanks to Ryan Posly for the tip.]

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  • ||

    The New Carollton, MA, city must need cash urgently to pull this one off. I actually saw the same thing with a streetlight at 41st Ave in Santa Cruz, CA, where people stopping just after the white line had their picture taken. However, I have to be clear: They stopped in order to make a right turn on the Red, even though it says clearly in a sign that the right turn at red is verboten.

  • Mad Max||

    I'm reading about Charles Carroll of Carrolton, a Marylander who signed the Declaration of Independence. I doubt this nonsense is what he risked his life for.

  • really||

    Come on. You act like these things have a 100% conviction rate or something?

  • ||

    I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

  • ||

    Well, the camera isn't doing anything a cop couldn't do if he wanted. It is an infraction, technically. Of course, so is not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, and what percentage of motorists do that?

    Another goodie: technically (in California at least), vehicles are supposed to wait until pedestrians at a crosswalk are entirely out of the street before proceeding. Try that and you'd soon have hearing loss from the horns of the cars behind you.

  • ||

    I suspect what is happening is that the local police have been tinkering with the detection threshold, causing an increase in false alarms in an effort to decrease the number of missed detections, and thus increase revenues.

    Showing that the police probably don't understand the technology they are using.

    I see the same thing at supermarket auto-checkout lines. The register theft-detection systems - the stuff that tells you to put the item in the bag and so forth, gets to the point that they are hypersensitive to any abnormality. Which leads me to suspect that store employees are tinkering with the settings.

  • Eric Haskell||

    "It says clearly in a sign that the right turn at red is verboten."

    Santa Cruz, CA is in Germany?

  • ||

    """Fox 5 made an effort to talk with the New Carrollton Police Department and the city about the issue.
    The chief said he'll answer questions during office hours."""

    I can't wait to hear what the chief says. Jacob, can you follow up?

    If the law allows cops to ticket for running a red light because some part of your car crossed the line, I guess it's fair game, albeit a lousy one.

  • ||

    Santa Cruz, CA is in Germany?

    Actually, the whole town is way up there in Pluto.

  • ||

    """I suspect what is happening is that the local police have been tinkering with the detection threshold,"""

    I was thinking along the same lines. Since it's a mobile camera, depending on the detection method, it may need focusing. I doubt the city would admit it thought. If they don't know how to properly deploy the cameras, all the tickets ever given with the mobile cameras should be dismissed. Enter another problem, if you plead guilty and paid the fine, you might be screwed.

  • ||

    My post was more about this comment.

    ""Showing that the police probably don't understand the technology they are using."""

    But with respect to tinkering, if they were tinkering, they probably knew how to focus and adjusted it so they would catch people across the line instead of running the light.

  • ||

    Come on. You act like these things have a 100% conviction rate or something?


    For the people who don't want the hassle of fighting the $50(or whatever it is) fine and just pay it, they do. Which doesn't make it right, but it's just money, right? What's the big deal, it's not that much, right?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    IANAL, but my understanding was that these cameras had to get enough of your face in the shot in order to prove that it was you that ran the red light. Because the ticket isn't for your car running the light, it's for you running the light. I would think that, theoretically, if the camera is only ever getting the license plates, you could say that a friend was driving your car that day.

  • Paul||

    Traffic cameras popping up all over Seattle. The other day I was halfway through the intersection making a left turn at a camera'd light. I was waiting for the last car to go through who was taking his sweet time. Because of the traffic camera, I almost considered rushing through ahead of him causing a dangerous situation. Instead, I waited, he went through and I continued left just as the light went red. Hoping I don't get my ticket. Moral of the story: These cameras make people consider and do dangerous things to make sure they're completely clear of the intersection.

  • California Driver||

    Some states require a clear picture of the driver's face, like California, others just ticket the car's owner.

    It's necessary in California because it's not a reduced fine, like the $50 above. A ticket from a camera is the equivalent of a ticket from a cop watching the light, at least in financial terms, not sure about a point on the license.

  • Anonymous||

    1. I've never had the pleasure of dealing with anything other than paying tickets. Is it an option in most jurisdictions to plead "no contest" to indicate it's not worth the time to haggle and just pay the fine? And if so, would all cases being reversed due to technological malfunction get me my money back in that case?

    2. Would infrared or ultraviolet LEDs bathing a license plate obscure its image?

  • ed||

    "Santa Cruz, CA is in Germany?"

    "Actually, the whole town is way up there in Pluto."


    Damn, and Pluto isn't even a planet any more.

