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Speed Camera Vendor: Timestamps Not Accepted Method to Calculate Speed

Howard County's speed camera vendor said timestamps on photos are not an accurate method for calculating speed.


Over the past few months, the Baltimore Sun has been cataloguing what may be errors in speed cameras in Baltimore city. Reporters have used time over distance calculations with timestamps on citiation photographs rounded to the thousandth of a second to determine drivers' speed.

In Howard County, it's not possible to use timestamp information to determine speed because the timestamps are rounded to the nearest second, which is not precise enough to make a calcualtion, according to the Sun.

However, even if it was down to the thousandth of a second, citizens would still not be able to calculate their own speed at the time of the infraction, according to a spokesperson for Xerox State & Local Solutions Inc., Howard County's speed camera vendor.

"Time over distance calculations have never been accepted as a primary means of determining speed in photo enforcement," wrote Chris Gilligan, a Xerox spokesperson, in an email. "In Howard County, the timestamp generated on each violation photograph represents the time at which the system validated the vehicle's speed, not the time at which each image was recorded."

Gilligan said due to the angles at which cameras are placed in the county—in mobile vans along the side of the road—that "it is nearly impossible" to determine the exact location of the vehicle, which is required to make an accurate time over distance calculation.

In addition, speed cameras in Howard County use laser technology rather than radar technology. Baltimore City cameras use radar, according to Gilligan.

Laser cameras shoot a focused beam of light at a vehicle, which is reflected back. The time the light takes to reflect back is then used to calculate the vehicle's speed, according to an article on AOL Autos. Radar cameras are similar, only instead of using lasers they use radio waves to determine speed, according to the article.

Both radar and laser speed measurement technologies have been proven accurate for decades, according to a USA Today report, although lasers are believed to be slightly more accurate.

Currently, Howard County operates only two speed cameras, which are kept in vans that move to different positions throughout the county.

Legislation passed in 2011 by the Howard County Council allows police to station up to 8 mobile vans in school and work zones, but so far, county officials have only moved forward with two.

The cameras, which are in operation from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., issued approximately 100 citations per day during their first two months in operation, according to police.

In December, police said they would work with Xerox to provide more information on speeding citations issued to residents if the information would increase motorist confidence in the program.

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SBBMD January 01, 2013 at 09:41 PM
That is a very convenient thing for a speed camera vendor to say. They would like it to be the case that they only evidence of speed is the recorded speed on the citation. However in this case, Xerox has admitted that it's cameras were SYSTEMATICALLY issuing erroneous tickets: there is no question in this case that errors took place. So if it is not possible to use images to verify the recorded speed, then neither Xerox nor their client have an way of distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty. The NHTSA published standards which make it clear that speed camera manufacturers are supposed to provide a secondary mechanism of verifying speed, and timestamped images as the recommended method. If Xerox now hopes to claim that this is not possible with their equipment, in order to ward off additional allegations of errors, then their equipment does not meet national standards. The Baltimore Sun had a long history of supporting speed cameras before doing their recent series which laid bare the extent of Baltimore's speed camera errors. Writers at Patch would be well advised to consider how serious the problem must have been in order to bring about such a change of heart from the Sun writers. People should consider whether we ought to be taking the word of a company which tried to keep the errors at the Coldspring lane speed cameras silent for months, especiallly if they are attempting to change their story again and deny the existance of errors.
SBBMD January 01, 2013 at 09:46 PM
As for radar measurements "being proven accurate for years", have you ever driven towards one of those "your speed" signs and noticed that the speed is either dead wrong, or is jumping up and down? Yes radar can be wrong. But don't take my word for it... take the word of Xerox Corp who admitted that 5% of the citations issued at some of their locations were errors! There is NO QUESTION that radar can be wrong! The only reason that there hasn't been more proof before now is because lap-dogs in the press have always taken them at their word that the machines are always right, and swallowed arguments like the one Xerox is making right now trying to casually dismiss PROOF of errors! Errors which, in this case, are indisputable.
SBBMD January 01, 2013 at 09:57 PM
It is the NHTSA standard for speed cameras to have a secondary mechanism for verifying speed. From: http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/Traffic%20Injury%20Control/Articles/Associated%20Files/810845.pdf "2.18.2 Unattended Operation. If the ATR device is to be considered for unattended operation, the manufacturer shall provide a secondary method for verifying that the evidential recorded image properly identifies the target vehicle and reflects this vehicle’s true speed, as described in §5.18.2. This may be accomplished by means of a second, appropriately delayed image showing the target vehicle crossing a specified reference line." That's the NATIONAL STANDARD. And Xerox did know about the errors in March and July of last year, and didn't take them offline until months later when the Sun got wind of it: http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2012/11/baltimore-saw-previous-problem-with.html http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2012/12/emails-reveal-more-prior-complaints.html http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2012/12/baltimore-camera-cited-non-moving-car.html Also I would point out that the citations in Baltimore which were proven to be errors had VIDEO, not just still images, which showed vehicles casually moving along with traffic that were accused of driving at twice the speed limit. It is beyond dispute that they were errors. And in any case Xerox has ADMITTED it: http://www.stopbigbrothermd.org/2012/12/xerox-admits-5-error-rate.html
Greg G. January 02, 2013 at 03:12 AM
A fellow engineering friend of mine showed how inaccurate the radar guns are by bringing a working dashboard into the court room with the radar gun mounted. When he turned the dashboards vent (fan) on the radar gun immediately jumped to 30 mph. It was picking up the oscillation. He happens to have several degrees in engineering one a masters in RF (radio frequency) so when the police tried to say they were the experts they were "Outgunned".
David Maier January 02, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Errors, shamerrors. It is not about speed. It is not about safety. It is only about the revenue. To the government, it is FREE MONEY. You cannot cut an addict off their preferred source - the system will protect itself. It will lie, cheat, steal, obfuscate and use any method it can to get what it wants. Only an intervention might help the addict free themselves from their Hy. When it comes to Government and Money, the people have been in a losing battle for years. Keep up the good fight, don't be discouraged! When the PEOPLE find out the power is truly in their hands and exercise their power properly, then and only then will the system change. Until then, the system will protect itself at all costs. You and your neighbors are the key - talk to one another and make the system heel.


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