Photo Radar Complaint Summary
The reasons to oppose photo enforcement are numerous and compelling, so we've prepared a summary of ALL reasons why photo enforcement should be strictly prohibited in the United States. The reasons include:
- Fairness and Equality
- Equipment Reliability and Limitations
- Machines Not Capable of Judgment
- Safety Non-Crisis
- Profit, Not Safety
- Constitutionality and Privacy Concerns
Fairness and EqualityPhoto enforcement is limited in its effectiveness and ability such that it can only successfully identify a fraction of the violators that roll by. A recent AZCentral.com Article shows less than a 25% success rate in issuing citations! This is because the system is incapable of identifying and/or pursuing several classifications of violators. In a country that prides itself on equality and treating people fairly, this is an outrage! That the public accepts such poor performance from a system that so many people can so easily beat is even more appalling. The following list shows classifications of drivers (some legal, some not) who cannot be identified/cited or who face a greatly reduced probability of receiving a citation or being convicted:
- People with out of state (or country) plates
- People driving commercial vehicles
- People driving rental cars
- People wearing masks
- People covering their face
- People who turn or tilt their head away from the camera
- Cars with temporary plates
- Cars with missing plates
- Cars with plate covers
- Cars with missing plates
- Cars with dirty plates
- People with inaccurate address on vehicle or license registration
- Trucks operating with the tailgate down
- Trucks with trailer hitches that block the plate
- Vehicles towing trailers or boats
- Vehicles with rear-mounted wheel chairs or bike racks
- Vehicles committing violation with larger vehicle in the line-of-sight to the camera
- Identical twins
- Illegal aliens
This is to be contrasted with human law enforcement who are capable of stopping ANY violator they choose. Everyone who drives by a human officer while violating a law stands an equal chance of an officer pulling them over for at least a little chat. How is it that our lawmakers have decided that it's OK to target only local drivers with accurate registration information and plainly visible plates? Why do we accept the limitation that over 75% of the violators are ineligible or unable to receive tickets based on limitations of this system?
Equipment Malfunctions and Limitations
In addition to the limitations described above, the cameras have another limitation: they cannot actually stop any crimes from being committed. All they can do is photograph the event. These cameras cannot stop drunk drivers, cannot stop tailgaters, cannot remove dangerous vehicles from the road. The cameras are ineffective at stopping crime. Only human police officers can address these dangerous drivers.
Additionally, these cameras are highly prone to malfunction and
becoming uncalibrated. The operators may emphasize how reliable they are,
but be assured that they are not immune to problems and
malfunctions. Any electronic equipment that is permanently mounted
outside in the elements of heat, cold, water, dust, and ice are
going to have problems. Be sure to read the reports of these
malfunctions on our website. Now
imagine for a minute the impact of malfunctions on the innocent. If
the innocent are going to fight the ticket, as they should, they
must incur the following undeserved burden:
a) lawyer's fees
b) time off of work (lost pay or personal or vacation time)
c) pay for gas to drive to court (which could be substantial if the driver is not local)
d) court fees and fines if they should lose
No innocent driver deserves this burden - especially because of a malfunctioning machine! Further impact should the innocent driver lose the court case is points on the driving record and/or suspended license (which could affect their job if driving is a requirement) plus increased insurance costs.
Most people do not realize that when a human officer is looking for speeders, they do not rely solely on their radar equipment since it is possible for radar equipment malfunction. It is standard police procedure to independently estimate a driver's speed visually or by pacing using their own vehicle in addition to using their radar. With this procedure, speed is checked redundantly and by a human, so the odds of an error occurring and an errant citation being issued are almost nil. Somewhere along the line, perhaps after an intense lobbying effort and some campaign contributions from equipment manufacturers, the line of thought has apparently changed such that it is now acceptable to accept data from an unmonitored device as prima facie evidence of a violation.
Some supporters will point at the instances where camera operators voluntarily dismissed citations and repaired malfunctioning equipment - as if this is sufficient testimony as to the operator's honesty and ignoring the facts that the circumstances may have been too big to cover up. How many times do you think a technician finds a miscalibrated machine, fixes it, and either falsifies the records (under pressure from his manager) and/or fixes it while the company still decides to mail out citations anyway in the hopes that most people will just pay it? When profit is at stake and there are no government audits, the public needs to be skeptical.
Now lets take this a step further and imagine being in the court room. The prosecutor will start by saying how well the equipment was maintained and how accurate it is - the same stuff they say at every trial. Now you have to convince a judge that the machine was wrong (something I'm sure he hears all day). You received the ticket at least a week after the incident so first of all, your recollection of the event is already diminished. Secondly, you have had no ability to go back to the "crime scene" to conduct your own investigation because at least 7 days have passed. Has the signage changed? Have they adjusted the timing on the light since then? Where exactly was the mobile van parked? Is the unit still malfunctioning? None of this information is available to you. The only thing you can say is that you weren't speeding or didn't run the red light and that the machine must have been broken. Basically, you're screwed.
