Clever teens exact revenge by fooling automated speed cameras.

In places where they’ve been deployed the police tend to love anti-speeding cameras that snap a pic of your license plate and mail you a speeding ticket automatically if they catch you speeding. Why wouldn’t they? All the revenue of ticketing drivers without the hassle of actually writing the tickets yourself. Never mind the fact that they may not even realize they’ve been ticketed and thus won’t slow down anytime soon—which is what you really want them to do—hell that’s even better cause it could mean multiple revenue generating tickets!

Problem with automated law enforcement is that so far we’ve yet to invent a machine that’s as clever as a human out for revenge:

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county’s Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

[…] Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that “mimic” those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

Gotta admit, that’s pretty fucking clever. Looks like your car and it has your plates, must have been you because no one would be so clever as to fake it, right? Try fighting that one in court.

“This game is very disturbing,” the parent said. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that “our civil rights are exploited,” and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.

[…] “I hope the public at large will complain loudly enough that local Montgomery County government officials will change their policy of using these cameras for monetary gain,” the parent said. “The practice of sending speeding tickets to faceless recipients without any type of verification is unwarranted and an exploitation of our rights.”

Gee, ya think? Perhaps you should try electing people who aren’t willing to turn law enforcement duties over to automated machines that can’t tell the difference between a real license plate and a fake one printed on paper. I’d start with replacing this guy:

Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews said that the issue is troubling in several respects. “I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem,” he said.

Andrews also said that this could hurt the integrity of the Speed Camera Program. “It will cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it,” he said.

He said he is glad someone caught it before it becomes more widespread and he said he hopes that the word get out to the people participating in this that there will be consequences.

Assuming, of course, that you can find some automated way of catching them because it’s clear you don’t want to have any actual policemen monitoring traffic.

Found via J-Walk Blog and ***Dave.

25 thoughts on “Clever teens exact revenge by fooling automated speed cameras.

  1. Yeah, I agree that traffic cameras are crap. I always run witha radar detector and it is interesting at where I find my speed being checked in intersections(by cameras or other traffic management systems).

    It gets into the ‘punitive’ vs. ‘corrective’ debate as far as law enforcment’s view goes.

    I’m reading ‘Traffic-why we drive the way we drive’ by Tom Vanderbilt right now and this topic is fresh in my head.

    If the goal is safer streets for all, then punishing afterwards does NOTHING to keep anybody else on the roads at that moment safer.

    A good example of ‘corrective’ traffic safety management is when a cop sits roadside for everyone to see and all of traffic slows down for a good distance.

    And, when warranted, he cites someone who needs to be. Whose identity is verified. In full view of other potential violators.

    There’s a big market in camera opaque plate covers.

  2. That’s funny.

    They started using the cameras in Minneapolis a while back. It was challenged and eventually, the MN Supreme Ct. held that the systems violated state constitutional due process provisions.

    Though the MN court didn’t address it, I think there’s also room for argument that an unauthenticated ID of a car falls under hearsay evidence rules. Since you need the police officer to authenticate in court any other document such as a police report, so should be the case with a photograph.

  3. “The problem with the presumption that the owner was the driver is that it eliminates the presumption of innocence and shifts the burden of proof from that required by the rules of criminal procedure”

    i like that, thanks for sharing that link, Stormin Norman.

  4. I never knew if cameras helped or not really.  What I do know is even having a cop there doesn’t always help…one day I was coming home from dropping DH off at work so I could keep the car that day and the privilege of watching this crazy woman speed though a school zone (we are talking like 40mph in a 15) blaze past the police officer who just called to his partner down the road a ways who stopped her and gave her a ticket. 

    I guess she didn’t think the one cop would bother or could to stop her (maybe she was planning on turning quickly before he could catch up with her?  Or maybe she was just stupid) and didn’t realize that there was another cop a few hundred fee down.  I was cheering the cops that day as too many kids get hit by assholes like that.

  5. I live not too far from Wootton HS in Maryland.  I got TWO, count em, TWO speeding tix at a school zone marked 35 mph.  Fair enough, but it was in the middle of the night!  no kids present.

    Ugh, and it took two weeks for the first ticket to arrive.  Imagine how many I would have rung up if I drove that road repeatedly!


  6. What’s the most common first phrase to a traffic cop who pulls over a speeder?  I would imagine “Why don’t you go and catch real criminals?” is up near the top.  How many policemen do you want sitting by the side of the road, rather than patrolling?

    If you really hate these cameras, why don’t you teach ‘em a lesson and stop them making money.  Don’t speed, then they can’t fine you- that will stop their little money making schemes.

    These children are not just speeding, they are “attempting to pervert the course of justice”.  I believe that being found guilty of this tends to carry a disproportionate sentence, because of the fact it attempts to undermine the very basis of the whole judicial process.  Perhaps they should be given a ringside seat at the crushing of their car.

