December 6, 2004 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Photo-Blocker - For those who are tired of obeying basic traffic laws. (via)
posted by buriednexttoyou (29 comments total)
I call for a round-up of every guy-runs-red-light-hits-and-kills-pedestrian video on the internet.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 4:48 PM on December 6, 2004

100% Gauranteed.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:56 PM on December 6, 2004

that's bs, there is a flash used in this photo, look at her sunglasses. This would explain the miraculous photo-blocker.
posted by petri at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2004

Well of course there is a flash. This stuff is retro-reflective paint, which reflects light directly back to the source. In camera applications, this "blinds" the camera.

Wholly illegal in British Columbia, and I wouldn't be upset if there were harsh laws, ie. loss of vehicle, if the law is broken. When it comes to traffic safety, I'm pretty much supportive of anything that makes it less likely that I get hurt by the rotten drivers out there.

Personally, I'm keenly awaiting laser-cannon technology to advance to the point that an entire car can be vapourized with no collateral damage to surrounding traffic.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:14 PM on December 6, 2004

"Personally, I'm keenly awaiting laser-cannon technology to advance to the point that an entire car can be vapourized with no collateral damage to surrounding traffic."

If only Tesla had finished his deathray. One can only dream of the possibilities. *sigh*
posted by buriednexttoyou at 5:33 PM on December 6, 2004

This calls for a photoshop job on the 'after' picture. I want to see some sideswipe marks and a few teeth in the front grille! Red light cameras are soo ghey...
posted by anthill at 5:54 PM on December 6, 2004

In AZ, or at least Phoenix, the police have said that such devices (currently legal), only make it *easier* to photgraph the plate.

Yeah. Right.
posted by Ayn Marx at 6:07 PM on December 6, 2004

No Pepsi Blue yet?
posted by BradNelson at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2004

No Pepsi Blue yet?

posted by mr_roboto at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2004

i bet a crack for this is just about ready for mass consumption
posted by clubmedia at 8:10 PM on December 6, 2004

Great. I wonder if it blocks the cops from getting the license number off the plate lodged in my sternum after the red-light runner nails me.

I hate scofflaws.

(OK, I just wanted to use the word "scofflaw" today)
posted by NorthernSky at 9:16 PM on December 6, 2004

Good enough reason for me, NorthernSky! Scofflaw. Scofflaw. Great word.

First thing I found when I googled scofflaw (there it is again, this is far more use than I could expect out of this word on a normal day) was Anti-Scofflaw Regulation.

Ok, this is all far too amusing, I must be very tired. Sorry for the momentary derail.
posted by Stunt at 10:26 PM on December 6, 2004

Tired of obeying traffic laws? I kinda feel like I'm just getting into fully understanding and complying with them. But thanks! I'll keep this web page, uh... how do you kids say it? Dog-eared?
posted by scarabic at 11:05 PM on December 6, 2004

I'd imagine lots of people don't find themselves in this situation often, but imagine you're driving at 4am with absolutely nobody on the roads. Imagine hitting timed light after timed light, and wasting half your travel time even though there is literally nobody around for these lights to direct. And of course, you still have to wait for them, as they'll photograph you if you don't.
posted by mek at 12:22 AM on December 7, 2004

There's a crossing on my way to work where drivers regularly run the red light. I've nearly been levelled a couple of times, and last month, in this same place, I had the pleasure of having to pass an ambulance crew clustered around a seriously injured accident victim.

Things like this are irresponsible at best, and at worst they show a flagrant disregard for human life.
So yeah. Imagine you're driving at 4am with nobody on the roads.
posted by seanyboy at 12:42 AM on December 7, 2004

anthill, you're entirely correct with the photoshopping - I've seen cops do demonstrations with products like this, and they always manage to reveal the license plate. And anyhow, isn't "Photo Blocker" just a rebranded can of hair spray?
posted by shoez at 1:07 AM on December 7, 2004

mek: Where are you going in such a hurry at 4 am?
posted by rusty at 7:47 AM on December 7, 2004

but imagine you're driving at 4am with absolutely nobody on the roads. Imagine hitting timed light after timed light, and wasting half your travel time even though there is literally nobody around for these lights to direct.


