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Jul-02-2008 10:19printcomments

Fighting Back Against the Costly Methods Used by Police (VIDEO)

New technology from one Oregon company aids drivers against photo red light cameras and speed traps.

NJection GPS software helps drivers know when they are in police speed trap areas and when they are near red light cameras. Image courtesy: Microsoft

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - A war of emerging technologies has been fought on our nation's highways for years. After police began using radar guns to catch speed limit violators, companies answered the call by offering radar detectors and "Fuzz Busters." New radar bands and types are greeted by new and improved devices that utilize new ways to warn drivers and keep them from that inevitable, expensive ticket written on the side of the road.

Police used to always drive marked police vehicles, today they drive non marked cars for traffic enforcement in many cases, blurring the lines between real police and potential police impersonators. Police used to have to keep their vehicle's lights on when parked on the side of the road at night. Today all over Oregon, police sit hidden in the dark waiting for potential violators.

A Nation of Laws and a Fading Economy

Some people will tell you that there is no excuse for breaking the law, and ignorance is irrelevant. Indeed, in the minds of some citizens, no rightful reasons exist that justify violating the book of official rules of society that our lawmakers, endlessly, year after year, keep adding to.

But the economy is declining. Stocks are falling, gasoline- that mandatory product that allows people to make it to work on time, is downright unaffordable for many of us, and food costs are soaring while experts say 'enjoy it, you haven't seen anything yet.'

It is easy to slip over 55 mph on the highway and people compelled to adhere strictly to the speed limit almost always find themselves tailgated by impatient motorists who view 55 mph as approximately 57 or 58 miles per hour on your speedometer. To make things more difficult, car speedometers are not always 100% accurate and often error two or three miles an hour, one way or the other.

For a realist in this day and age, the "hardline" approach to living like a saint and never violating the law is not so important when the economy strains and gas nears five dollars a gallon. Everybody breaks the law sometimes, in some small ways at least, unless they are completely reclusive or inbound. Nobody wants to add an expensive traffic ticket to their growing list of expenses.

Shannon Atkinson with, says red light cameras and speed traps are good ideas in theory, but not quite when put into practice.

"They have become a convenient and socially accepted way to fine drivers and increase local revenue while not actually enhancing road safety, as studies have shown."

Salem, Oregon's Photo Red Light program began April 1st of this year. Lieutenant Dave Okada with Salem Police, explains that the intended goal of the Photo Red Light program, "is to gain voluntary compliance from drivers in obeying all traffic control devices at all times and to ultimately reduce traffic crashes".

It appears that citations from these robotic police proxies hit the capitol city like a Las Vegas Jackpot; leading to 1223 red light citations issued against drivers by the Salem Police Department during the camera's first three months.

Atkinson says what it amounts to, is another example of the use of these systems to collect money from hard working and hard-pressed citizens. His company has created a software answer that can help people regain their edge by always being aware of both police speed traps and red light cameras, through additions to their car's GPS system. In the end, with a goal of reminding drivers to obey the law, the software should also increase safety.

"Article after article nationwide cites how red light cameras are used to increase the amount of money certain cities receive from fines, how well over half of certain towns' operating budgets come from speeding tickets, and yet how particular kinds of accidents, such as rear-end crashes, actually increase regardless of speed traps."

Okada says that of the 1223 citations issued since the beginning of the Photo Red Light program where, 112 of those were from northbound traffic on 25th St SE at Mission Street SE, 379 of those were from westbound traffic on Mission Street at 25th St SE and 732 were from southbound traffic at Commercial Street and Marion Street NE.

City officials appear to be happy with Salem's new red light citation cameras. Okada stated, "The Salem Police Department will continue in its efforts to increase traffic safety through both educational and enforcement activities in order to increase public safety and awareness."

As police and politicians stand behind the red light cams, Atkinson and his team are in the process of exporting 50 Thousands speed traps to GPS enabled mobile phones and devices.

