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Traffic camera scam: Fake support of photo enforcement red light and speed cameras

We hate to say it, but you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – especially when it comes to comments supporting traffic photo enforcement cameras.

Fewer people dig traffic cameras than we may think/Thinkstock image

Although the red light and speed cameras are despised for a number of reasons, with one of the best likening them to crack cocaine and cities getting addicted to the money they bring in, batches of comments always seem to crop up in support of them.

These supportive comments, seemingly written by real-life citizens with real-life concerns, pop up like buffelgrass on traffic camera articles throughout cyberspace.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

“Jane Smith,” who may or may not be related to John Doe, left that particular comment on the TucsonCitizen.com article entitled “Two more photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares.”

Her exact belief is shared so exactly by others that they just happen to use her exact wording in their own comments supporting the cameras.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

The same comment also appears on traffic camera articles at:

SunSentinel.com in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., comment from “dq1153” (which is part of Jane Smith’s e-mail address, by the way)

WHEC.com in Rochester, NY, comment from “giggley”

SignOnSanDiego.com, comment from giggley

LynnwoodToday.com in Lynnwood, Wash., there goes giggley again

A commenter called “yogilives,” has been as busy as giggley leaving supportive comments about the cameras around cyberspace.

Yogilives’ comment on the Citizen article reads:

What a bunch of baloney, somehow drivers being overly cautious about going through an intersection is more dangerous than some reckless driver blowing through a red light into traffic? I think not. Enforcing our traffic laws deters reckless driving and the more coverage the more deterrence. No number of street cops can match the 24/7 coverage red light cameras provide so let’s use them, the life they save might be your own!

Yogilives’ comment at HuffingtonPost.com, on the article “LA’s Arizona Boycott Makes Exception For Red-Light Camera Operator,” reads:

That anyone would be surprised that LA officials hadn’t thought through the implications of their boneheaded political grandstanding is ridiculous. How exactly would the endangering the lives of Californian’s by refusing to properly and fully enforce our traffic laws benefit ANYONE, Arizonans, Californians Mexicans or Martians? Stay in your lane people, you’re barely qualified to represent the people of LA, let’s not have you muddle things up by getting into Arizona’s business.

In an attempt to perhaps keep spam suspicions at bay, yogilives throws in some local references, colloquial language and even personal details. In one of 18 comments left on sites affiliated with OregonLive.com, yogilives claims to be the father of two school age girls who, of course, will be kept safe for the rest of their lives if only more photo enforcement cameras would be installed at every single intersection across the nation.

What is this, a conspiracy?

You bet – or at least a movement known as “Astroturf lobbying,” which creates “fake grass roots” campaigns full of phony supporters with an ulterior motive in mind.

Money. Money. Money.

While the traffic camera comments may seem silly at best and annoying at worst, they sometimes morph into larger concerns in areas where traffic cameras are still up for discussion – and persuasion.

A November ballot initiative in Mukilteo, Wash., will let voters weigh in on its local traffic camera issues, a Washington State Wire article says.

The initiative lets folks decide if the city should reverse the City Council’s decision to install traffic cameras around town, have public votes on future traffic camera installations, and limit traffic camera fines to $20.

There goes the money, money, money.

A loud, yet mysterious organization, called the Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government, filed a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot.

“Backers of the initiative say it sure looks like the Arizona company that supplies the town with traffic cameras is behind the whole thing,” the article noted.

In making the charge, the red-light opponents have put Google to work, uncovering a motherlode of websites tailored for every city where a red-light camera initiative has made the ballot, or where automated cameras have come in for serious public scrutiny. In Mukilteo and 17 other cities, each website appears to be sponsored by a citizens’ group; each one uses identical wording on its content pages; each web domain name is owned by the same company, Advarion, Inc., of Houston, TX.

In other states, campaign disclosure documents reveal that Advarion is one of the contractors providing services to pro-camera campaigns financed by American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz. And the main reason these facts must be mentioned in such a roundabout way is that Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government still hasn’t gotten around to filing campaign disclosure documents with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, which presumably would make its backing clear.