I would further mock you, but it isn't worth the effort. If you are so stupid as to think that the inconvenience of red lights is so terrible as to warrant spending money and time to illegally shield your license plate from red-light cameras, I doubt there's much anyone can do to convince you to grow up. Life in society is all about compromises, sometimes to benefit you, sometimes to benefit others. Something to keep in mind next time you blow a 4am red light because you don't think there's anyone dressed in black stumbling their way home from the pub.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 AM on December 7, 2004

The larger flaw with red light cameras seems to be that they can't tell who's driving. Can they? Not at night, certainly. So how can they possibly issue a ticket if they don't know who to send it to? They just take a guess. It seems to me a mockery of the whole concept of justice.

Automated law enforcement sucks. Sure, it does little practical harm and maybe some substantial good. But it's so conceptually ugly that I have to say it's a bad idea. So, I hope somebody comes up with a "Photo-Blocker" that works.
posted by sfenders at 10:09 AM on December 7, 2004

Send it to the registered owner, and let that person figure out who's on the hook for it. It isn't like one lends his car out to total strangers.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:21 PM on December 7, 2004

Err, that's not how it's supposed to work, is it? Let the accused figure out who gets a traffic ticket? Why not simply let people report their own violations, then? Sure, it isn't an insoluble problem. I suspect, and I have heard some anecdotes in support, that it's largely solved in practice by quickly dismissing any ticket that gets challenged. Meaning that payment of machine-issued traffic tickets is largely voluntary, though with a significant cost in time and money if you want to get out of it.

But that has no bearing on the main cause for my dislike of the thing, which is that it strikes me as morally and legally improper. I don't mean that it contravenes any law, but that it subverts the basis on which law is founded. It's like throwing out a bunch of half-assed charges without much evidence, and if half of them stick call it a success. The legal "collateral damage" that results has to be substantial. Although there is always going to be some of that, removing all human judgement and discresion from the issuance of charges seems too blatant an endorsement of a system where it is routine. Much like that RIAA computer program that went around filing lawsuits against anyone hosting a file with "madonna" or whatever in the name, it is a contemptible abuse of the legal system.

Then there is the fact that having these cameras about further conditions people to accept the idea of license-plate recording cameras as normal. Thirty years from now, they'll probably be on every street corner. We're rapidly building a world where 1) it's impossible to get around many places without driving, and 2) you give up any pretense of privacy when you drive a car. Although it seems inevitable, what with automated toll roads, people paying for cars with GPS tracking, ODB-III, and cameras everywhere, I think I'll continue to be part of the minority who find this trend distasteful and unfortunate.
posted by sfenders at 1:25 PM on December 7, 2004

The automobile death toll is so high that I am willing to put up with almost anything that furthers my personal safety. The biggest risk any of us take on a regular basis is to get in a car.

It pisses me off to no end that my safety is continually compromised by the poor driving habits of others. It also pisses me off that in order to remove those idiots, we're going to have to invade my privacy.

Nonetheless, I'm ready to accept it, because it will greatly improve my chances of survival. Half of all automobile accidents are multi-vehicle, and ten percent of all automobile accidents are due to failure to yield right-of-way. One has about a 1:80 chance of dying in a car. I'd rather see it at 1:1000.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:34 PM on December 7, 2004

Your safety is your responsibility. Any panopticon type technological solution will be used by law enforcement for applications other than the one advertised here. I'm for the paint.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:42 PM on December 7, 2004

The more you're paying attention as a driver, the less any change in others' behaviour due to red light cameras is going to affect you. The kind of person who would be the most dangerous is also the least likely to be deterred. And I like to slow down a bit and look both ways before going through a green light, or any intersection. Hard to quantify that, but training everyone how to do it would be about a zillion times more effective than putting cameras everywhere.

Altruistic concern for others' safety seems a more plausible motive. There are greater gains to be had elsewhere, but making people on average slightly less likely to hurt themselves does seem like a good thing. Plainly, that sort of thing can be taken too far, and my instinctive dislike for camera surveillance and sci-fi automated legal systems puts red light cameras way over on the far side of too far, for me. I can see why they're popular though. Pretty hard to argue against "safety" these days.
posted by sfenders at 4:53 PM on December 7, 2004

My safety can not be solely my responsibility when on the road. I can not control nor absolutely predict others' behaviours. There is only so much one can do to protect oneself.

If monitoring devices cause people to drive with the flow instead of engaging in fighter pilot maneuvers, I am safer. If monitoring devices cause people to respect yellow lights instead of treating them as go-faster lights, I am safer. That's important to me, and far more important to me than any "spying" that reveals no more about my driving habits than standing on the corner would reveal.

