'Indiscriminate' No Longer a Plus

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A Bethesda, Md. red light camera caught me on a ridiculously short yellow, though I didn't realize it until I received, by mail, two portrait-quality pictures of the license plate on my girlfriend's car. Yesterday, I watched someone run a red light and almost lost my sight when a camera went off like the Fourth of July.

Nevermind that the evidence suggests traffic cameras cause more accidents than they prevent, or that city officials are starting to recognize that the cameras are kind of Orwellian, despite their revenue potential. What about the cases in which, due to bureaucratic bumbling, law enforcement agencies send the ticket to the wrong person?

From a Craigslist ad:

"I would like to compare the images in a ticket I received versus other vehicles. If you have a Camera ticket FROM DC I would appreciate you sharing the Citation Number and Pin Number.

To show how dumb the DMV is, they sent me a ticket for someone riding a scooter because their tag match a vanity tag that I USED TO own, FOR MY CAR, and had turned in.

Oh, ya, if you've seen this scooter, that would be great to know too."

Wanna stick it to the Man? Check out these license plate hiders. Or just buy some magic spray Drive the speed limit and brake early.

Via Washington City Paper's City Desk blog.

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  1. though I didn’t realize it until I received, by mail, two portrait-quality pictures of the license plate on my girlfriend’s car

    A reason intern with a girlfriend? Riiiiiiight. Nice try.

  2. Didn’t Mythbusters do something on the spray and plate hiders? Forgot the outcome.

    Mike, IIRC, the traffic camera density is a lot lower over here in VA. Caution: my neighborhood (Crystal City) seems to have one of the highest concentrations of government and private security cameras around, if that is a concern.

  3. Epi,

    Even better, a girlfriend at the same address!

  4. Before you guys all “stick it to the man” en masse, the Mythbusters did a great show on license plate cameras.

    The cloaking devices for your license plates don’t work, and neither will trying to go so fast that the picture will blur.

    click here to read the episode summary

    On a separate note, I wonder if these cameras are really the cash-cow they’re made out to be? I used to work for a local gov’t agency dealing with parking tickets. It’s not easy to just issue tickets: you need to have staff to accept payments, judges to hold hearings for disputes, etc. The gov’t agency I worked for spent about 50% of the ticket amounts on their budget.

  5. Doesn’t bribing kids to destroy the cameras with rocks work any more?

  6. What’s the likelihood that Mythbusters would be allowed to air an episode showing you how to evade traffic cameras? Or beat a Breathalyzer, or speed radar/laser.

    I’m not saying those products work, but Discovery would show Jaime and Adam 69ing long before any of that.

  7. What’s the likelihood that Mythbusters would be allowed to air an episode showing you how to evade traffic cameras? Or beat a Breathalyzer, or speed radar/laser.

    100% is my guess.

  8. I’m not saying those products work, but Discovery would show Jaime and Adam 69ing long before any of that.

    Jaime doesn’t seem like the type of guy to let Discovery force him to lie. It’s not like he needs them to make a living. Basically, if there was an effective way of beating radar or speed cameras, it would spread like wildfire on its own and wouldn’t need Mythbusters.

    The reason the pigs use radar and speed cameras is that there isn’t a good way to beat them. If there was, they’d change to something else or outlaw the technique.

  9. A reason intern with a girlfriend? Riiiiiiight. Nice try.

    When will Mythbusters tackle that one?

  10. My quibble isn’t the show, but the liability that Discovery would have. Think of how many people (I did what they said and got a ticket!) and cities (Cutting into our revenue!) would try and sue them.

  11. “The cloaking devices for your license plates don’t work, and neither will trying to go so fast that the picture will blur.”

    Seems like what’s needed is a license plate mounted on an oscillating platform that vibrates the plate up and down or side to side, etc.

  12. “When will Mythbusters tackle that one?”

    Could be difficult. Even Buster has a better shot at getting laid.

  13. The gov’t agency I worked for spent about 50% of the ticket amounts on their budget.

    A 50% margin? There’s not a business in the country that wouldn’t want that.

  14. My quibble isn’t the show, but the liability that Discovery would have.

    If they found a technique that worked and Discovery balked, they would just scrap the segment. They’ve probably done that a number of times with various crazy shit.

  15. SugarFree,

    They already did an episode about beating breathalizers. Jamie, expectedly, is very competent when drunk. Adam just gets more silly.

    Results: there are no methods that beat breathalizers except not being drunk.

  16. I’m not saying those products work, but Discovery would show Jaime and Adam 69ing long before any of that.

    Dear god that’s a visual image I most certainly did NOT need in my head today.

    They’d probably blank it out, much like they do explosive mixtures, etc. I’ve not seen many good things about the anti camera products, and in MD you’ll get a worse ticket for having them.

    Now, if you happen to have a bike rack which partially/mostly obscures the license, enough that one of the cameras can’t read it…..who can say anything about that?

  17. I can definitely attest the guys who check these cameras are either horribly lazy or morons.

    I got a ticket from Tenessee a month ago. Never mind that I haven’t been in Tennessee in 10 years, but the car in the picture obviously didn’t match my car at all, even by the (sketchy) description on file at the DMV (ie, different make, model, and number of doors). But the “officer” signed off on it without even bothering to check that minor information.

