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Data, Cameras, Sensors, and Analytics: Building a Smart Transportation Infrastructure for Tomorrow

hat can we do about our transportation challenges? How do we prepare our transportation infrastructure to support our needs in the future?
These are just some of the questions addressed in a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) titled Beyond Traffic 2045. The report is the result of two years of research and touches on a wide range of trends that will affect the U.S. transportation system in the decades to come, including emerging technologies, population growth, economic opportunities, and freight shipping.
There are many challenges, but cities in the U.S. and around the world are addressing them head-on to reduce congestion, become more efficient, and create value through smart solutions.
Smart cities and smart transportation often go hand in hand.
Urban areas are growing. There will be 70 million more people in the U.S. by 2045, with many residing in urban areas. Traffic congestion, already a problem in big cities, will only get worse. Besides frustrating commuters and visitors, congestion results in high costs. In fact, congestion delays and lost fuel costs $160 billion a year, according to the Beyond Traffic 2045 report.
Traffic management is one key element in reducing congestion. Sensors, cameras, and mobile applications make it possible to develop an integrated traffic management system, like the one used by the state of Utah. Traffic and road conditions can be monitored, pavement repair needs can be identified, signals can be adjusted to improve traffic flow, and travelers can be alerted of backups, delays, and alternate routes via signage and mobile devices.


Parking is another transportation challenge. More cars lead to more parking headaches. Some cities, like the City of San Diego, are implementing smart solutions to help alleviate the problem. The city plans to install 3,200 smart sensors as part of a project to replace 14,000 streetlights with more energy efficient LED lights. The sensors will help create an IoT platform that the city hopes to use to “optimize parking and traffic, enhance pedestrian safety, and track air quality” using real-time data and analytics. Savings from the streetlight replacements alone, which will come from the energy efficiency of the LED lighting as well as smart controls like automated dimming and brightening, are expected to be $2.4 million a year.
Smart solutions, like those at the Living Lab in Dallas, can make cities more attractive to residents and visitors and increase the use of public transportation. More efficient lighting reduces carbon emissions. Sensors can track atmospheric conditions, pollutants, and allergens as well as temperature and humidity. Kiosks can help residents and visitors shop and travel more efficiently with better information about public transit options and schedules. And onboard video can make public transportation options safer and more appealing.
Some cities, like Columbus, OH, see great opportunities in smart transportation solutions. The city won the Smart City Challenge in 2016. In their winning proposal, Columbus officials outlined a plan that would leverage smart solutions to improve economic opportunities and quality of life for all residents.
According to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, “Transportation is not just about roads, transit, and ride sharing. It’s about how people access opportunity. And how they live.”
Smart transportation and smart cities rely on innovative technology and data analytics. Transportation agencies need to record, aggregate, and manage an increasing amount of data from cameras and sensors. From reducing congestion and enhancing safety to supporting new modes of transportation like driverless vehicles, smart solutions are making a difference in cities today and are vital to building the transportation infrastructure we need for tomorrow.
To learn more about how cities are modernizing their approach to transportation surveillance, view the Smart Storage for Smart Cities infographic.

Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet

I’ll admit it — my brow furrowed after first glimpsing the digital side mirrors adorning the Japanese-market 2019 Lexus ES. Strange, foreign, and unnecessary, the automaker’s new “Digital Outer Mirrors” seem like an answer to a question no one asked, but obviously someone did.
My next thought was how this would meld well with automakers’ infuriating tendency to outfit their concept vehicles with narrow, useless blades jutting from the leading edge of the side glass. Thinking it over, I realized Toyota’s little mirror-scrapping experiment has too many upsides to ignore.
Offered only on the next-gen ES in Japan, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to use the limited roll-out as a litmus test, with the possibility of wider availability in the future.
We’ve already seen dual-function rear-view mirrors already, with drivers allowed to flip between a traditional reflection or a wide-angle video feed of the car’s aft environs. It’s a feature I found more useful than annoying in recent high-end GM vehicles. Still, replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical. It’s yet another feature that compels us to never look outside our vehicles.


But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?
Toyota’s system contains a camera shrouded by a narrow fairing, with the automaker claiming it’s impervious to snow and raindrop accumulation (and quieter at highway speeds). Not restricted by surface area like a mirror, the camera provides a wider field of view, while the screen places the blind-spot monitor more prominently in driver’s field of view. One has to wonder if shoulder checks are on the verge of extinction. More importantly, the camera/screen combo — free of raindrops or some other accumulated muck — can peer through the dark, as well as provide the same type of parking guides as a backup camera.

Despite my rampant traditionalism, it’s the night vision function that won this writer over. Nothing unnerves me more than making a simple right-hander at night, especially from a stop. Why? There’s bike lanes everywhere around Casa Steph, and describing the reasons why would only prompt a rant. Certainly, all road users and pedestrians must remain alert to their surroundings, but some cyclists prefer to go about their lives with the phrase “He’s supposed to see me” floating through their minds. The right-hand turn is often where steel meets bike, especially when the vehicle is accelerating away from a stop.
Please don’t send me hate mail, militant bike lobby (that includes you, sporty guy who almost smacked into the side of a bus after berating me for stopping at a stop sign, then proceeding to make a left-hand turn, signal on, through the intersection you were blowing through at 25 mph.) Oh right, I promised not to rant.
Anyway, your local Lexus dealer won’t have any of these trick camera-mirrors available when the next-gen ES goes on sale this fall, but it might not stay that way. While I harbor concerns about the potentially distracting nature of the screen’s placement, it seems to be the way the industry’s heading.