I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to my privacy. I get downright irate with giving personal information to salesdroids, I am suspicious of my ISP, I have requested to see various files kept by my doctor, my employer, etcetera.

Yet on this one issue, I'm prepared to give up my notions of privacy and privilege.

Mind you, I'm also coming at this with knowledge of how the systems work in British Columbia: namely, that red light cameras only take a picture if you blow a red light, not a yellow; do not take a picture otherwise; are installed only where traffic analysis studies indicate a problem with red-light running; and the monies are entirely dedicated to the upkeep of existing and installation of new cameras. It has made a big difference to the two intersections that are equipped in my town.

I also very much liked our photo radar system back in its day. A plainclothes car and cop would sit at the side of the road and the camera would take pictures only of those vehicles travelling well beyond the speed of the majority traffic flow. The result was wonderful: people mostly drove within a narrow range of speeds, such that there wasn't excessive passing.

And in this neck of the woods excessive speed is a big problem: on a 90kmh strip between the two bigger town I am now regularly passed by vehicles doing in excess of 120kmh. That's a huge differential, and very dangerous. Photo radar had solved that problem, but cancellation of the program has brought it back worse than ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:37 PM on December 7, 2004

I came up with an idea that *will* defeat these cameras. Although it probably isn't legal.

Print up some licence sized bumper stickers. Write random text in regular license plate print on them, and perhaps even surround them with the necessary adornments for your province. Now, stick those on various parts of the back end of your vehicle. You would probably be smart to move your present license to your back window and place a good quality sticker where your licence plate was.

Now, the question is, which is the camera going to auto-recognize? The "licence" that's easy to read, or the real on on an angle in the back window? :-D

fff, numerous times I have seen these red light cameras snap photos of people who made a SMART decision by running the red light. The fact is that in Canada we get REALLY poor weather at times and even the light application of brakes for the yellow can send your car into a tailspin which could send you headlong into the other side of the road. Suggesting they should drive at a speed which is safe is a dumb answer -- in weather like we get there is no speed except 0 that would NOT cause your car to spin in the right conditions. Furthermore trying to go at a "safe" speed ensures a red light ticket, since you will be travelling at less than 1/3 the normal pace of traffic, meaning you would be able to enter an intersection on green, and not complete travelling through it before it was red.

It has also been shown that in the US in jurisdictions using these cameras that some places will lower the time the intersection is all red (the "safety time" during which an intersection should clear of all traffic) causing further accidents. Also, some jurisdictions even lower the length of a yellow light, forcing emergency stops.

This is why we have police officers make the small calls. Their brains say "Yeah, it's really dumb to give that guy a ticket. He's just trying to not kill people. Seems good with me." whereas a camera just says "GET HIM!"

Fortunately, when my dad last blew a red light like this, the officer that pulled him over was happy to warn him that he should now know about the hill before this light and anticipate it in the future. Lucky for him there was no court case necessary, because the police officer was intelligent enough to understand some things are beyond the control of a human.

That's a huge differential, and very dangerous.

Absolutely, fff. You should not drive against the flow of traffic. You are causing the danger. I strongly reccomend you take a non-government sponsored Driver's Education course, such as young drivers, in which you will be told the extreme danger of what you are doing.

Photo radar had solved that problem, but cancellation of the program has brought it back worse than ever.

Unlikely. I was driving at 125 km/h in an 80 zone where most drivers drive at my speed. A cruiser tailed me, pulled me over, and told me that's a bit fast. I received no ticket. If photo radar is overriding what a human police officer considers a safe speed then it is flawed. That's why we outlawed it.

Furthermore, fff, I can *prove* photo-radar has nothing to do with safety. The premier of Ontario himself admitted that it provides absolutely no safety benefits and, rather, is nothing more than a money making scam which he intends to re-implement at his earliest convenience. Seriously. Here's the quote:
"I have long been a supporter of photo radar," the premier told reporters on his way into a cabinet meeting. "It's a revenue generator, absolutely."
Absolutely, you are right, minister. It is absolutely a revenue generator.

To whit, at one point there was a great site on the internet detailing the speed on the 401 (North America's most busy highway, and, in fact, the only highway I know of where EVERY SINGLE TRAVELLER breaks the speed limit -- there was a test done to prove this) before and after photo radar. The speed difference was negligible, to say the least. I believe it was between a 1 - 3 km/h difference, which, considering the calibration abilities of the equipment, could, in fact, simply be an error in the speed reporting devices themselves (the manufacturers regularly admit at least a 2% variance from calibration to actual speed measured).

