Thursday, August 4, 2016

Culver City California Police Drop Red Light Ticket, Circumstances Suspicious

Actor Steve Tom who lives in North Hollywood received a red light camera ticket ($490) at the intersection of Sepulveda Blvd and Green Valley Dr on June 15 at 2:44 pm, but he was't driving and didn't (doesn't) own the car. The car's register owner, Barry Babcock, lives in St. Louis. There is some question if the two knew each other or not at the time of the ticket.

Culver City Police Captain Ron Iizuka said they do not use facial recognition (author’s note - yet). The Captain also said when the actor went to the police station to complain to a traffic sergeant, the actor acknowledge knowing the registered owner. Both the actor and registered owner deny knowing each other before the ticket.

Me thinks this stinks. It's unclear how the actors’ name got on the ticket with the St. Louis address, or how he received notice of the ticket at his Hollywood address. Police said the 2 look very much alike (irrelevant), but that doesn't explain anything. How did police connect the video and vehicle registration to the actor? Sounds like a cheap publicity stunt.

Culver City has had cameras since 1999 at 11 intersections. In 2014 the city got $2 million from the cameras, the red light camera supplier got about 40% ($800,000) of the ticket bounty.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Red Light Cameras in Florida

State's Cut of Red Light Camera Money
In 2015 the state of Flordia made a lot of money from red light cameras. About 963,000 tickets were issued, $158 per ticket, costing car owners $152 million.  The state's cut of the loot was $54 million.

Tampa's Cameras
Tampa has around 57 cameras at 22 intersections. In 2015 the city made $680,000, The red light camera provider, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) out of Arizona, got $2.3 million. Each camera cost the city, from it's share of the loot, about $4,200 per month, or around $50,000 per year.

Red Light Camera Class-Action Lawsuits in the Courts
In 2014 Tampa was included in 70 government agencies named in a class-action lawsuit to reimbursement drivers, they want their money back. The lawsuit is based on a judgement by the 4th District Court of Appeals that ruled the city of Hollywood could NOT USE A PRVATE COMPANY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNCTIONS. Hollywood had to take down the cameras.

Tampa opted out of the class-action to be sued in Hillsborough County. City Attorney Julia Mandell stated 2 staff attorneys have already spent 100's of hours on the case. The lawsuit cost is taking money away from more productive uses.

Attorneys on all sides are waiting for the results of a test case filed by a motorist against the city of Oldsmar in the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Conflicting Court Rulings
The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled on July 27th that Hollywood's red light cameras were legal, going against the 4th District's ruling. The 3rd District court also requested the state supreme court to review the matter. The court may or may not here the case. In the meantime red light camera legality remains a question in Flordia.

Tampa wants Red Light Camera Provider to Assume More Legal Cost.
Tampa officials want their red light camera provider, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), to cover more of any legal cost in a new contract. The city wants ATS to provide more legal representation, and do more to reduce or eliminate city losses from legal challenges. ATS had no comment.

Red Light Camera Tickets Invalidated in Richardson Texas

Judge invalidates Red Light camera tickets;
- Richardson TX did not conduct the required traffic study.
- Attorney Russell J Bowman won the case.

City attorney Victoria W Thomas;
- stated city will continue to issue tickets and collect fines.

Bowman has also filed lawsuits against the cities of Diboll and Willis in Angelina in Montgomery County district courts.

- cities did not conduct the required traffic study.
- Diboll also did not establish the required citizen’s advisory committee.
- seeks shutting down cameras, and fines returned.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Police Radar Basics

This book is easy to understand and a fully illustrated description of everything every driver, and the police, should know about traffic speed radar.

Police radars are not just point (at target) and click (transmit) devices. There are some basic setup limitations and operating procedures that must be observed. Too often procedures are not properly followed in order to save a little time or hide from motorists, resulting in speed errors.

This book details radar types and operating modes, proper use and test (including the widely misunderstood tuning fork test), limitations, calibration records, and how Doppler radar works.

Anyone that operates a police radar should already understand everything presented. However, far too many operators don't remember or don't use what they were taught in radar training.