What are car surround view cameras, and why are they better than they need to be?

Surround view cameras could be the next big thing in automotive safety. They cost more and do more for safety than the long-delayed rear camera that will be required on all 2018 cars. A properly implemented surround view system — with cameras on all four sides — will guard against backover deaths as well as more commonplace damage when you scrape a fender or alloy wheel.


A surround view monitor, or around view monitor system, stitches together a birds-eye view of your car from overhead and shows a moving image on the car’s LCD display, along with parking lot lane markings, curbs, and adjacent cars. The best systems reinforce the visual information with sonar that warns if you’re too close to an obstruction, whether its behind or in front. They payback comes more from the cosmetic savings (fewer crumpled fenders), since the lives saved represent just 0.5% of all highway fatalities.

How surround view cameras work


Infiniti and Nissan pioneered the Around View Monitor (their term) in 2007 on the Infiniti EX35. It’s on nearly a dozen of their vehicles vehicles, including the subcompact Nissan Versa Note and the compact Nissan Rogue SUV (above). One camera is in the middle of the front grille. Two more ultra-wide-angle cameras look down from the side view mirrors along the flanks on the car. A fourth is just above the license plate. Software stitches the four images together and inserts an image of your vehicle in the middle. It’s as if you have your own autonomous drone hovering 50 feet above the sunroof, sending an image to the center stack.


How does it work day to day? As you back down your driveway you can see if your car is centered. If you have your driveway mastered, you may not be familiar with a friend’s driveway, especially one that has a curve, or runs downhill to the street and can’t be seen through your rearview mirror. If you back or nose into a parallel or perpendicular parking space and you don’t have a self-parking system, you can perfectly center your car in the middle of the spot, perhaps the only car at the mall so parked, and stay within the legal 6-12 inches of the curb on-street.


On most cars, the parking view comes on automatically when you put the car in reverse. Hit the camera button and it also shows the view when you’re moving forward. The camera typically only works below 5 to 7 mph.

Bells and whistles


Some vehicles provide multiple views. Nissan, which has been at it longer than anyone, offers four. The Birdseye view is the default and shows all four sides. There are front-only and rear-only views, the rear-only view being much the same as what you’d get if you just had a rear camera. The front-side view, which Nissan offers, shows the view of the right side of the car and projects a dotted line representing the width of the car; use that to keep from scraping your wheels on curbing.
Some automakers offer a wide and an ultra-wide front or rear view, and SUVs may have a close-up rear view that’s straight down, to help in hitching up a trailer. These may be on rear-camera-only cars, too.
BMW (above) has a wide aspect ratio center stack display, as much as 10 inches diagonal, and it can show the surround view and a proximity graphic when it detects objects, with green-yellow-red indicating how close you are to needing bodywork. German automakers, who build their cars for the unlimited-speed Autobahn, also build them for creeping out from alleys and place cameras ahead of the front wheel arches looking out to the side; the companies give a split view on their center stack LCD. Making sense of the view is an acquired skill.
On top of around view, Nissan now offers moving object detection. Sensors watch for objects that move into the path of the car and alert the driver with a chime. It can be a bicycle, pet, or toddler who ran out of the house to say goodbye to mommy.


What could automakers do for an encore?


Especially at the high end, automakers compete to add features and safety, or at least convenience. Land Rover prototyped an X-ray vision system called Transparent Bonnet that “sees” through the hood of the car, which is already big and high, and obstructs vision further when you’re climbing a hill. Most off-road SUVs have downward facing front cameras. Land Rover goes one better with a downward facing camera that appears to show the road directly under a semi-transparent hood as wheel.
High-end SUVs could add a fifth camera at the top of the liftgate for a less distorted rear-facing view. You’d still need a low-mounted camera for close-in work because the slanted backs of most SUVs would be blind for 2 to 5 feet behind the car. The camera could also be an alternative rear view camera, for instance when the back deck is piled high with baggage. Tesla and other automakers are working on digital rear view systems; they could stitch side and rear cameras for a seamless wide view.
Simpler tweaks would make surround vision and rear vision cameras useful. They would benefit from lens cleaners, either a blast of air or a squirt of water. Too often lenses are foggy, dirty, or wet and don’t show a usable image. Backup lights need to distribute more light more evenly; the quality varies greatly.


