Traffic

Drivers, Police At Odds Over Ways To Beat Red-Light Cameras

Posted May 20, 2004

— As more red-light cameras go up, more companies are putting out products to disguise license plates. The ads tout easy ways to beat the cameras, but now the North Carolina legislature has stepped in with a bill that would ban such devices.

Carlyle Beckwith said his smoky-plastic license plate cover got him pulled over by police. The officer explained some drivers were trying to beat red-light cameras by blocking the view of their plates.

"The officer told me I had to take it off," he said. "I just had a little decoration on my old second car."

Beckwith's license plate cover is one thing. Some people are also using the Eliminator, a clear piece of plastic that when viewed from behind may offer a clear view of the license plate, but from above where red light cameras would be, it would look like the plate is blurred.

There is even a spray available called Photo Blocker that is supposed to render your plate unreadable.

With all the efforts to beat red-light cameras, legislation is pending in the General Assembly. House Bill 26 would ban any device designed to block a clear picture of a traffic control camera.

As legislators debate a bill and as motorists possibly consider buying something to put over their license plate, most red-light camera operators say most red-light blocking devices do not work.

"The camera reads right through it. It does absolutely nothing to stop the camera," said Chris Davis, of the Cary Police Department.

Davis said he has reviewed hundreds of red-light camera photos. He has seen several examples of drivers using devices designed to block red-light cameras.

"I would say, 'Don't waste the money,'" he said. "It's probably better to obey the traffic laws and stop before you get to the light."

The companies that make the products claim they do work. Attorney Bob Hensley said it is the legislation that does not work. The former legislator fought red-light cameras, and says the bill does not solve any problems.

"They've created a money cow in red-light cameras and now what they're trying to do is find a way to keep the money cow going and that just doesn't work," Hensley said.

Durham Rep. Paul Miller introduced the bill banning license plate blocking. He said he got the idea for the bill from a WRAL story on a plastic license plate cover.

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