Lastly, if you'd like to check Ontario's ORSAR report, you'll find speeding is one of the least likely causes for accidents. You'll note something else very interesting: The very day known for the most slow drivers, "Sunday Drivers" is the 3rd most likely day for someone to be killed by a car. Yet "Manic Monday" is the 2nd least likely day to be killed.

To really drive the point home, you'll also note how the misnomer "rush" hour is the peak time to be killed in a car accident. Yet, from my experience, rush hour is slowest driving period!

Other exciting facts: Municipal roads, generally the slowest roads in Ontario sport the most deaths.

Did you also know that these red light cameras, at best (as in the work absolutely perfectly and NEVER cause someone to run a red light again, ever), could only reduce fatal collisions by only 16% (Only 8.9% away from fatal collisions on personal driveways)? 61.4% of fatal collisions are not related to intersections whatsoever.

We also now enjoy the lowest collision rate ever in Ontario, far lower than when we had Photo Radar. With Photo Radar one could expect a collision within 333 333 Kkm. Without Photo Radar one could expect a collision within 500 000 km.

Now, I just want to mention one more fact that will probably blow your mind, but it's right there and you are welcome to calculate it for yourself:

1.6% of all collisions in Ontario were caused by speeding. 1.6%. Yes, you heard me, 1.6%. Work it out for yourself. Apart from driving too slowly or improper lane changes it is the LEAST likely cause of an accident in Ontario.

The most likely cause of a collision in Ontario is following too closely, at 18%. Disobeying traffic controls is 8.5%, a far 7 th on the list of accident causations.

I am with Benjamin Franklin on these cameras: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
posted by shepd at 6:49 PM on December 7, 2004

Uh-huh. As you well know, I can spin stats that will counter your every "fact." Additionally, you have no idea how things work in BC: far better than in Ontario, apparently, because "revenue generation" isn't a factor: municipalities don't control light timing, camera placement, nor do they OR the government get the revenue monies.

I will address one thing you say: I am not the hazard in the stretch of road I mentioned. There is a 10-minute section signed at 90kmh. Most of the traffic, including me, does 100-105kmh. Inevitably, a few percent -- perhaps six out of a hundred -- are blasting through at 120+kmh. They are the danger, not me and not my cadre of fellow travellers.

Actually, I'll address one other thing: winter driving. I live in interior BC: there is nothing but hazardous winter driving here in the winter. I live on a steep hill with 11% road grades and poorly maintained by the city. I regularly drive a narrow and exceptionally busy mountain road to get to the ski area. I've driven everything including black ice, whiteout blizzards, avalanche plow-throughs, -40c cold snaps, and aggro Christmas drivers over the Rockies. And what you say about getting a red light ticket for driving through at a safe speed is bullshit.

And hell, because I can't stop myself: don't presume to think that speeds in BC haven't increased since the cessation of photo radar. I drive these roads, not you, and I have consistently driven them at 10% over the speed limit for eons. I know what it was like before, during, and after photo radar.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2004

Of course, the real solution to the problem is to give me permission to mount a laser cannon on my car...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2004

The statistics on accidents in photo radar in Ontario are seriously weak, yeah. Some people tried so hard to prove it did some good, and they failed miserably. Still, I'm inclined to suspect that the results could well be different in BC. I lived in Toronto at the time of photo radar. I spent some time driving around the south half of Vancouver Island last year, and people there do drive differently. They mostly obey the speed limits, compared to Ontario. Tailgating is relatively rare. They seem generally more law-abiding. I'm not saying all of BC is like that, just that people will react differently to this stuff in different places. All a quick google search tells me is that it's not easy getting the real story on this kind of thing. There's so much bullshit on both sides.

I am still convinced that 90% of the appeal is perceived safety that has no basis in reality. It's just that other 10% that's in question, far as I'm concerned.

Still, it's good to hear someone say that photo radar did some good. It's reassuring to think that it may not be completely useless as well as inherently evil.

"spying" that reveals no more about my driving habits than standing on the corner would reveal.

That's a rather weak parody of the argument from privacy. An automated computer system to photograph cars is not the same thing as a guy standing at the side of the road photographing cars. Much like a postal network based on horses and riders is not the samething as the Internet.

the real solution to the problem is to give me permission to mount a laser cannon on my car...

Is there any specific law against a car-mounted laser cannon? I doubt it's been tested in court. Go for it, you've got my permission.
posted by sfenders at 9:52 PM on December 7, 2004

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