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NMA National Alert: Beware of E-ZPass Phishing Scheme

Posted on July 28th, 2014 in , , | Comments Off

Be on the lookout for an email that looks like this:
 

It looks like a legitimate email from E-ZPass, but it is a scam and should be disregarded. An alert NMA member in Ohio received this email and immediately told us about it. Tolling officials have also sounded the warning, telling drivers to delete email messages titled “In arrears for driving on toll road” or “Payment for driving on toll road.”
 
Such phishing messages are designed to get you to provide personal information which can be used to defraud you or steal your identity. If you have further questions regarding this issue, please contact your E-ZPass Customer Service Center.


NMA E-Newsletter #289: Legislative Interference with Transportation Planning

Posted on July 27th, 2014 in , , , , | Comments Off

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The states are experts at spending your money. Mind you, they don’t spend it efficiently or constructively, but boy can they spend it.

When we put together our Memorial Day rankings of the states by how they treat motorists, one of our primary evaluation categories—State Fiscal Responsibility—didn’t draw too many questions. But that was then and this is now.

The national dialog about how to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent (beyond some patchwork fixes by Congress) remains very active. Proponents of adjusting the fuel tax, instituting VMT (vehicle miles traveled) taxes, playing the float on pension funds, and otherwise trying to figure out how to shift money from one federal pocket to another are holding forth. But there is another aspect of the Highway Trust Fund equation that hasn’t been talked about much: How effectively are the states spending the money collected from road users?

Shortly after releasing our “Motorists Beware: Ranking the States That Treat You Worst” report, we promised you we would provide a closer look at the five evaluation categories that comprise the overall rankings: Legal Protections (20 points), Regulations (20 points), Enforcement Tactics (30 points), State Imposed Cost to Drive (15 points), and State Fiscal Responsibility (15 points). In this newsletter and continuing for the next two weeks, we will focus on that latter category.

Our evaluation of State Fiscal Responsibility encompassed three metrics, each worth up to 5 points: 1) legislative involvement in transportation planning, 2) restrictions of the uses of fees collected from road users, and 3) diversion of federal fuel tax revenues from true (roads and bridges) highway projects.

Today we’ll look at the first metric which, put less delicately, determines how much the political process is allowed to screw up highway project selection and spending. The NMA evaluation is based on the assumption that deliberative bodies cannot prioritize competing capital investment needs without the intrusion of political influence. This is Washington D.C. (and state capitol) 101. Answers supplied by state DOT officials to survey questions posed by AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and by NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) were used to determine our grades as follows, with 5 points being the best grade and 1 point the worst.  The survey was conducted in mid-2010; the answers were supplemented from various sources.

  • 5 points: Constitutional requirement for state DOT or commission oversight of program. Minimal legislative involvement.
  • 4 points: DOT or appointed commission approves program. Limited opportunities for legislative influence.
  • 3 points: Routine legislative involvement in program approval and project selection.
  • 2 points: Substantial legislative involvement. Legislature can heavily modify programs proposed by DOT.
  • 1 point: Legislative control of program with lawmakers picking projects.

Before presenting the NMA state grades for how much they allow the legislative process to dictate which transportation projects go forward, we offer two observations regarding the AASHTO/NCSL survey of state DOT officials:

  • Seventy-seven percent of those officials felt that the approved state transportation projects were done so on merit, but less than half of state legislators felt the same way.
  • The western states seem to have far stronger prohibition on legislative involvement with project programming. New England and the South seem to favor pork barreling.

How does your state rank?


NMA E-Newsletter #288: A Horse of a Different Color

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, was founded in 1901 to lobby for driver and passenger rights, fair laws, and safer vehicles. It has long since morphed into an insurance and financial services giant. If there is any doubt about that, check out its profile at Hoovers.com where AAA’s primary competitors are listed as American Express, Allstate and State Farm. Need further proof? By its own reckoning, AAA collects $8.5 billion in insurance premiums annually from its 50+ million members.

Nowhere is the difference between the interests of the driving public and the insurance industry better illustrated than by examining AAA public statements. The overall organization consists of several dozen semi-autonomous regional motor clubs that voice positions on key issues such as ticket cameras—mostly in favor of—and speed limit reform where their pronouncements are typically along the lines of slower is safer.

