Drivers Beware Of The ‘Stop Trap’

CHICAGO (CBS) – You’ve heard of speed traps, designed to catch drivers who find themselves in a sudden, dramatically reduced speed limit? Now there’s something new in the Chicago suburbs and some are calling them “stop traps.”

These are confusing signs, rules and cameras going after drivers turning right on red. CBS 2’s Mike Parker issues a warning, “drivers beware.”

Barnet Fagel is a video forensic expert who bills himself as the “Ticket Doctor” and for years has been battling the way red light cameras are used to nail drivers. Fagel’s latest crusade is against what he calls “stop traps.”

“The trap,” Fagel says, “comes when certain signs are not visible from the normal viewing area of a car.”

He points to the intersection of Willow and Waukegan Roads in Northfield where, next to the right turn lane, the last presumably most visible warning sign saying “no turn on red” is virtually obscured and stuck behind two trees.

Joe Kaszynski turned right on red at the intersection and received a $100 dollar ticket with photos in the mail, “I was very surprised, I didn’t see the sign that said no turn on red.”

In fact, drivers can get a flash photo ticket even if their front wheels simply roll inches past the white line.

Then there’s the intersection of Washington and Roosevelt in West Chicago in which Fagel says he hates, “it’s designed for profit.”

The overhead traffic lights are hard to see in the glare of the sun and the white line where drivers must stop before turning right is worn away, virtually invisible.

Motorist Jason Korpala tried to use all that as a defense in court. “The hearing officer,” Korpala says, “did not allow us to enter any of that stuff in our case and basically just said I was guilty and gave me the fine. I think it’s wrong.”

Northfield and West Chicago are contracted with two different camera companies to install their systems. The deals work like this; the suburbs split the take from the fines with those firms and many critics say the gadgets are more concerned about revenue than traffic safety.

A West Chicago spokesman disagreed, saying “I know they’re unpopular but we’re accomplishing the mission of safer driving.”

  • Frederick Jones

    My name is Frederick Jones from the southside of chicago and I do agree that the stop trap is unfair and leave the driver with no defense when he or she goes to court and can not speak becuse the judge says you are is guilty. There must be another recource to the problem.

  • Roberta Waker

    If the Judge refuses to let you defend youself, he is violating your Constitutional rights. Every person has the right to defend him/herself. Maybe everyone that’s ticketed should ask for a trial and if the judges get a lot of requests for trials that eat up their time, they just might stop this practice. You DO have the right to ask for a trial on a traffic ticket, either by judge or jury, so use it.

    • James Sinkler

      That is not entirely true. Certain municipally written tickets, as opposed to state citations do not give you the right to a trial before any judge or jury. For instance, seat belt violations often times are sent not to a court room but to a hearing room in front of a so-called hearing officer. The police officer writing the initial citation does NOT have to appear and testify, nor are you given the opportunity to cross examine the officer or contest in any meaningful way the evidence presented against you. It is a kangaroo court in the truest sense of the word and yet another example of how our rights are being slowly chipped away by people who claim to have OUR best interests at heart!

  • Mr Voter

    thats right tie up the time make these corrupt lackies spend money they don’t have….vote the creeps out who want to keep these robot highwaymen on the corners, they can catch you on a stop sign but not a murder ….whats going on….VOTE THEM OUT PEOPLE before they take all your rights, just ask for trail, go take pictures, stop and interview other witnesses, ask, demand the jury vist the site for hard proof…fight them!

  • george

    let’s be clear about all of these governments: the people who work there, they must have new cars, their children must go to college. where did you think the money was going to come from????

  • Traffic Law Supoorter

    Stop whining!!! I fully support red light cameras. The majority of people on the road abuse the traffic laws. 95%+ don’t stop fully at a red light or stop sign for that matter. If you stop fully, you will feel your car rock backwards. As for the white line, you are supposted to stop behind it, not on it, not in front of it. As for not being able to see it, perhaps if people slowed as they are approaching a red light they could see it rather than barrelling up to the intersection. I think we should repeal turning right on red then all these people complaining would have nothing to complain about. And if people followed traffic laws (speeding, etc.), perhaps there would be fewer traffice fatalities and insurance rates may decline not to mention free up police officers time to track down other criminals.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      Mr. Traffic Law Supoorter
      I have read a number of the camera contracts and none of them even mention the word safety. No safety milestones are included. The law was designed by the camera vendors who specified the ciations be civil. I attended the West Chciago pharse of a hearing. The hearing officer said only a lawyer could introduce evidence. You don’t have to have a law degree to know this is a falsehood, they just want the money and marginalize safety.

    • Give me a break!!!

      Get your facts straight!!!! It’s been proven time & time again that these lights have NO impact on safety!!!! There are a revenue source and that’s it!!!! Hell, some of the intersections where they have these cameras have seen an increase in accidents.

