Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Dayton, Ohio Red Light Cameras Exploit Short Yellows
Dayton, Ohio's red light cameras have generated more than $8 million over the past two years. Many of the $85 automated tickets are issued at intersections where the yellow signal warning times fall short of the minimum allowed under state law. In 2008, Governor Ted Strickland (D) signed House Bill 30 into law, requiring yellow times to be one second longer at any intersection where a red light camera was installed. Lawmakers were following the lead of Georgia which had adopted the first of its kind longer yellow law a month earlier. A few cities, including Atlanta, were caught attempting to ignore Georgia's then-new law, which produced an 80 percent reduction in violations in compliant cities. Ohio's signal timing statute requires photo enforced intersections to have yellow durations one second longer than "similar" intersections in the city. Since the minimum yellow timing under federal regulations is 3.0 seconds, any time shorter than 4.0 seconds is automatically in violation of the law. Cities were given until March 12, 2009 to comply with the directive. Dayton has failed to do so. According to documents provided by the city, the yellow time at the intersection of West Third Street and James H. McGee Boulevard is 4.6 seconds -- only a 0.6 increase from the amount of warning time given before 2008. The left turn signal, however, is below the 4.0 second minimum at just 3.5 seconds. The signal timings are identical at North Main Street and Hillcrest Avenue; Salem Avenue and North Avenue; and Troy Street and Stanley Avenue (with Troy Street kept shortened to 4.0 seconds). State law is explicit in requiring longer yellows in turn lanes. "A local authority that uses traffic law photo-monitoring devices to enforce any traffic law at an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals that exhibit different colored lights or colored lighted arrows shall time the operation of the yellow lights and yellow arrows of those traffic control signals so that the steady yellow indication exceeds by one second the minimum duration for yellow indicators at similar intersections as established by the provisions of the manual adopted by the department of transportation under section 4511.09 of the Revised Code," Ohio Revised Code 4511.094 states. In a review of signal timing throughout the state, most other cities applied the same duration of yellow to the straight-through lanes and the turning lanes. Dayton may also be in violation for failing to add a full second at intersections compared to the yellow durations before the law took effect. Each fraction of a second difference in yellow time can have a significant influence on the number of red light camera citations issued. The majority of straight-through red light "violations" happen when a driver misjudges the end of the yellow light by less than 0.25 seconds -- literally the blink of an eye (view Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) chart). In most cases, a yellow shortened by one second can increase the number of tickets issued by 110 percent, according to TTI (view report).
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Supreme Court Investigates Police K-9 Sniffs
Motoring issues are on the US Supreme Court;s agenda this term. On Monday, the justices heard oral arguments in Heien v. North Carolina, weighing the question of whether a traffic stop is invalid if the cop gets the law wrong. Last Thursday, the court also announced it would take up the issue of drug dog sniffs during traffic stops. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a four-page decision finding Dennys Rodriguez guilty of having more than 50 grams of methamphetamine in his car. Rodriguez had been stopped around midnight on March 27, 2012 on Highway 275 in Valley, Nebraska. Officer Morgan Struble saw his car briefly swerve onto the shoulder and back. When he approached from the passenger side of the vehicle, Officer Struble smelled air fresheners and noted the passenger, Scott Pollman, was nervous. Rodriguez and the passenger were quizzed about the purpose of their trip, but Officer Struble was not satisfied by the story that they were going to buy a Ford Mustang in Omaha, so he gave Rodriguez a warning ticket and asked if his drug dog could sniff the vehicle. Rodriguez said no about 19 minutes into the stop. Rodriguez was then ordered out of the vehicle and told to wait for backup to arrive. At about 29 minutes into the stop, the dog alerted. A subsequent search turned up a bag of meth. Rodriguez moved to have the evidence suppressed because the delay in waiting for the dog was unreasonable, making it a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The three-judge appellate panel disagreed. "Although the dog was located in the patrol car, Struble waited to employ it until a second officer arrived, explaining that he did so for his safety because there were two persons in Rodriguez's vehicle," the appellate panel ruled. "The resulting seven- or eight-minute delay is similar to the delay that we have found to be reasonable in other circumstances. We thus conclude that it constituted a de minimis intrusion on Rodriguez's personal liberty." Because Rodriguez cannot afford to pay for a full defense, the Supreme Court waived the customary filing fees in accepting his case. A copy of the Eighth Circuit decision is available in a 140k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: US v. Rodriguez (US Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 1/31/2014)
