Category Archives: TRAFFIC ISSUES

Hi-tech cameras to snag drivers using their mobiles AUSTRALIA

DISTRACTION is one of the leading causes of fatal road crashes in Australia but new hi-tech detection cameras that catch drivers using their mobile phones without them even knowing could soon change everything.

A New South Wales Police spokesman told that officers currently “use a variety of methods to detect drivers using their phones while driving”.

“Line-of-site, by trained officers is the primary method of detection, however, long-ranged cameras have been used with success, and helmet cameras in motorcycle police continue to be used,” the spokesman said.

But that technology could soon be replaced by fixed position cameras that automatically issue an infringement notice without the driver even realising they’ve been sprung.

NSW Police Highway Patrol boss, Assistant Commissioner Mick Corboy, told the Nine News there were “emerging technologies coming out”.

“So the way we are going to defeat this is by video evidence, by photographic evidence and we are looking at everything possible around the world at the moment and we think we’ll get something in place fairly quickly,” Mr Corboy said.

His comments came after NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey put out a call on Tuesday for potential providers to present “practical, technology-based solutions to address the problem” of mobile phone use in cars.

“Developing this technology would be a world-first and is one of the priorities of our Road Safety Plan 2021 that we announced,” Mrs Pavey said.

As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, the NSW Government outlined its plans to implement legislative changes to allow camera technology to enforce mobile phone use offences.

Mrs Pavey said the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety) Bill 2018 was introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly on March 6, 2018. NSW is the first jurisdiction to introduce such legislation in Australia.

Last year, NSW Police handed out about 42,000 fines to drivers caught on their mobile phones, with the distraction increasingly emerging as a factor in fatal crashes over the past decade.

In February this year, serial texter Jakob Thornton, was allegedly engrossed in his phone when he ploughed into a roadside breath test in southwest Sydney, seriously injuring two officers.

Senior Constable Jonathon Wright had his foot and part of his lower leg amputated and Senior Constable Matthew Foley suffered a broken leg.

Alex McCredie demonstrates how the hi-tech cameras that can detect drivers using mobile phones work. Picture: Mark Stewart.

According to National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) Manager Jerome Carslake, the most common causes of road fatalities and car accidents occasioning serious harm are fatigue, speed, distraction (including mobile phones), and alcohol or drugs.

During the 12 months ending in February 2018, there were 1249 road deaths across Australia. That was a 0.2 per cent decrease compared to the total for the 12-month period ending February 2017.

In 2016, 1300 lives were lost on roads nationwide, which was an increase of nearly 8 per cent on the previous year (1205).

Mr Corboy said in a statement earlier this month that too many people made “poor decisions” while driving. “Every fatal crash is a tragedy for not only those involved, but for the families they leave behind,” he said.

“The most frustrating part about it is that most crashes are preventable if people slow down and take responsibility on our roads.”

In NSW, motorists caught using a mobile phone while driving can be slapped with a $330 fine and a loss of four demerit points, regardless of whether they’re repeat offenders or not.

The Australian Capital Territory has some of the toughest laws in the country, with a fine of $528 and loss of four demerit points for a driver caught texting or using social media behind the wheel.

Like the ACT, Western Australia also has a separate specific offence for motorists caught texting while driving. “WA Police Force is constantly looking for new ways to target offences frequently linked to serious and fatal crashes on our roads, including inattention through mobile phone use,” a WA Police spokesman told

“The penalty for using a mobile phone while driving is $400 and three demerit points.”

This driver was booked by Acting Sargeant Paul Stanford for using a mobile phone while driving in Brisbane City and copped a $378 fine. Picture: Jamie Hanson.

In Queensland, motorists can be fined $378 and have three demerit points recorded against their traffic history if they are caught holding a mobile phone for any reason while driving – that includes when they’re stopped at traffic lights or in congested traffic.

Learner and P1 drivers are prohibited from using hands free, wireless headsets or a mobile phone’s loudspeaker function. “At this time the QPS does not have technology to detect drivers using mobile phones,” a QLD Police spokesman told

Double demerit points apply for second or subsequent mobile phone offences committed within one year after an earlier offence.

A hi-tech camera which can detect people using their mobile phones while driving was trialled in Melbourne last year. Picture: Mark Stewart.

A red-light style camera capable of photographing drivers illegally using their mobile phones was trialled in Melbourne, Victoria last year. The technology – touted as a world first – detected 272 culprits during a five-hour test across just one lane of the Eastern Freeway, the Herald Sun reported.

The trial revealed that 7.1 per cent of the drivers observed infringed phone use laws. And 65.8 per cent of those offences related to motorists actively using their phone by holding it or touching it in a cradle. Authorities said in December last year that they were always looking at ways to improve road safety but had no current plans to introduce the technology.

