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Six Ways to Avoid Red Light Cameras

There's not another person on the road. And sure, you see the "No Turn on Red" sign, but that's just a suggestion. So you go for it. Then, boom -- the back of your car is illuminated by the flash of a covert camera. Your stomach sinks knowing that a fine will soon be arriving in the mailbox.

With those pesky red light cameras propped up at dozens of intersections -- and possibly more to come -- the market for products to beat the system is growing. Some are gimmicks; others seem viable. None is foolproof. 

Here, a look at six ways you can try to evade those ticket-spewing Cyclopes.

The product: PhotoBlocker Spray

The claim: This "special formula" sprays on clear and reflects the flash of the camera to overexpose the image of the license plate. One spray can, which costs $29.99, can cover four plates.

Why it might not work: Charles Territo of American Traffic Solutions, the company that owns and operates Florida's red light cameras, says these types of products have little impact on the camera's flash. In fact, Territo says, some sprays actually help reduce the glare of the sun and allow the camera to grab a clearer image of the license plate. Also, MythBusters busted the crap out of these sprays during tests of speed cameras, which are similar to red light cameras.

The product: Trapster

The claim: Red light cameras? There's an app for that. With nearly 15 million users, Trapster  claims to be "the world's largest driving community." The free app is designed to crowd-source the location of red light cameras, speed traps, and similar on-road nuisances. These are displayed on an easy-to-read map of whatever neighborhood you happen to be driving around in. Users can receive alerts when a trap is near, and they can also opt to have the app monitor their speed and provide an alert when they're over the posted speed limit.

Why it might not work: While the concept sounds awesome, a fair amount of users in Apple's App Store complain of the program crashing, incorrect information being displayed, the GPS not working, and the alerts coming too late. Some of these might be bugs that can be worked out with an update. But until then, it's best not to rely on this as your only defense.

The product: PhotoShield

The claim: PhantomPlate, the company selling this for $25, says PhotoShield is a "thin diffusional lens," which is jargon for a "plastic cover." According to the website, the cover allows the license plate to look normal when viewed from straight on, but it distorts the characters and makes them unreadable when viewed from an angle. Also, it was supposedly featured on an episode of CSI Miami, for whatever that's worth.

Why it might not work: Red light cameras are sophisticated pieces of technology that won't be fooled by a piece of plastic. Territo tells New Times that his company's cameras take images that are often as many as 16 megapixels. While megapixels aren't the be-all and end-all of photo clarity, it's a safe bet ATS invested in sensors and lenses that can work around a plastic holder.

The product: GPS Angel

The claim: This 2.5-inch-wide disc uses GPS to compare your whereabouts against a database of known camera locations. When a camera is near, a series of lights and beeps go off -- similar to those old-school radar detectors. At $79.99 and up, it's one of the more expensive options out there.

Why it might not work: It can't actually detect that a camera is posted on the corner, so it's useless if the database isn't current. That said, owners are given free lifetime updates to the database.

The product: Temporary plates/grime

The claim: A few messageboards include chatter about keeping those paper plates you get from car dealers on as a way of circumventing the all-watching cameras. There's also the option to cover your license plate with filth and mud to ensure it's unreadable.

Why it might not work: This actually will work. But keeping temporary plates longer than intended or masking your real tags with mud is a great way to get pulled over. "Getting stopped for these violations is often more costly than the cost of a red light violation," Territo says.

The product: Gorilla mask

The claim: Some states -- not Florida -- require that a ticket from a red light camera be accompanied by a photo of the driver's face. In that case, it's only logical to keep a gorilla mask in the glove box so you can remain faceless while blowing red lights.

Why it might not work: Cops will let a monkey-masked driver off the hook once. Twice, maybe. But 37 times? Cops in Arizona, as noted by the Phoenix New Times, started surveiling their suspect and "observed him putting the mask on just prior to the photo-enforcement zone. So obviously, he intended on speeding through the zone and was covering his face intentionally."

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Chris Sweeney

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