Why surround vision beats what NHTSA is ordering


About 210 people die each year in backing accidents vs. 33,561 traffic fatalities in 2012 (it doesn’t report 2013 fatalities until just before Thanksgiving this year). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed requiring cars have a backup camera since 2008. The current backup camera mandate finally locks in 2018 as the date when all vehicles sold in the US have a backup camera system. When the widebody Hummer H2 became the first vehicle with a backup cameras in 2004, a camera cost an estimated $150, plus the cost of the display device. By 2018, they’ll be under $50 for the camera, and many cars will have LCD displays for infotainment, so that cost is already embedded in the car’s base price.
NHTSA’s rulemaking will save just a handful of lives. NHTSA estimates the backup systems will reduce the 210 fatalities that by one-third – only – despite an automaker expenditure of $750 million or more each year (15 million vehicles produced times $50 per car). Many motorists won’t look at the displays and others who do won’t see a person because of water, dirt, or sunlight on the camera or the LCD display.
Gentex mirror cameraNHTSA’s mandate will allow small LCDs inset into rear view mirrors. My experience is those LCDs are too small to be useful but it may be how automakers meet the mandate on the cheapest trim lines of each model, the one with wind-up windows and no USB or Bluetooth. The PR image you see here is more legible than you may experience and the child filling that much of the screen is only a few feet away.
The surround view cameras do better than the rear-camera NHTSA mandate in in two ways. First, the side view may pick up children and others who approach the car from the side. Also, the cost of the surround view system — $250 to $1000 — probably pays for itself with fewer fender benders and scraped curbs. Who doesn’t over a decade have at least one low-speed incident? You may not report it because the majority comes out of your pocket via the deductible, but you pay in reduced value at trade-in time.


Putting a price on safety


You can’t put a price on a child’s life, most anyone would say. But the legal system and grieving families will try. Here are some broad figures: If each death pays $1 million, for instance (probably less because of the limits of insurance policies), then the cost to insurers and motorists is $150 million for the 150 lives lost. Meanwhile, the approximately 15 million vehicles built in 2018 with $50 rear cameras will cost an extra $750 million. It takes a decade to turn over the majority of the US vehicle fleet and $7.5 billion will have been invested in cameras. The cost per life saved could would be several million dollars if the cost only considers lives saved; there are also reduced low-speed, rear collision costs that need to be factored in.
The economics look better if you have an around view system because it does at least as good a job helping you spot pedestrians and a superior job preventing crumpled fear and front fenders and bumpers, scraped sides, and damaged alloy wheels. It’s possible that the cost of the surround view system will pay for itself over the decade the vehicle is in service compared to your insurance deductible and higher rates if you report several parking lot accidents.Our recommendation: get surround view and sonar
For the ultimate in safety, look for a car that has surround view, around view, or 360-degree cameas. That includes BMW, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. Test the car early or late in the day when the sun is more likely to strike the display; some will wash out. That’s why you also want a car with rear and hopefully front parking sonar. It picks up cars, rocks, fire hydrants, and people. I believe sonar provides more safety for people and things than a camera, but that’s not what NHTSA is ordering.
(In the future, the cameras could also detect pedestrians. Subaru on cars such as our Editors’ Choice Subaru Forester uses a two-camera system, called EyeSight, to detect and stop for pedestrians in front of the car. They’re more complex, and costly, than today’s rear cameras.)
Start your car search with Nissan and Infiniti, who have the majority of their fleet covered, including the Nissan Nissan Leaf EV, Nissan Murano, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Quest, Nissan Rogue, and Versa Note, and the Infiniti Q50, Infiniti QX80, Infiniti QX 70, Infiniti QX60, and Infiniti QX50.
You may also want a car with self-parking. A car that automatically steers into a parking space typically has sonar for situations where it can’t self-park. The first self-parking cars backed you into a parallel parking space and in more recent models into a perpendicular parking space. Ford just announced the 2015 Ford Edge will also pull you out of the parking space. But self-parking doesn’t work all the time, which is why you want surround view, too. Go with belt and suspenders.

Best dash cam 2019: 8 car-ready cameras for peace of mind

Picking up one of the best dash cams isn’t merely for capturing footage of an asteroid strike or an escaped herd of cows causing havoc on the M4 – the imagery captured by these diminutive devices can be essential in the unfortunate event of an insurance claim and can even help lower premiums.
There is an enormous amount of choice currently on the market and finding the best dash cam for your needs can seem exhausting, with myriad features and price points making the decision to splash the budget feel pointless when there are cheaper options that appear to do exactly the same thing.


Nextbase 522GW bundle: £219.99 £159.99 at Very.co.ukGrab the top-rated Nextbase 522GW dash cam with rear camera and you’ll also bag yourself a 32GB memory card and a carry case, saving £60 in the process. It will ensure your car is well covered in the event of an accident or incident on the road.