This driver was booked for using his mobile phone whilst driving in Brisbane. Picture: Jamie Hanson.

A South Australia Police spokesman told the state “doesn’t yet have any technologies to assist in the detection of driving while using mobile phones”.

As of November 11, 2017, the fine for using a mobile phone while driving was $327 plus a $60 government levy – totalling $387 coupled with three demerit points. Drivers are permitted to touch their phones only if they are making or receiving a call on a device mounted to the vehicle.

“To avoid doubt, nothing … authorises a person to use a mobile phone by pressing a key on the device, or by otherwise manipulating the body or screen of the phone, if the phone is not secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle,” the legislation reads.

The SA Police spokesman said it was “lawful to pull over to the side of the road to a place where it is legal to stop and make or receive a telephone call”.

“There is no requirement to turn off the engine,” he said. “Although the rule that relates to mobile telephones does not say that the vehicle must be in an area where it is legal to park, other Australian Road Rules come into play.

“To put that into perspective, it is not legal to park at a set of traffic lights, therefore it is unlawful to use a hand held phone while stationary at those lights.”

Acting Sargeant Paul Stanford speaks to a motorist in Brisbane City.

Henry Sapiecha



Police officer reads out the riot traffic act to my Buddy Holly


Pretty blue police car collecting taxes from motorists


So Holly has some input into the alleged traffic breach


My friend Buddy Holly does not get any reprieve for me. But at least the officer gave me options.

So at the end of it all we had to ‘cop’ a fine 4 some infringement

says the tax collector policeman [Nice guy] but still a tax collector


Henry Sapiecha

Video posted online by passenger leads to reckless driving charge against driver

passenger's video revealed his driver was speeding image

A passenger’s video revealed his driver was speeding.

A man has been charged with reckless driving after his passenger posted a video online showing their car being driven at 180kmh.

Police say that the passenger recorded the video on December 28 as the pair drove from Albany to Perth.Western Australia

Investigators studied the video after it was posted on social media, and identified the driver.

He’ll appear before Albany Magistrates Court next month.


Henry Sapiecha


Illustration: Michael Mucci.

Illustration: Michael Mucci.

NSW is over-policed. Taxpayers are funding a costly, inefficient and increasingly intrusive force that devotes only 21 per cent of its work hours to investigating crime. Most of the rest is soft stuff and bureaucracy. The amount of the public’s time being wasted by police is both prodigious and unacknowledged.

Without exception, every single intrusion by police, every act of harassment, every misallocation of resources, is rationalised as “public safety”. This Orwellian catch-all is used to rationalise a multitude of sins.

On average, about 16,000 people a day are enduring random intrusions by police, fined for petty offences, or fined via private tax collectors acting for profit.

I don’t even have to leave my house to sense the scale of the rising officiousness. The following incident, multiplied by a thousand times a day, is why the NSW Police are on a course to being perceived as an occupying army rather than a safety net:

On December 22, a woman double-parked outside my house to pick up a package from me. It didn’t take long, it was mid-afternoon, the street was quiet. Suddenly, a police siren wailed. A patrol car had pulled up behind her. The siren blast was manifestly unnecessary. The woman drove off and there had been no disruption to traffic. A few days later she received a Traffic Infringement Notification. She had been fined $242. She could pay or she could go to court.

She was outraged. By any measure, this was bastardry, and thus poor policing. Patrol cars are linked to the police data base, so Officer Siren would have seen that the woman had a very good driving record. He booked her anyway, for a trivial breach.

Two weeks ago it happened again. Another police siren outside my house. It was mid-morning. I went outside to see another woman being booked by another Officer Siren.

I took a photo of the car with my iPhone. The police officer called out “Can I help you, sir?”

I replied: “Do you think you’re doing the reputation of the police any good by doing this?”

“The car is double-parked. There’s nothing I can do about what people think, sir.”

I replied: “There’s everything you can do.”

Every year, NSW police stop more than five million people who have done nothing wrong. They do so politely, but most of these interventions are non-productive and cost the public tens of thousands of hours of lost time. The majority of these checks are bureaucratic make-work.

Only about 0.35 per cent of people stopped for random breath tests are charged with an offence, and most of those offences are minor.

There is a social cost to the increasing use of police and paralegals as tax collectors. As a former NSW police detective told me: “The exponential rise in revenue from Traffic Infringement Notices since the advent of privatised speed cameras has seen an escalation in people losing their licences, and their employment. Some have even lost their homes.”

On March 8, the NRMA took the unusual step of issuing a press release to complain about the way the state government was using private sub-contractors to ramp up the revenue collected from motorists via mobile speed traps: “New data shows almost 41,000 motorists have been fined by the cameras so far this financial year, up from almost 26,500 in 2013-14.”

