Pete Muller, owner of Tint World in Longwood, uses a digital camera flash to demonstrate a "jammer" device installed below his license plate, designed to prevent red light cameras from reading a vehicle's license plate. The device detects the red light ...and more »
A new device designed to thwart red-light cameras is now on sale in Longwood, though Orlando police say it could encourage dangerous driving.Pete Muller, owner of Tint World Automotive Styling Centers, located at 2100 N. Ronald Reagan Blvd., said his goal isn’t to help red-light runners but to give ordinary motorists peace of mind on the roadways.
“A lot of the time, you don’t even realize you’re breaking the law, and you end up getting one of these tickets in the mail, just from an innocent mistake,” said Pete Muller, owner of Tint World Automotive Styling Centers.The Ohio-based entrepreneur behind the noPhoto argues the device is perfectly legal, despite a state law that prohibits drivers from deliberately obscuring their license plates.The noPhoto is a thin, black bar installed beneath a car’s license plate, with light sensors and a xenon flash. When the device detects the flash from a traffic camera, it fires its own flash, creating a glare meant to prevent the camera from taking a readable picture.
Tint World is charging $399 for the device. Fines for red-light camera violations run $158. Orlando, Apopka, Winter Park and Orange County are among the local governments that use the cameras.The noPhoto was invented by Jonathan Dandrow, an amateur photographer and auto enthusiast who argues that red light cameras are more effective at generating revenue for cities than promoting public safety.He and other critics argue the cameras prompt behavior that can cause accidents, such as drivers abruptly stopping at yellow lights to avoid a ticket. A recent report by Florida highway officials found an increase in collisions at monitored intersections.
“People who have purchased the device tend to really enjoy it,” Dandrow said. “They say it basically lowers their stress level while they’re driving and lets them drive the way they would have, before these cameras were in place.”But Michelle Guido, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department, argued a device like the noPhoto may encourage law breaking.“It's a public safety issue in that law enforcement doesn't want people thinking they can run red lights and face no consequences because that makes things dangerous for everyone on the road,” she said.Dandrow built a prototype of the device and launched a fundraising campaign through the website Indiegogo, which helped him to enlist a professional engineering firm and entice further investment. In January, VOXX Electronics Corporation announced a partnership with Dandrow’s company, noLimits Enterprises, to manufacture and distribute the noPhoto.Muller is among his first vendors.Charles Territo, a spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, which operates many local cameras, quipped that the most effective device for preventing a red-light ticket “is a brake pedal.”
“These types of technologies that aim to evade law enforcement are not only rarely effective, but oftentimes are illegal,” he said.Florida law prohibits obscuring a license plate to make it unreadable, including by using an “illuminated device” to interfere with “the ability to record any feature or detail” of a plate, language Guido said the noPhoto appears to violate.Robert Azcano, an attorney with The Ticket Clinic, said police “could easily stretch” that state statute to issue a citation for such a device, but noted an officer would likely have to witness it being used.“It would just be pure luck, with an officer being behind a violator, otherwise they would never know,” he said. Barring that, he said, “I think that they’ll be getting away with it, for the most part.”Dandrow argued the noPhoto doesn’t violate Florida law.While the device is designed to prevent a readable photo of the license plate, it doesn’t interfere with video, so the camera is still technically able to record the tag, he said. The software red-light camera companies use to detect violators’ license plates rely on still photos, he said.He and Muller said the device has been specifically designed not to work on the cameras at toll-road stations. An Apopka man was arrested in January, accused of using a remote-controlled screen to block his tag entirely, in order to avoid tolls.“That would make it illegal at that point,” Muller said. “This doesn’t do that at all.”Dandrow and Muller insist it’s not their intention to encourage red-light runners.“We don’t ever want anybody to put this on their car and think, ‘I’m just going to start running through red lights all the time,’” Muller said. “In those instances … they’re going to get a ticket, and I hope they do because you shouldn’t be running red lights.”firstname.lastname@example.org, 407-420-5171 or @JeffWeinerOS on TwitterRed-light cameras? Let cities, counties decide »
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