This was illustrated again recently when AAA Idaho released a statement that in effect said “not so fast” to the Idaho Transportation Department when the ITD announced, backed by a bill passed by the legislature and by its own traffic engineering studies, that it planned to raise the posted speed limits of stretches of Interstates 15, 84 and 86 from 75 to 80 mph on July 1st.

Such is the influence of AAA that the ITD backed off of its earlier commitment and said it would need more time to review the planned speed limit increase after AAA Idaho’s statements were released to the press. That triggered the following email exchange between NMA President Gary Biller and ITD Spokesperson Nathan Jerke:

June 25, 2014

Dear Mr. Jerke,

The National Motorists Association is a membership-based drivers’ rights organization that strongly supports speed limits that are based on the 85th percentile speed as determined from the study of actual traffic flow. We applaud ITD’s engineering-based decision to raise the limits on Interstates 15, 84, and 86 from 75 to 80 mph. Similar changes by other states such as Utah and Texas have resulted in greater compliance to the posted limit with no appreciable effect on safety statistics.

In an article published earlier today at magicvalley.com — http://magicvalley.com/news/local/state-moving-too-fast-with-higher-speed-limits-safety-advocates/article_d12fc016-af0e-55a2-a976-eb8ac7e025eb.html — a spokesperson from AAA Idaho raises questions as to the methodology used and even to the wisdom of raising the speed limit from a safety standpoint. You are quoted in the same article as noting that the engineering and traffic studies that substantiate the 5 mph increase in interstate speed limits have been performed. Can you please forward a copy of those studies to us at the NMA or provide a link to the information so that we can help educate the driving public and assure our Idaho members of the engineering soundness of the speed limit increase?

Thank you.

Gary Biller
~~~~~~~~

June 30, 2014

Dear Mr. Jerke,

My organization has noted the latest news that ITD will take additional time to review the speed studies before deciding on a speed limit increase. Certainly such a decision merits careful consideration. We have every confidence that if the speed studies on the referenced interstates were conducted such that the results are clear, then raising the speed limits to at least the nearest 5 mph over the 85th percentile speed will result in highway safety that is unaffected or even improved. The crash involvement vs. deviation from average speed study done by David Solomon in the 1960s (and reaffirmed by the research of Cirillo and of Stuster and Coffman in intervening years) is unequivocal in its determination that traveling at or a few mph above the average speed of traffic minimizes the risk of vehicular accidents. As noted previously, the states that raised their interstate highway speed limits in recent times to 80 and even 85 mph with support from traffic speed studies have seen the beneficial effects of such a change.

The National Motorists Association stands ready to offer public support for and assistance to the ITD for a speed limit increase justified by engineering analysis.

Gary Biller
~~~~~~~~

June 30, 2014

Mr. Biller,

Thank you for expressing the support of your organization for the raising of speed limits on the interstate highways. ITD is confident with the findings of the engineering and speed studies and we believe those conclusions will be carried with the concurrence of the Idaho Transportation Board at its next scheduled meeting in July. If the speed limit changes are approved, ITD staff will carry through with the increase as directed.

I apologize for not replying to your email last week. At your request, ITD is preparing the engineering documents to be posted on a web site and we will make it publically available when it is prepared. I am also forwarding your comments to the Board for consideration.

Thank you again for the support of the NMA. If you have any other questions or comments, please feel free to contact me again,

Nathan Jerke
ITD, District 4

The NMA comments were submitted to the Idaho Transportation Board for review along with those from AAA Idaho and others such as the Idaho Trucking Association. The Board’s unanimous conclusion? Proceed with the 80 mph limits for rural interstates in the southern portion of the state as justified by ITD’s studies.

This is a victory for motorists in Idaho. Logic and proven traffic engineering principles don’t always trump mega-financial interests. In this case they did.


NMA E-Newsletter #287: 2014 Second Quarter Legislative Update

Posted on July 13th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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The NMA continues to advocate for motorists’ rights at the national, state and local level. Legislatures across the country took up a broad range of motorists’ issues in the second quarter of 2014. Here’s a brief summary of the driving-related issues we addressed.

California

Supported Senate Bill 893 which would strengthen privacy protections pertaining to the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) to record and maintain license plate data. After passing through two Senate committees, the bill died in the full Senate.