But the reality is, the more you spend on a top quality dash cam, the more built-in features you receive. These include auto record and save functionality, a CCTV mode when the vehicle is parked, and even the ability to control other smart devices via Amazon Alexa skills.
We’ve sifted through a number of the best performing dash cams on the market to decide which brands really offer the best of the best, covering a number of price points and built-in features that should appease an array of budgets and requirements ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Best dash cam 2019 at a glance:


    Nextbase 522GW   

 Garmin Dash Cam 66W    

Kenwood DRV-830   

 Thinkware TW-F770   

 BlackVue DR900S-2CH   

 Vantrue N2 Pro  

  Cobra CDR 840  

  YI Smart Dash Camera


    Don’t get lost again: here are the best sat navs of 2019

TRAFFIC MONITORING

Video Surveillance for Traffic
Traffic cameras are an innovative and extremely functional use of video surveillance technology. You’ve seen their footage during traffic reports on the TV news. They’re atop traffic signals and placed along busy roads, and at busy intersections of the highway. Whether they’re recording traffic patterns for future study and observation or monitoring traffic and issuing tickets for moving violations, traffic cameras are an explosively popular form of video surveillance.Advantages of Traffic Surveillance Cameras
Aid commuters – Traffic cameras placed at common congestion points on highways, freeways, interstates and major arteries often share feeds with news outlets – both radio and TV, which in turn pass them onto commuters in the form of traffic reports. Normally, traffic flows do not vary much from day to day, but in the event of a severe accident or road closure, a traffic alert can be extremely valuable for a time-crunched commuter.


Valuable data – Traffic cameras that simply monitor car flows on roads and major arteries are often maintained by state departments of transportation. Along with monitoring the roads for accidents or major closures, footage from traffic cameras is influential in decisions regarding future road development and construction.
Enforce laws – Cameras used to enforce speed and red light laws are effective in catching moving violations and issuing tickets.
Encourage safe driving – Visible surveillance cameras posted at intersections can encourage safe driving habits and discourage moving violations.Risky Aspects of Traffic Security Cameras
Weather – Whether they’re monitoring intersections or looking out for traffic jams, traffic cameras are subject to damage caused by weather. Heat, wind, rain, snow and ice can all damage or ruin a traffic security camera.
Accidents – Since they’re placed on busy roads and intersections, there is also a chance that accidents could damage traffic cameras.Configuration Considerations for Roadway Cameras


Traffic monitoring cameras and red light or speed cameras have different purposes and therefore desrve seperate consideration when installing. Consider the following when looking to install traffic monitoring or red light camerasFor traffic surveillance cameras:
    What are the major roadways in your area?    At what time is traffic in your area the heaviest (aka “Rush Hour”)?    Are there certain features in roadways where traffic naturally congests?
For speed and red light cameras:
    Are there any particular intersections in your area where accidents and violations are common?    Are moving violations a particular problem in your area?
Setup Advice for Traffic Surveillance CamerasFor speed and red light cameras:
    When installing cameras, make sure that all areas of the intersection are covered. Usually, cameras are placed above the signals or mounted on each corner of the intersection    Consider installing a flash or other light source for night recording    Consult with local law enforcement to find the most troublesome intersections    Make sure your cameras are placed and calibrated to record the license plate data off of violating cars.    To protect cameras against the elements, place them in environment-controlled housings.


For road surveillance and monitoring cameras:
    Place cameras so they overlook common congestion areas    Make sure cameras have adequate visibility and a good view of all lanes involved    Temperature and humidity controlled camera housings can help protect the camera against weather.

12 Tips for Beating an Arizona Photo-Enforcement Ticket: Updated for 2019

(UPDATE: The original article ran in 2016, but was updated in February 2019.)
Legal loopholes make it possible to escape punishment for a speed- or red-light-camera ticket in Arizona. Hundreds of people, at least, do it successfully every year after being flashed by the cameras. As of February, 19 cities in metro Phoenix had photo enforcement equipment, but only six are actually using it to ticket people: Chandler, El Mirage, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. (El Mirage is currently scheduled to deactivate its system in July 2019.)


To win, you need to know how the game is played.
Having researched the topic for years, New Times hereby offers — free of charge! — the following list of tips and tricks to avoid a photo-enforcement ticket. Just promise to drive safely, then read on …

Tip 1: Ignoring a Notice of Violation Can Result in Your Case Being Dismissed
By law, after a ticket is filed in court, a municipality has 90 days to nail you. The first thing a city will do is to mail you a notice of violation, asking you to sign and return a waiver (along with, ideally, a check to cover your fine).
No muss, no fuss. But no teeth, either: You have no legal obligation to sign the waiver. That’s because state law requires that a ticket must be delivered in person in order to stick.
If you don’t sign the waiver, a process server might come to your home.
If the process server catches you at home, you’ll pay more on top of the fine. For instance, Mesa will plunk another $60 on top of a $283 speeding ticket. Scottsdale adds $50.


So it becomes a wager: If you’re served, you lose a few extra bucks. But if you “win,” you pay nothing. Under state law, the case will be dismissed, with no consequences, 90 days after it entered the court system.
(And take note: That’s not 90 days after the alleged violation date. It may be a week or two after, maybe more. This extra time has tripped up many would-be server-dodgers who thought it was safe to open the door…)
Tip 2: If No One’s Home, No One Gets Served
“It’s real simple,” says Tom Zollars of Superior Process Services. “Don’t answer your door.”
Generally speaking, a process server can’t leave the ticket at your door. Under Arizona law, a citation must be given to the defendant or a “person of suitable age” who lives at the home. (Courts have interpreted “suitable” as someone 14 or older.)
Translation: To improve the odds of success, roommates and family members must play along. If they open to the door to a server, it’s game over.
Tip 3: Make It Seem Like Nobody’s Home — Ever
Process servers tend to go where they think they’ll find their quarry. On the flip side, they may avoid returning to a residence that doesn’t appear to provide a likely payoff.