    There should be a quid pro quo- the authorities must help drivers comply with the law: clearly posting speed limits at regular intervals, especially on roads that ‘look’ faster.  Another method is the sign that shows your speed as you approach.  However, once you’ve been given fair warning then frankly if you can’t keep to the speed limit you are either not competent enough to drive, or breaking the law on purpose.

    Given outside TV-land it often takes weeks or months to bring a prosecution for many crimes is that also a waste as it is ‘no deterrent’? (In actuality, most criminals are deterred by being caught, not by severity of punishment, plus many of them are not very good at thinking ahead, or empathising with possible victims.  Prison populations are full of people where you take a society norm bell curve- education, income, intelligence- and shift it down a few points).

  7. Sandy, I vote she was just stupid.

    Rosie, I got your email.

    LH, you’re assuming that I speed at all. Fact is I’m an annoyingly speed limit driving person. I’ve had all manner of invectives yelled at me for not exceeding the speed limit.

    The fact remains that the cameras have no means of telling the difference between someone who’s speeding and someone who’s trying to get someone else into trouble. Combine that with the fact that the authorities are going to operate on the assumption that any ticket issued is completely legitimate because no one had the foresight to see how the system could be abused.

    Police departments have whole divisions devoted solely to traffic issues for a reason. I’m all for busting the speeders, but not via an automated processor that has no ability to discern who the guilty party actually is.

  8. James, radar detectors are useless for speed cameras. They use inductive sensors in the road to detect your speed and (in the case of red light cameras) if you cross the line.

  9. Moloch:

    That may be correct in some instances.

    My own observations is it IS NOT in my area. Or Traverse City, Mi.  Nor in the areas of Kentucky I have visited in the last six months.

    In traverse city, many of the downtown lights have a) cameras and b)I get a laser or Ka band alert approaching such intersections. This is a very discreet monitoring area…30 yds in front of the intersection on average. 

    The retrofittage of inductive pickups in the roads is expensive compared to a single mounted unit on the traffic light in each direction concerned. And disrupts traffic for quite a while. If inductive pickups are alreay there and are fairly new they can be tweaked via software to do more than their original duty (traffic FLOW management), but it is my understanding that the inductive systems you mention are the exception rather than the rule.

    here’s a nice piece of animation from oe of the photo RADAR manufacturors:

    here’s the wiki entry:

    and another site:

  10. I get the fact that people foiling cameras like that is an issue that needs adressing.

    Otherwise, I have a real HATE for people who think it is acceptable to use things like radar detectors, or to speed at all. You are risking MY life (I’m a cyclist and pedestrian, 90% of the time, in a car-crazy country) and that of others.

    Everyone caught speeding repeatedly should be dumped in the high-speed lane of a motorway at night in dark clothing, to meditate on casual disregard for others.

  11. He’s a moron cause he doesnt like dangerous arsehole drivers? LOL at you my friend .. I think infact you’ve just stated the most idiotic sentence ive read all week.

  12. I think the kids are brilliant and that it does indeed poke another big hole in the use of those cameras.  An earlier commenter pointed out that at least one court said it violated due process, and they’re absolutely right.

    As for the biker,  I kind of understand your position but many speed limits are fairly arbitrary.  Since you’re not allowed to ride your bike on the interstate your little diatribe wouldn’t apply there.  There’s a highway in TX where you’re allowed to do 80…but there are plenty of Interstates w/ just as much visibility where the speed limit is still 55.

  13. Warning: another little diatribe.  I’m with Hussar and ingolfson: I don’t have much sympathy for speeders.  Since accidents and fuel consumption go up rather rapidly as a factor of speed, making heroes of people who speed is rather like making heroes of muggers and litterers: it’s childish and antisocial.

    Perhaps being a ped, on public transportation, or a cyclist 99% of the time gives one a different perspective.  But the bottom line is a balance between traffic deaths and getting there a bit faster.  If you want to speed, go to the race track, where there are no innocent bystanders.  Better yet, run, cycle, or swim, if you have a need for speed.  It doesn’t take much in the way of brains or brawn to step hard on a gas pedal-  do something that’s good for your health, and the health of the planet.

  14. I’m not a fan of speeders myself being that I drive the speed limit, if you’ll pardon the reference, religiously. I’m less annoyed by them on a multiple lane freeway, but there’s simply no excuse for them on regular streets.

  15. want to have some fun, pick up a middle C or B tuning fork and hold it in front of the sensor for the camera when random cars drive by (depending on which band they use) when a couple dozen people show up with tickets for doing 65+ some of these evil things might have to come down. (yes, the forks must be oscillating). Of course, you can buy specific mph tuning forks too.

  16. If I remember correctly accidents go down but fatal accidents go up w/ higher speed limits.

    I’ll see if I can source it.

    And you try to bike or swim a 50 mile commute every day.

    If I could work locally I certainly would but it’s just not an option in my environment.

    My wife and I buy the most fuel efficient vehicles we can to suit our needs.  (Saturn VUE (26 mpg) and a Prius (45-55 mpg).