Opposed Senate Bill 1077 which would implement mileage-based user fees by requiring various transportation agencies in the state to implement a pilot program designed to “explore various methods for using a mileage-based fee (MBF) to replace the state’s existing fuel excise tax.” The bill passed the Senate and is now under consideration in the House Appropriations Committee.

Colorado

Supported Senate Bill 14-181 which would repeal the use of red-light cameras throughout the state. The bill passed through the Senate but died in the House Appropriations Committee.

Florida

Opposed House Bill 7005 as amended which would prohibit motorists from having red-light camera cases heard in county traffic court. Instead, drivers would have to fight their cases in administrative hearings, which are nothing more than kangaroo courts inherently unfair to motorists. A companion bill was ultimately passed and signed into law.

Supported Senate Bill 392 which would allow speed limits of up to 75 mph on Florida’s interstate highways. The bill passed both houses but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Scott with pressure from the AAA. Click here to read a NMA-written op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel on this issue.

Illinois

Opposed House Bill 4632 which would allow cities outside of Chicago to implement speed camera programs. Action is pending in the House Rules Committee. Click here to read a NMA-written op-ed piece on speed cameras from The Illinois Business Journal.

Missouri

Opposed House Bill 1557 which would legalize and legitimize red-light cameras. The bill passed the House and is awaiting further action in the Senate.

New York

Opposed Assembly Bill 10144 which would lower the speed limit in New York City from 30 mph to 25 mph. The bill passed both houses, and Gov. Cuomo is expected to sign it into law. The bill is part of a larger package of measures (Vision Zero) to ostensibly reduce the number of pedestrian deaths in New York City to zero by 2025. Learn more about the misguided principles underpinning the Vision Zero initiative.

North Carolina

Opposed Senate Bill 810 which would facilitate the return of red-light cameras to Fayetteville and could pave the way for the return of cameras to other NC cities as well. Under current law, 90 percent of the clear proceeds generated from red-light cameras must go toward school funding. This has made red-light cameras economically untenable in many NC communities. But the language in S810 allows the fees and expenses paid to the camera vendor to be taken out before the “clear proceeds” are calculated. If adopted, this financial sleight-of-hand will allow red-light cameras to operate profitably. The bill is under consideration in the Senate Finance Committee.

Ohio

Opposed House Bill 469 which would require first-time OVI offenders to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in their vehicles. IIDs have proven unreliable, and a well-documented California DMV study found first-time offenders with interlocks on their cars had higher subsequent accident rates than first-time offenders without the devices. The bill is under consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.

Pennsylvania

Opposed Senate Bill 1211 which would allow speed cameras along Highway 1 in Philadelphia. The bill is currently under consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Opposed Senate Bill 1340 which would allow local police forces to use radar and laser for speed enforcement. Pennsylvania is the only state (or commonwealth) in the country that prohibits municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar. The bill is currently under consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Thanks to the many NMA members who volunteered their time to send emails, write letters, make phone calls, and work with policymakers and media outlets on these important issues. If you’re not signed up to receive legislative alerts but would like to, use the “Choose Your NMA E-Subscriptions” link in the sidebar of this email.


NMA E-Newsletter #286: Recent SCOTUS Decision Boon to Privacy Rights

Posted on July 6th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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Chalk one up for privacy rights, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a far-reaching ruling in June (Riley v. California), the court unanimously decided that police must obtain a warrant to search the contents of a cell phone seized from someone who is under arrest—except in cases of emergency.

The decision stems from a case in which a motorist was stopped for a routine traffic violation and arrested on weapons charges. Upon arrest the police accessed the driver’s cell phone multiple times without securing a search warrant. The court denied the driver’s motion to suppress the cell phone evidence, and he was subsequently convicted in connection with a shooting, based partially on that evidence.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the California Court of Appeal and sent the case back for further proceedings. Summing up the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said:

“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life’… The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant.”

The Riley decision is notable because it recognizes that privacy concerns have heightened in the digital age. The chief justice acknowledged this when he wrote that “more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital data is involved.” He also pointed out that a cell phone collects “many distinct types of information that reveal much more in combination than any isolated record.”

Contrast this with a 2011 California Supreme Court ruling (The People v. Gregory Diaz) that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply to cell phones and the data stored on those phones. In this case, the court found that cell phones are essentially a part of a person’s clothing. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled in favor of warrantless searches of items immediately associated with an arrested person, such as clothing or cigarette packs.