  • Tom

    Hey, Mr. Traffic Law Supporter. I just retired as a Police Lieutenant after a 30 year career in law enforcement. I was a traffic cop for several years and over saw out traffic division.. So getv this. Why do you think the companies that manufacture these cameras went into business? To make money. Sure, they’ll sell it as a traffic safety item and to a degree it is. But thier emphasis is on money. For them to even install the cameras they need to be guaranteed a certain percentage of money, which is made via fines. I know for a fact that the chief motivation for cities / counties to install these things is for financial gain. Traffic safety comes in a distant second.

  • Ann

    Watch the video again, and then take a look at the photo of the “hidden” sign. The photo is taken from the sidewalk, or at the least off the street and no where near where a driver’s perspective would be. Please, if you’re going to do a report on an unfair “trap” for drivers at least show what the driver really sees from behind the wheel. I hope the Ticket Doctor doesn’t go into court with this totally unfair evidence.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      While the news story was shot from the sidewalk, pictures from a vehicle in the left or right lane definatley show the sign is blocked from view. This has been reported to the Illinos Department of Transportation.

  • Tweets that mention Drivers Beware Of The ‘Stop Trap’ « CBS Chicago – Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traffic, and the Best of Chicago --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marilyn Morehouse. Marilyn Morehouse said: Traffic Depot Update Drivers Beware Of The 'Stop Trap' « CBS Chicago – Breaking News … #law #traffic #autos […]

  • Sylvia

    The City of Chicago has the same traps! Make a right on red where there is NO SIGN and the camera will take your picture as an offender and you’re stuck with a $100 fine! I know, it happened to me twice. I submitted pictures of the intersection taken from my car and walking through the intersection and the fine still stood. I was told that I didn’t stop at the light. There was another car making a left turn onto the street that I made the right turn. By the photo taken, if I had not stopped before making my turn, there would have been an accident between me and the left turn driver. The cameras are all about revenu generation, not safety!

    • The Ticket Doctor

      I have studied the Chicago RLCs for almsot 4 years, they employ short-timed yellow lights in my opinion to increase revenue as proved in a video posted on Chicago is the red light camera capital of the USA with at least 370 cameras at 187 intersections. Chicago collected $64.1M in 2009! And yet the city claims not enough manpower to maintain the city’s traffic signals,but spent $50M for a 5 year camera maintenance contract….I have examined many citation videos as I am certified to testify as a Forensic Video Analyst. None of the camera personel are trained as a forensic video ananlyst. The is as close to a perfect crime as possible.

  • Just the facts

    All of these cameras are joke. If you want to enforce the infraction put a cop their. But oh no we dont want to take him away from his regulr duties. I could beleive this if it was true but that same cop they say they need to do his regular job is being layed off not bein used to do his regular job duties as they say. Kinda like how the internet and was not supposed to policed since it was freedom of speech and once something was deleted it was gone forever. Nope anything you do is on someone’s super server there for the privlidged to view, all your personal mssages and thought when ever they want. Yep another piece of our privacy gone. But they say its all for our safety. Just another invasion No its so those chosen ones can pry into our privatel lives.

  • Katie

    The picture is deceiving. You can clearly see the sign. People just love making excuses for getting a fine they deserve.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      That’s an easy comment to make when you’re viewing a still picture, but traveling at 45 MPH and make a split-second decisions is quite another story.

  • Clark43

    I find it a little hard to believe that every intersection that has a red-light camera has a problem with signage. Where there is a signage problem, it should be corrected but the problem should not invalidate the use of camera enforcement. Further, a driver in order to be a safe driver needs to come to a stop, check for vehicles coming through on the cross street and for pedestrians crossing the street before turning right. I was recently a pedestrian at an intersection with a crosswalk and a pedestrian Walk/Don’t Walk signal. When the light changed and the Walk signal came on, I began to cross. I had to jump back up onto the curb twice as first a car and then a truck rolled through the crosswalk without stopping before turning right.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      The story did not even suggest that, review the story.The driver who got the ticket did stop. I am sorry you had a bad pedestrian experince. Using one incident does not make a statistic. I will recommend simple survival rule look the driver and make sure he sees you. Is this a law, no, but its just good common sense. Do you remember if there was a red light camera at that intersection?

  • salmal

    While I will conceed that a lot of municipalities probably use red light cams as a souce of revenue, the reporter in this story should have used a different intersection for his story. If you look across the intersection, at the light pole, you will clearly see a ‘no right on red’ sign. You don’t have to use the defense that the tree is blocking the sign on the driver’s side of the intersection.
    As a matter of fact, I can’t think of too many intersections – city or suburbs – where there aren’t multiple signs located, just for that purpose. These people got caught, plain and simple and they’re just trying to shirk their duties of paying the fines. The ones who truly follow the laws will not get caught. It’s the old ‘rolling through a stop sign’ defense.
    And as for the second driver interviewed, as Ms Waker stated above, you have the right to defend yourself in a court of law, jury or no jury. I find it extremely hard to believe a judge is going to be that blatant with so many witnesses (this being traffic court) that he/she wouldn’t allow a defender to present evidence. My guess is that the driver just expected the law to go easy on him and he didn’t prepare himself.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      That sign is not visible when there is cross traffic. When even one sign is blocked drivers get trapped, hence the term Stop Trap.The inverse of a speed trap.The second driver tried to defend himself, but was denied. I was there. I appeared as an expert witness and was told by the hearing officer that only a lawyer could present eviidence, this is a falsehood.

