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Ohio Judge Rules Speed Cameras Are a Scam 984

Posted by timothy
from the merger-of-state-and-corporate-power dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Columbus Dispatch reports that southwestern Ohio Judge Robert Ruehlman has ordered a halt to a speeding-ticket blitz in a village that installed traffic cameras saying it's 'a scam' against motorists and blasting the cameras and the thousands of $105 citations that resulted. 'Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty,' Ruehlman wrote. 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.' The village began using the cameras in September, resulting in 6,600 speeding citations in the first month, triple the population of the village of 2,188. Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue — which quickly topped $1 million. But business owners and motorists struck back, charging in a lawsuit that the cameras hurt the village's image and said they were put into use without following Ohio law for public notice on new ordinances. 'This is the first time that a judge has said, "Enough is enough,"' said plaintiffs' attorney, Mike Allen, who called the ruling a victory for the common people. 'I think this nationally is a turning point.'"
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Ohio Judge Rules Speed Cameras Are a Scam

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  • Not the First (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:18AM (#43136747)

    Virginia Courts threw those things out long ago.

    IIRC, they ruled that they clearly did not affect public safety, they were just a disguised revenue generation plan. And since only the General Assembly had the constitutional right to institute new revenue, the cameras were illegal.

    ..

  • by pentadecagon (1926186) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:20AM (#43136771)
    6 teens killed in Ohio SUV crash [wdtn.com] is the next article on the same site. Quite consistent, both articles show that reckless driving is high priority for the people in Ohio.
  • by cnaumann (466328) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:23AM (#43136797)

    Between automatic cameras, GPS, and OBD we could completely eliminate speeding. Or, at the very lease, insure than anyone who speeds _even a little_ is instantly ticketed. If speeding really is dangerous, maybe we should take these steps to eliminate it. If speed limits are too low, maybe we should raise them. But we seem to prefer these strange cat and mouse games.

  • If only... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swinferno (1212408) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:26AM (#43136813)

    If only this would hold up in The Netherlands, where speeding camera's are everywhere.
    Nowadays, we even have systems in several places that measure average speed over a certain distance, meaning braking for the camera won't work.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GauteL (29207) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:27AM (#43136829)

    You missed the part where the judge said it was unconstitutionally difficult to challenge the fine. You're basically at the mercy of the enforcement agency and you have to rely on the accuracy of a company which profits massively from fining you.

    I'm not totally against speed cameras, but I believe in one important thing about parking and traffic enforcement; nobody should ever profit from issuing fines, because the incentives to be arseholes are just too big.

    Parking and traffic enforcement on public property and public roads should always be performed by public employees and the fines should go to a random, approved charity. The costs of running the operation should come out of tax income and no bonuses or "performance related pay" should ever be given. At least this way you take away the very real profit incentive for fining as many as possible. The sole purpose of parking and traffic enforcement should be to improve safety and flow of traffic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:31AM (#43136863)

    Here in the UK 65% of fatal road accidents [telegraph.co.uk] are caused by "driver error or reaction". This is poor but legal driving. Speeding (14%) and drinking (10%) are nowhere close to being the major causes of accidents.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:42AM (#43136965) Homepage

    " 'It is a scam that motorists can't win.'"

    I'm sure they are also against the IRS using computers to catch revenue cheaters, because it gives them an unfair advantage.

    Sure they can win, just don't speed. The motorists are just used to breaking the law and not getting caught most of the time.

    Did somebody check how many tickets the judge got?

    I think the issue is not that people are getting caught, but that there is a lack of due process when they are; which inevitably leads to some innocent people being wrongly convicted.

    I don't know how things work in the US, but in the UK it works thusly:
    - You get somehow "caught" alledgedly committing a traffic offence. This may be that a speed camera photographed you speeding, or a traffic warden decided that you were parked illegally or whatever.
    - You get notified by post (note: if a member of the general public needs to send legal documents to someone they are required to employ a process server to ensure they got there. On the other hand the police are allowed to just pop them in the post and retain proof of posting (*NOT* proof of delivery) so its entirely possibly that you will never even get the notification and still a court will deem that it has been served and that you were responsible for responding to the notice you never received.
    - You will be offered a choice: Accept a fixed penalty notice (a fixed fine (probably £30 - 60) and possibly a fixed number of points on your licence); you *may* be offered a "training course" instead of a fine and points; or you can decline the "fixed penalty" notice and have an automatic criminal conviction, £1000 fine.
    - If you want to appeal, you are required to decline the fixed penalty notice and training course; therefore you voluntarily agree to be convicted and be fined £1000. Once you have been convicted, you may take the case to the appeals court and appeal the conviction.