So keep the car in the garage and shut the blinds.
This serves two purposes. One, it makes it look like no one’s there. Two, it provides you with a cloak of invisibility. Because if a server sees you inside and recognizes you as the violator, you’re done for, even if you don’t answer the door. And servers usually have a copy of the violator’s driver’s license photo.
Video cameras and peepholes can be utilized to distinguish process servers from guests. And if the doorbell rings at an odd hour or on a holiday, take note: It could be the server.
(One caveat to bear in mind: Process servers don’t only deliver tickets. They may bring important documents you actually need.)
Tip 4: Beware of Scottsdale
The city of Scottsdale fights back. If you blow off a violation notice in Scottsdale, the city will file an alternative-service motion showing that a server attempted to deliver the ticket three times — in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening, all on separate days. Once a judge grants the motion, the process server will tote the citation to your residence and tape it to the front door.
At that point, you’ve been legally served. Other cities only rarely resort to this practice.
Still, it’s not a total deal-breaker. While the city may use such motions in as many as one-third of the cases that require process servers, your case could fall through the dragnet, resulting either in no alternative-service motion, or no process server at all. If the server comes, though, expect to pay more for that ticket.
Tip 5: Once in a While, a Process Server Might Cheat
How many kids in your fourth-grade class said they wanted to be a process server when they grew up? Process servers tend to get paid for each ticket they successfully deliver. Not to put too fine a point on it, but some may interpret this as an incentive to, shall we say, pad their stats.
You can challenge a bogus process service in court and, if you win, cause the server to lose his or her license. Maybe you could even get your ticket thrown out.
In order to keep tabs, you can check the status of a ticket on the state’s court site or the court site for the city that sent the notice of violation. If the site shows the ticket has been served but you know better, you should contact the court immediately. (Otherwise, your driver’s license may be suspended.)
Tip 6: Live in a Gated Community


Tom Zollars, our aforementioned process-server pro, says he and his ilk tend to have trouble getting past gates that require a code to unlock.
A guard at the gate might open up for an insistent process server with bona fide court paperwork, especially if the server calls police for help. But that same guard could also alert a resident to the presence of a server, giving time for the fugitive to shut off the lights and shut the blinds (see Tip 3) or skedaddle.
Tip 7: This Isn’t Your Grandpa’s Car, It’s Just Registered to Him
One of the best ways to beat photo enforcement used to be to simply drive a vehicle that’s registered to someone else.
Before sending out a notice of violation, photo-enforcement workers compare the violator’s face with the driver’s license picture of the vehicle’s registered owner. If those don’t match, the city may mail a letter asking the vehicle owner to rat on the violating driver, or it may not.
If a husband drives a vehicle registered to his wife, or vice versa, a spouse may not ever receive a notice. Same goes for age mismatches. Private citizens are under no legal obligation to tattle on who was driving their car when it was photographed running a red light.
A few years ago, police recently acknowledged to New Times, cities began taking extra steps to try and ID drivers in the photos. That means this tip could fail you.
In response to recent questions, police now say they do extra research if someone disputes the identify of a driver, comparing the MVD photos of all licensed drivers in a household, or using publicly available databases to match the person in the violator photo.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that Tip 1 still applies to anyone receiving a notice of violation in their name.
Tip 8: Register a Vehicle to a Corporation
Cities often mail notices of violation to corporations (if they don’t toss the violations outright), politely asking the firm to identify a violating driver. Such notices can be safely thrown in the trash, because corporations can’t be served a ticket that by law must be issued to an individual person.
Don’t own a business? Registering a limited liability corporation costs $50 in Arizona.
To give an example, New Times received a letter from a man in 2017 who had received a speeding notice from Paradise Valley. The notice included a photo of him behind the wheel, but was addressed to the registered owner of his car — his LLC. His home address is the same as the corporation’s address, but neither his name nor driver’s license number appeared on the violation notice. He told New Times last week that no process server ever showed up.
“If I still had the company, it would be a fool proof way to dodge photo radar,” he said.
However, as with Tip 7, police have begun identifying some of the drivers in photo enforcement pictures by comparing photos of insurance holders, or even the principal officers of corporations. In another letter received last year, a Scottsdale motorist sent New Times images of a Mesa photo ticket that showed his vehicle was registered to his corporation, but the notice was mailed to his personal name and address. He was indeed the motorist in the violation photo, so it seems that Mesa police conducted extra research to find his name.
The good news, though, is that corporations are still likely getting away without paying most of the time. A 2015 audit by Scottsdale of its photo enforcement system, the most recently conducted in that city, showed that corporations only identified drivers 45 percent of the time.
Tip 9: Don’t Use a Home Address When Registering a Vehicle
Anti-photo-enforcement activist Shawn Dow recommends that when registering a vehicle, one should use a private mailbox that has a physical address.
“They cannot process-serve the mailbox place, and they cannot do a motion for alternative service to anyone,” Dow says.
Problem is, renting a mailbox costs money. If you’re doing it just to avoid speeding tickets, you may need to seek professional help for your lead foot.
Tip 10: Live Out of State? That’s Great!
Cities routinely mail photo-enforcement notices to violators who live out of state. Many such violators dutifully pay up.
You, however, are no dummy.
In theory, Arizona cities could pay process servers in other states to deliver their tickets. In practice, they don’t.
Make no mistake: Left unpaid, a ticket issued by a real-live police officer will go into default and stay in the system for years. Not so photo-enforcement violations, which vanish — (see Tip 1) — 90 days after being filed.
Rental-car companies that receive Arizona photo-enforcement notices may identify the driver for police, causing the notice to be redirected to the person who rented the car. If the renter lives out of state, the notice can be chucked with an almost-certain chance of dismissal owing to lack of service.
Tip 11: Use a License Plate Cover
Makers of highly reflective or “light-bending” license-plate covers claim their products can blind a photo-enforcement camera, making the plate impossible to read.
Whether they actually work is another matter.
On Track Manufacturing Corp. boasts that its Original Protector license-plate cover is “designed to defeat conventional photo radar cameras mounted low on the side of the road.” An operator at the manufacturing company, however, says the product is not guaranteed to ward off a camera ticket.
Tip 12: Fight the Ticket in County Court
The best way to avoid paying a photo-enforcement ticket is to not run red lights and to always drive less than 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
The second-best way is to read Tip 1 through Tip 11 above.
When all else fails, consider going to court.If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.SHOW ME HOW
Tickets can be expensive. Arizona law requires red-light runners to take Traffic Survival School in addition to paying the fine or signing up for defensive-driving school.
But savvy defendants sometimes beat the rap. Rather than writing a check, you can request a hearing. A municipal judge will nearly always take the side of the city and its photo-enforcement vendor, whose representative might even testify against you. You’ll probably have to launch an appeal in Superior Court.
A solid argument might win the day. (It would help to bring along a lawyer.) Even though the challenge might cost you more than the fine, the satisfaction of beating city hall — and the faceless machines — might be worth it.
(UPDATE: Soon after this article was re-published today, two readers brought up interesting points. One said that registering a vehicle to a trust might help beat the system, too. Another reader asked about masks: All we can say there is that it may work a couple of times, but police don’t appreciate people committing multiple violations in masks, and may take action for such repeat offenders as they did in 2009 for a man tripping the cameras while wearing a monkey mask.)