The Riley decision brings the Fourth Amendment into the digital age. It also represents a boost for motorist’s rights, since so many privacy intrusions begin with a simple traffic stop.

But Riley is not a panacea; motorists still face an intimidating gauntlet of privacy challenges. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Maryland v. King) in 2013 that police do not need a warrant to take DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes.

John Whitehead, founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, provided a stark and alarming assessment of King: “Any American who thinks they’re safe from the threat of DNA sampling, blood draws, and roadside strip … searches simply because they’ve ‘done nothing wrong,’ needs to wake up to the new reality in which we’re now living.” (See his full commentary here.) Note the reference to roadside searches.

Whitehead called out the potential impact on motorists again in a radio interview, in which he predicted that people will be subjected to DNA sampling in their vehicles. It’s already happened. In 2008, Florida police, looking for a serial killer, made headlines after taking DNA from “persons of interest” during traffic stops. And don’t forget NHTSA’s ongoing, “voluntary” roadside campaign to collect saliva and blood from as many motorists as possible.

In addition, many law enforcement agencies use cell-phone snooping devices called stingrays, which mimic cell phone towers and capture calling data. Due to strict non-disclosure agreements with the device’s manufacturer, some agencies choose not to reveal their use of stingray technology, not even before a judge to secure a warrant.

According to USA Today, dozens of local and state police forces use stingrays to sweep up cell-phone data, such as caller identity and location information, call and text logs, and other data about users’ communications and movements. Thousands of cell users can be monitored simultaneously, whether they’re a target of a criminal investigation or not. Yet, only 11 states have laws requiring police to get a warrant before using the technology, while 10 others are considering such measures.

Clearly we have a long way to go to ensure motorists receive the privacy protections guaranteed them by the Fourth Amendment. This most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision represents a strong starting point for achieving that goal in the digital era.


NMA E-Newsletter #285: Can Pennsylvania Hold Out Much Longer?

Posted on June 29th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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Even though Pennsylvania scored in the bottom 10 in our recent rankings of how states treat drivers, motorists in the Keystone State can be happy about one thing: Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that prohibits local police forces from using electronic devices other than those that measure distance over time for speed enforcement. That privilege is reserved solely for the Pennsylvania State Police.

The state legislature adopted the ban in 1961 to discourage the proliferation of speed traps. It appears to have succeeded. Based on data from the NMA’s www.speedtrap.org, out of the top 200 cities ranked by number of speed traps, Pennsylvania only has two on the list. In contrast, Florida and California both have 25, Texas has 23, and Ontario, Canada, has 22.

That may change as the state legislature once again considers a bill to allow local police to use radar and lidar. (Both technologies have weakness that can be challenged.) Similar bills have been introduced many times previously, and all have failed. But things seem different this time. The current bill appears to have more support; it’s certainly getting much more attention from the press and the public, based on the volume of media inquiries we’re receiving. We’ve responded by saying that Pennsylvania should stick to its guns. (But not its radar or lidar guns.)  Here’s why.

Radar does encourage the widespread operation of speed traps. That’s why the ban was passed in the first place. Speed traps are designed to target motorists by taking advantage of artificially low speed limits coupled with high traffic volume. Adding radar simply allows the police to prey on a larger number of responsible drivers, with no measurable benefit to highway safety. If safety were the goal, policymakers would mandate the proper setting of speed limits according to the 85th percentile standard, which would reduce accident rates and eliminate speed traps.

Radar has an air of infallibility, but in reality, it’s subject to a host of errors making it unreliable for speed enforcement. Most significantly, it cannot distinguish a specific vehicle among a group of vehicles. How can the officer know for sure he’s targeting the right one? Contrast this with other speed detection methods used in Pennsylvania like VASCAR and ENRADD that clock one vehicle at a time.

In addition, a wide range of factors can interfere with the radar signal and create incorrect readings. Some of these include power lines, electric substations, trees, bad weather, operator error and even the heater fan inside the police cruiser. So much for infallibility.

Radar units must receive routine maintenance and calibration to function properly, and officers must be trained to use the units correctly. Despite what a police officer says on the witness stand, these important requirements are not always met.