That’s a 50 per cent surge. The NRMA urged the government to have the speed limit displayed on warning signs, “to reduce unnecessary anxiety for motorists”. It called for a fairer, safer warning system, as warnings are currently displayed only 250 metres and 50 metres before the speed camera. The NRMA wants the speed camera vehicles more clearly marked.

The major corporate operator of mobile speed cameras is Redflex. It has a contract with the NSW government and its 2014 annual report contains this ominous paragraph: “During financial year 2014, over $3.5 million was invested in the [NSW] contract which is anticipated to deliver annual revenue of more than $9 million per annum over the next two-and-a-half-year period.”

Redflex thus estimates it will harvest revenue of $23 million during the duration of its contract until 2016. Packaged as “public safety” of course.

Ever since random breath testing was introduced in 1982, there has been a steady decline in road fatalities. The annual reports of the NSW Police have cited RBT as the most effective tool in the fight to reduce fatalities. But the deterrent effect of RBT plateaued years ago. The continued downward trend in fatalities in the past decade has come more from the introduction of air bags and improvements in auto technology.

Police could achieve broadly the same impact with RBT with half the rate of stoppages, half the cost, and half the social disruption. Instead, the police and the government are going in the opposite direction, with more intrusions.

Compounding this policy malfunction is the rip-off of motorists at the federal level. Over the past 15 years, the federal government has extracted $136 billion in fuel excises from vehicle-owners, yet spent $53 billion on road infrastructure. The disparity is $83 billion. Vehicle owners are thus being milked by government in addition to the impositions imposed by the states.

Then there is local government, where inner-city councils deploy swarms of tax collectors they call “rangers”. No bureaucratic euphemism can disguise the grim pettiness attached to the term “parking inspector”. They seem to live in my street.

At every level of government – federal, state, local – vehicle-owners are being used as cash cows by government, in a disingenuous and increasingly intrusive way. And I don’t even own a car.


Henry Sapiecha

How License Plate Readers Are Invading Your Privacy

Privacy advocates are becoming increasingly concerned, however, because all the photographs taken by the license plate scanning cameras are uploaded and saved to computer servers. (Source: CBS 5 News)

Towing companies are a necessary evil when it comes to parking enforcement and property repossession. But in the Google Earth we now inhabit, tow trucks do more than just yank cars out of loading zones. They use license-plate readers (LPRs) to assemble a detailed profile of where your car will be and when. That’s an unnecessary evil.

Plate readers have long been a tool of law enforcement, and police officers swear by them for tracking stolen cars and apprehending dangerous criminals. But private companies, such as repo crews, also photograph millions of plates a day, with scanners mounted on tow trucks and even on purpose-built camera cars whose sole mission is to drive around and collect plate scans. Each scan is GPS-tagged and stamped with the date and time, feeding a massive data trove to any law-enforcement agency—or government-approved private industry—willing to pay for it.

You’ve probably been tagged at the office, at a mall, or even in your own driveway. And the companies that sell specialized monitoring software that assembles all these sightings into a ­reliable profile stand to profit hugely. Brian Hauss, a legal fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says: “The whole point is so you can figure out somebody’s long-term location. Unless there are limits on how those transactions can be processed, I think it’s just a matter of time until there are significant privacy violations, if they haven’t already occurred.”

(How Is This Even Legal? License-plate-reader companies don’t have access to DMV registrations, so while they can track your car, they don’t know it’s yours. That information is guarded by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which keeps your name, address, and driving history from public view. Mostly. There are plenty of exceptions, including for insurance companies and private investigators. LPR companies say only two groups can use its software to find the person behind the plate: law-enforcement agencies and repossession companies. In addition, the encrypted databases keep a log of each plate search and allow the ability to restrict access.)

The companies that push plate readers enjoy unregulated autonomy in most states. Vigilant Solutions of California and its partner, Texas-based Digital Recognition Network, boast at least 2 billion license-plate scans since starting the country’s largest private license-plate database, the National Vehicle Location Service, in 2009.

In total, there are at least 3 billion license-plate photos in private databases. Since many are duplicates and never deleted, analytics can paint a vivid picture of any motorist. Predicting where and when someone will drive is relatively easy; software can sort how many times a car is spotted in a certain area and, when fed enough data, can generate a person’s driving history over time.

And the systems are getting smarter quickly. Vigilant alone adds 100 million photos every month, but company ­marketing vice president Brian Shockley says the word “tracking” is misleading. LPRs, he says, capture “momentary, point-in-time” information. “LPR is never a smoking gun,” says Shockley. “Just because a car is somewhere doesn’t mean the registered owner is with the car.” And yet, ­Digital Recognition Network’s website says of its services, “Owners are typically within 1000 feet of the vehicle, so find the vehicle and you find the customer.”