  17. And as far as the use of a radar detector goes….

    I almost never speed in my truck. The exception is when it is more prudent to run along with traffic consisting of a majority of drivers exceeding the posted limits (I-75 north anyone?).On my bike I speed. To get out in front of car/truck/semi drivers who have no idea I am there usually. 

    Having been a motorcyclist commuting on SoCal’s freeways for years I know all too well how ‘selective enforcement’ practices can be. Cops would radar a wall of traffic, get a higher than posted reading and pull over the motorcyclist any chance they got.

    why? And this answer isn’t just the anecdotal evidence of myself and fellow riders. It is from the mouth of my SDPD cadet/officer roomate of that time.

    “No doubt, NO witness on the bike”
    The cop doesn’t have to have a clear view into the passenger compartment to see if the driver is alone. In california at that time all you needed was ONE witness to say that yes you were over the limit, but that you were maintaning pace with surrounding traffic and your ticket was dropped. 

    That’s when I started using a radar detector. It was nice to be able to get to the right and slow down a mile befroe the cop and avoid any chance of citation. (although my license was already half shot by then). I have gotten so used to it, and it truly does help me as far as paying attention to posted speeds.

    And now I notice more and more the intersection monitors.

    They have been ruled unconstitutional in many jurisdictions and rightly so. We have the right to confront our accuser, and that is sidestepped by these devices.

    cali now requires that the photo show “clearly” the driver of the vehicle for the ticket to be valid.

  18. With modern GPS systems I’d be perfectly happy if the car drove itself and my interaction with the thing stopped with adjusting the seat and radio. Let a computer drive and you’d be able to do away with silly speed limit adjustments on interstate roads, and the cars acting predictably would make things safer for pedestrians and cyclists no matter how fast the cars were going.

  19. If I remember correctly accidents go down but fatal accidents go up w/ higher speed limits.

    I’ll see if I can source it.

    I’d love to see that source, RickU: that would be very surprising, if true.

    And you try to bike or swim a 50 mile commute every day.

    If I could work locally I certainly would but it’s just not an option in my environment.

    I wasn’t complaining about commuters, but speeders.  And I’m certainly not going to single out anyone for criticism about commuting with cars: it is necessary for some.  Trouble is, the environment reacts to the amount of pollutants, not to people’s “necessities”.  Unless we change those necessities, we are going to be in big trouble.

    My wife and I buy the most fuel efficient vehicles we can to suit our needs.  (Saturn VUE (26 mpg) and a Prius (45-55 mpg).

    That’s a step in the right direction.  But we are going to have to do better than that, because even that level of fuel consumption is not sustainable.

  20. Unfortunately, Rick, neither study is pertinent.  The first shows that people largely ignore changes in the speed limits, and thus the accident rate is largely unaffected.  Saying the law doesn’t reduce accidents because it is ignored is not the same thing as proving that actual lower speeds don’t reduce accidents.

    The second study is incoherent, because it makes no attempt to define parameters.  It cites an increase in numbers of accidents following the imposition of speed limits, with no consideration of the amount of traffic or any other factors, so it is worthless.

    The bottom line is that, all other things being equal, it takes longer to brake when you’re going faster, and that means more accidents.

  21. …“Four youths from Canberra recently pulled off a trick of breathtaking bravado to gain revenge on a mobile speed-camera van operating in the area. Three of the group approached the van and distracted the operator’s attention by asking a series of questions about how many cars the operator would catch in a day. Meanwhile, the fourth musketeer sneaked to the front of the van and unscrewed its number plate.

    After bidding the van driver goodbye, the friends returned home, fixed the number plate to the car and drove through the camera’s radar at high speed – 17 times. As a result, the automated billing system issued 17 speeding tickets to itself.”


  22. Sorry Les that was “you” as in ‘Reader’, rather than “you” as in ‘site owner’- i.e. a general ‘you’

    The Canberra one is actually quite funny.

    There is an ongoing arguement about enforcing speed limits here. The Police claim that speed is a contributing factor in 33% of accidents, petrol heads say speed only causes 3% of accidents.

    Now they can BOTH be right. While speed may not CAUSE an accident, the fact the driver has less time to react will exacerbate the situation.

    Braking reaction time 2-2.5 seconds in most people
    10MPH speed = 15ft per second- approx 1 car length (partial thanks to Steve Jackson Games).

    5mph over the limit is 15ft extra stopping distance- in an urban area that is quite a lot compared to the field of view depth.

    Plus lose control at 40 you make a bigger dent than at 30.

    A sneeze means you lose control of the car for 3 seconds.

    I don’t know about the US but stories about fines for being 1MPH over the limit in the UK are untrue- the police only prosecute at over +10%. (A car speedo must be within 10% of actual by law- so if you are doing 32, they can not be sure if you thought you were on 30, plus it stops lots of small cases where a slight dip has sped up the car for 100 yds)

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