The pending Pennsylvania legislation provides no mechanisms to limit any of the radar misuses and abuses described above. If radar use does spread to local police, it will come with little oversight or accountability. This is the case in many states, unfortunately.

A better legislative model comes from California Vehicle Code, Section 40802, known as the “speed trap law.” The law prohibits police from using radar/laser speed detection on any road that hasn’t had a valid speed study completed within a given period of time, usually five years. It also mandates requirements for instrument calibration and officer training/certification. (Note, this law does not apply to interstate highways.)

Is California’s law perfect? No. But it does represent an honest attempt to control for the abuses radar use engenders. A few other states, like Georgia, have speed trap laws of their own. Others, like Massachusetts, have adopted standards that define illegal or unreasonable speed limits. Check here to learn more about the laws in your state.


NMA E-Newsletter #284: A Needed Change in our Driving Culture

Posted on June 23rd, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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Lane Courtesy should be ingrained in our driving culture as a 24/7 practice by everyone on the road. Yet with the summer driving season upon us and vacation traffic flooding the highways, it is apparent that there is much work to do to educate the motoring public about the value of Lane Courtesy.

Clearing the left lanes to give right of way to faster vehicles improves traffic flow, reduces congestion, helps alleviate incidents of tailgating and road rage, and lowers accidents rates.

Given all of these benefits, why don’t we see more official efforts to promote Lane Courtesy? Part of the answer stems from the misguided notions that slower is always safer and that faster drivers pose the highest safety risk. Here’s an example:

Last year Florida enacted a highway safety law that barred left-lane drivers from going 10 mph or more below the speed limit. Since then only 68 drivers statewide have been cited for this offense. In contrast, for 2013 police wrote more than 270,000 speeding tickets in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties alone.

We’re not surprised by these numbers. Many police officers aren’t comfortable pulling someone over for driving too slowly in the left lane or even someone who’s going the speed limit but still holding up traffic. The police are much more focused on drivers who are traveling above the speed limit, whether they pose a safety risk or not. In a recent news story, Florida State Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky said officers have no problem warning slowpokes but “so many people are going above the speed limit the focus tends to be on speeding.”

First, officers wouldn’t be ticketing so many drivers if Florida Gov. Rick Scott hadn’t recently vetoed a bill to increase highway speed limits to 75 mph which more accurately reflects actual travel speeds. Second, the 2013 law mentioned above sets such a high threshold for what constitutes a left-lane violation, it’s practically meaningless in promoting highway safety.

The point is this: Driving educators and police agencies need to work together to foster voluntary Lane Courtesy compliance, not compliance through heavy-handed enforcement. To achieve this, drivers at all experience levels will need to acknowledge the widespread benefits of keeping right.

Nevertheless, some states are trying for compliance strictly through regulation. Georgia recently toughened its left-lane law by making it a violation to “drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.” The law includes exceptions for things like weather or road conditions, and for turning or exiting to the left. Still, the intent is unequivocal.

Virginia is considering a similar measure, and a Maryland bill has gone a step further by reserving the left lane for passing only, with only a few exceptions. Unfortunately, each of these bills has been stuck in committee for months. (Note: Most states have laws governing left-lane use, but the requirements vary from state to state. Learn more here.)

Given officialdom’s apathy over Lane Courtesy, do such laws matter much in the first place? Motorists don’t go out of their way (literally) to follow them, and police don’t go out of their way to enforce them. So, what’s the answer?

The NMA has long advocated for driver education curriculums that emphasize Lane Courtesy and for public awareness campaigns directed toward both novice and experienced drivers.

NHTSA should scrap its ubiquitous Click it or Ticket campaign along with all other federally funded enforcement efforts, including its offensive “voluntary” roadside saliva/blood sampling operation. Use the tax money saved to implement a nationwide Lane Courtesy campaign that’s at least as high-profile and long-lasting as Click it or Ticket and that permeates driver educations classes. Our highways would be safer for it and driving would become more enjoyable.


NMA New York Alert: Tell Gov. Cuomo to Veto NYC Speed Limit Bill

Posted on June 20th, 2014 in , , , | Comments Off

Both houses of the New York state legislature have passed a bill to lower the speed limit in New York City from 30 mph to 25 mph. The bill now heads to Gov. Cuomo for his signature or veto.
 
