Own a Porsche, or any other car for that matter? If so, chances are, you’ve been caught on camera. The question is, did you know it? Red light cameras and speed cameras are proliferating across the country (and the globe for that matter) at an alarming rate. According to the data I read there are more than 5100 known cameras as of June 2008 and growing. Does your state, town or county have them? If so, do you know where they are and what they do? Today’s post should provide a better explanation of what these cameras mean to you, how you might avoid them and a listing of other resources available on the web.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a number of discussions, on various Porsche and other automotive forums, about speed and red-light cameras. While the content and flavor of each discussion varies greatly from one to another, the underlying theme is the same.
- How do Red Light Cameras Work?
- How do Speed Cameras Work?
- How is a Ticket Processed?
- Will I get Points on my Driving Record?
- How can I avoid an/or detect Red Light Cameras and Speed Cameras?
- What Resources are Available to me?
How do Red Light Cameras Work?
A red light camera system is connected to the traffic signal and to sensors buried in the pavement at the crosswalk or stop line. Traffic engineers determine the criteria that will trigger the camera to photograph a vehicle. Red light cameras usually only photograph the license tag of the vehicle, but they also can photograph the driver. Typically, two photographs are taken, one when the vehicle crosses the stop line and a second when the vehicle is in the intersection. The photographs also include the date, time and place, vehicle speed, and elapsed time from the light turning red to the time the photograph was taken.
False Alarm? Making A Right Turn? Caught In The Intersection?
To avoid photographing the vehicles of drivers who inadvertently get caught in the intersection, traffic engineers program the system to photograph only those vehicles that are moving in excess of a predetermined speed and that enter the intersection a predetermined time after the signal has turned red. The minimum speed criteria eliminates the possibility of issuing citations for vehicles making legal turns on red or those that are stopped in traffic before clearing the intersection. Drivers who enter on yellow and find themselves in an intersection when the light changes to red are not photographed. The technology is intended to catch vehicles driven by motorists who intentionally enter an intersection after the signal has turned red.
How Do Speed Cameras Work?
Speed enforcement systems, also known as photo-radar, are triggered when a vehicle exceeding the speed limit by a predetermined amount is observed. Like red light cameras, speed cameras generate photographic evidence that gives the date, time and place, and vehicle speed.
The pictures taken by speed cameras must usually be viewed by a person before any infringement notice or ticket is issued to the driver, and judged to be satisfactory or not. This step is known as verification, and is a standard legal requirement in nearly all jurisdictions. Verifiers typically must check some or all of the following:
- no sign of interference with the vehicle detector by objects other than the vehicle
- license plate readable according to a legal standard
- make and model of vehicle matches the recorded license plate number
- appearance of the driver in the images is adequate or that it matches the picture on the drivers license of the vehicle's registered owner
How Is A Ticket Processed?
Most electronic flash cameras produce clear images of vehicles under all light and weather conditions. Photographs are carefully reviewed by trained police officers or other officials to verify vehicle information and ensure the vehicle was in violation. Tickets are mailed to vehicle owners only in cases where it is clear the vehicle ran the red light. Typically this process takes one to three weeks and fines range from $50 in some states up to $400.
Will I Get Points On My Driving Record?
A few states treat automated enforcement citations just like parking tickets in that the registered owner is liable. Similarly, just as parking tickets do not result in points and are not recorded on a driver's record, many states do not assess points or make a record of automated enforcement citations.
Avoiding and Detecting Red Light Cameras and Speed Cameras
The two most common options for avoiding road enforcement cameras are on opposite ends of the technology spectrum.
Low Tech (passive option)
The majority of red light & speed cameras utilize a strong flash to photograph the license plate on your Porsche. Companies like PhantomPlates design and manufacture passive anti-photo-radar defenses. These defenses consist of products like PhotoBlocker that can be sprayed onto your license plate making it virtually invisible to the cameras but still completely legible to anyone else. The spray creates a reflective coating that bounces the flash back at the camera effectively over exposing the image, denying the ability to verify your plate (a key/required part of the ticketing process) thereby rendering the picture unreadable and unusable.
In addition to the PhotoBlocker spray, there are other passive devices available including Photoshield Covers and Reflective covers for both car and motorcycle use. This is one of the only companies that I'm aware of that has been vetted by a number of different news agencies and law enforcement agencies as to the efficacy of their product.
High Tech (active options)
If you're a gadget person or have a bigger budget, the High Tech version provides an active alternative to the passive version above. Companies that build and manufacture Radar Detectors are now getting into the game with systems that include GPS locaters with built in databases of camera locations (This site offers a wide range of products and you can get 10% off by entering "gogodiscount" in all lower case at checkout). These new detectors vary from simple GPS devices that determine your location and warn about upcoming cameras to sophisticated combination devices inclusive of radar/laser detectors, self masking devices (avoids counter detection) and red light camera and speed camera warning systems.
Probably the most popular of these, currently on the market, are the Escort Passport 9500i Radar and Laser Detector and the Cobra XRS R9G Intelilink Wireless Remote Radar/Laser Detector. I've provided links to both at Amazon (where they appear to be the cheapest right now).
I thought this was pretty neat. If you already have a portable GPS system for your car, you may be able to simply buy a subscription to a database of camera locations that can be downloaded onto your existing device. According to this site, Police Hate Them. Drivers Love Them. New Invention Uses GPS to Locate Police Speed Traps. 100% legal. Yes the marketing is a bit obnoxious, but if the product works, what the heck!
What to do if you were already ticketed by a red light or speed camera and other resources
There's a lot of conflicting information on the web about the efficacy and safety of these automated camera systems. Some have simply called them unconstitutional (Big Brother if you will) while others have declared red light cameras unsafe. Law enforcement agencies consider them a "God Send" and a way to boost budgets in hard economic times. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, here are some resources to help you out in the event you've already been ticketed and want to fight.
- TrafficFighters.com: Reported to be one of the more well know attorney networks for fighting red light camera and speeding camera tickets. This service provides a free evaluation of your ticket and if it can be fought successfully. The James Sokalove of red light tickets
- PhotoEnforced.com: One of the oldest and largest databases of camera locations on the web. A lot of today's GPS powered devices use this database to power their systems.
- US Red Light Camera Maps Powered by Google: Simply choose a region/state from the drop down menu on the right and this map will show you the location of all known cameras. Click on a camera for the exact address and the current cost of the fine/violation.
- HowStuffWorks.com: I generally like this site for its simple and easy to follow explanations. This example is no exception. Excellent graphics and an easy to follow explanation provide the perfect follow up if you want to learn and see even more than what I explained above.
- Red Light Cameras on you Phone: This is a very cool application you can download to your GPS enabled mobile phone. It allows users to update, in real time, locations of speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, etc. It can also work with your portable GPS.
Jeremy Clarkson and his Rocket Launching Porsche
Lastly, if you need a little comic relief, Jeremy Clarkson came out with a great option for your Porsche that is sure to relieve stress and take care of any of those pesky traffic cameras. Just be sure to take careful aim.
Related Porsche Posts
7 Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets in Your Porsche
3 Tips on Beating a Speeding Ticket After You've Been Pulled Over in Your Porsche
How Fast Have you Driven in Your Porsche
Poll Results for How Fast Have you Driven in Your Porsche
Things to Do if you're Going to Drive Fast in Your Porsche
Porsche Getaway in Stockholm
[Source: Special Thanks to Jeff at PhotoEnforced.com for the use of his data and some of his copy]