Scott Jackson, CEO of data provider MVTrac, contends that license-plate readers just automate what police officers and repo men have always done—run plates by eye—and that most Ameri­cans have accepted that the days of having true privacy are gone. “The pros of this technology far, far outweigh the fear factor of privacy,” he says, referring to its successful police busts. “There are so many ways to track a person; this is not the one you should be worried about.”

Hauss of the ACLU disagrees. He asks, “Is it just so you can have a giant haystack that you can search whenever you want, for whatever purpose you want?”

Paul Kulas, president of Colorado-based BellesLink, which sells verification software to repo companies, says his industry needs to face these public concerns before it’s “lumped in with the surveillance state.” Some privacy statements by plate-reader companies, he says, have been misleading.

Kulas believes that the idea that LPR data cannot be linked to personal information is inaccurate. “Without regulation and without foresight,” he says, “this could get to a point where numerous lawsuits could be brought against lenders and camera companies because they have, in effect, obtained our location information without our permission.”

As ominous as their private-sector deployment is, LPRs have incited controversy with their law-enforcement usage as well. In December 2013, the city of Boston suspended its LPR program after police accidentally revealed DMV-tied information from its cameras to the Boston Globe. While that one incident highlighted failings in the department’s data policy, plenty of agencies don’t even have such a thing. Some keep data for days, others for years. In most states, police can monitor you with LPRs without serving a search warrant or court order. And this February, a Department of Homeland Security proposal for a privately hosted federal plate-tracking system was scrapped days after theWashington Post exposed it.

Last year, police in Tempe, Arizona, refused an offer from Vigilant for free LPR cameras. The catch: Every month, officers would have to serve 25 warrants from a list supplied by Vigilant. Miss the quota, lose the cameras. Such lists, according to the Los Angeles Times investigation that uncovered the offer, commonly come from debt-collector “warrants” against drivers with unpaid municipal fines.

Eventually, police and repo men might not be the only customers buying LPR data. MVTrac recently completed a beta test that tracked Acuras at specific areas and times, logging info including the exact models and colors. That information, far more real-time than state-registration data, could be gold to automakers, marketers, and insurance companies.

*We read each of the bills to gauge their language on data security as it might best protect citizens. We rated as “Strong” those that specified the most detailed, far-reaching data policies emphasizing personal privacy. “Moderate” means the law contains fewer specifics or intends to establish a policy in the future but is still sufficient. “Minimal” means the legislation is weak at protecting data, and “None” gives it zero regard.

There has been pushback. Nine states have passed LPR laws, and four of those states bar private companies such as Vigilant from operating or selling their wares [see map, above]. Some of those states limit usage to legitimate investigations by police and traffic agencies. And some set standards for data security and establish formal processes (such as requiring warrants) and public audits.

In 2007, New Hampshire was the first to ban LPRs completely except for toll collections and security on certain bridges. Maine answered in 2009 with a less restrictive law, followed by California, Arkansas, Utah, Vermont, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland. In Utah, legislators banned private companies from using LPRs but amended the law after Vigilant and Digital Recognition ­Network sued the state, claiming the ban violated their First Amendment rights to public photography and free speech. After helping to kill a similar bill in California this past May, the companies are now suing Arkansas, which followed Utah’s original letter in restricting LPRs to police use. At least nine states have pending bills that regulate plate readers.

As with many technologies, license-plate readers are advancing at a rate that is outpacing legislation. Smaller cameras; smartphone apps that can pick out plates from live video; and the ­potential fusion of public records, DMV databases, and facial-recognition software are already on the horizon. Because police ostensibly use LPRs for public safety, drivers will likely have to accept some erosion of their privacy behind the wheel. But when corporations start buying tracking data in the name of “customer focus” and lawmakers look the other way, we say it’s time to bring on the James Bond–style plate flippers.


Henry Sapiecha

Queensland police lack reg plate equipment to detect unregistered drivers says union

number plates images

QUEENSLAND motorists have a greatly reduced chance of being caught driving unregistered vehicles because there aren’t enough police cars fitted with licence plate recognition technology, the state’s police union says.

Since October 1, motorists have not had to display their registration stickers, meaning police no longer have a visual cue to help them spot unregistered cars.

PREMIER NEWMAN: Policing problems hit home

Automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) technology is often used to quickly identify drivers who have failed to renew their registration.

Queensland Police Union general secretary Mick Barnes pointed to NSW where about 400 police vehicles had been fitted with the numberplate recognition technology.

“Meanwhile, back in Queensland, we have around 24 vehicles fitted with ANPR equipment,” he writes in the Queensland Police Union Journal.

“While I’m the first to admit I’m no mathematician, I am able to calculate specific probabilities taking into account the number of registered vehicles in this state, and I surmise there will be a greatly reduced chance of being picked up for registration offences unless there is a greater injection of funding by the Queensland Government.”