Assembly Bill 10114 was introduced and passed in record time at the end of the latest legislative session, no doubt to limit public scrutiny and debate.
 
We encourage all New York members to contact the governor’s office and tell him to veto this bill. Lowering the posted speed limit in New York City will have no impact on safety and will lead to many more unfair citations to safe drivers.
 
Contact Governor Cuomo’s office by calling (518) 474-8390 or by using the email form found on this page              
 


NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Public Hearing on Radar Use by Local Police

Posted on June 16th, 2014 in , , , | Comments Off

Pennsylvania is the only state (or commonwealth) in the country that prohibits municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar. Since 1961, only state troopers have been allowed to use radar and laser for speed enforcement.
 
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering a proposal that would let local police use radar for speed enforcement. The Senate Transportation Committee will be holding a public hearing on this measure this coming Wednesday, June 18th. The hearing begins at 9:30 am in the North Office Building. More information can be found here.
 
The NMA opposes the use of radar and laser devices. Both technologies have inherent flaws making them unreliable for speed enforcement, and their use encourages the proliferation of speed traps, which are fundamentally unfair to motorists.
 
If you can, please plan to attend this hearing and tell the committee members what you think.


NMA E-Newsletter #283: He Said, She Said, It Said?

Posted on June 15th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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Challenging a red-light ticket on constitutional and due process grounds just became more difficult thanks to the California Supreme Court.

In a recent ruling (California v. Goldsmith) the court concluded that red-light camera evidence does not constitute hearsay, which is defined as second-hand evidence about a statement made by a person. The court also ruled that “evidence” compiled by ticket cameras “has the presumption of authenticity,” This means that camera evidence is considered valid unless the driver can successfully show otherwise.

The decision stems from the case of Carmen Goldsmith, who was convicted of a red-light camera violation in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2009. The only witness against her was an Inglewood police officer who had not personally witnessed the incident. Instead, the officer offered standard testimony about the facts of the case, based on the visual record supplied by the red-light camera. Goldsmith objected, arguing that the officer’s testimony amounted to hearsay, but the court disagreed.

The court used the California Evidence Code to define hearsay as “evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated.” The court reasoned that since a “statement” must be made by a person (according to the evidence code), and since a red-light camera is not a person, the evidence it provides does not constitute hearsay.

But the court wasn’t finished. It went on to say that because the red-light camera evidence is not hearsay, the defendant’s right to confront the witness presenting the evidence (as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment to the Constitution) does not apply “[b]ecause, unlike a person, a machine cannot be cross-examined.”

Let’s go through that again: “because, unlike a person, a machine cannot be cross-examined.” Isn’t that the problem in the first place? Shouldn’t the fact that there is no live witness to the event be the real issue in this case? Apparently the California Supreme Court can’t be bothered with such details. (It’s worth noting that in a previous red-light camera case, the California Court of Appeal sided with the defendant who made arguments similar to Goldsmith’s.)

The court can’t take all the credit, however. The California Legislature laid the groundwork for this ruling in 2012 when it passed Senate Bill 1303 which states specifically that data from a red-light camera does not constitute hearsay. There is ample evidence to show this bill was written with help from Redflex lobbyists who inserted the hearsay language to specifically thwart Goldsmith, whose case was working through the lower courts at that time.

It’s a slick plan, a template used over and over around the country: Camera company lobbyists use their considerable resources to influence lawmakers who write legislation favorable to the camera companies. When legal challenges arise, courts, following the letter of the law, rule in favor of camera company interests. And motorists get the short end of the stick.

Please don’t misunderstand. If you get a red-light camera ticket, fight it. Raise all of the constitutional/due process arguments you can. You may prevail. These people did.

But looking at the big picture, the NMA believes the most effective way to fight red-light cameras at the state or national level is to attack the revenue stream. Our push for longer yellow lights at camera-equipped intersections does just that. After Loma Linda, California, lengthened yellow-light times by one second, red-light running violations dropped 92 percent. The revenue dried up and the cameras soon went away. Some Florida communities are shutting down their camera programs after the Florida Department of Transportation mandated longer yellow-light times last year. The reason? They’re no longer profitable.

The camera companies and their policymaker accomplices have the resources to fight lengthy court battles on multiple fronts, but they are still vulnerable where it counts: on the bottom line.





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