Have you had the heart sinking feeling of opening up the mail and finding a traffic ticket, with a $100, $250, $375 fine or higher? Yet you were never pulled over by a policeman – so how did you get this violation? Are your insurance rates going to go up?
The ticket has a picture of the back of your vehicle with the license plate clearly visible. You have been caught by an automated red light camera or speed camera system. Cities across the country are installing these systems to free up officers, catch all violators regardless of time of day, and hopefully cause drivers to be more careful.
As a professional truck driver, limousine driver or delivery driver – your earnings are diminished by traffic fines. Even the typical driver can’t ignore the possibility of getting a ticket and then having to fight the traffic ticket, or pay the fines and risk your insurance rates going up.
A growing solution is to use your GPS as a traffic camera warning system. First, how does a red light camera system work? The city pays for cameras or speed detectors to be installed at intersection or road locations where many traffic violations take place. Cameras, sensors and lights are installed so that when a vehicle drives too fast, or runs the red light, the lights flash and the cameras capture the vehicle making a violation. No officer intervention is needed. The license plate is read by the computers and through vehicle registration databases a ticket is issued and sent to your home.
So why not use a radar detector? First, many states have made radar detectors and jammers illegal. Second, most radar detectors can’t detect red light cameras since they are not sending out a signal like a radar gun.
Your GPS is the answer. There is a feature on every GPS called POI, or Points of Interest. A POI database holds locations of any address or location of places you may want to be acknowledged about. For example, a relative’s home, or a hotel, restaurant, or park. You can add that location to a POI database so that when you approach the location, the GPS will beep as you approach and display what the location is. Whenever you save an address that you want the GPS to give you directions to reach, that location becomes a Point of Interest (POI).
You can load a database of POI into your GPS and have it signal when you approach any of those locations. So companies are now providing many POI databases for red light camera locations, speed camera locations, and others. This works for any GPS – Garmin, Tom Tom, Magellan and others.
Is this legal? Yes, and most police departments endorse the use of GPS POI databases of red light cameras and speed camera locations. The departments goal is to have vehicles slow down and be careful through those locations. Your GPS is not a radar detector, it does not jam any signals. Since you have it in your car, why not turn it on and have it warn you of any upcoming speed traps or intersections with traffic cameras?
Here is what you should look for in obtaining a POI database for your GPS. You want a database that has the largest number of locations in the database. Hundreds of cameras are being added across the country daily. One firm has over 140,000 locations in their database already. If you have less than 10,000, you’re not doing yourself much good.
You also want the database to be easily downloaded to your particular brand of GPS. Make sure the provider has their POI database formatted for your brand. Some have a generic database that takes a few steps of reformatting for your brand. It is easiest to have a database already formatted for your particular GPS brand.
You want the database updated often. While you may not upload the POI locations everyday, you want a provider to be updating the database every day. That way when you do choose to refresh your database, you are getting the latest locations known.
Lastly, you want to be able to upload your database as often as possible. People who drive for a living may want to refresh their database daily. Some providers limit the number of times you can refresh your database in a set time period.
Costs can vary for the database. While some are free, in general, those tend to be the smallest amount of locations and hardest to load. You can buy a monthly subscription, yearly, or the best bet seems to be the lifetime subscriptions. For $99, a lifetime subscription can allow you download the speed light cameras locations onto your GPS anytime. They tend to have the most locations and are usually formatted for the major GPS brands – making it the simplest and fastest method of updating your GPS POI database. If you think $99 is expensive, think how much just one camera ticket violation will cost. Avoiding just one ticket will pay for your lifetime subscription itself.
You can reduce the chances of getting an expensive traffic ticket using a GPS POI red light camera and speed camera download. It’s legal and makes better drivers of us all.