Mr Barnes said there was “certainly a reduced fear of being caught” among motorists.

“I always pay my vehicle registrations before they become due, but with a now reduced likelihood of being caught, where is the inducement for the Queensland motoring public to register their vehicles?”

When asked about the claims — including the assertion that there were only 24 ANPR-equipped vehicles — a police spokesman said the service used “a variety of policing strategies”.

“The Queensland Police Service continues to employ a variety of policing strategies, including the use of technology such as automatic number plate recognition, to ensure the safety of motorists on Queensland roads,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Scott Emerson said the department had purchased 15 ANPR cameras for use by transport inspectors’ vehicles, while also pointing to the “Qld Rego Check” app.

“Police and Transport and Main Roads will continue to crack down on unregistered vehicles through current enforcement and the expansion of automatic numberplate recognition cameras,” the spokeswoman said.

A NSW police spokeswoman clarified that the state had 395 cars fitted with the technology, with an additional 100 to be equipped.


Henry Sapiecha

Automatic number plate recognition


Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), also known as Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI), can be implemented using existing multi-purpose CCTV surveillance cameras or dedicated ANPR cameras. These systems use optical character recognition (OCR) software to isolate and identify vehicle registration details. This technology is typically utilised for automatic toll collection, or to detect speeding violations, but can also be used to monitor vehicle movement and for access control.

ANPR systems have been under development since the mid 1970s and have become increasingly reliable and cost effective. A typical ANPR system includes hardware and software components including roadside camera systems, control centre computer systems, software Applications to manage captured data, and a central database of vehicle registration details. There are two different approaches to data processing:

  1. Images are captured by camera equipment and sent directly to the control centre with time, date and location information without any pre-processing. The central computer system utilises OCR software which uses a set of algorithms to isolate vehicle registration details, and then compares this information with a database of known vehicle registration numbers to display driver and vehicle information.
  2. Images are captured by the camera equipment and processed immediately at the camera location by an embedded OCR processing unit on the camera. The isolated registration number is then transmitted to the control centre along with time, date and location data where it is compared with a database to provide driver and vehicle information.

In the source data processing method, the OCR process takes approximately a quarter of a second with modern equipment and transmission can be achieved wirelessly with different radio transmission systems depending on the type and quantity of data to be sent. Additionally, where multi-purpose camera systems are used, vehicle speed and trajectory information can also accompany registration data. Constant development of ANPR technologies has led to smaller processing computers with greater performance at a lower cost, and this has also allowed for the mobile application of ANPR equipment. While older systems may have had significant reliability issues, modern systems can accurately identify registration details of fast moving vehicles at very fast processing speeds. The introduction of infrared cameras for ANPR purposes has also further improved this technology, improving efficiency and all round usability.


  • Operations management in terms of driving standards compliance.
  • Traffic management in terms of access control, congestion detection and detection of unauthorised use of dedicated public transport lanes.

Benefits and cautions

In relation to data transmission from camera to control centre, there are Benefits and cautions for each method. Source processing allows for smaller quantities of data to be transmitted which require less bandwidth for improved transfer speed and reliability. However, for this method there is a requirement for OCR processing equipment at each location which may be too costly.

Weather conditions, lighting, dirt and obstructions by other vehicles, tow-bars or other vehicle parts, can prevent equipment from accurately reading registration details. As such the positioning of the camera is of the utmost importance. In addition to this, where there are no set regulations or standards in relation to registration number font style, size, spacing or colour, camera systems need to be more complex to recognise information, and this can increase processing speed and technology cost.

Relevant case studies

Not observed in the Case Studies

Used extensively in tolling and parking applications


8 Ways to Lower the Odds of Being Ticketed When Police Pull You Over

traffic-stop-police image www.policesearch (1)

Ever since I was in high school, police officers of various jurisdictions have made a hobby of pulling me over. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Of course I do. But since I became an attorney 23 years ago, I’ve represented hundreds of people for traffic violations in Michigan. When people hear that I do “car cases,” they think of me when they get tickets while driving cars. Along the way, I’ve spoken to countless law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges and can tell you that there are a number of simple things you can do to help you either avoid getting a ticket altogether or lessen the legal harm of the ticket itself.

READ MORE: 50 States of Speed – The laws and limits for every state in the U.S.

Note that I’m not addressing how to fight the ticket itself—that’s a topic for another day. Nor am I talking about occasions in which you get pulled over wrongfully. This advice pertains specifically to incidents in which you actually did something to deserve a ticket.

Here’s how you deal with it.

1. When the flashing lights come on, pull over to the side of the road as soon as you safely can. Then, pull off to the side as far as you can so that the officer, f possible, can approach your car without having to walk in the lane of traffic. Shut your engine off. It’s important that you picture the stop from an officer’s point of view. While you do not enjoy this transaction, in most instances, neither does the police officer. They get shot in situations like this and have no idea if you’re a drug-smuggling, gun-running, one-man crime wave or simply a middle-aged attorney who writes articles on what to do when you’re pulled over by a police officer.