  • Jerry

    The cities should do what is necessary to make the signage visible, but that doesn’t impune my view that the cameras are making a difference. There are plenty of roads that have no turn on red and that has nothing to do with the cameras.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      Jerry, can you cite one independent peer reviewed report which supports your position? If so please present it. The no right tunr on red signs are independent of the cameras except when the signs are not visible to drivers, it becomes dangersous. The signs are under the control of IDOT.

  • Less

    seriously, why do you need a sign to tell you how you already know you should be conducting yourself behind the wheel?

  • Rick J.

    I understand the concern for signs that are obscured where it says “no right on red” and that should be remedied, but please stop with this “trap” rhetoric. There is no such thing, the law is the law and we are required to follow it. Pay attention to the way you drive and you don’t need to fear enforcement.

    • The Ticket Doctor

      Go to West Chicago and tell everyone why of of their traffic signals at a camera equipped intersection has not worked in months. When enforcement is outsourced to a for profit company, there’s much to fear. There are law suits being filed as to the dangerous situations directly attributable to camea vendors and crooked politicians. This is Chicago, Illinois, the highest gas and lowest munucipal morals.

  • Gordon James

    I cannot imagine a traffic engineer intentionally hiding a traffic instruction sign to generate income for the city coffers. This sounds a little weak to me.

  • The Ticket Doctor

    Budget restrictions limit what the State can do, Nothing was said that the sign was hidden intentionally. But the permit application photos showing the sign and what is there now are vastly different.

  • Nicole Mitchell

    DaGoatSpanka writes with news that Mississippi Governer Haley Barbour signed a bill into law on Friday which instituted a ban on automated cameras that would snap pictures of motorists when they ran red lights. “The new law says the two cities that already have the cameras, Jackson and Columbus, must take them down by Oct. 1. Other cities and counties are banned from starting to use them.” We’ve discussed situations in the past where cities looked at such cameras as “profit centers,” and even tampered with their traffic light timing to catch more motorists. Now, in Mississippi, the contractors who installed the cameras are unhappy, since they received a cut of the ticket revenue generated by the cameras. However, lawmakers overwhelming voted to get rid of them (117-3 in the House, 42-9 in the Senate), because “the cameras were an invasion of privacy and their constituents thought they had been unfairly ticketed.”

  • Genie

    Just because the light goes off, doesn’t mean you will get a ticket. 60% of the photos taken don’t even get handed over to police, and even less of those become tickets.

  • The Ticket Doctor

    Genie, where did you get your statistics? Is the 60% figure for a certain city or state or for the whole country? Please share the source of your information. Could it possibly be from a newspaper, blogger, insurance company or association, legislature, stakeholder or maybe a police chief?
    Since different towns exercise different levels of red light camera enforcement and all these record information has been culminated into one report I don’t understand the basis for your 60% figure. The new state law tripling the dollar amount of vehicle damage ($500 to $1,500) before a crash is considered “official” will lower the number of collisions. People can still get injured with only $500 of damage. Also the new Illinois state law does not require drivers to stop behind the line anymore and outlaws extra hearing charges when the case is first heard, which was an act of intimidation.
    Consider this; if only 60% of the citation videos are prosecutable then the red light cameras need to be properly calibrated. I have not seen evidence that the occurrence of emergency vehicles or funeral processions is such a high degree of overall traffic volume. Many independent peer reviewed traffic studies indicate red light cameras are connected with higher intersection crash rates. Our legal system is being out-sourced for profit and traffic safety is being marginalized to balance gluttonous fiscal spending and malfeasance.

  • gary

    I live in Chicago and constantly see the cameras flashing heading East and West on Montrose, Irving Park, Addison, Belmont, etc… What exactly warrents a ticket when the camera goes off?
    If you are in the intersection prior to the light turning yellow? if you begin to enter the intersection when the light turns yellow? I have not received a ticket, but when the lights change or the camera flashes, you do see hesitation in a lot of drivers of whether or not they should be doing at that point in time.
    Do you have any commentary or information on when the person is deserving of the ticket?

  • Johnny C.

    Sometimes it just doesn’t matter where they put the signs as people will always “not see them” or choose to ignore and now the cameras are just there to catch them in the act.

  • Rikki L.

    Completely agree that the signs should be visible but there is always going to be someone who “didn’t see the sign”. The city should make it’s best effort to post signs as clearly as possible. Now it is up to all of us to take personal responsibility and completely stop before turning right.

  • Juana

    This is a pretty poor story. It makes me sick that people take so much time trying to prove how they’re being done wrong. Pick yourself up and take some responsibility.

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