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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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  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:12AM (#43136713)

    I don't know what's happening recently, but it's a pleasant surprise to see these kinds of article cropping up more frequently on /.

    Now if only we had the same kind of possibilities here in Europe, where there are more and more cameras everywhere, and the margin before you get a ticket is in some places ridiculosly low. I'm all for enforcing safer driving, but many camera emplacements are obviously for revenue-generating rather than safety.

    They don't do anything to discourage the single-biggest cause of road deaths either, drunk driving.

    • 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.

    • I don't know what's happening recently, but it's a pleasant surprise to see these kinds of article cropping up more frequently on /.

      Now if only we had the same kind of possibilities here in Europe, where there are more and more cameras everywhere, and the margin before you get a ticket is in some places ridiculosly low. I'm all for enforcing safer driving, but many camera emplacements are obviously for revenue-generating rather than safety.

      They don't do anything to discourage the single-biggest cause of road deaths either, drunk driving.

      Indeed. In principle I have no problem with enforcing the speed limit in places where excess speed is a safety problem. But whenever someone suggests installing speed cameras, I have to ask them what the purpose is:
      1. Is it to improve safety?
      2. Is it to blindly uphold the law, irrespective of safety?
      3. Is it to generate revenue?
      The only one of these I see as valid is (1). And all to often I am unconvinced that a speed camera will actually improve safety - if people are driving too fast and the introducti

      • tre: Secondly, I would say that even in the speeding incidents, often an on-the-spot ticking off by a police officer would be more effective than getting a bit of paper in the post 2 weeks later. -- Yes, on-the-spot works better, same as scolding a child or puppy works best when done immediately after the mess is made. Otherwise, no association between event and reprisal occurs, and no learning happens
        .
        The other clue that this is a scam rather than a well-thought out and necessary item is the presence of
  • by MacTO (1161105) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:13AM (#43136719)

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the speeds that people were going when they received a citation. If it's within 10% of the speed limit, then yeah it's probably a scam. Yet my experience is that speeders tend to go over 20% faster than the posted speed limit. In that case, it's not a scam. You break the law, you pay the price. As long as people are receiving notification of a speeding ticking before receiving their next speeding ticket, the police are perfectly within their rights to use highly efficient technology to catch those law breakers.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:27AM (#43136831)

      the police are perfectly within their rights to use highly efficient technology to catch those law breakers

      While I agree that the police need appropriate tools and some latitude to do their jobs, I firmly believe their job is what the people (as in "we, the people") say it is. So whether speed cameras help their job depends on what their job is. My preference is for the police to concentrate on public safety, not revenue generation, so if the voters agree with me the police should only try to catch speeders to the extent necessary to keep the streets safe.

    • The typical speed limit on American freeways is 70-75 MPH, depending on whether you are in the East or the West. Driving 84-90 MPH will get you a ticket for sure, but it's not normal. I drive 5-7 MPH over the limit as a general rule and have never been ticketed for doing so (in 23 years of driving I've gotten 3 speeding tickets, all for > 10 MPH over the limit). At that speed, though, I'm passing about 90+% of cars. Most people really don't drive that fast. Badly, yes, but not fast.
  • 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 afidel (530433) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:28AM (#43136837)

      I'm sorry but going 27-29 after you exit a 55 highway down a short ramp is NOT reckless driving, that's what the majority of the tickets this system issued were for and it's a crock. I don't even live in the area and I think it's a pure revenue grab. We had a little village near here that did the same sort of thing, nailing people for doing 2 over on the highway, the state legislature finally shut them down by raising the number of residents required to operate a mayors court.

    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:11AM (#43137269)

      So in 3 weeks when the registered owners of the SUV receive a letter containing an automated speeding fine, they can admonish the kids for spe.... Oh yeah, there might be a flaw in that cunning plan.

      The delayed notice of infraction is another issue with these cameras. Very often people will speed right along, never knowing that in 2-3 weeks someone will be receiving a letter. At least when a police officer pulls you over, it's immediately after the fact and gives instant feedback to a person's driving habits.

      The first time I ever saw a speeding camera trigger its flash, someone was passing me doing about 60 in a 50mph zone. Unfortunately I was right between him and the camera, so I had 3 weeks to wonder if I'd be getting a random tax in the mail. Even though I never received a ticket, it was still annoying to have the feeling that something was hanging over my head. These cameras really degrade the quality of life even when you don't speed.

  • 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.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Speed cameras are mostly a Dutch product (though the concept isn't). By far the majority of speed cameras are produced by a Dutch company and the Netherlands seems to be testing ground for all of them. I've rarely seen speed cameras in places where they would serve a public good. Mostly they are placed in unpopulated areas with relatively low speed limits, on the edge of areas with speed limit differences and on down-hill stretches.

  • Only in America (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dingen (958134) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:26AM (#43136819)

    Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue

    So 40% of all fines aren't actually fines, but revenue for the camera company. Holy shit, that's flawed.

    This sort of setup doesn't exactly persuade the camera company to ensure the correct margins to adjust for measurement errors are used either. Who checks if the camera's comply with the spec? The company who receives 40% of the revenue or the government who receive 60%?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Now go do some research and find out how much of the money going into privatized prisons becomes profit. You think false taxation is bad? How about slavery for profit?

  • 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.
  • by ftobin (48814) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:07AM (#43137227) Homepage

    A government that becomes too efficient will cause problems. In this case, they infractions are detected too efficiently. Catching major infringers is good, but when every slight infraction is punished, citizens will become unhappy.

    We want government to have constant hurdles to overcome, because we have expectations regarding the persistence of overseers. Even though we may not be able to have the default anonymity we enjoyed pre-21st century, we can still regulate government to have stumbling blocks so that it doesn't become an efficient Orwellian machine.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:52AM (#43137699)

    We have essentially two problems here.

    1) Letting someone else fining people for breaking law is very bad. It creates mistrust. And if you really want to make people to obey the common sense law they really like to break (speeding is one of them, I *won't* get into details why psychologically so many want to justify it), you have to fine them yourself, not by some commercial entity; Otherwise it just make people angry. It's bad policy, period;
    2) People will like to speed more than allowed and no matter of common sense will appeal to them. So other half of arguments - scam, can't win, etc. - sorry, been there, done that. People love to violate speeding limits. Yeah, some places those limits aren't really thought trough, but they are not that many.

    So while I agree it's a really bad way of controlling speed limits, judge jumped a shark here and made more of political statement. But as Judges in US are part of political system - not very big surprise.

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