2. Immediately roll your window down all the way. Not halfway, not an inch so you can speak through the crack. All the way. Among other things, it will show that you have nothing to hide.

3. If it’s not broad daylight out, immediately turn on your overhead interior light. This lets the officer see if there are people in the back seat, in the passenger seat and, most importantly, you—before he or she gets to the car. You want to put law enforcement at ease as quickly as possible. Police officers notice these things.

4. Put your hands on your steering wheel at 10 and 2. Ideally, the officer will be able to see your hands while standing at the rear bumper of your car.

5. Do not move, do not look around, do not start digging for your paperwork. Once you’ve completed steps one through four above, DO NOTHING ELSE. Leave your license and registration where they are, because getting them in any manner that gets your body moving may make the officer think you’re hiding something or reaching for something dangerous, and neither of those are good. Another reason is that I and others I have spoken with have had law enforcement officers make a comment at this point and then leave. “Did you know your license plate is hanging off with only one screw?” I’ve also had an officer let me slide: “You ran a red light back there. Pay attention. Good night.”

6. Confess nothing. The officer will approach and most likely ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This is the only piece of advice I will give you with which police officers will disagree, with but you’ll see why. I advise you to not confess. You ran a red light? You were speeding? My advice is to politely say, “No, I’m sorry I don’t,” and leave it at that. Some people will suggest you ought to say, “Yes, I ran that red light,” but I don’t know if “honesty” is going to help you any here. I do know that many officers will make a note on the ticket, “Driver admitted he/she ran the red light,” and that statement will come back to haunt you later.

7. If the officer asks for your license and registration, explain exactly how you will retrieve them. “I am going to reach into my back pocket and pull out my wallet.” “I need to reach into my glovebox to find my registration,” and so on. Even if you have made nice-talk with the officer, he or she will remain wary of you reaching underneath yourself or into a dark spot in the car. Announcing your intentions, again, shows that you’re doing what you can to put them at ease.

8. If and when the officer leaves to run your information through the system, sit in your car with your hands on the wheel, leave the interior light on, and do nothing else. Do not make phone calls or fiddle with your infotainment center. Do not reorganize your glovebox. Do not decide it is a good time to clean out the loose change under your seat. While the officer may have already made the decision on writing or not writing the ticket, it can only hurt you if you act suspiciously at this point.

Why would doing any of the steps I describe help you avoid a ticket? Police officers have discretion on whether they write a ticket and for what. As we know, an officer COULD decide to throw the book at you and write you up for all kinds of stuff. Or, decide to let you go with a warning. Anything you can do to make the officer’s job easier will help nudge the officer in the direction of being lenient. Instead of reckless driving, perhaps you’ll be written for careless. Instead of 20 over, maybe 10.

9. If the officer comes back with a ticket, don’t argue. Take the ticket, say thank you, and move on. Do not declare, “I’ll see you in court!” Signal that you’re going re-enter the roadway, do so safely, and go about your business. One of the overriding themes of this and everything that preceded it is that you want to make this traffic stop ordinary. You don’t want the officer to remember you. If you decide to fight the ticket, with or without an attorney, you may seek a plea deal of some sort. The officer will likely be consulted.

An officer may be in court on a particular day with a stack of tickets. They probably can’t all be tried due to time constraints. Some will get deals, some won’t. You know who gets those deals? The harmless tickets where the driver did nothing to stick out in the officer’s mind.

I’ve been to numerous pretrial conferences in which the prosecutor asked the officer if we could cut a deal. The officer looked at the ticket to remember who the person was and then turned the ticket over to see if there were any comments on the back. Comments about the driver swearing at them, talking on a cellphone during the stop, and so on. No comments is good. Even better is when the officer looks puzzled, clearly doesn’t remember the stop, and agrees to a deal. I’ve also seen officers turn the ticket over and get a look of recognition. “Oh, I remember this guy . . .” and then my job just got harder.

traffic-stop-police image www.policesearch (2)
The danger with the totalitarian management style is that people won’t speak up when there’s a problem. They’ll get their heads cut off or the messenger gets shot.

Of course, when I saw it for the first time, at the Detroit auto show, I thought it was a joke. How could a group of people who call themselves automotive professionals do something that bad?

