The price of dashboard cameras has dropped to the point of an impulse purchase, but they still haven’t become common in the United States among motorists, those in law enforcement aside. They hold promise as a way of improving the allocation of fault in collisions, and especially in curbing varieties of insurance fraud such as the “swoop-and-squat,” but Popular Mechanics surely hasn’t thought matters through when it asserts, “In the real world, it means you win and the other guy loses in a dispute.” At least if the other guy was in the wrong and the camera was pointed in the right direction…
It seems Colorado lawmakers are given special license plates that don’t get speed-camera tickets or parking ticket collections. [CBS Denver] Five years ago the Orange County Register reported that hundreds of thousands of state and local employees, spouses and children in California were covered by programs allowing them to exclude their addresses from the system, supposedly to safeguard them against criminal threat — though a great many of the jobs were exceedingly low-risk — with the incidental benefit that toll and red-light-ticket collectors could not reach them, and many parking tickets were left unenforced as well. “This has happened despite warnings from state officials that the safeguard is no longer needed because updated laws have made all DMV information confidential to the public.”
Florida has shortened yellow-light times at intersections, which raises the danger of crashes but improves revenue for red-light cameras, currently running at more than $100 million a year in the state. [WTSP (auto-plays) via Tabarrok]
The town of Laurel, Maryland tries using fake traffic cameras. “Maryland law restricts most jurisdictions from putting speed cameras anywhere other than near schools, and they can only operate Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.” Other neighborhoods wanted cameras installed in hopes of reducing traffic speeds, so the town set up empty boxes. [DCist]
Why they overlap [Noah Kristula-Green, U.S. News]
P.S. There was a flurry of national coverage last week when Cincinnati-area judge Robert Ruehlman struck down a traffic camera ordinance in the village of Elmwood Park, declaring the cameras a “scam” and “high-tech game of three-card monte.” [Cincinnati.com] Readers with long memories may recall that Judge Ruehlman appeared to favorable advantage in these columns back in 1999 when he threw out the city of Cincinnati’s abusive lawsuit against gun manufacturers, trade associations and a distributor, the first of the municipal gun suits to reach trial on the merits.
P.P.S. Why police drones aren’t the same thing privacy-wise as police helicopters [ACLU via HuffPo via Amy Alkon](& Bainbridge)
“A Circuit Court judge has ruled that Baltimore County’s contract with its speed camera vendor is illegal, because it pays the company a cut of each citation issued…. Maryland law says that ‘if a contractor operates a speed camera system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid.’ But several jurisdictions, including Baltimore County and Baltimore City, pay their vendors a cut of each ticket, arguing that the jurisdiction, not the company, operates the cameras.” Judge Susan Souder ruled that Xerox State and Local Solutions, which currently “receives about $19 from every $40 ticket,” is indeed involved in the operation of the cameras. Del. Michael Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican, has introduced a bill to repeal the camera program: “We specifically said we’re not going to allow this to happen, and it happened,” he said. [Baltimore Sun, auto-plays video]
San Diego mayor Bob Filner says the city will discontinue its use of traffic cameras now that a contract is expiring. The cameras, which often resulted in $500 fines levied on tourists, produced $1.9 million in gross revenue in fiscal 2011, but the city was left with only $200,000 of that “after paying the officers who issued the tickets, a camera vendor and other costs.” [Union-Tribune]
“The expected amount left over for affected motorists is just $6″ and if motorists don’t file a claim, reversions go to defendant American Traffic Solutions (ATS). “More than 81,000 citations worth $10.2 million were issued in New Jersey through red light camera programs that were not in compliance with state law.” Lawyers who filed the suit are in line to collect $800,000. [The Newspaper; AnnMarie McDonald, NJLRA]
The other day we relayed a report from CBS Baltimore about the town of Westminster’s having disconnected most of its traffic cameras on the ground that they were causing more accidents than they were preventing. However, a Baltimore Sun report contradicts that assertion and quotes town officials saying the cameras had reduced speeding and accidents; it also contradicts assertions in the earlier article on the cameras’ cost.