A perfect illustration of the limitation of camera enforcement is the fact that cameras will issue multiple citations for the same offense. Additionally, human officers are unable to coordinate their efforts with the cameras in order to ensure that drivers are only cited once for one violation. For example, if a speeder drives down a highway at a constant speed with multiple cameras, they will receive multiple notices in the mail. Why is one offense punishable multiple times? Further complicating the matter is when a person is flashed by a camera and issued a citation by a human officer a few moments later. Again, this is two citations for the same offense. If you think a judge will dismiss one of the citations, think again. We are aware of a current case where a judge refused to dismiss one of the citations thus mandating that a driver pay TWO FINES FOR THE SAME OFFENSE! Arizona drivers are being punished because of the limitations of this technology.
Machines Not Capable of Judgments
Enforcing laws is not always a black and white issue. The Arizona statute for speeding (ARS 28-701) is not cut and dry and the posted limit is NOT explicitly enforceable. A violation of ARS 28-701 requires a judgment call, and the camera equipment is not capable of doing this. The cameras cannot adjust their enforcement criteria when conditions warrant a much slower speed than posted (i.e., active rain or snow) and cannot issue citations to vehicles traveling slower than reasonable and prudent. Since violations are unmonitored by humans, it is inconceivable that we have deemed the camera enforcement technology adequate for the basis of determining violations of this and other laws.
Clearly, the camera operators feel that a posted speed limit is a valid basis for determining whether a speed is "reasonable and prudent" despite the fact that the law is written to specifically provide leeway because the original authors of the law recognized that not all situations are equal. Clearly the situation of driving at night in a 50 year-old poorly-maintained car in rain or fog on a crowded freeway is a far different scenario than someone driving a brand new car in perfect weather on a deserted highway, yet the cameras treat these situations the same and do not allow the application of reason and judgment as the law specifies.
Speeding is not the crisis that it is made out to be by photo equipment manufacturers and government officials. By most measures, our roads are VERY safe! The speeding problem is exaggerated, and camera supporters want you to believe that the accident rates would drop to zero if only people would just drive the posted limit. "Speed kills," they say, which is completely inaccurate and wrong. They rationalize that 65mph is safe, but going 1mph more is absolutely dangerous. If going fast is so inherently dangerous, then why don't they advocate for lower speed limits on all roads? If it really is about safety and we as a society can't risk losing another life in an auto accident, then no one should be driving more than 10mph. This is, of course, extreme, but the reality is that we will never reduce our accident rate to zero and that we as a society must decide what an acceptable accident rate is. It is the opinion of this website that the current accident rates are acceptable, and that there is no need or justification for such draconian measures as photo enforcement to address this problem.
The latest report from the Department of Transportation agrees. Overall, vehicles "traveling too fast for conditions" accounted for only five percent of the critical pre-crash events (page 23). More significant factors included 22 percent driving off the edge of a road, or 11 percent who drifted over the center dividing line. The 2007 Virginia Crash Facts report shows that speed was only the cause of 2.9% of accidents. Clearly, the data shows that the emphasis on speed is misplaced and unnecessary.
Speed is not the only thing that causes accidents. On the contrary, speed is usually only a contributing factor to an accident. Camera advocates like to pretend that the act of exceeding a posted limit is by itself dangerous and the true cause of auto accidents. The truth is, speeding by itself rarely causes accidents. The true cause of accidents is unsafe lane changes, tailgating, not using turn signals, poor vehicle condition, driving while under the influence, and driving while distracted (i.e., cell phones), and driving too fast for weather conditions (even if under the posted limit). Speed may make an accident worse, but it rarely CAUSES accidents.
Red light cameras are another example of profit before safety. A vast majority of red light violations occur within the first half second of a light turning red. While this is not a good thing, this is not a particularly dangerous time to run a red light as cross- traffic has not really started moving and cross traffic generally double checks to make sure that the intersection is clear before proceeding. The serious accidents occur when red lights are run when cross-traffic is not expecting it. This is usually many seconds after the light turns green. These accidents are caused by inattentive drivers who for whatever reason do not stop - not by mavericks who are trying to save a few seconds. Red light cameras will not and do not stop inattentive drivers. And again, these cameras do not stop any violations, they merely photograph them. The purpose of the cameras are clearly to catch people on a small technicality with no real safety concerns in order to increase revenue for the city or state.
Profit, Not Safety
If the motive truly is safety, then first the case should be made that auto safety is an issue that needs to be addressed. Once we can establish what the accident rates are and what they should be, a stated goal should be set to reduce the accident rate by a certain percent or to a certain number. We are aware of no such stated goals. As such, we cannot know if the program is a success or a failure. We only know that the system generates revenue and that seems to be sufficient for our politicians, but it should be a huge red flag for citizens.