READ MORE: More traffic-ticket-avoidance tips

To summarize: When pulled over by a police officer

  • Pull over quickly and as far as safely possible
  • Roll down your window completely
  • Turn on your overhead interior light
  • Put your hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2
  • Do not admit that you broke the law
  • If asked for license and papers, announce your movements beforehand
  • Sit still while waiting for the officer to return
  • Do not say anything remarkable to the officer at the end of the stop

I’m not saying every ticket written was righteous. I’m also not saying that the foregoing will protect you if your backseat is filled with sawed-off shotguns and bundles of counterfeit currency sitting in plain view. I’m not a magician, Jim. Just an old country lawyer. But if you get pulled over in a run-of-the-mill traffic stop, following this advice will lessen the odds of your being ticketed and, if you still get the ticket, increase the odds that you can get some slack cut on it later should you decide to fight it in court.

READ MORE: Washington police bust left-lane squatters (Video)

Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, specializing in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible. He also wrote Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation and The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device. He urges you to consult with an attorney in your state should you have further legal questions. Follow Steve on Twitter at @stevelehto.

Originally published at Road & Track.

Henry Sapiecha



The truth about speed cameras

Police speed guns have technical limitations that govern their use. Photo: Gary Sissons

It’s one of the fastest ways to ruin your day. Flashing lights fill the rear view mirror, an icy feeling pierces your chest and that mixture of guilt, frustration and anger curdles as the officer strides toward your door.

There is plenty of conjecture surrounding speed in Australia. The government will tell you speed is a killer and that you are risking life and limb by travelling a few kilometres per hour more than its limits.

You may have heard it all before – the police are out to get you, they need to fill their quotas and keep state accounts running smoothly. Their equipment is infallible, you can’t fight fines and a clean record will do nothing for you if the radar says you’ve done the wrong thing.

The myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales surrounding speed are numerous. We spoke with authorities, consulted police equipment manuals and talked to speed experts in order to break down myths and reinforce 10 truths you can take to the bank.

Police radar and laser equipment does not work over the horizon

It’s an old common spot of advice that motorists crossing the red centre may hear – “be careful on the road, police can book you several kilometres away, you won’t even see them”.

That’s not true as police speed detection equipment needs a direct, uninterrupted line of sight to its target. Special military radars can look over the horizon, but they are not used to keep track of speeding motorists.

Speed guns don’t work well in the rain

Speed detection equipment works by sending a series of signals from a device, bouncing that signal off a target vehicle, and measuring the distance it travels in a set time.

Poor weather can affect the accuracy of radar and laser-based speed detection equipment.

Operating guidelines for the Stalker brand of speed gun say “Rain absorbs and scatters the LIDAR signal. This reduces the range and increases the possibility of obtaining readings from the speed of the raindrops”.

The operator’s manual for another common brand of speed gun says “visibility conditions also affect the performance of the ProLaser III … atmospheric or climatic conditions that impair vision also adversely affect the operation”.

A Victoria Police spokesman told Drive “certain weather conditions may have an impact on the speed detector’s effective operational range”.

“Operators trainedto use speed detectors are instructed on the impact of weather and can identify adverse effects caused by weather conditions,” he says.

Speed detection equipment is always accurate

Speed guns must be calibrated to standards monitored by the National Association of Testing Authorities. Victorian police calibrate speed guns annually to make sure they meet legislative requirements.

NSW police say “all speed measuring devices comply with Australian and national standards”, but as with most states they do not publish acceptable margins for error.

Victorian legislation states analogue roadside speed cameras must have a margin for error of less than 3km/h or 3 per cent of a given speed, which drops to 2 per cent or 2km/h for digital devices, such as handheld laser speed guns.

While police equipment must be accurate, operational errors can have a negative effect for motorists. An instruction manual for one type of speed device says failing to hold the laser gun steady can exacerbate readings, and that a twitch that moves the laser beam from a car’s grille to the passenger compartment can increase speed readings by more than 10km/h.

Speeding fines consultant Scott Cooper says it is easy for police to fine the wrong car at long distances.

“Any tremor of the human hand will make this thing cover half a football field – in multiple vehicle situations, [police] will not know which vehicle returned a reading,” he says.

“There is nothing that device can do in court to prove when, where or what vehicle that came from.”

Equipment can dob in the wrong car

Cooper says police equipment is not as accurate as people expect it to be.

“Everyone expects when they hear the word ‘laser’ that this thing is firing a pinpoint, thin red beam at massive distances. I’m here to tell you it does not,” he says.

“It fires a beam that spreads out like a torch, and at 300 metres the beam width on a ProLaser III is 1.2 metres, that’s a massive circle.”

An operator’s manual for the Stalker speed measurement laser says police need to be careful when booking motorists in traffic.

It says that over distance, “the beam becomes wide enough that some separation between targets is necessary to insure accurate target identification”.

“The beam does get proportionally wider as distances increase. It is suggested, in heavy traffic and multi-lane usage, that speeds be obtained at the shorter distances to assure proper target identification.”

Drivers can ask to see evidence used against them

Police are not always required to show exactly what their equipment has recorded, but may do so to demonstrate why a motorist has been stopped.