Monday, October 06, 2014
Ohio Supreme Court Questions Breathalyzer Accuracy
Breathalyzer machines are frequently the primary evidence in cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The laws are written to make driving with a certain percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream the crime, as opposed to driving recklessly, so that the numeric readout on the machine essentially determines guilt. The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that when blood alcohol content is tested with the Intoxilyzer 8000, the accused are entitled to the full details of how the device produces that readout. A unanimous high court found that the breath test readings used against Daniel Ilg could not be used in court because the Ohio Department of Health refused to reveal the inner workings of the Intoxilyzer 8000. Ilg was pulled over on October 22, 2011 after he crashed into a fence and a pole on Beekman Street in Cincinnati. Officer Terry Jacobs arrested him and measured 0.14 on the Intoxilyzer 8000, not quite double the legal 0.08 limit. To defend himself, Ilg filed a discovery request seeking all the information available about the breath testing machine, including maintenance and service records. The most contentious element of the request was for the COBRA database that the Ohio Department of Health maintains, listing details of every breath test performed throughout the state. The department refused to hand it over, even after a lower court just ordered it to do so. The judge sanctioned the city by suppressing the breath test evidence against Ilg, and Cincinnati appealed. Cincinnati cited the state law that prohibits DUI defendants from making general attacks on the scientific validity of any breath test approved by the director of the heath department as justification for its refusal to comply. The justices were not impressed by this reasoning. "The director's approval of the Intoxilyzer 8000 does not preclude an accused from challenging the accuracy, competence, admissibility, relevance, authenticity, or credibility of specific tests results at issue in a pending case," Justice Terrence O'Donnell wrote for the court. "Nothing in either the relevant statutes or our caselaw precludes an accused from attacking the accuracy, competence, admissibility, relevance, authenticity, or credibility of the specific breath-test result rendered by an Intoxilyzer 8000. In this case, the COBRA data that Ilg sought in the subpoena expressly targeted evidence related solely to the Intoxilyzer 8000 that the city used to perform his breath test." The city offered no evidence that the COBRA database information would not have contained evidence relevant to Ilg's testing, while Ilg had an expert witness who offered evidence that the information was relevant. "Here, neither the statute nor our caselaw precludes Ilg from showing that the Intoxilyzer 8000 that tested his breath provided an inaccurate result, and he is entitled to discovery of relevant evidence to support his claim that the Intoxilyzer 8000 machine used to test him failed to operate properly," Justice O'Connor concluded. A copy of the decision is available in a 65k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Cincinnati v. Ilg (Ohio Supreme Court, 10/1/2014)
Sunday, October 05, 2014
France, Germany, Italy, UK: Speed Cameras Disabled and Destroyed
A speed camera in St. Restitut, France was set on fire yesterday. According to Le Dauphine, the automated ticketing machine had just been installed three days earlier on the D59. On Monday, a speed camera failed to prevent an accident with a big-rig truck in Bassussarry. According to Sud Ouest, the truck slammed into the automated ticketing machine and spilled diesel fuel onto the road. In Pau, five of the city's seven speed cameras have been disabled, La Republique des Pyrenees reported. The camera at the intersection of Avenue Alfred Nobel and the Boulevard of Peace had its lenses smashed to pieces. Paint was used to disable the remaining devices at the Avenue Jean-Mermoz, Rue Jean-Geneze, Boulevard Alsace-Lorraine and Rue d'Etigny. In Toulon, officials discovered on Tuesday that an ant colony made a new home in a speed camera on the A57 near the Leo Lagrange stadium, causing 