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PhantomALERT Warns Drivers Of Speed Cameras - NBC News Baltimore Print E-mail

wbal_tv_baltimore_md_nbc.jpgBALTIMORE -- Speed cameras are already in Maryland, taking the license plates of speeding drivers, and while the tickets can add up fast, some drivers have already found a way to avoid them.

Joe Siegmund has been trying to get drivers to slow down for years. He lives on busy Schuster Road in back of a public school in rural Harford County. The speed limit is 25 mph, but he said few drivers obey it.

"The Sheriff's Department puts their trailer out here on a regular basis. I've gone down there and watched it and have seen speeds as high as 60 mph," he said. 

Siegmund said his street is a short cut between routes 146 and 23, shaving about a mile off a driver's trip. He said he's hoping Harford County will install speed cameras at that location.

wbal_carshot_interior_240x180.jpg"Speed cameras would be nice because people would learn they are there and they would slow down," he said.

But some motorists have found a way around the mechanical cops.

"I'm dead set against having technology control human behavior," said Steve Forage, a Maryland software salesman.

Forage said he spends anywhere from five to 12 hours a day working out of his Cadillac, and he's got information most other drivers don't -- the location of every speed and red light camera in the U.S. is at his fingertips.

Forage installed a new program called Phantom Alert into his GPS.

"I work a lot in the car, so I need to have that in there to help refocus in case the speed limit drops from 45 to 30 quickly," he said, referring to times when he's on the phone.

The WBAL TV 11 News I-Team rode along with Forage to see if it worked and tested it in a speed camera zone on Democracy Boulevard in Montgomery County.

Forage programmed the Phantom Alert to first sound an alarm within 500 feet of a speed or red light camera. When he got within 300 feet, the device issued another warning.

Phantom Alert collects speed and red light camera locations from police Web sites. Subscribers can also supply camera locations and where police mobile units are parked.

"I'm dead set against having technology control human behavior." - Steve Forage
Forage said Phantom Alert is only as good as the information that's put into it.

"It's not 100 percent, but it is better than running naked. It gives you a fighting chance," he said.

By avoiding tickets, Forage said he believes the device has already paid for itself.

The devices are not illegal in Maryland and some law enforcement officials said they didn't mind it.

"Personally, I don't think that's a bad idea," said Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane.

Bane is interested in speed cameras but said the county doesn't have the money to purchase the equipment. He said he's not opposed to drivers using devices like Phantom Alert if it makes them slow down.

"Which is what the speed camera wanted them to do to begin with -- to get them to slow down," he said.

But other police agencies expressed concern that devices like the Phantom Alert may provide a false sense of security, allowing drivers to think it's safe to speed when they aren't hearing any warnings. That could be both dangerous and expensive.

The makers of Phantom Alert predict that Maryland's new speed camera law will be very good for business.

The cameras will be allowed statewide beginning Oct. 1. If you're caught speeding, a ticket will cost $40.

Meanwhile, Siegmund said he hopes the county will come up with the money to install a speed camera along Schuster Road. He said if drivers want to use devices like Phantom Alert, he's all for anything that will slow them down.

A one year subscription to Phantom Alert is also about $40.

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“If it is alerting the driver there is camera ahead and actually gets the driver to slow down… be aware of the speed limit and also be aware of the speed limit and also be aware not to run that red light… that’s a great idea.”

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“PhantomAlert detected camera after camera”

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“New technology has come out … helps you find out when to slow down”


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