Sunday, August 03, 2014
Belarus, Germany, UK: Speed Cameras Bashed, Burned, Crashed
Four speed cameras were attacked in Mogilev, Belarus in the past week, Hawa Hiba reported. Vigilantes used a rope to pull down one camera. The camera on Mira Prospect was covered in paint. In the Gluhskaya Seliba district, the camera was shot with a rifle. In Chechevichi, vigilantes cut off the camera's head on Wednesday and took it into the woods where it was burned. Ever since the cameras were installed in the region July 2012, the devices have been routinely spraypainted or covered with trashbags. In Coburg, Germany, a 26-year-old man used a pipe wrench to attack a photo radar vehicle at around 4:30pm on Thursday. According to Frankischer Tag, the man smashed the side window of the vehicle which was manned by a 44-year-old woman at the time. After allegedly delivering threats, the man ran off. Police conducted a search, found the man and placed him under arrest. In Yorkshire, England, four seventeen-year-olds were injured in a collision with a speed camera van on the B1257 at 8:30pm on July 9, the York Press reported.
Friday, August 01, 2014
Feds Confiscate 40 Land Rovers Over VIN Controversy
Forty Land Rover SUVs have been taken away from owners around the country by armed federal agents descending on private property with overwhelming force. Agents for Homeland Security Investigations last month wrapped up the seizure of forty vehicles pursuant to a sealed warrant issued in May. The agency insists that there were discrepancies with the VIN numbers for cars imported by Aaron Richardet at Patterson Auto Sales in Wilmington, North Carolina, and that the Land Rovers violated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Transportation (DOT) standards. These regulations do not apply to cars that are at least 25 years old, but owners of the grabbed vehicles had no chance to present a defense before their SUVs were taken. The owners were only given until June 23 to file a formal contest to the seizures, which they could not have done because the court did not unseal the case until July 16. US District Judge James C. Fox denied a request to give owners more time to contest the seizure of their property. Chris J. Benway paid $11,000 and invested another $23,607 in upgrading and servicing his blue 1984 Land Rover, which agents grabbed from his property on July 15. "We cooperated fully with the forfeiture and will continue to cooperate," Benway told the court. "However, I do not believe this vehicle was imported illegally due to its being 25 years old at the time of purchase, and we have not seen any evidence of VIN tampering on the vehicle." The government argued that the imported cars were actually 2000 model year and newer, and therefore subject to the EPA and DOT regulations. Daniel M. Harrington, an owner who wants his 1983 Land Rover Defender back says the government claim is nonsense. "A basic visual inspection of the vehicle reveals that the same was manufactured far earlier than 2000," Harrington told the court. "I was advised that the Land Rover Defender YIN: [...] was manufactured in 1983 at the time I purchased it. My visual inspection of the vehicle reinforced this information as the vehicle exhibited correlative signs of aging and the vehicle's features were consistent with the features of Land Rover Defenders manufactured in 1983. Additionally, I had the vehicle examined by an expert in the field, who confirmed that the Land Rover Defender VIN [...] was manufactured in 1983." Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Christopher M. Feldman said that he inspected the "non compliant" vehicles and found discrepancies in the Land Rovers imported by Patterson Auto Sales. He presented his findings to the court. "The chassis was galvanized and Land Rover has not manufactured Defender vehicles with a galvanized chassis," Feldman claimed. "The engine was a 2.5 TDi 5 cylinder (Storm) engine, manufactured from 1997 to 2007, which cannot be retrofitted into a 1986 Defender Station wagon chassis; the vehicle color does not match the original Venetian red; a number of interior and exterior features were not introduced into production until significantly later model years." Richardet, the importer, had explained the discrepancies to the Customs and Border Patrol agency in an email two years ago. "The truck was taken down to the frame," Richardet wrote. "It was sand blasted then galvanized to prevent rust. The doors are prone to rust are scrapped and swapped out for newer ones. The old dashes have been out of production since 2004 so the newer dash is used if the old one is bad. The restoration shops try to make modifications and upgrades to the trucks to make them safer and more user friendly. Just like restoring an old Camaro, old parts get junked and newer [ones] go on. I hope he will see that. All those parts are available from Land Rover and the truck has changed so little you can bolt them right on."
