They're watching us! No, we're not talking about aliens. We're talking about those pesky, unpopular traffic cameras at many intersections. They are put up to catch reckless drivers when there aren't any police officers around. They'll catch you speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and even disobeying bus lane rules in some areas.

This has led to people taking some extreme measures to avoid getting a machine-enforced ticket in the mail. The gripe that some people are starting to have is that the ways people are trying to outsmart traffic cameras is causing other problems. The perpetrators are not only causing extra problems for traffic as a whole, but may also be creating unnecessary fines for themselves. Let's take a look at what people are doing and what the risks are.

Traffic Camera Laws

California and other states have made it illegal to engage in tactics to avoid traffic cameras. The two sneaky tactics that get people in the most trouble are:

  • Objects that block a license plate number.
  • Dark window tinting so a person cannot be identified.

If either license plate or facial recognition is inconclusive, a ticket cannot be issued.

Concealing License Plates

Here are examples of products that make it difficult for a traffic camera to capture a license plate:

  • See-through covers that make a plate readable from straight on but unreadable from an angle.
  • Sprays that increase the reflection on a plate.

Nobody is quite sure of the success rate that these products have, but MythBusters has shown they are likely ineffective in most cases. Advanced technology products that rotate a person's plate may be successful but are difficult to conceal during an inspection.

In California, there is a $250 fine associated with using a product to hide a plate. The $250 is likely more than the original traffic ticket cost.

Window Tint

Tinting the windows can make it hard to see a person's face. Under California law, 70% of light must make it through the front windows. Moreover, it's illegal to add any kind of extra reflective material to the windows. There are no such requirements for side and rear windows.

Though these laws are in place, new technology has made it easier to identify a person's face even with extra window tint. Also, if you get pulled over, a cop may use test strips on your tinted windows to see if they are too dark, which can create fines in addition to what you were pulled over for.

Dangerous Driving

Though the original intent may have been to reduce dangerous driving, it may be having the opposite effect. Sometimes, people will speed until they approach an intersection camera. This sudden stopping can be especially dangerous when roads are slick.

Adding to this problem are phone apps that tell a driver exactly where the traffic cameras are located. For now, the legality of these apps is undetermined. They make it easy for people to pull on a mask or hide their faces to avoid getting a ticket.

The #1 Way to Avoid Traffic Camera Tickets

Avoiding traffic camera tickets is actually quite simple; all you have to do is drive safely. If you drive safe and stay constantly aware of your surroundings, you limit your risk for getting into an accident and getting a ticket. The best way to become a safer driver is to take a traffic school course. You will learn about things such as your state's laws, techniques for defensive driving, and how to avoid accidents. In addition to making you a safer driver, a traffic school, a.k.a. defensive driving course, can even get your ticket penalties reduced or eliminated.