Again, the vague stated purpose of these camera systems is to increase safety. The reality is that these systems generate millions of dollars for the operators and the municipalities where these are installed. These are essentially money trees, and public officials such as Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano have been quoted saying that they were expanding camera programs in order to raise revenue for the state. The motives clearly are not pure, and amount to nothing more than taxation. This is reinforced by Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin's comments. If Dean Martin's assessment is true, then the current camera program is indeed illegal and all fines that have been paid should be immediately refunded and the cameras taken down.
Still have doubts? Page 257 of the Redflex contract with Arizona clearly states, Our success rates have allowed cities to collect more fines and make their programs profitable." No mention of safety there, just profit. Shouldn't their success rate allow cities to make their roads SAFER? In addition to this, the profit motives are further reflected in the implementation of these programs. For example, camera operators often require cities to adjust their yellow-light times before installing photo equipment. Is this because a shorter yellow light would be safer? Or is it to generate more revenue? Another example is the placement of photo vans at locations where the speed limit changes. They target locations such as where an on-ramp is at the end of a construction zone and there are no speed limit signs between the ramp and the van. Is this because it is safer for the on-ramp traffic to receive notices in the mail a week later about the construction zone speed limit they weren't properly advised of? Or is it to raise more revenue?
Privacy and Constitutionality
Privacy is perhaps one of the greatest concerns in the use of automated surveillance cameras to monitor and track citizens. Redflex, ATS, and other companies are advertising and implementing systems that track and identify and store information about every single car that passes by - whether innocent or not.
The use of photo enforcement on vehicles should not be confused with the general use of security cameras in stores or at ATMs. There is a stark difference:
- In stores and other locations, consumers usually have a choice whether to patronize those businesses or locations. Drivers do not have a lot of choice as to which roads they use.
- Stores do not identify individuals and track and record their comings and goings.
The tracking of the daily movements of all citizens regardless of guilt or suspicion without court order should concern everyone - even the honest and innocent.
The constitutionality of camera enforcement as implemented in Arizona is also questionable with regard to the 14th Amendment of the US and Arizona's Constitution which states that, "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." This clause is intended to prevent the government from abusing power or employing it as an instrument of oppression. Part of this clause includes an analysis of the risk of erroneous deprivation of life, liberty, or property as a result of this law. This can happen in districts where eligibility or possession of a driver's license may be affected by a conviction and in all cases where the risk of deprivation of property in the form of cash paid for a fine is the result of an erroneous citation. It is our position that the lack of government monitoring and oversight of the operation of the photo equipment can lead to abuse of power by a private company with profit motives on behalf of the government which may lead to mass erroneous deprivation of life, liberty, and property. Additional violations of due process are being reported in that the accused are not being provided with the opportunity to cross examine or subpoena all camera equipment operators, anyone who handled the evidence, and the officer who issued the citation. The accused are not being provided with the opportunity to examine the design and operation of the equipment itself. This is an explicit violation of due process because the accused clearly do not have a fair opportunity to affect the outcome of their trial if they cannot question key personnel and witnesses who are responsible for the very charges they face.
The Arizona Constitution's equal protection clause is also violated by photo enforcement's inability to pursue drivers whose vehicles are registered to corporations. On Jan 28, 2009, it was published that one Maricopa County justice of the peace agrees and is throwing out tickets for this reason. The clause states that "no law shall be enacted granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens or corporations." It is well documented that camera operators treat corporations differently than individuals, thus making photo enforcement illegal as currently implemented. An extensive list of even more classes of citizens that are treated differently by photo enforcement is presented at the top of this web page. This bias is clearly unacceptable per the terms of Arizona and Federal Constitutions.
Other constitutional arguments are the 6th amendment, which provides that the accused have a right to a speedy indictment. Part of the test for compliance with this amendment is a measure of the degree of prejudice to the defendant which a delay causes. Since photo citations are received after 7 days at best and at worst 180 days, this causes extreme prejudice against the accused as a) the violator probably will have forgotten the exigency justifying the violation and thus is at a severe disadvantage in formulating a defense and b) in the case of mobile installations, the accused has no opportunity to investigate the mobile installation in order to gather evidence (in particular, the existence and placement of required signage as well as other factors). This video is a prime example of innocent drivers unable to prove their innocence because the original "crime scene" is no longer available to analyze weeks later when they received their citations.
Benjamin Franklin said it best when he stated, "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." Another famous piece of wisdom says, "if you give an inch, they will take a mile." There are more than enough arguments on this page to justify the elimination of camera enforcement in Arizona and nationwide. Now it is up to the citizens of this great country to take this information and act upon it. Bring those cameras down!