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Connecticut: Redflex Busted For Impersonating The State Court
The state of Connecticut's judicial system in January issued a cease-and-desist order to Redflex Traffic Systems after the Australian photo ticketing vendor was caught giving the impression that its tickets and payment website came from the court. Connecticut does not allow red light cameras or speed cameras, but Redflex uses school buses as photo ticketing platforms in accordance with a law passed in 2011. One of the vehicle owners who received a $450 school bus ticket from Redflex under this law became suspicious and sent a copy of the notice he received to Connecticut's chief court administrator, who was appalled at what he saw. "The documents purport to be issued by the state of Connecticut, reference the Judicial Branch website and direct payment to the Centralized Infractions Bureau," wrote Martin R. Libbin, legal services director for the Connecticut Judicial Branch. "The documents further direct questions concerning this infraction to an out-of-state number and the footnote references the smart bus website. Also attached are screen captures from the Smart Bus website which make use of the Judicial Branch mission statement, Judicial Branch seal and Judicial Branch web page banners." The email to Redflex employees put an immediate stop to ticket issuance, as first reported by the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper. "The office of the chief court administrator has reviewed these documents and has determined that your organization not only lacks the authority to issue said documents, but that it inappropriately suggests that payment is the only option for the recipient of the ticket," Libbin wrote. "Please be advised that you are to immediately cease production and use of these documents." On June 24, the state accepted a revised citation design from Redflex and the company's lobbyist, Jay F. Malcynsky. Libbin issued a memo lifting the ban on school bus ticketing with a warning that a human being must witness the alleged violation "live" and file an affidavit for the citation to be valid. "As I have advised you in the past, I cannot make any representations as to how a magistrate (or judge) will rule should there be a challenge to the sufficiency of the documents noted above, or if a party seeks to compel the testimony of the individual who witnessed the violation live," Libbin wrote in an email to Redflex. "Furthermore, the propriety of any violation issued will depend upon full compliance with Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-279." School bus ticketing has been a headache for Redflex ever since it bought the upstart school bus camera firms SBL Investments and Americore Enterprises in 2012. The $7 million deal has caused the Australian firm to report a $2.2 million loss from bus enforcement in its most recent financial statement. "The company experienced a number of challenges in turning violations detected into paid fines," Redflex told Australian investors. Redflex predicted further loses in the second half of this year. Automated school bus ticketing programs generate volume by focusing on technical violations, such as photographing vehicles that did stop for the bus, but not at the specific distance required in the statute. In some states it is not necessary to stop on the opposite side of a "divided highway," but confusion over what meets the definition of "divided" creates the opportunity to trap motorists. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73 percent of the school-age pedestrians who have died in a crash near a school bus since 2000 were hit by the school bus, not other motorists. A copy of the order is available in a 800k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Cease and desist order email (Connecticut Judicial Branch, 1/6/2014)
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
US Senate Rejects Diminished Federal Transportation Role
The US Senate on Tuesday voted 79 to 18 to pass a modified version of the stop-gap measure providing funding for federal transportation projects that cleared the House earlier this month. The upper chamber rejected a plan offered by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) with a 28 to 69 vote that would have phased out the system where gas tax funds collected at the state level are sent to Washington and then redistributed to the states with strings attached. "This amendment is the end of the federal highway system," Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-California) said. "The states oppose it... It would result in an immediate eighty percent cut to our states." Lee's Transportation Empowerment Act would have reduced the federal gasoline tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents over the course of five years. The amount of funding sent from the US Department of Transportation to each state would also diminish accordingly. After the year 2020, the smaller federal gasoline tax would be used to maintain the interstate highway system and a more modest US Department of Transportation with the states freed to raise and spend money to meet their own local needs. "Our federal highway status quo is not working, and it hasn't been working for a long time," Lee explained. "This debate is itself the dysfunction of Washington, DC... We're here with the duct tape and WD-40 trying to keep this 20th century bureaucracy in place rather than embracing the worthy challenge of building a new mobility policy, one that's well suited for the 21st century." Lee argues that there is no need to have the federal government serve as the central coordinator now that the interstate highway system is complete. The idea behind the amendment is to eliminate the federal government's tendency to impose the same policy solutions on every state. "More environmentally conscious states could finally have the flexibility to invest in green projects and bike lanes," Lee said. "Regions reaping the benefits of America's energy renaissance could accelerate their own infrastructure and their own build-outs to keep up with their explosive growth. Dense cities could invest in more sustainable public transit networks. Meanwhile, surrounding counties could reopen the frontiers of the suburbs." Lee argues that the elimination of the federal middleman would mean more money would be available for projects, especially after federal strings that raise labor and design costs are eliminated. The House version of the Transportation Empowerment Act is sponsored by Representative Tom Graves (R-Georgia), a copy of which is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: HR 3486 (US House of Representatives, 7/30/2014)
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Illinois: Chicago Red Light Camera Spotlight Expands
The world's largest municipal red light camera, beset by a $2 million bribery scandal, is facing renewed scrutiny from the public and investigators. On Friday, the inspector general for the city of Chicago, Illinois announced a formal inquiry into the photo ticketing program in the wake of blockbuster reporting from the Chicago Tribune newspaper. "Once again, the city's red light camera program is in the spotlight, and again it's not something beneficial to drivers," Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack explained in an email to constituents. "This time there were problems caused by 'faulty equipment, human tinkering or both' and thousands of drivers were wrongly fined by the city for red light camera 'violations.'" According to the Tribune's analysis of all of the photo tickets issued since 2007, at least 9000 citations were issued during "random" spikes related to either overly short yellow signal times, a change to the way right-turn on red is enforced or other system faults. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would allow the motorists who received these tickets to file a new challenge. The mayor and aldermen sent separate requests to city Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson asking for a formal investigation. "OIG will publicly report the findings from its review of past activities, along with any recommendations for how the city, working with the new vendor, can assure the program operates effectively and fairly in the future," the inspector general's announcement stated. "If the review reveals any indication of purposeful manipulation or unlawful conduct, OIG will take action to investigate and will work with the appropriate prosecutorial authorities." Last year, the inspector general issued a report finding no evidence that the red light camera program had done anything to improve safety in the Windy City (view report). Ferguson promised that this review would be "unconditional" looking into all areas of public concern. Public concern is growing. On Friday, volunteers with the group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras will meet to discuss plans for the weeks ahead. The group has been holding weekly protest throughout the city demanding removal of the automated ticketing machines.