Page Count: 66
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Color: Full Color

Book | Kindle

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Photo Radar NOT Ready for Prime Time

Photo radar angles the beam across-the-road unlike standard down the road police radar.  Standard down-the-road radar receives a nice clean reflection.  A vehicle in an angled beam reflects a sloppy spread out reflection due to the cosine effect.   Additionally the rotating wheels add to an already excessive unsymmetrical reflection.

Across the road data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST Technical Note 1398, May 1998. K band radar, Vehicle traveling at 20 mph.

Larger vehicles have a greater spread than smaller vehicles, The faster a vehicle is traveling the greater the reflection spread. The larger the wheels the greater the spread.  Hub cap shape is another factor that contributes to the spread. Vehicle size, shape, speed, wheel diameter and hub cap shape are all factors that determine reflection magnitude and spread.

Photo radar measures relatively close targets, vehicle reflections are relatively strong.  If the receiver sensitivity, range control, is set too sensitive it will be operating in the nonlinear receiver region. The spread out spectrum will generate multiple false signals in the nonlinear region and produce high false speed readings.  

The harmonic problem is common to all receivers and well understood, but difficult to predict.  There is very little empirical data on vehicle reflections from angles photo radar operates. This lack of data makes photo radar unreliable for speed measurements.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Case of the 129 mph Motorcycles

Last November I was hired to consult on a case where three motorcycles were accused of traveling 129 mph in a 55 mph zone.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia 74 mph above the speed limit is a serious offense, trials take place in criminal court.  There were only two defendants because one of the motorcycles did not stop for police.  The police eventually found out who he was but chose not to go after him, two out of three ain't bad.   The same attorney represented both defendants and both were tried at the same time with a jury.  The defendants were looking at a heavy fine, jail time, and driver's license suspension. The defendants license's were automatically suspended when arrested, about 6 months and counting.

The police officer's notes and both defendant's agreed on the general circumstances.  The three motorcycles were traveling on a six lane highway, three lanes each direction.  There was a a 45 foot grass medium between opposite direction traffic.  Shortly after the motorcycles came around a curve they spotted the patrol vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.  One of the motorcycles bolted just after spotting the police.  The patrol car just happened to be approaching a medium crossover shortly after the radar registered a 129 mph reading and made a u-turn to go after the motorcycles, one got away.

The attorney did a good job supplying me with documents, both sides account of the event and the exact location.  Aerial maps were good enough to get accurate estimates of distances, positions, angles, and timeline.  There was enough data to run a radar simulator model to reconstruct events and predict radar performance.  The model showed it was highly unlikely the radar had time to get a reading, cosine effect limitations at close range being the main factor.  The numbers showed at most the radar had 0.3 seconds to get one reading - not enough to be considered reliable.  Many localities require a minimum track time of three to five seconds to be considered reliable. Based on the data and events I had no doubt in my mind the motorcycles were not traveling anywhere near 129 mph.

While preparing for trial I asked for any patrol car dash camera video to tighten up the data runs.  Video was available but the prosecution was having trouble locating it. Two days before the trial the prosecutor emailed a copy of the video to the defense attorney, but he never received it.  The morning of the trial with less than an hour to start the prosecutor admitted she inadvertently emailed the video to herself.  We were finally able to view the video just before the trial started.  The first thing I noticed was the video did not have any information overlaid on the display, radar patrol and traffic speed readings, date, time tags, patrol vehicle number and such.

What actually happened was right around the point the computer model predicted the radar could get one speed reading, one of the three motorcycles bolted, the one that got away.  The acceleration was impressive and explains the 129 mph momentary false speed reading, it was speed batching or bumping.  All moving mode radars are susceptible to speed batching/bumping, caused by a sudden change in speed.  If the speed change is fast enough speed batching causes measured speed to be two or three times greater than actual for a brief moment.  In this case the motorcycles were most likely traveling at 65 mph when one of the motorcycles punched it hard.

The trial starts and even before jury selection the judge makes it clear he is in a hurry.  He restates this several times throughout the trial, it was a Friday and he had another trial that day.  The prosecutor sandbagging, missing data on the video, and the hurry up judge were omens of things to come.

As a matter of standard procedure I suggested to the defense attorney to question the officer about testing the radar with tuning forks.  My experience has shown this is misunderstood among many officers.  In court the officer showed how she held the tuning fork when testing, it was wrong.  Additionally the results the officer got when testing moving mode could not have resulted from the resonances of the forks being used.  This suggest the radar was not tested with tuning forks.

