9/29/2016Virginia: Group Seeks Sanctions Against Unauthorized Speed Camera Use
National Motorists Association files complaint against insurance industry group for unlawful deployment of speed cameras on Virginia highways.
Speed cameras are banned in Virginia, but that did not stop the insurance industry from deploying them on state highways. As part of an effort to promote the issuance of speeding tickets, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the for-profit contractor Brekford set up ten radar units that they used to photograph the faces of motorists and identify them through Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records. The group used the data collected to call for lowering of speed limits.
The National Motorists Association (NMA) noticed one flaw with the IIHS plan -- IIHS never asked for permission to set up the cameras. On Wednesday the group filed a complaint with the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which has jurisdiction over Virginia highways.
"It is a no-brainer for a motorist rights organization to challenge what appears to have been the unlawful surveillance by speed camera of tens of thousands of drivers on Virginia state roads," NMA president Gary Biller told TheNewspaper. "Drivers need protection against the insurance industry drilling down into our personal records with impunity under the guise of research. It is our hope that the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board will fully investigate whether IIHS and Brekford spied on motorists without authorization and assign the appropriate penalties."
Under Virginia's administrative code, it is unlawful for "work of any nature" to be performed on a state road without a permit from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The NMA asked VDOT for a copy of any permits issued to IIHS or Brekford, but, according to the agency, none were issued.
Brekford and IIHS set up the speed cameras on Interstate 66, Prince William Parkway, George Washington Parkway, Fairfax County Parkway, Columbia Pike, Leesburg Pike and US 50. The experiment photographed 65,000 motorists.
"What makes this especially egregious to advocates of motorists' rights is that the information gathered in Northern Virginia by IIHS and Brekford was used as justification to examine sensitive records of individual motorists at driver licensing agencies in multiple states," Biller wrote in his complaint. "This is not only a violation of privacy, but of trust in state institutions to protect DMV records from access through unsanctioned means."
A spokesman for VDOT confirmed to TheNewspaper that a land use permit would be required for anyone wishing to install a speed camera. In 2014, DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb did authorize the release of personal DMV records of Virginia motorists for the IIHS media campaign.