    The upshot of this is that if you believe you were wrongly accused, you have to be *absolutely* sure you would win in court before you can risk appealing, because if there's even the slightest chance that the court will side with the police then you're risking an enormous fine. I know a good few people who have just accepted the fixed notice, even though they believe they were not in the wrong, because they simply can't risk the possability that they would be hit with a £1000 fine if they lost the case.

    In order for things to be just, the cards should not be so heavily stacked against the accused that they can't risk defending themselves when they believe the accuser (the police or traffic warden) is wrong.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:56AM (#43137079)
    The exotic situation is ice or snow on the street.
  • Easy solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zigziggityzoo (915650) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:58AM (#43137113)
    Change the penalty for moving violations from a monetary fine to a mandatory community service.

    The incentive for police to write frivolous tickets will disappear, and people who are caught will be made to spend real time helping their community in some way, benefitting them, and costing them time, which is more valuable than money.
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:06AM (#43137217)
    I read in one place where the company that did a similar deal over red light cameras recommended to the city to shorten the yellow light time thus increasing the chances you would get burned having proceeded on a green and still been in the intersection when it turned red. The result apparently was that people would massively slam on their brakes if the light turned yellow just as they were about to pass through.

    The key problem here is simple; when you have a company that can make profits backed by laws they will make sure that there are as many law breakers as possible. Since you can't sell people on breaking the law the next best step is to basically set them up to fail. In my shitty city Halifax they switched to a private company doing parking tickets. They are relentless. If your meter runs out they will get you. Plus the parasites know where the best meters are such as those near the emergency rooms of Hospitals where people are not thinking about things such as putting change in the meters.

    No private company should have almost anything to do with the legal system. Running prisons, enforcing laws, scanning our emails, Nothing. Not only will they not use common sense but they will use the worse common sense possible and that is to make as much money as possible and at any cost.
  • Re:Not true. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:08AM (#43137229)

    Yes. If you are going fast enough that if the light changed you wouldn't be able to go through it before it turns red, and you wouldn't be able to stop before the line then you are driving too fast for the current conditions.

    If you are driving too fast for the current conditions then you should slow down. That may involve braking.

  • by thogard (43403) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:13AM (#43137291) Homepage

    If you do manage to get speed limit compliance up, I expect you will follow what happened in Victoria Australia (which has the highest speed limit compliance in the world). The roads are congested so badly that we have not seen any of the advantages of a newer fleet and the total number km driven has gone down. You are now more likely to die per km driven than you were 10 years ago and you are more likely to die per hour on the road than you were 10 years ago. The "road toll" stats are now messed with nearly yearly to reduce them yet they don't go down. A decade ago if you fell asleep and drove off the road, you were counted as a traffic fatality, now you will most likely be counted at a sleep apnea related death.

    Adjusting speed limits assumes everyone has computer control speed. Many modern speedometers are not compatible with speed limits of say 57 when you figure humans have to read them.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by captbob2002 (411323) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:18AM (#43137367)

    Likely the town was there before the highway that drove up their traffic volume was built. If people are not paying attention and speeding through the city just to get somewhere else, fuck 'em, write 'em tickets so they learn to slow down or find a different route. Perhaps I am jaded by all the people speeding down my street rushing to the highway on ramps. 35MPH and not many are doing it. I've taken to tossing gravel at them as they race by while waiting to put my kindergartener on her school bus. People live on these streets and their lives are just as important as the one you have living in your mcmansion on a cul-de-sac.

    Perhaps they ought to leave a little earlier for work in the morning

  • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Entropius (188861) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:21AM (#43137405)

    There is a difference between driving 100mph, weaving in and out of traffic, on a crowded road where the traffic pattern is going 65mph... and driving at a safe speed that just happens to be higher than the one on the sign. I've gotten plenty of speeding tickets doing the latter (and none doing the former, but that's probably because I don't do it).

    It's worse than that, because in many places everyone acknowledges that the speed on the sign is unrealistic and drives faster than that. So it becomes this sadly hilarious guessing game, where people have to guess how fast they should really drive, and what speed the cops will actually object to. In places it's 15 or even 20 mph over (the stretch of I-83 through Baltimore where the speed limit is 45mph comes to mind, as does the whole Beltway). None of these folks are driving particularly unsafely, though.

    In most of the criminal code, we've asked ourselves "What things are actually harmful to others and worth criminalizing?" You can tell that there's been a lot of thought given to this in places. Yet with the speed limits there seems to have been no such care taken.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:24AM (#43137425) Homepage Journal

    We have this here - a steep downhill slope rated at 40MPH with a light at the bottom and a yellow of about 4.5 seconds. There's no way to do it properly, and semi trucks always run the red, because, y'know, physics. Locals know not to trust the opposite green but out-of-towners can be caught unawares.