Why drivers in China intentionally kill the pedestrians they hit.

In April a BMW racing through a fruit market in Foshan in China’s Guangdong province knocked down a 2-year-old girl and rolled over her head. As the girl’s grandmother shouted, “Stop! You’ve hit a child!” the BMW’s driver paused, then switched into reverse and backed up over the girl. The woman at the wheel drove forward once more, crushing the girl for a third time. When she finally got out from the BMW, the unlicensed driver immediately offered the horrified family a deal: “Don’t say that I was driving the car,” she said. “Say it was my husband. We can give you money.”
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”


In April a BMW racing through a fruit market in Foshan in China’s Guangdong province knocked down a 2-year-old girl and rolled over her head. As the girl’s grandmother shouted, “Stop! You’ve hit a child!” the BMW’s driver paused, then switched into reverse and backed up over the girl. The woman at the wheel drove forward once more, crushing the girl for a third time. When she finally got out from the BMW, the unlicensed driver immediately offered the horrified family a deal: “Don’t say that I was driving the car,” she said. “Say it was my husband. We can give you money.”
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”

This 2008 television report features security camera footage of a dusty white Passat reversing at high speed and smashing into a 64-year-old grandmother. The Passat’s back wheels bounce up over her head and body. The driver, Zhao Xiao Cheng, stops the car for a moment then hits the gas, causing his front wheels to roll over the woman. Then Zhao shifts into drive, wheels grinding the woman into the pavement. Zhao is not done. Twice more he shifts back and forth between drive and reverse, each time thudding over the grandmother’s body. He then speeds away from her corpse.
Incredibly, Zhao was found not guilty of intentional homicide. Accepting Zhao’s claim that he thought he was driving over a trash bag, the court of Taizhou in Zhejiang province sentenced him to just three years in prison for “negligence.” Zhao’s case was unusual only in that it was caught on video. As the television anchor noted, “You can see online an endless stream of stories talking about cases similar to this one.”

