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Canada, UK: Automated Cameras Involved in Mistakes and Accidents
Edmonton, Canada photo radar van involved in serious accident while innocent drivers pulled over by number plate cameras.

ANPR cameraThe use of automated cameras has increased the number of innocent motorists being pulled over by police in the UK. Officials there have widely deployed Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR -- ALPR in the US) cameras in order to identify paperwork-related violations that can generate substantial revenue. Errors on the part of drivers, the police and the cameras themselves are causing problems.

"Over the past few months we have seen a sharp rise in the number of 'mistaken identity' cases," AA Insurance director Simon Douglas said in a press release. "Where we used to get one or two calls per month from police to verify whether a motorist they have stopped is insured for this reason, it's now 20 or more per week."

The camera software, for example, frequently is unable to distinguish similar characters such as the letter O and the number 0. Other errors can happen when drivers apply for insurance and accidentally transpose letters on their applications, causing incorrect data to be entered into the insurance database. In such cases, the automated machines will attempt to verify insurance coverage and wrongly flag the vehicle as uninsured. Police will pull over and attempt to issue a ticket to these individuals who would be put in the position of proving their innocence.

"Simple errors can result in a lot of wasted time and inconvenience for you, the police and your insurer -- quite apart from the risk of temporarily having your car confiscated," Douglas said.

In Edmonton, Canada, the automated camera that was intended to reduce accidents was itself involved in one. A mobile speed camera truck had set up a speed trap on Yellowhead Trail on Monday. The van was rear ended by a Toyota SUV at around 9pm, CHQT radio reported. While advocates of photo enforcement frequently dismiss such rear end collisions as minor "fender benders," the impact caused the Toyota to flip over. No injuries were reported.