  18. Jason,

    The California Highway Patrol was there helping them. If they beat the Breathalyzer, would they have shown it? If a simple, say, penny under the tongue, worked, would they have been able to actually say that? The CPD could have pulled out, Discovery could have balked, one of the producer could have had an aunt that died in a DUI wreck.

  19. They tried the camera ticketing briefly in Hawaii, but the taxpayers for once revolted, and then a judge started throwing out the tickets en masse because a picture of a license plate does not fucking identify the actual driver, and it was all over.

    From almost unanimous approval in the legislature to almost unanimous repeal in under a year.

  20. The CPD could have pulled out

    Well, it is a pretty effective anti-pregnancy technique.

  21. Well, it is a pretty effective anti-pregnancy technique.

    4 out of 5 fathers agree!

  22. Don’t be a smartass, NutraSweet. I hate condoms.

  23. This is enough fun for one workday. I am outtahere.

  24. a judge started throwing out the tickets en masse because a picture of a license plate does not fucking identify the actual driver, and it was all over.

    So if I get hit-and-run by another vehicle and take a picture of the license plate, the registered owner of the vehicle is in the clear?

    I always thought that if your vehicle was spotted in the commission of a crime, the onus would be on you to prove you weren’t driving it.

  25. I’m goona get some of that spray for my face.

  26. From what I’ve heard, one sure way to beat the speed camera is to be a cop. Sure, you can’t badge the camera to get out of a speeding ticket, but you can badge the cop who pulls you over for not having a license plate.

  27. I actually prefer the uncompromising objectivity of the cameras to the random whims of a cop who has the authority to issue a ticket or a warning based solely on:

    a. How he/she feels that day,
    b. How cute the driver of the car is,
    c. Whether the driver refers to the officer as “Sir” or “Ma’am” in an obedient enough tone.

    The less discretionary power cops have, the better.

  28. What I don’t understand is how any speed camera can function for more than a week before catastrophic failure? Has this country run out of high powered rifles?

  29. A Bethesda, Md. red light camera caught me on a ridiculously short yellow, though I didn’t realize it until I received, by mail, two portrait-quality pictures of the license plate on my girlfriend’s car.

    Well, the people of Maryland voted out Governor Ehrlich, noted opponent of red light and speed cameras (who vetoed a bill to allow Montgomery County to have them, but of course the Democratic Legislature overrode it), and voted in Governor O’Malley, noted booster of red light and speed cameras, whose administration proposed a speed camera bill adopted earlier this year, so a majority of Maryland drivers deserve it.

  30. What I don’t understand is how any speed camera can function for more than a week before catastrophic failure? Has this country run out of high powered rifles?

    They tend to be located in places where firing guns can be very dangerous (i.e. higher populations). And besides, shotgun is the way to go (no bullets falling out of the sky, no ballistics test).

    Put one out on a country road and it’ll be toast within 48 hours. But if my buckshot can keep traveling enough to hurt someone because it’s located in an urban area, I’m not going to shoot the thing.

  31. Couldn’t a nice, strategically spattered gob of mud make a 4 look like a 1, an E like an L, etc?

  32. “Seems like what’s needed is a license plate mounted on an oscillating platform that vibrates the plate up and down or side to side, etc.”

    We need a rotating license plate holders with several bogus license plate numbers like the spies have in James Bond movies. You just have to know when you are going to get photographed to press a button and viola someone else’s problem.

  33. Paintball guns are the perfect solution to the cameras in urban areas.

  34. Warren,
    “What I don’t understand is how any speed camera can function for more than a week before catastrophic failure? Has this country run out of high powered rifles?”

    This sounds like a perfect project for some at-risk youth group to tackle. Ya know, as a community service…

  35. On a sort of related note, I recently received a parking ticket from DC based on my old DC vanity plate. Trouble is, I moved away from DC 5 years ago.

    The plate in question? “LIBERTY”

  36. Tam over at View from the Porch had this problem about fourteen months ago. Read the intial story at http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2007/06/red-light-camera-fiasco.html.

    Tam informed the city that they misread the plate–not to mention mistook a white pickup truck for a silver BMW Z3–and backed it up with pictures. Read the city’s response at http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2007/06/photo-radar-part-deux.html

    Finally, after the local newspaper and national blogs (Instapundit) made the city look like it was staffed by incompetent baboons (in truth, they’re spider monkeys), they decided to back down:
    http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2007/06/behold-power-of-intarw3bz.html

  37. Johnny Nowhere,

    That’s the ticket…

  38. Dab some clear glue on the sides of a bunch of drinking straws, then put them back in the box until the glue sets.

    Using a band saw, cut the resulting block of straws in 1″ slices that look like honeycomb.

    Glue a couple of these slices side-by-side, then mount them to the license plate.

    From directly facing the plate, it’s easily read (thus legal). From an angle, the plate is invisible.

  39. Repeat after me:

    Paintball guns blind cameras.

  40. I hear that there is going to be a presentation at DefCon on evading traffic ticketing cameras with a code injection attack. Here’s a picture.

    Allright, so perhaps it’s just wishful thinking… but very good thinking at that.

  41. “…though I didn’t realize it until I received, by mail, two portrait-quality pictures of the license plate on my girlfriend’s car.”

    The generosity of women never ceases to amaze me.

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