When speeding motorists are caught in NSW, drivers can later visit a police station and view footage of the incident.

Victoria police say “motorists are entitled to ask for a speed readout and officers are encouraged to invite drivers to inspect the speed reading, but they are not legally required to do so before issuing a ticket”.

Highway patrol do not operate on a quota system

Some police agencies deny there is a quota system compelling officers to book a set number of people each month.

But Australian governments budget on receiving about $2 billion in traffic fines each year, money that is relied upon by state treasuries.

NSW Police did not address Drive’s question asking whether quotas are in place, while a Victoria Police spokesman insists quotas are not used.

“Quotas for vehicle stops are a common misconception, there are no and never have been quotas in place for the highway patrol,” he says.

“Motorists can be stopped anywhere, at any time, by any member of Victoria Police and be asked to do a breath test and license check.”

An Adelaide newspaper recently published a police email exchange that hinted at a quota arrangement.

“We fell below our expected returns for traffic contacts for the last reporting period,” an email said.

“We’ll hammer those poor people who choose to drive when we’re night shift.”

South Australian Police Commissioner Gary Burns responded by saying “there are no quotas”, but there were benchmarks for the minimum number of people police should interact with.

“However, I, and the executive, make no secret of the fact that we have broad road safety benchmarks. These are not quotas.

“The most important issue is that a driver who has done the wrong thing is spoken to and dealt with in some manner – documented caution, [traffic infringement notice], report or arrest.”

Radar detectors can help avoid trouble

In all states except Western Australia, radar detectors are more likely to get you into trouble than out of it.

Radar detectors are illegal to use in all states and territories except WA. Many police patrol cars are equipped with sensors that seek out radar detectors or jammers, helping police to find and confiscate illegal equipment.

A small number of businesses in WA sell anti-radar devices, with one website promising its equipment is “100 per cent undetectable by all police radar detectors”.

A radar detector salesman who preferred not to be named would not say how many units are shipped to eastern states, and that once units were received by customers, “what the individual does is up to the individual”.

It may be possible to effectively use radar detectors east of the Nullarbor, but drivers risk losing their licence and paying thousands in fines if caught doing so.

Demerit points apply if you are booked interstate

Improved communication between state road and police authorities means that fines accrued while travelling within Australia follow drivers to their home state. If a Victorian driver is caught speeding in the Northern Territory, they pay a fine to the NT government, but demerit points are applied by the state that issues their licence.

Police can let me off with a warning

Victoria Police policy is that officers “are able to exercise discretion for breaches of a minor nature”.

South Australian Police Commissioner Gary Burns says police will “always maintain the ability to apply discretion”.

NSW police may be less friendly. A spokeswoman for the force says an average of more than 575 people were booked for speeding every day in July, and “those that continue to risk their own lives and those of other road users when speeding will most certainly be identified and prosecuted”.

Good behaviour could get you out of trouble

In some circumstances, a proven record as a safe driver can help motorists to escape conviction for minor offences.

Victorian drivers can apply for an internal review of their alleged offence and may have fines replaced with an official warning. Drivers who are booked by multiple speed cameras in a short period, or receive a rash of fines in the mail without an adequate chance to modify their behaviour, can apply to have fines withdrawn.

Other speeding offences may require that drivers have not been issued with a traffic infringement or official warning for the past two or three years, and that they do not deny committing the offence.

NSW motorists can challenge traffic fines in court. Even if the motorist is found guilty, magistrates may apply a “section 10” legal bond, which does not record a fine, conviction or any other form of punishment against the driver. Motorists cannot apply for more than one section 10 bond during any five-year period.

Drivers who run out of demerit points in NSW can also elect to be of good behaviour for 12 months, on the proviso that accruing a further two demerit points will see their driving ban doubled.

As with NSW, South Australian and Queensland drivers who exceed the maximum permissible number of demerit points can swap a suspension for a period of good behaviour as long as they do not acquire more than a set number of demerit points over the course of a year.

Henry Sapiecha

Court May Wipe Out Stoplight Spy Cams:

traffic-light-hooked image

Ticket-happy traffic cameras, the bane of many a driver’s existence, are back in the spotlight again this week after the state supreme court in Ohio heard arguments over whether cities there can fine commuters for running red lights—an infraction typically under state jurisdiction that lets drivers off with just a citation. Now the fate of traffic cameras all across Ohio is being questioned after an Akron attorney sued the city when local law enforcement officials mailed a citation to his wife. PM contributing editor Glenn Reynolds wrote about traffic cameras last year, highlighting how unreliable and dubious they can actually be when it comes to safety. The Ohio verdict won’t be decided for a few months, but until then, plenty of people are weighing in on whether the cameras are invasion, unsafe or just plain unreliable. Feel free to sound off in the comments section below…—Wayne Ma

Henry Sapiecha