1/1/20092008 Year in Review
A look at the most-read stories appearing in TheNewspaper for 2008.
The year 2008 was filled with stories of interest to the driving public. Near its end, the obscure story of a Montgomery County, Maryland high school prank involving printing fake license plates so that enemies would receive a speed camera ticket soon made headlines around the globe.
We reported in April on a Riverside, California police raid on a group of automotive enthusiasts who had done nothing more than gather in a parking lot to talk about their passion for cars. The police involved immediately set about to search each vehicle and issue "modified car" tickets to the owners. These tickets are the source of at least $10.5 million in annual revenue from the state highway patrol. No warrants were issued prior to the raid, which was funded by state and federal gas tax revenue.
Government entities looking for new sources of automated ticket revenue could turn to a company that manufactures an automated tire tread ticketing system. The speed camera-like device spies on the tires of passing vehicles and mails a ticket to the owner of any vehicle thought to have tread falling short of the required standard by as little as a hundredth of an inch. In October, nearly three-quarters of Virginia residents had not heard of a state "Move Over" regulation that imposes a fine of up to $2500 on those who fail to comply. More than forty states have similar laws that trap motorists who fail to slow to 20 MPH under the speed limit or change lanes when a police vehicle is waiting on the side of the road. But a Missouri woman found out the hard way that even when following police advice you could wind up in handcuffs. Video tape captured how police treated the motorist accused of "failure to yield" when she waited to stop in the nearest well-lit area after an unmarked police car tried to pull her over in the middle of the night.
In January, the North Dakota Supreme Court showed the same hospitality to drivers in neighboring states by ruling that police had full authority to pull over any out-of-state motorist who drives with a valid, temporary registration tag.
Later that month, the first of the many troubles for speed camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems began. The company was caught falsifying the documents used in court to certify the accuracy of the speed camera equipment. The Arizona Secretary of State later confirmed that the Redflex employee involved in the scheme violated four state laws. Similarly, a Redflex employee was busted for DUI while driving a speed camera van on duty. In August, each of those Redflex vans was discovered to have been in violation of yet more laws, as Redflex had illegally imported uncertified radar units from Germany and the UK. Redflex ended the year with the unhappy prospect of a voter revolt likely to topple its multi-million speed camera effort in the state.
Fewer tickets appeared likely after an August ruling by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals that tossed a speeding ticket for a resident who had argued the city's 25 MPH speed limit signs violated the requirements of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. In June, we reported on a BBC Top Gear episode that came up with a fuel economy test in which a BMW M3 could outclass a Toyota Prius.
In July, a series of investigative reports by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch uncovered a scandal where police would impound vehicles from motorists, then turn around and sell these vehicles at a fraction of their value to friends and family members. The scheme fell apart when reporters looked into a number of crashes involving the daughter of the city's police chief who happened to have been driving seized cars.
In May, regulations took effect allowing higher speed limits iin the state of Utah. Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) had signed legislation authorizing a speed limit increase on Interstate 15 to as much as 85 MPH, if supported by engineering data.
This year promises to bring even more interesting stories, so subscribe to our RSS feed or free email updates to ensure you do not miss out.