“Double-hit cases” have been around for decades. I first heard of the “hit-to-kill” phenomenon in Taiwan in the mid-1990s when I was working there as an English teacher. A fellow teacher would drive us to classes. After one near-miss of a motorcyclist, he said, “If I hit someone, I’ll hit him again and make sure he’s dead.” Enjoying my shock, he explained that in Taiwan, if you cripple a man, you pay for the injured person’s care for a lifetime. But if you kill the person, you “only have to pay once, like a burial fee.” He insisted he was serious—and that this was common.
Most people agree that the hit-to-kill phenomenon stems at least in part from perverse laws on victim compensation. In China the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively small—amounts typically range from $30,000 to $50,000—and once payment is made, the matter is over. By contrast, paying for lifetime care for a disabled survivor can run into the millions. The Chinese press recently described how one disabled man received about $400,000 for the first 23 years of his care. Drivers who decide to hit-and-kill do so because killing is far more economical. Indeed, Zhao Xiao Cheng—the man caught on a security camera video driving over a grandmother five times—ended up paying only about $70,000 in compensation.
In 2010 in Xinyi, video captured a wealthy young man reversing his BMW X6 out of a parking spot. He hits a 3-year-old boy, knocking the child to the ground and rolling over his skull. The driver then shifts his BMW into drive and crushes the child again. Remarkably, the driver then gets out of the BMW, puts the vehicle in reverse, and guides it with his hand as he walks the vehicle backward over the boy’s crumpled body. The man’s foot is so close to the toddler’s head that, if alive, the boy could have reached out and touched him. The driver then puts the BMW in drive again, running over the boy one last time as he drives away.
Here too, the driver was charged only with accidentally causing a person’s death. (He claimed to have confused the boy with a cardboard box or trash bag.) Police rejected charges of murder and even of fleeing the scene of the crime, ignoring the fact that the driver ran over the boy’s head as he sped away.
These drivers are willing to kill not only because it is cheaper, but also because they expect to escape murder charges. In the days before video cameras became widespread, it was rare to have evidence that a driver hit the victim twice. Even in today’s age of cellphone cameras, drivers seem confident that they can either bribe local officials or hire a lawyer to evade murder charges.

Perhaps the most horrific of these hit-to-kill cases are the ones in which the initial collision didn’t injure the victim seriously, and yet the driver came back and killed the victim anyway. In Sichuan province, an enormous, dirt-encrusted truck knocked down a 2-year-old boy. The toddler was only dazed by the initial blow, and immediately climbed to his feet. Eyewitnesses said that the boy went to fetch his umbrella, which had been thrown across the street by the impact, when the truck reversed and crushed him, this time killing him.
Despite the eyewitness testimony, the county chief of police declared that the truck had never reversed, never hit the boy a second time, and that the wheels never rolled over the child.  Meanwhile, one outraged website posted photographs appearing to show the child’s body under the truck’s front wheel.

In each of these cases, despite video and photographs showing that the driver hit the victim a second, and often even a third, fourth, and fifth time, the drivers ended up paying the same or less in compensation and jail time than they would have if they had merely injured the victim.
With so many hit-to-kill drivers escaping serious punishment, the Chinese public has sometimes taken matters into its own hands. In 2013 a crowd in Zhengzhou in Henan province beat a wealthy driver who killed a 6-year-old after allegedly running him over twice. (A television report claims the crowd had acted on “false rumors.” However, at least five witnesses assert on camera that the man had run over the child a second time.)
Of course, not every hit-to-kill driver escapes serious punishment. A man named Yao Jiaxin who in 2010 hit a bicyclist in Xian and returned to make sure she was dead—even stabbing the injured woman with a knife—was convicted and executed. In 2014 a driver named Zhang Qingda who had hit an elderly man in Jiayu Pass in Gansu province with his pickup truck and circled around to crush the man again was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Both China and Taiwan have passed laws attempting to eradicate hit-to-kill cases. Taiwan’s legislature reformed Article 6 of its Civil Code, which had long restricted the ability to bring civil lawsuits on behalf of others (such as a person killed in a traffic accident). Meanwhile, China’s legislature has emphasized that multiple-hit cases should be treated as murders. Yet even when a driver hits a victim multiple times, it can be hard to prove intent and causation—at least to the satisfaction of China’s courts. Judges, police, and media often seem to accept rather unbelievable claims that the drivers hit the victims multiple times accidentally, or that the drivers confused the victims with inanimate objects.
Hit-to-kill cases continue, and hit-to-kill drivers regularly escape serious punishment. In January a woman was caught on video repeatedly driving over an old man who had slipped in the snow.  In April a school bus driver in Shuangcheng was accused of driving over a 5-year-old girl again and again. In May a security camera filmed a truck driver running over a young boy four times; the driver claimed that he had never noticed the child.
And last month the unlicensed woman who had killed the 2-year-old in the fruit market with her BMW—and then offered to bribe the family—was brought to court. She claimed the killing was an accident. Prosecutors accepted her assertion, and recommended that the court reduce her sentence to two to four years in prison.
This light sentence would still be more of a punishment than many drivers have received for similar crimes. But it probably won’t be enough to keep the next driver from putting his car in reverse and hitting the gas.

3-Texas Is Latest State to Pump the Brakes on Red-Light Cameras

On a recent morning in May, Carlos Barrientos drove up to a Belt Line Road intersection on his way to work in Grand Prairie, Tex. His breakfast sandwich, sports drink, backpack and papers were arranged around him and on the seats, so Mr. Barrientos, 23, tried to avoid making sudden moves.
Suddenly a yellow traffic light flickered overhead, followed seconds later, he said, by a red light. A camera flashed, catching his license plate when the vehicle edged close to the crossing or continued through it, he said. Days later, he received what will soon be a thing of the past for thousands of drivers in Texas: a $75 ticket for going through a red light based on the automated camera snapshot.


