Friday July 4, 2003
From George Gordon in New York
A number plate spray, which supposedly defeats speed cameras, is proving a hit with drivers.
The aerosol is said to reflect the flash from radar traffic cameras, turning registration plates into an unreadable white blur.
Its makers, Phantom Plate, say the PhotoBlocker is invisible to the naked eye and that a single application lasts for weeks. The spray is on sale through a U.S. website and is likely to attract interest from British drivers.
Joe Scott, Phantom Plate’s marketing director, said: “I know of no jurisdiction that bans the spray. Most states have laws against obscuring or distorting license plates, but PhotoBlocker only obscures the license plate in a photo, making it legal and difficult to detect with the naked eye.
He said high demand for the £20 product was evidence of growing public anger at the use of the speed cameras to generate revenue rather than reduce accidents.
“Decent folks – law-abiding citizens – are getting penalized left and right for clearing intersections a little too late, or entering and then backing up,” he said.
But RAC spokesman Kevin Delaney warned the PhotoBlocker could be illegal in the UK and might not even work.
“If the intention was to beat the speed camera – and the police could prove it – then it might be illegal to use this product in Britain,” he said.
“More fundamental is the question of its effectiveness.
“A number of similar products have been introduced here and over the last four or five years, and none of them has worked.”
Captain John Lamb, head of traffic police in Denver, Colorado, said the spray had worked in tests he had supervised.
“It proved effective producing a glare over the license plate,” he said.
FOX TV network, which filmed the tests, also reported that it was “surprisingly effective.”
Steve Kholer, of the Californian Highway Patrol, which levies fines of up to £150 on speeding motorists, said “the law would catch up with” any product that proved to be successful.
Phantom Plate’s website boasts: “Make your license plate invisible to cameras. If they can’t read it, they can’t catch you.”
The company also markets the Photoshield, a plastic cover that hides registration numbers.
The website refers to “protection from cameras” but also claims the plate covers are “a great way to protect your license plate from dust, dirt and bugs.”
The Photoshield makes the number plate unreadable from the side or above, but not directly from behind.
It is legal to manufacture and sell it in the U.S. but use by drivers is prohibited after new legislation was brought in.
Some 21 U.S. states use traffic cameras and the highly-expensive support work to keep them in action is achieved with help from manufacturers and operators.
They take a percentage of the revenues from fines.