Saturday, January 18, 2014

RedSpeed Tickets Tossed in Annapolis Over Time-Distance Calculations

The Annapolis District Court Building
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that three defendants who received speed camera citations from Annapolis successfully disputed the citations., using time-distance calculations to dispute the recorded speed.  The vendor, Redspeed, is responding by trying to avoid future courtroom losses by presenting "training" to judges outside of the courtroom setting.
This month, three Annapolis drivers succeeded in persuading a judge to void their tickets issued by the camera on Cedar Park Drive, which has proved to be the busiest and most lucrative camera in Annapolis, with 4,004 tickets issued.
In those three cases, the drivers looked at photos of their vehicles on their tickets and went out to the street to measure the distance between the two photos. They then used the time stamps on the photos and worked out the math to determine how fast they were going.
The drivers all contended that their calculations showed they were going much slower than what the speed camera measured. That argument cast enough doubt that a judge voided the tickets, even though Debra Beerup, client relations manager with RedSpeed, said they were "comparing apples and oranges."
Jaime Hanafourde was clocked going 48 mph on Cedar Park, which she said is highly unlikely. The speed limit is 25 mph and she believes she drove just under 30 mph.
"You'd absolutely know it's wrong to travel at [48 mph]," she said.
Corinne Irwin, accused of going 43 mph, also had her ticket dismissed by Duden. "I don't speed in general, and I did not speed on the day I was cited," she said.

And now the part of the story we ought to be REALLY CONCERNED ABOUT:
 "RedSpeed is now offering training on speed camera operations for Anne Arundel judges who preside in traffic court. Beerup said some judges might not be familiar with her company's technology because speed cameras are still new in the area. She's confident her company's cameras work well.

Well that's a problem.  Why?  Because  HAVING A VENDOR WITH A FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE SYSTEM "TRAIN" JUDGES IS TANTAMOUNT TO PROVIDING EVIDENCE AND TESTIMONY OUTSIDE THE COURTROOM SETTING.  Defendants will have no opportunity to see or dispute the accuracy of this "evidence".  Allowing out of court "testimony" unseen by defendants goes against everything you THINK you know about how our court system works.

It is unlikely that such "training" will include proven examples where speed cameras have been dead wrong. The accuracy of Redspeed cameras used in Wicomico County was recently disputed by seventeen employees of a local school, who say they received tickets for speeds they believe were impossible.  Redspeed was also forced to admit that cameras located in Fort Dodge Iowa had produced errors due to what they called "an electromagnetic anomaly".

A different vendor, Xerox Corporation, was forced to admit their cameras had produced many erroneous speed readings due to what they refer to as "radar effects", which can occur regardless of whether a device passes calibration tests.  Our website and the Baltimore Sun both used time-distance calculations to document the errors prior to this admission, and the time-distance calculations proved to be correct and that the cameras were wrong even though the devices had passed all calibration tests.

Nevertheless "training" of judges about the alleged infallibility of speed measurement devices has occurred in other jurisdiction with serious consequences for defendants.  For example, Montgomery County's speed camera contract contains an extensive "Community Relations" section which in addition to outlining a massive media relations and PR campaign designed to influence the press, states "ACS will also deliver an educational/training video to be played at District Court proceedings."  While defendants never see any such video, and district court judges in that jurisdiction now generally do not permit motorists to use time-distance calculations as a defense, or any other defense which disputes the recorded speed.  Montgomery County also deliberately rounds off the timestamps on their citations to the nearest second to ensure that even attempting such a defense is impossible, ensuring that all defendants have no means of disputing the recorded speed or otherwise audit the accuracy of individual citations after they are issued.  Likewise in Prince George's some motorist were successful in using time-distance calculations as a defense until early 2011.  However after vendor Optotraffic and local governments profiting from cameras succeeded in "educating" the district court, judges began openly stating that they would not accept any defense other than that the car was stolen or to present another person to confess in court that they were driving.

Last year, the state legislature considered two proposals which would have required speed cameras to provide timestamps accurate enough to verify speed.  UMD professor Christopher Davis testified on the legislation:
It is important to assure the public that the citations they receive as a result of a speed camera observation are accurate and fair. The only truly fair way to use speed cameras is to provide accurate time-stamped photographs of a vehicle showing that it has moved a known distance in a precisely measured time interval.”
The Baltimore Sun also wrote about how using newer technology doesn't eliminate the need for such verification to prevent errors.

NHTSA standards for speed cameras also call for using images as secondary verification:
"2.18.2 Unattended Operation. If the ATR device is to be considered for unattended operation, the manufacturer shall provide a secondary method for verifying that the evidential recorded image properly identifies the target vehicle and reflects this vehicle’s true speed, as described in §5.18.2. This may be accomplished by means of a second, appropriately delayed image showing the target vehicle crossing a specified reference line."
Speed cameras in Maryland are not currently required to meet this or any other specific nationally accepted testing standard. The legislature rejected the proposed requirement due to opposition by local governments which profit from speed cameras.

Of course we at the Maryland Drivers Alliance know the truth of why allowing this defense is being opposed by speed camera programs.  Those who profit from cameras wish to maintain a monopoly on the ability to identify speed measurement errors to avoid embarrassing incidents like what Baltimore City experienced, even if this means some innocent motorists get shafted in the process.