“It does not give you any warning,” Mr. Barrientos, who works in real estate investing and marketing, said in an interview. “All of a sudden, two seconds to brake in a whole intersection. Go over the white line, you will still get that ticket.”
With the signing of a bill last weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott made Texas the latest state to ban red-light traffic cameras.

It joins at least seven other states — Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia — that already have statutes prohibiting the cameras, the National Conference of State Legislatures said. Around 20 more do not have automated traffic enforcement systems on public roads.
“Each state is responsible for prioritizing what devices go on their roadways,” the Federal Highway Administration said in an emailed statement.

The Texas ban takes effect on Sept. 1, but it allows communities more time, if needed, to complete their contracts with the private companies that operate the cameras — and get a flat fee or share revenue from the tickets.
The changes mean an end to the bane of cameras that drivers say pop into action too quickly, capturing an image of a license plate on a vehicle that has edged into a crossing while waiting to turn, only to be stuck at the moment the light changes to red. Others say the cameras are set off even if a car strays inches over a line marking the intersection, but then stops at the very last moment.
These and other frustrations were shared on social media as police departments across Texas announced this week that they were starting to deactivate their red-light cameras to comply with the new law. The Frisco Police Department said on Twitter on Monday that it would stop processing violations that it had been working on. The Haltom City Police Department said it had terminated its contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that provided the cameras.

Mr. Barrientos, the driver who was given a ticket in Grand Prairie, was among the nearly 200 people who wrote to the Grand Prairie Police Department when it announced this week that it was ending enforcement action. Some said the cameras could be put to better use, or wondered whether to pay current tickets and if they would be reimbursed for tickets they already paid.
“Donate the cameras to Keep Grand Prairie Beautiful to catch those litter bugs !!!!!” one person wrote on the department’s Facebook page. Another resident suggested the cameras be repurposed in places “where our neighborhoods continue to get robbed.”
In Plano, a city of about 300,000 in North Texas, there was an average of about 17 traffic crashes a day before the red-light camera program was started in 2006. Chief Gregory W. Rushin of the Plano Police Department said in an interview on Friday that accidents decreased by about a third since cameras, under a $2 million contract with Redflex, were placed at intersections with the highest number of red-light runners and accidents.
Drivers or vehicle owners can contest the video and snapshot evidence sent to them with the citation, he said. Revenue from the tickets goes to trauma centers and to future traffic safety programs. “It’s not a money grab,” he said. “We are trying to save lives.”


The use of red-light cameras in the United States started in New York City, which tested one in 1992 and then turned on more of them over the years. Other state and city governments gradually adopted them, and in 2018 there were about 400 communities in the United States that operated red-light camera programs, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
But more red-light cameras have been discontinued than added since 2012, the institute said.
In 2017, 890 people nationwide were killed in crashes that involved running a red light, over half of them pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles, the insurance institute said. There were about 827 such deaths a year on average, the safety administration said.
Supporters say the payments for the tickets contribute to government coffers, and use of the cameras reduces serious traffic accidents, such as front-into-side, or “T-bone,” collisions, according to studies cited by the insurance institute.

Opponents say that the cameras contribute to rear-end collisions caused by sudden braking and that the enforcement is not transparent. They also complain that the cameras are overseen by private companies that share the revenues from the tickets they generate, creating an incentive to place the cameras in high-traffic areas.
The annual report for  Suffolk County, N.Y., shows that revenue from the red-light cameras was about $28.9 million in 2017, with about $9 million of that paid to the vendor. Rear-end crashes rose at red-light camera intersections by as much as 21 percent in 2016 compared with 2009, the last year before the cameras were installed, it shows.
“One of the provisions is that the vendor chooses locations based on their discretion, not on accident location,” said Hector Gavilla, who is running for a seat as a Republican in the Suffolk County Legislature and maintains an anti-camera platform that publishes county contracts and other documents.
“They look for how many tickets it could issue,” he said.
A program in Los Angeles that started in 2004 encountered criticism that the cameras did little to improve public safety or reduce red-light running. A city study found that the cameras were generally installed at intersections thought to have the highest likelihood of producing revenue, rather than the highest incidence of traffic accidents stemming from running lights. In 2011, the City Council voted to end the cameras’ use.
In Arizona, the attorney general’s office issued an opinion in 2016 that the cameras’ private contractors should be subject to private investigator licensing requirements, according to a copy of the ruling.
Objections have also centered on constitutional grounds. In Congress last month, Representative Ron Wright, a Republican from Texas, introduced a bill that would force states to prohibit the use of automated traffic enforcement if they want federal highway funding.
“This presumption that the registered owner is the driver impermissibly shifts the burden of proof,” Mr. Wright said in an emailed statement.

One activist was Kelly Canon, 60, who had successfully lobbied her city, Arlington, to end the use of red-light cameras after she was given a ticket while making a right turn in 2013. She and other activists then moved on to state legislators in Austin, citing a 2017 Case Western Reserve University study that used 12 years of data in Houston to find that the cameras changed the composition of accidents, but did not reduce them.
“We pushed with lawmakers and pulled contracts,” Ms. Canon said. “It took six years of our lives to get this done.”