  • Kolohe||

    IANAL,

    Dude aren't you a law student? Isn't that close enough on the interwebz?

  • ||

    But with respect to tinkering, if they were tinkering, they probably knew how to focus and adjusted it so they would catch people across the line instead of running the light.

    The parameters probably aren't anything as simple as focus or adjustment of photo quality.
    It's probably some set of numbers on a screen that have to do with some probability that the person is over the line, or the timing at which the photo is taken. They might be (say) lowering the threshold to 85% probability of a violation instead of 95%. Only the guy who is in change of the settings has no idea what any of the numbers mean. He probably just knows that when he lowers X that the number of "hits" (and hence tickets) increases. He may be clueless as to the fact that they are false alarms and is stupidly assuming that technology is magical and foolproof and he cna play around with the settings and somehow the magic fairy engineers who invented it guarenteed that false alarms would never happen.

  • JB||

    I'm waiting for a movement that targets and destroys these cameras.

  • ||

    Get those jerks that are stopped completely over the crosswalk!

  • ||

    I'm waiting for a movement that targets and destroys these cameras.

    Apparently, people have started vandalizing speed cameras in Phoenix. Sounds like a good use for a paintball machine gun.

  • ||

    ##Santa Cruz, CA is in Germany?

    # Actually, the whole town is way up there
    # in Pluto.

    Although the policy decisions come straight out of Uranus.

    I've been to Council meetings and can confirm this from firsthand experience!

  • Lefiti||

    Well, traffic light cameras are certainly a more important issue than any possible flaws in the market fundamentalist worldview. If Alan Greenspan were more like Jacob Sullum he might have avoided falling into heresy.

  • Lefiti||

    Traffic lights themselves can be an opportunity...

    The Chofetz Chaim was once asked how he learned so much over a period of years. He said, "Five minutes here and five minutes there." One never knows when they will be in a traffic jam designed for a few minutes of learning. One usually knows that they will be waiting at the doctor's office, the dentist's office, the attorney's office, etc. Go prepared. Always be prepared to learn while waiting by carrying a sefer and a learning cassette everywhere you go. Over the past few years I have read the sefer, The Power of Words through several times at stoplights, traffic lights and waiting...

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    Dad-gummed revenoors!

  • Guy Smiley||

    I think the roads, and everything else should be privatized.

    However, people are bastards about parking halfway across the damn line, so this makes me happy.

    Also, if the police started shooting people in the face for not using their turn signal, part of me would be happy.

    And, there would be about three people left in Bloomington, Indiana. But I'd be one of them.

  • Lefiti||

    Do you enjoy having cock slapped across your face? BLACK cock? Well, so do I! Join my Samwell fan club! Email me at Edwardis@pillowbiter.com to receive your welcome kit!

  • Lefiti||

    Lefiti, what 'market fundamentalism'? This country has never had a free market.

    Oh, I get it, you are talking about the government interference in the market which caused this crisis.

    You are a liar just like the other leftists.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    However, people are bastards about parking halfway across the damn line, so this makes me happy.



    If you're going to do right turn off of a multilane road, you pretty much have to, unless you can see through the giant SUV stopped to your left.

  • ||

    If you're going to do right turn off of a multilane road, you pretty much have to, unless you can see through the giant SUV stopped to your left.



    Or the frickin' bushes planted on the corner.

  • ||

    """The parameters probably aren't anything as simple as focus or adjustment of photo quality. """"

    I don't mean focus in just the photography sense. Focus also applies to the width of an energy beam.

    """"2. Would infrared or ultraviolet LEDs bathing a license plate obscure its image?"""

    Yes, but it's illegal in many states that use camera

  • StopBigBrotherMD||

    Transportation article 21.802.1 is the section of the Maryland legal code which authorizes the used of red light cameras. It states that they should "produce recorded images of motor vehicles entering __an intersection__"...not a entering crosswalk. It also specifies that evidence should indicate that "the driver of the vehicle passed through the intersection". Basically Maryland towns are not authorized to systematically use red light cameras unless a car actually enters and passes through an intersection after a red light.

    Even if this practice was legal, stopping after the white line is something which sometimes people NEED to do to avoid getting rear ended or actually run a red light and get T-Boned. This is not what people consider to be "running a red light" and not the terms under which red light cameras are being sold to the public.

    Maryland towns near DC are trying to "charge admission" to the nation's capital by putting speed and red light cameras on all the major roads leading into the city. Imagine what PG county towns will do if they get their wish to put speed cameras on freeways!

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