"Who has time to waste in a driving course? Who has the money to spend on a lawyer contesting a ticket? Auto insurance companies increase premiums up to 50% for each of the three years following a single four-point speeding ticket. Premiums increase, the term "higher risk driver" is attached to your driving record, and hundreds of dollars are funneled into your car insurance, all because you were in a rush to pick your daughter up from school or to make it to the eight o'clock movie."

Atkinson says the system is unfair to the average aware driver who may or may not test the amount of horses under their hood.

Advocates for the red light cameras say they can demonstrate that the number of red light violations almost always drop when these controversial cameras are installed, but other data that Atkinson cited, indicates that the number of hard rear-end collisions also goes up, leaving serious questions about what is really gained in terms of public safety, and what is really lost.

The new devices from according to Atkinson, will not only tell a driver where red light cameras and speed traps are located but WHEN they are patrolled. A new heat map feature allows users to collectively average the times that police officers are at a particular location. Atkinson explains that when you look at the map, all of the locations are color coded yellow to red, allowing quick recognition of the area a driver is approaching.

This Oregon businessman says there are answers, but governments tend to follow trends in other cities, sometimes in spite of poor reviews, which have been the fate of many of the red light camera programs installed in U.S. cities.

"Stricter DMV licensing standards should be implemented to educate drivers and reduce accidents. Implementations such as these add to drivers frustrations and do nothing to resolve major issues on the road to increase safety. Njection, however, fills this obvious gap."

He says does that by providing an invaluable service to those of us behind the wheel who don't have fistfuls of cash to hand over to the likes of Prudential, Geico, or Progressive.

He suggests that when you visit the Website, simply click on the SpeedTrap section and see where the danger of being pulled over is the greatest.

"Money and time saved, broken hearts and broken banks avoided. It's that simple," Atkinson said.


This video clip provided by Salem Police and hosted by YouTube, shows the eye in the sky known as a "photo red light camera" in action in Salem, Oregon:

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators. Tim's coverage from Iraq that was set to begin in April has been delayed and may not take place until August, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Chris D April 17, 2010 7:20 am (Pacific time)

I think we should just can the whole mess. Let everyone drive however they want! We can kill each others kids, wives, husbands, parents, then blame life! Idiots.

Henry Ruark July 7, 2008 7:34 am (Pacific time)

To all: Very sharp issue here, demonstrates demo-theory very neatly: Danger to all demands some form of control. Continued too-often,fast and easy violation of essential rule (read "law !") demands further control. SO -what to do ? When new tech supplies answer, if we rational, reasonable, we need to apply it. Cooperation is part of the social contract, with no choice re "signing" it; if you breath, you are "covered". ANY "right" (as to travel by choice, when, where, why, and how you choose) carries the other side of the same coin --responsibility to yourself for safety as laid down by the experts we choose, hire, pay and should listen-to, and to all others, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, also on the road, too. OR do you follow libertarian principle of "ME, Always, first, supreme, and ONLY".

sts July 4, 2008 7:46 am (Pacific time)

well educated theory: with gas prices going up, expect more and more police cars to be waiting in lurk.. They can sit behind a corner to save gas, and they can give more tickets for much needed income. Be careful out there!

Alan DeWitt July 2, 2008 2:55 pm (Pacific time)

Ya gotta admit, though, that in the video the driver of the third car clearly blew a red light. I'm no fan of red-light cameras, but that kind of idiocy has got to stop. How else can such dangerous behavior be curtailed? (The driver of the pickup presumably broke the law too - he was in the intersection after the light turned red - but I am assuming he was not ticketed as it was a pretty close call.)

Larry,KY July 2, 2008 2:42 pm (Pacific time)

What I believe is that the word (vote) meams to hire, and the word (impeach) means to fire. We the people have the power to hire and fire our officials.I dont agree to the cameras at all.Good work to

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.