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The things red-light and toll scofflaws will do to get out of a ticket

There's always a little thrill that comes with beating the system.

Whether it's sneaking into the box seats from the nosebleed section, or moving the car after your allotted time but just before the meter reader arrives.

Now come tollbooth and red-light cameras, a digital-world challenge that some foolhardy and cheating souls are taking to the extreme.

Photographs from Florida's Department of Transportation have captured SunPass tollbooth runners in acts of head-shaking audacity.

A car blows through while a passenger in the trunk sticks a hand out to cover the tag.

A motorcyclist lies prone on his seat so his feet can dangle over the back to obscure the plate. If a squirrel should cross his path, there's not a chance in the world he can brake quickly, but he just saved $1.

"Sometimes people find themselves at a toll booth without money and just panic,'' said Christa Deason, a DOT spokeswoman.

But the photos don't capture people in one-time acts of desperation, she said. They show habitual offenders who repeatedly travel the same route. And their antics result in Highway Patrol stakeouts. "The troopers always get you," she said, even when the cameras don't.

Then there are those who try to capitalize on our rebellious ways.

Websites tout various products to beat red-light cameras and speed cameras, including fake mud to spray on SUVs, lending the appearance of a recent romp in the woods with ... oops ... a few dollops on the license plate.

Other sprays purport to create a high gloss that reflects so much light that the camera's image overexposes.

Plastic films and other plate covers claim to distort the numbers. One cover even had tiny louvers, so anyone looking at street level could see the plate but a pole-mounted camera, shooting from a higher angle, could not.

Florida law is clear about such shenanigans. They're illegal.

It is considered a moving violation, with points on your record, to alter a license tag in any way, including with any coating, spray or material that makes it illegible from any angle.

License tag alteration comes in many forms and the Highway Patrol does not keep statistics of different methods, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, spokesman in the Tampa office.

Someone driving on an expired tag, for example, might use green tape to try to make a "4" look like a "9."

Gaskins has seen department bulletins on the various methods people can use to foil cameras. It's ironic, Gaskins said, because "they don't work.''

One reflective spray, "Photoblocker'' sells for $29.99 a can, enough to cover four tags, the company's website says.

The television show Mythbusters examined Photoblocker spray, films and other devices in 2007 and found that none obscured the tag.

The only way to beat a red light camera was to blast through the intersection at no less than 200 miles per hour, said Mythbusters, using a jet-powered car to make their point.

Photoblocker representatives could not be reached for comment. Their website does include a caveat disclosing that its product might be illegal in certain jurisdictions.

"We do not condone red light running,'' the site proclaims. "Our products are designed to provide law abiding motorists protection from faulty red light/speed cameras ONLY.''

Want to be a dealer? Photoblocker will sell you 300 cans for just under $3,000 and throw in an extra 100 for free.

Or, if you prefer, you can be an "affiliate'' and talk your friends into selling the spray, too. When they earn, you earn.

Sort of like a pyramid.

The things red-light and toll scofflaws will do to get out of a ticket 06/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 9:02am]
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