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VIDEO: Speed Camera Nabs Car Sitting At Red Light

When most drivers get a ticket from a speed-zone camera, there's little they can do but pay the fine. After all, the ticket often includes photographic proof that their car was over the limit. But a Maryland driver is fighting his $40 fine precisely because of what the photos show: his car, sitting at a red light.

The car's owner, Daniel Doty, received the ticket after driving in Baltimore, complete with a short video that purported to show his Mazda traveling at 38 mph in a 25-mph zone. Instead, the video shows his car idling at a red light, its brake-lights on, sitting alone at an intersection while traffic crosses in front of it.

Doty is due to appear in court Friday to contest the charge.

According to The Baltimore Sun, which posted the video of Doty's alleged infraction, the episode marks the seventh time a traffic camera in the city has "produced inaccurate citations bearing erroneous speed readings" — and the first time the car in question was stationary.

While the folks at Mazda might be tempted to see the episode as proof that their cars simply look fast standing still, we should note that Doty was driving the family-friendly Mazda 5 minivan, not one of the company's Speed coupes.

The Sun notes that while Baltimore police have policies that require a review of camera-generated tickets, "The department has said that a single officer can review up to 1,200 citations in a given day."

The city's traffic camera system is run by Xerox State and Local Solutions. A Xerox spokesman tells The Sun that Baltimore's photo enforcement program is under review.

Baltimore is among some 542 U.S. communities that currently use either red-light or speed cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute's most recent data lists 27 states that do not use red-light or speed cameras.

In Washington, D.C., traffic cameras generated a reported $84.9 million in fines for the most recent fiscal year. As DCist reports, a single camera was responsible for $6.2 million of that total.

Maryland's traffic cameras were in the news earlier this week, when Gov. Martin O'Malley said that the contracting companies who operate red-light and speed-zone cameras should not be paid according to the number of tickets issued. Such an arrangement runs against state laws that govern automated enforcement, he said.

Traffic cameras won the ire of drivers and safety advocates in England yesterday, after reports emerged that 36 digital cameras that dot London's M25 freeway have not yielded a single speeding ticket — despite the road's use by some 500,000 motorists daily.

Legal and technical issues are behind the delay, reports The Telegraph, which notes that new agencies had sought the information to learn which cameras were the most lucrative. There had been no inkling that none of the cameras were actually working.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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