When it came time for my testimony the prosecutor questioned my expertise, standard procedure and fully expected.  The prosecutor finally admitted I was a radar expert, but not a police radar expert.  The judge disallowed my testimony.  When I asked the judge if I could testify as a knowledgeable witness he calmly said I should sit down.  This situation was somewhat ironic as every law library in Virginia has a copy of "Defense of Serious Traffic Offenses in Virginia" published by Virginia CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Publications in which I wrote Chapter 6 - Technical Defenses in Speed-Related Cases.

Things went down hill after that.  The jury was able to watch the video in court, but not all of them had a good view of the laptop screen and they only saw it once.  During deliberation the jury asked to view the video again, the judge said they had to go on what they saw in court.  The jury found the defendants guilty, but imposed a much smaller fine than expected, no jail time, and no loss or suspension of driver license.  It was still a high price for traveling 10 mph over the speed limit.  The net result is the motorcyclists, not the one that ran from police, came out far better than they otherwise would have without a technical expert on their side.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

$1000 Fine for Flashing Headlights

Ellisville, just west of St. Louis, tickets motorists who flash their headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a speed trap.  Get caught and pay $1000 fine.  The practice is said to be so widespread the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit to stop the citations.  Ellisville officials claim flashing lights is obstruction of justice and interferes with the prosecution.  The ACLU claims it is free speech to communicate to drivers to slow down.  The ACLU is also asking for others to contact them if their community tickets for flashing headlights.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Police Radar Handbook explains Wrongful Speeding Tickets

Did you ever get a radar or lidar speeding ticket even though you weren't speeding, chances are the officer was not properly setup. The officer was not measuring you but a different vehicle or a false alarm. In many cases the radar was setup in a way it could not possibly measure your vehicle. I see numerous instances of improper radar/lidar use on a regular basic.

Microwave radars measure the strongest vehicle reflection, not always the closest vehicle. Microwave radars have sensitive receivers, nearby transmitters and high power sources can induce false signals and false speed readings. Moving mode radar has multiple sources for incorrect speed readings that depends on traffic close to the radar and reflective stationary objects, like guardrails, close to the radar.

Lidars can produce a false reading if the target vehicle is greater than about 500 feet.  At closer ranges the narrow beam must be aimed at the same vehicle surface or risk a speed error from 1 to 25 mph. Additionally lidars will produce a false speed reading by scanning the ground, no moving targets required.

The  Police Radar Handbook, released March 2013, has the answers as to why you might have received that undeserved citation. The book explains proper radar and lidar use, and results of improper use.  In many instances errors are predictable knowing just the general setup.

The Police Radar Handbook is available in Print and Kindle editions.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Police Radar Operator Error

Police Radar Operator Error explains everything a police officer running radar should, but doesn't always, know or remember to practice. Not following basic procedures can and does lead to mistakes and errors. Once you read this book many mistakes (misuse) will become obvious.

It's easy to recognize improper radar or lidar use by first understanding basic operational procedures. Learn about microwave and laser radar limitations, errors, and misinterpretation of readings resulting from improper use or a lack of understanding.

Microwave and laser radars are precision instruments that accurately measure speed - when used properly, as designed.  Design constraints limit how the radar or lidar should be located and used. Some police operate outside design limits unknowingly or to hide from motorist, resulting in unreliable readings easy to misinterpret.

This book includes a basic description of microwave and laser radars, and their differences. Correct setup procedures are explained, and results when protocol is not followed. Results vary from speed errors to mis-identified vehicles. Many errors are predictable knowing just the general setup.

Victims of microwave radar or laser radar (lidar), and police, will appreciate the easy to follow and understand information not found in radar or lidar user manuals or specifications.

Print Edition
eBook (Kindle) Edition

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Police Radar Handbook Editions

Print and eBook (Kindle) editions of the "Police Traffic SPEED RADAR Handbook" Web site ( are now available.  The print edition contains over 200 pages, all editions have over 80 illustrations / diagrams / graphs and 50 tables (see Preview Edition).

Purchase Online:
- Print Edition ($ 29.99 + shipping)
eBook  Kindle Edition ($ 9.99)
Web Site Password  ($ 9.95)

Available at Amazon and better book stores.