What is Photo Radar?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Photo radar is a traffic enforcement tool which uses a camera to snap a picture of cars which violate traffic laws, for the purpose of issuing a citation. This method is viewed as controversial in some areas of the world, and numerous people have come up with creative ways to beat tickets issued by photo radar systems. Given that more and more regions are adopting this type of system, drivers should definitely get accustomed to it, as it is unlikely to go away.

Photo radar uses a camera to snap a picture of cars which violate traffic laws.
Photo radar uses a camera to snap a picture of cars which violate traffic laws.

A typical photo radar unit includes a radar gun which is used to judge the speed of traffic, along with a computer which records information from the radar unit. When a violation of the speed limit is detected, the computer triggers a camera, which takes a photograph of the offending vehicle. The photographs can either be gone through manually or with a computer to extract the license plate information, which is used to identify the registered owner of the vehicle and send out a citation.

Citations usually include a copy of the photograph, along with data about when and where the violation occurred, and the nature of the violation. While photo radar systems are used for speeders, cameras can also be used for traffic enforcement at red lights, tricky intersections, and other problem areas. In all cases, the citation allows the driver to either pay a fine, or contest the citation in court or through the mail.

Drivers who choose to contest may do so because the photograph does not document their car, which does happen on occasion; sometimes the license plate data is read incorrectly, and a citation is sent to the wrong driver. Drivers may also attempt to contest on legal grounds, using a variety of arguments depending on where the traffic violation took place.

Some regions use permanent photo radar units in areas which have continual speeding problems. These units may also have a large digital speed display so that approaching drivers can take note of their speed. Law enforcement agents can also deploy mobile units for a variety of reasons. In both cases, the use of photo radar means that a police officer does not need to be paid to sit around and wait for speeders.

From a law enforcement prospective, photo radar is supposed to make the streets safer because people are aware that they can be ticketed even if a police officer isn't around, so they watch their speed more closely. These systems also save money, and generate revenues. Drivers tend to view such systems with more animosity, but there's a simple solution to avoid getting caught by a photo radar unit: don't speed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Next with GPS, the speed of the street you're driving on will be analyized and if you are speeding, your car itself will issue you a ticket. After that we will all have ticket dispensing backpacks.

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