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Maryland Teens Exploit Traffic Cameras to Prank Fellow Motorists

December 23, 2008 12:33 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Some young drivers in Maryland have found a new way to fool traffic cameras and cost other drivers a ticket.

Driving Pranks

In Maryland, teens call it the “Pimping” game.

Young drivers are using fake license plates on vehicles to “fool” traffic cameras along roadways and cost innocent motorists a ticket, according to DailyTech.

Teachers and fellow students are most often the victims of this game. The fake plates are made with glossy paper and fonts similar to those found on a license plate, and then taped over a car’s real license plate.

Once the pranksters set off a traffic camera, the true owners of the fake license plate receive a ticket a few days later.

“This game is very disturbing,” DailyTech quoted an unnamed parent as saying. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.”

Around the country, people seem to have their own take on how traffic cameras should be treated.

The Arizona Republic reported that one man faces a felony charge for taking a pickax to the metal casing that housed one traffic camera. Silly String and Post-it notes have also been used to cover camera lenses.

In Tempe, Ariz., a group of Santas dressed in red suits and white beards aimed to spread a little holiday cheer to motorists by placing gift-wrapped boxes and decorated sheets over traffic cameras in the city to prevent them from taking pictures.

According to the East Valley Tribune, police said they were not pursuing an investigation into the “gift” giving because the traffic equipment was not damaged.

Back in Maryland, critics of traffic cameras may have one more point to add to their list of arguments against the devices.

“I’ve objected to the robotic menaces primarily on the grounds that they were fallible revenue machines for the state rather than legitimate means of protecting life and limb,” DailyTech Quoted’s J.D. Tucille as saying. “It never occurred to me that the [speed cameras] were also handy tools for wreaking revenge on enemies and authority figures. That was clearly a lapse of imagination on my part.”

Opinion: Thoughts on traffic cameras

Speed cameras are connected to a “speed-measuring device” like a radar unit, according to the City of Tucson Web site. If motorists are traveling over the speed limit when they pass the camera, the violation is recorded and the camera takes a picture of the driver or the vehicle’s license plate.

Supporters and critics of traffic cameras have engaged in heated, and often lengthy debates over the issue.

In Ohio, a federal judge recently ruled that the use of a traffic camera does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Warner Mendenhall filed a lawsuit on behalf of his wife, who was ticketed by a traffic camera in 2005. Mendenhall’s lawsuit argues that traffic cameras are unfair because tickets are sent to the owner of a vehicle, not necessarily the driver who committed the violation.

Officials in Akron say they are pleased with the judge’s ruling because the cameras are effective in slowing down speeding drivers. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic implemented the cameras after a 10-year-old boy was hit and killed by a car at a school crosswalk. The Plain Dealer reported that the number of speeding tickets in school zones has decreased 20 percent since cameras were installed.

Groups like the National Motorists Association (NMA) still aren’t sold on traffic cameras. On its Web site, the NMA argues that photo radar cameras can generate false readings, and that motorists are not “adequately notified” when they receive a ticket; some are sent days or weeks after a traffic violation.

As for red light cameras at intersections, the NMA says there are problems with these devices as well. “Photo enforcement devices do not apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or otherwise dangerous drivers. A fugitive could fly through an intersection at 100 mph and not even get his picture taken, as long as the light was green!”

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