Monday, April 25, 2011

Driver Uses CarChip Data to Challenge Optotraffic Camera

When Rich LaDieu received a speed camera ticket from College Park he Knew he hadn't been speeding, his car told him so.  LaDieu had a device called a CarChip plugged into the OBDII interface under his dash.  "It records everything the computer sees in the engine, transmission, emissions, sensors, and most important your current speed every five seconds."

The citation (#cp10316438) cited LaDieu for driving 48mph in a 35mph zone on Painted Branch parkway.  Ladieu went to his car chip and pulled data for the date and time shown on the citation.  The data contained both speeds at specific intervals(see speed interval data), showing that at the specific time on the citation he was not traveling at the speed shown.  It also showed the maximum speed for the 3.9 mile trip: 35mph.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Forest Heights Sued County To Get Speed Camera Site, Tried Lowering Speed Limit

The town of Forest Heights apparently needed to sue Prince George's County for permission to deploy speed cameras on county roads within the town.  According to the court record (case number CAL1023988 which can be seen at shows that the case was filed in July 2010 and was settled on 1/11/2011.

The town and the county ultimately signed a "Memorandum Of Understanding" with the county to resolve the dispute.  Legislation had been passed by the 2010 General Assembly which essentially REQUIRED Prince George's County to permit the use of speed cameras on county roads (read bill), meaning that the County had no choice but to grant permission for the speed camera.

In this instance however the County might have had a fair complaint over the Town's use of speed cameras, as Forest Heights had previously passed legislation which lowered the speed limit on Livingston Road by 5mph and created a new school zone on the road.  Local governments typically must obtain permission from county governments before changing speed limits on county roads.  An ordinance passed this year by Forest Heights, affirming the Memorandum of Understanding and undo-ing the change in the speed limit by the town, documents the situation:
"WHEREAS, Resolution 43-09 further stated for the school zone established on “…Livingston Road eastbound and westbound 50 feet east of Comanche Drive to State Highway 210 (Indian Head Highway), speed set at 25 miles per hour…” despite the fact that the posted speed limit is currently 30 miles per hour; and
WHEREAS, on November 24, 2010, the County’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety and Director of Homeland Security delivered a letter to the Mayor, conditionally approving the Town’s request to use a speed monitoring system on Livingston Road; and
WHEREAS, the condition stated in said approval letter required the Town and the County to enter into an agreement whereby the Town may deploy its speed cameras on Livingston Road subject to certain reasonable limitations to allow the County to efficiently manage and maintain the roadway; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council approved a “Memorandum of Understanding Speed Monitoring Systems Agreement” with the County on January 3, 2011; and
WHEREAS, the Town Council finds that it is in the best interest of the Town and the travelling public to retain the current 30 mph posted speed limit on Livingston Road.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Council approves and authorizes the use and deployment of speed cameras on Livingston Road pursuant to the memorandum of understanding entitled “Memorandum of Understanding Speed Monitoring Systems Agreement” approved by the Council on January 3, 2011; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Resolution 43-09 shall be amended to retain the current 30 miles per hour speed limit as it currently exists on Livingston Road;

There are no schools located on Livingston Road in Forest Heights.  The new school zone was apparently first marked in 2011 at almost the same time the new cameras on that road went online.

Forest Heights has written $2.8million worth of speed camera revenue into their FY11 budget, more than half of the town's budget for the year and more than their entire FY10 budget.  This equates to more than $1000 in ticket revenue per resident of the town, or about 25 tickets per residents, although the majority of tickets are likely going to out of town residents.  The small town has a history of interesting political drama, with the past three mayors all having been suspended or removed from office over various misconduct charges.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Forest Heights Camera Tickets Fail to Stand Up in Court

The Washington Times is reporting that several Forest Heights speed camera tickets were dismissed in Prince George's County "speed camera day" after defendants used time-distance calculation to cast doubt on the accuracy of the camera readings.

One defendant, Will Foreman, owner of Eastover Auto, used the method to estimate vehicles speeds and show they were not consistent with the speeds shown on the citations.  Foreman's business maintains a small fleet of vehicles, which regularly travel in Forest Heights, and as the registered owner tickets are issued to him.  Some other defendants were also successful using the same method, however some defendants who relied on "gut feeling" about their speeds were still found guilty. Optotraffic continued to claim their cameras are accurate :“No one has come to us with a proven error,” company spokesman Mickey Shepherd said Tuesday. (note that Forest Heights denied a Maryland Public Information Act request for records pertaining to camera errors from StopBigBrotherMD, and also denied similar requests from several ticket recipients who required the information for their legal defense.)

Read the full article in the Washington Times hereAdditional Coverage:

Mr Foreman has also created a HOWTO VIDEO on Youtube  showing how drivers who believe they have gotten tickets in error can use this technique to demonstrate the error using citation images: 

We encourage anyone who discovers such errors to challenge them in court, and also to report the errors to state officials, the media, or to  If you receive a ticket in error you are NOT "being a good citizen" by just paying the fine.  Remaining silent only encourages negligence on the part of officials running these camera programs. 

Related Stories:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No Spring Break for School Zone Speed Cameras

Most Public School students are enjoying spring break, but in the interest of saving ourselves the time of responding to numerous emails two weeks from now, we'd like to remind everyone that school zone speed cameras are still up and running and issuing tickets.  In Maryland, school zone cameras are currently forbidden from issuing tickets on Saturday and Sunday, however no exception is made for other days schools are not in session, including holidays, summer vacation, or spring break.

Meanwhile, most speed cameras in Montgomery County are not located in designated school zones, nor are many of the "IHE Zone" cameras located in College Park, and as such those cameras are all exempt from the Monday-Friday restriction, issuing tickets 24/7.  Likewise the SHA's freeway workzone cameras, located on 695, 95, and 295 can also issue tickets 24/7 "regardless of whether workers are present".  The location of a new speed camera site on I-70 at South Street (Frederick) was recently posted to the SHA website.

Don't feed the monster.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Legislation Covers Scamera Programs' Butt on Signage Issue

A Bill which would alter the requirements for signage for speed cameras has been quietly making it's way through the state legislature and is nearing final passage.  The bill is intended to "fix" a provision of the law which nearly every speed camera program in the state has technically been in violation of.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Howard County Council Mulling Speed Camera Authorization

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman submitted his proposed legislation to authorize the use of speed cameras in Howard County at the April 4rth legislative session.  The measure is scheduled for a public hearing on April 20th at 7:30pm and the council is expected to vote on the measure in May.  This legislation has been anticipated since Ulman announced his intention to introduce speed cameras in March.