Love them or hate them, scammers and spammers are everywhere.

[tnipoll]

Thanks to reader Sam Jennings, who sent me an e-mail noting,”I found it hard to believe that many people LOVE these cameras so I dug a bit, and that’s what I find happening everywhere. I feel people should know it’s not genuine.”

What do you think?

Have you fallen for any Internet scams?

Would you admit it if you did?

Do you think Jane Smith, yogilives or giggley will comment on this article?

Do you think traffic cameras should be at every intersection?

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Two new photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares

Two more Tucson intersections are now graced with the overseeing eye of photo enforcement red light cameras – that means two Tucson intersections will now be more nightmarish.

Two new traffic cameras go live this week/Thinkstock image

The intersection of East Grant and North Swan roads is lucky recipient of one of the cameras, while the other camera perches prettily at East Speedway Boulevard and North Kolb Road.

Both cameras were expected to go live at 6 a.m. Monday, according to a news release from the Tucson Police Department. Motorists get a break the first week, the release notes, with only warnings being issued. After that, you’re on your own.

The nightmare does not necessarily come from receiving tickets from these automated traffic enforcers. The nightmare comes from the additional hazards they pose because of the way motorists react to the cameras.

When they see a traffic camera, a goodly number of drivers are immediately struck by deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

Rather than driving along as they normally would, obeying the speed limit or only exceeding it by 9 mph which still won’t merit a ticket, some motorists suddenly slam on their brakes and move at crawl slower than that of an injured animal.

Perhaps we should call it wounded deer syndrome, rather than deer-in-the-headlights.

To witness this phenomenon firsthand, take a drive down East River Road, where a camera stabs its roving eye on both eastbound and westbound lanes near Country Club Road.

That stretch of River Road’s speed limit of 40 is a touch too slow to begin with for such a wide, smooth expanse. Put the speed camera on the sidelines and some drivers suddenly slam to crawl of as low as 28 mph.

While the City of Tucson website says excessive speed is a factor in 20 percent of traffic fatalities, it does not note how many crashes come from folks driving at the pace of wounded deer.

Stopping is not often the problem - MOVING is/Ryn Gargulinski

Red light running, the violation noted by the intersection cameras, is another hazard that can easily lead to death.

Yet also distressing, and even more common, are drivers who continue to sit idle when the light turns green. Others will only start to move, begrudgingly and at that painful, wounded pace, when the piled-up lane of drivers behind them start honking or yelling words that start with the letter F.

If the photo enforcement cameras are meant to help Tucson traffic, rather than serve to hinder it and produce a bunch of paranoid motorists, they need to widen their scope.

No, photo enforcement cameras should not have the power to bust people for any violation on the books, just those on the opposite end of the spectrum from speeding and red light running.

Instead of only snapping away at cars going too fast, cameras should capture and punish those going below the minimum speed limit.

Rather than only photographing vehicles that barrel through red lights, they should also nab folks who sit idle at green ones, thereby hindering the flow of traffic.

Getting rid of the cameras is not option the City would go for. Too much money, time and effort has been invested. But making them work to better traffic may be.

Two laws photo enforcement cameras should include in their scope:

ARS 28-704. Minimum speed limits; requirement to turn off roadway

A. A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when either of the following applies:

1. Reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

2. The reasonable flow of traffic exceeds the maximum safe operating speed of the lawfully operated implement of husbandry.

B. If the director or local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the director or local authority may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which a person shall not drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

C. If a person is driving a vehicle at a speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe, and if five or more vehicles are formed in a line behind the vehicle, the person shall turn the vehicle off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the director or a local authority, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed.

ARS 28-873. Stopping, standing or parking prohibitions; exceptions; definition (excerpt)

A. Except if necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or if in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or traffic control device, a person shall not stop, stand or park a vehicle in any of the following places:

1. On a sidewalk.

2. In front of a public or private driveway…

3. Within an intersection….

[tnipoll]

What do you think?

Have you been busted by a photo enforcement camera?

Have you seen drivers react to the cameras in strange ways?

Should photo enforcement cameras check for other violations beyond red lights and speeding?

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