20,000 euros (US $25,0000) in damage to the automated ticketing machine. The same thing happened previously to the camera on the A570, Var Martin reported. In Saint-Gratien on Monday, a speed camera on the RD919 was completely gutted with a sledgehammer, Courrier Picard reported. In Rolleboise, vigilantes used red spraypaint to cover the lenses of the speed camera on the D113 on Thursday, according to Le Parisien In Verona, Italy, vigilantes knocked over a speed camera for the second time on Tuesday. According to Verona Sera, the bright orange "VeloOK" automated ticketing machine was ripped out of the ground and tossed to the side of the street, repeating what had happened at the same location in mid-September. In Trier, Germany, vigilantes disabled a speed camera on the Lowenbreckener Strasse on Wednesday, the Trierischer Volksfreund reported. The device was also set up to issue automated tickets to vehicles passing for having a noisy exhaust, but the pole-mounted radar unit was twisted so that it failed to produce usable readings. Vigilantes torched a speed camera in Essex, England on Monday. The Essex Echo reported that firefighters responded to the scene on High Street in Hockley at around 1:20am.
Friday, October 03, 2014
California Governor Vetoes Anti-Motorist Bills
California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday vetoed a number of bills opposed by motoring groups, including the National Motorists Association. Brown agreed that measures increasing various penalties against drivers were unnecessary. He also signed bills that, as an unintended side effect, will make it tougher for red light camera companies to continue business as usual. Assembly Bill 1646 would have applied a license point and raised insurance rates for drivers who receive a ticket for using a cell phone while behind the wheel. The proposal passed by an overwhelming 32 to 3 vote in the state Senate and 66 to 13 in the Assembly with the enthusiastic support of insurance companies State Farm, Liberty Mutual and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California, all of which would have seen increased profits had the measure become law. Brown was not persuaded. "I certainly support taking reasonable steps to curb cell phone use and texting while driving, but I don't believe this bill is necessary at this time to achieve that goal," the governor wrote in his veto message. "I'm instructing the Department of Motor Vehicles to add a question about the dangers of using a communication device on the driver license exam. Additionally, the department is beginning a review and analysis of data on distracted driving in California. Let's wait to see the results before enacting a law requiring a violation point." Assembly Bill 1532 would have taken existing hit and run law and added special enhanced penalties if a pedestrian or bicyclist was involved. The measure was promoted by more than twenty cycling and walking lobbying organizations. "California has a very extensive set of criminal laws and penalties," Brown explained. "This measure would create a new crime that includes a fine and penalty assessments up to $4231 and possible jail time of six months. I don't find sufficient justification for creating a new crime when no injury to person or property occurred. I think current law is adequate." He vetoed a similar Assembly Bill 2398 creating special fines for injuring "vulnerable road users," which also included pedestrians and bicyclists, but would not apply if a passenger or driver of another car was injured. "This measure adds a new moving violation to the Vehicle Code with fines and penalties up to $1361," Brown said. "I think current laws are sufficient." Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 2673, which would have prohibited the victim of a hit-and-run accident to settle the case out-of-court, avoiding a costly legal battle. "With trial courts facing severe backlogs, I am not inclined to eliminate a means for parties to settle their disputes outside the criminal court system," Brown said. Red light camera companies will not be pleased by several bills that Brown did sign into law. Both American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Redflex Traffic Systems face the prospect of paying former employees and contractors millions as a result of the state's interpretation of the prevailing wage law. Instead of limiting the definition, Brown signed bills to extend the reach of prevailing wage. He also signed a bill that would essentially force the companies to hire former convicts if they apply for jobs installing red light cameras. Redflex is currently under federal investigation over allegations from a former company executive that it bribed public officials in thirteen states, including California. The firm will not be pleased that Assembly Bill 1666 passed, doubling the penalties for state and local officials who accept a bribe.