    The thing is, red light and speeding cameras are illegal by statute in NH, so there's no revenue incentive - they could park a cop at the bottom of the hill but they rarely do. It's more of a safety problem than anything, but the City won't do anything about it.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:27AM (#43137459)

    They don't teach slowing down for "stale" greens anymore? Damn, even I remember that from almost 40 years ago! Look, something sometime is going to make you stop, plan for it. Still I agree with the judge, automation is just turning people into automatons. Sure it makes sense to leave to machines things that don't require human judgement, but for those things that they do they have no place.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bucc5062 (856482) <<bucc5062> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:32AM (#43137509)

    You've never driven a horse trailer loaded with two large horses. When I come up on a traffic light that is green I cannot really slow down trying to anticipate if/when it goes to yellow for I still need to maintain traffic speed. When that light goes yellow I have an instant to make a decision, because I cannot hit the brakes hard and throw 3000 lbs of horse forward. I can only either ease then add more firm brakes or continue on, hoping the yellow is long enough for me to get through or hold opposing traffic enough to see I cannot stop.

    Stop thinking everyone drives high performance cars. If a town was really interested in traffic safety they would install count down timers on traffic light intersections so an approaching driver can best gauge whether to brake in a reasonable time frame, brake firmly, or continue on. My stopping distance is minimum two times that of a passenger car so knowing how much time I got would really take the stress of of every light I come too when hauling horses.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by webmistressrachel (903577) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:35AM (#43137547) Journal

    "I've taken to tossing gravel at them"

    Here in the UK, you'd be arrested in short order for that, anywhere. You may be correct about traffic coming through the town too fast, but you seem to have a lot to learn about justice and proportionality. I hope a semi comes through and drops his load of gravel on your driveway. Maybe then you'd learn something about proportionality, but knowing people like that over here ("my car and my daughter are more important than everybody else, screw you") you'd probably be happy for the donation of ammo to throw at passing vehicles.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:47AM (#43137663)
    I hate those towns too.

    My wife and I are from a large rural area in our province, referred to as the Valley. Normally we'd take highway 101 to get there from where we live, but in the summer when it's nice and we want a more scenic drive we use to take the old #1 highway. The 100 series highways are 110 Km/h, the older single digit highways are 80 Km/h.

    So it's a nice day and we're driving along at 75 Km/h enjoying the weather, then hidden behind some tree or other type foliage, blink and you miss it, there's a speed sign and all the sudden you're in a 50 Km/h zone surrounded by cattle and corn fields, 30 km/h if you're entering a school zone (speed fines doubled between 30 and 50 Km/h, triple if you're over 50 Km/h). Lately it seems schools have been popping up all over the place... well at least the signs for school zones have been, which seems odd since I keep reading about the rural schools closing and the students merged into schools in other counties.

    We don't dare take the #1 highway anymore, something we've been doing for nearly 15 years, because all the little stick friggn' nowhere towns along the way started using the #1 as a money maker with hidden or poorly maintained speed signs.
  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:51AM (#43137689)
    What I really would like to see in the US is the introduction of flashing green. In xUSSR countries and in lots of European countries, green traffic light starts flashing about 5-10 seconds before the yellow light.

    I'm so used to it that I'm still shocked by the sudden switches to yellow in the US - you have a split second to decide whether to stop immediately or continue driving and risk running the red light.
  • by mjr167 (2477430) on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:04AM (#43137827)

    I live in a school zone that had a bad speeding problem. They put one of those signs that displays your current speed up and the speeding problem went away. They then moved the sign to another road that has a speeding problem...

    Having actually worked with the math to calculate the doppler shifts, I don't trust the accuracy of the technology.

  • by himurabattousai (985656) <gigabytousai@gmail.com> on Monday March 11, 2013 @10:13AM (#43137917)

    2. Is it to blindly uphold the law, irrespective of safety?

    Please cite one proven example where going faster is in the interest of safety.

    Since you asked: http://www.uctc.net/papers/069.pdf [uctc.net]

    Interstate Highways in the U.S. have rather strict design standards, especially relating to the intended rate of travel. Any and all improvements in the fatality rate on American roads during the dark days of the double-nickel limit can be attributed to factors other than the lower limit. Why? No one obeyed that limit because it was stupid.

    In fact, it was worse than stupid. It was dangerous. An artificially low speed limit actually forces the brain to work harder because of the mismatch between expected and actual sensory inputs. In other words, it can be as taxing, if not possibly more so, on the mind to drive too slow than too fast. Unconsciously, you know how long it should take to get from A to B, given nothing but the physical characteristics of the roadway. Deviate too much from that, and reconciling what is with what should be is far less safe than driving in accordance with what the roadway is set up to allow.

    Additionally, artificially low limits on superhighways tends to overload other streets, which tend to NOT be designed for long-distance travel. This, too, was an unintended consequence of the NMSL. That, however, is for a different discussion.

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