Another snafu in Australia’s network of speed
cameras has spurred more doubt about the use of automated traffic enforcement
According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, hundreds of drivers traveling on the
Hume Highway at Somerset on July 21 were issued tickets for exceeding 80 km/hr,
roughly 50 mph.
The problem? The speed limit on the road is
90 km/hr – approximately 55 mph.
Apparently, the technician responsible for
calibrating the cameras set the speed at 10 km/hr too slow. Victoria police are
expected to send withdrawal notices to all of the falsely ticketed drivers, the Herald Sun reported.
This incident is the latest of a series of
problems in Australia that have raised questions about the security,
effectiveness and validity of traffic-monitoring cameras.
On Aug. 9, a judge in Sydney, Australia,
threw out a speeding case after the Australia Roads and Traffic Authority
admitted they could not prove that pictures taken by an enforcement camera in
the case had not been altered, Australia’s Daily
The case centered on the security of a
mathematical algorithm that encrypted every picture taken by the cameras. The
RTA was unable to find an expert who could prove the encryption was
The ruling could set a precedent for many
others who have received tickets in connection with the speed cameras, which
have been in operation for more than 15 years and generated more than $104 million
in fines last year alone, according to the Sun
On the same day, the RTA also admitted that
cameras in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel – which were installed to monitor toll
evaders – had been turned off for three years. No tickets were given via the
cameras during the time they were off, the Daily
During the same week, the Herald Sun uncovered a 50-page manual from
the RTA that details other major flaws in the camera system. The paper would
not reveal some of the bigger gaps due to safety concerns, but did point out
other smaller problems, such as camera distortion from metal signs, fences,
wall and roadside postal boxes.
U.S. traffic cams also under
As red light cameras face scrutiny abroad,
one city in Florida is using the technology as a warning system, rather than a
The Orlando Police Department announced in
early August that it would install red light cameras at intersections
throughout the city to catch light runners in the act, despite a Florida law
that prevents the cameras’ photos or video being the sole evidence for a
traffic ticket, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Violators won’t receive a ticket – they’ll
just get a warning letting them know they were caught, as encouragement not to
do it again.
So far, the camera is being used as part of a
pilot program, and will be moved daily to prevent drivers from knowing its
“You can either have a two-ton dump truck
invade your privacy, or a camera,” Russ Colthorpe, a representative for the camera
manufacturer, told WFTV-TV. “Which would you prefer?”
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country,
municipalities are implementing speed and red-light cameras without the
restrictions of a no-ticket law. In Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Police
Department has installed nine new red-light cameras and three speed enforcement
cameras. The new cameras bring the total surveillance cameras in the city to
At least two states are reviewing whether
images from red light cameras are enough evidence to issue traffic tickets.
In Minneapolis, a city where 16 red light
cameras were installed at 12 intersections as a pilot program, only about 40
percent of drivers caught by the cameras were actually issued tickets.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, about 11,500 drivers were
photographed between July 7 – a month after the cameras were installed and the
first day tickets began being issued – and Aug. 6. But there were technical
problems with the cameras such as blocked views from tree branches and larger
The cameras also erroneously photographed
drivers who were making legal right turns on red. Of the 11,500 drivers caught
on camera, only about 4,500 drivers were issued tickets.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, state Attorney
General Jay Nixon is questioning whether the photographs provide enough proof
to hand out tickets to motorists.
“I think it’s pretty clear these pictures
can’t be the sole or only evidence to cite drivers for violating state traffic
laws,” Nixon told the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch. “I have deep concern whether taking someone’s picture
rolling through a stop light is adequate evidence in and of itself to uphold a
state traffic law.”
Several towns in Missouri have already
installed the cameras, and more are expected in the near future. Officials in
the towns say the cameras would help enforce local ordinances, and would be out
of the jurisdiction of statewide laws, according to the Post-Dispatch.
– By Aaron
Ladage, staff writer