Traffic enforcement or speed cameras have become a part of daily life in many cities. These cameras can have a wide variety of functions; however, the two most common are speed detection and traffic signal violations, e.g. running a stop sign or red light. They can even monitor appropriate use of bus lanes in large cities.
Since their introduction, many people have endeavored to find ways to outsmart or trick these devices in order to avoid penalties, including citations. Unfortunately, these tactics come with risks of their own.
Basic Legal Issues
In numerous jurisdictions, including California, attempting to interfere with these widely unpopular devices is against the law. This includes using products designed to protect license plates against being photographed and/or distorting the face of the driver.
- In California, it is required that the driver’s face be photographed in order to issue a traffic citation.
- This is necessary because the driver of the vehicle and its registered owner do not always match.
License Plate Issues
A driver may attempt to avoid detection by removing or covering the reflective coating on a license plate. This would theoretically reduce the likelihood of visual or electronic recognition; however, the efficacy of these tactics are untested and they are clearly prohibited by law in California and other jurisdictions.
- The state law involved here, V C Section 5201.1, sets the penalty for concealing/obscuring the licence plate numbers at $250 as of 2013.
- For many violators, this can be as costly as the infraction they are attempting to avoid.
- If a driver is pulled over in violation of this statute, that can also serve as probable cause for searching the vehicle or create suspicion of DUI, a far more serious offense.
Tinting windows to avoid facial recognition can cause difficulties as well. Most states have laws that determine the maximum amount of tint that drivers can apply to the front windows.
- In California, front windows must allow in 70% of the light and be no more reflective than a standard window. Side and rear windows can have any degree of tint.
- The above-described degree of tinting is unlikely to be sufficient to stymie facial recognition software and the cameras used in modern cities, although older, non-digital cameras may not function as well in this respect.
Municipalities are continuously upgrading systems and software, meaning the recognition is becoming increasingly likely. Traffic officers frequently carry a card with them to test window tinting and can issue citations to drivers whose windows are too dark.
Other Tactics For Avoiding Speed Cameras
Driving at or just below the posted speed limit and slowing down near intersections are more legitimate means by which many drivers attempt to avoid citations associated with speed cameras. Others opt to slow down just prior to reaching an area under camera surveillance; however, that can potentially result in an accident.
- Currently, phone apps exist that map the location of traffic cameras, allowing drivers to avoid them by taking alternate routes.
- The legality of these apps are under question in some areas, although many of these are in Europe.
Overall, attempting to outsmart speed cameras is not worth it, especially when it comes to using illegal means to do so that may result in serious penalties. Frequently used methods, such as obscuring car tags or tinting front windows, can involve citations and other consequences. No method offers one-hundred percent freedom from detection; however, driving the speed limit and obeying traffic signals are options chosen by many drivers.