NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for July 31, 2018

Compiled by NMA Foundation Director James C. Walker and NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn 

The ATE Racket Report is a weekly feature of the NMA blog. We want to bring the issues of automated traffic enforcement to our supporters in a more coherent up-to-date fashion.

This Past Week…

Case Western University issued a report this month that red-light cameras did not improve safety in both Dallas and Houston.

The Verge.com ran a post this week that illuminated a recent test of Amazon’s facial Rekognition Software. The American Civil Liberties Union scanned the faces of all 535 members of Congress against 25,000 public mugshots. No members were in the mugshot lineup, however the Rekognition system generated 28 false matches. Yikes!

Speaking of Amazon, Vice President of worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, Teresa Carlson told the gathering at the Aspen Security Forum on July 20th, the company remains unwaveringly committed to the US government in support of law enforcement, defense and the intelligence community. She added that the company has not drawn any ‘red lines’ around its government work despite the numerous protests both inside and outside the company concerning its selling of the Rekognition software.  She added, “We provide them the tools, we don’t provide the solution application that they build. And we often don’t know everything they’re actually utilizing the tool for. But they need to have the most innovative and cutting-edge tools they can.”

Gizmodo.com tried to answer the question this week: Can We Make Non-Racist Face Recognition?

Miami-Dade County, Florida announced that 100 new intersection cameras for traffic management have been turned on to monitor traffic at 34 intersections on US 1.  Officials hope that the $11 million monitoring system cameras will keep traffic on at least eight miles of US 1 flowing. The main aim is to line up the sequence of green lights via computer so that rush hour commuters can drive through a maximum number of intersections without causing excessive waits at cross streets. Miami-Dade is now soliciting bids for the $130 million second phase of the project—to expand the adaptive signals to most of its 3,000 intersections in the county over five years.

Wait and See…

Activists call for an end to the Los Angeles Police Department’s predictive policing program. During last week’s Police Commission meeting, civil liberty and privacy group activists engaged in a heated debate with department brass. The activists protested predictive policing as biased against minority residents.

Encinitas, California’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission voted last week to keep the city’s two red-light cameras going. The program costs $195,000 per year which are covered by the annual income off the cams that sits between $250,000 and $300,000. The City Council votes next whether to adopt yet another three year contract. In San Diego County, only two other cities (Solana Beach and Del Mar) utilize RLCs.  San Diego, El Cajon, Poway, Oceanside, Escondido and Vista have all ended their programs.

New York state lawmakers did not call a special session to keep speed cameras shooting in New York City. Much handwringing in the media on this lapse. Also, a vow by safety advocates to keep up the fight for even more speed cameras.  Here are just some of the stories:

New York Speed Cameras Begin Shutting Off Today!

A Screeching Stop for NYC’s Speed Cameras

NYC Safety Advocates plan their next Political Strategy as the cameras get turned off!

A Texas State Senator says the time is ripe for Texas to ban Red-Light Cameras next session. The team at the National Motorists Association also thinks so and will be assisting anyway we can to make this happen in 2019!

A Texas judge ordered BusPatrol, formerly known as Force Multiplier Solutions, to pay to its main rival, American Traffic Solutions, now known as Verra Mobility $421,910 to pay legal fees. Bus Patrol accused ATS of stealing its automated traffic camera technology. This is just another tawdry twist in the sordid Dallas School Bus Camera Scandal which has already brought down a school district.  Probably not the end of this scandal.

Bad News…

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) is at it again with its annual shtick for more red-light cameras in the name of “safety.” It has even provided a new set of guidelines for cities so that they can combat the forces against automated traffic enforcement. Ugh!!!

Police in Cheshire, Connecticut will being using automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). The town council approved an agreement with state police last week to use its servers and other technology infrastructure at no cost. The department will be purchasing the devices to use for finding stolen cars and other crimes.

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that beginning in Mid-August, 27 School zones will receive automated speed cameras, four intersections will receive red-light cameras, and six intersections will receive vehicle height monitoring cameras. This is already on top of the multitude of automated traffic enforcement the city already has in place. Anyone even want to drive through Baltimore these days?

A Fairfax County, Virginia Circuit Court judge upheld the constitutionality of red-light cameras. Motorists Tawana Jean Cooper had challenged an RLC ticket that received in the mail from a private vendor working on the behalf of the city of Fairfax, Virginia. She argued that the program was unconstitional because it deprived her of her due process rights. The court concluded that the RLC program imposes a civil penalty in a civil proceeding, not a criminal penalty in a criminal proceeding.

NMA’s City and State Lists of RLCs and speed cameras

The NMA has compiled a list of which states and cities are using red-light and speed cameras. This may not be a complete list and please send any additions or subtractions to the nma@motorists.org for updating the list.

Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week

The Case Western University report that red-light cameras do not improve safety is right in line with most reports done by unbiased and qualified researchers that are NOT in the revenue stream from the for-profit red-light camera rackets. Reports showing any significant safety results from RLCs almost always come from biased groups that benefit financially or in influence from the camera rackets.

Using technology like the cameras in Miami to keep traffic flowing smoothly will almost always result in more efficient AND safer trips.  Smooth, predictable flows are almost always notably safer overall.

The NMA and others have tried to help Encinitas officials understand that RLCs are a poor idea for their city from many different standpoints. We will try once more before the official council vote.

Many NY state legislators oppose the for-profit ticket camera rackets. It was excellent to see the state Senate refuse to even have a vote to re-authorize the 140 speed camera racket, let alone expand the racket to 290 cameras. There will be fierce pressure to restart the racket. NMA members in NY need to call and write their state Assemblymen, Senators, and the Governor to say NO to speed cameras.

Opposition to red-light cameras on legal and many other grounds is building in Texas. Maybe 2019 will be the “magic” year to ban them. The NMA is involved at several levels to try for this result.

The IIHS did another release on how and why people should support red-light cameras. As has been the case for many years, the devil is in the details and the details that the IIHS recommends do NOT lead to fair enforcement with RLCs. They lead to predatory for-profit RLC rackets with most tickets going to safe drivers. A good friend of the NMA points out the truths:

  • This is the Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges at it again.
  • AAA = insurance company
  • IIHS = insurance companies
  • Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety = insurance companies
  • NSC = insurance industry funding + driver training courses

The goal? For now, photo ticket points apply in Arizona and California. They’d like to see that everywhere.

Baltimore has been completely addicted to the loot from red-light and speed camera rackets for many years. What is surprising is why Baltimore residents have not “revolted” against the rackets. There have been many well-documented abuses of inaccurate cameras and a lack of serious reviews by police officers before the tickets were issued. The “poster child” of a non-review was a speed camera ticket for 38 mph in a 25 zone where the video clearly showed the vehicle was stopped at a red light. Baltimore officials care nothing for fairness or justice with their camera rackets, so long as the loot keeps coming.

The court ruling in Virginia that red-light cameras are legal because the penalties are civil rather than criminal shows WHY most states make ticket camera racket laws fall in the civil arena. That designation sharply reduces any due process rights so that revenue victims of the rackets have very few ways to successfully challenge the tickets. It is also why most states keep the penalties low, $50 in this VA case, so that victims will usually just give up and pay the unfair tickets.

James C. Walker is a life member of the National Motorists Association. He is also a board member and executive director of the National Motorists Association Foundation.

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