Israel's traffic cameras failure exposes state to huge lawsuits

speed cameras

Tickets totaling hundreds of millions of shekels are liable to be reversed if a test of the Gatso A3 high-speed camera system shows it is unreliable.

The state is exposed to lawsuits totaling hundreds of millions of shekels if it is proved that the high-speed cameras on Israel's roads are unreliable, a leading traffic law specialist has told "Globes."

Last night, Israel's Channel 2 news reported that Israel Police had stopped issuing tickets from all speed cameras around the country after the Technion, Institute of Technology cast doubts on the accuracy of the cameras. 

As reported by "Globes" in January 2018, fines for traffic violations generated NIS 900 million for the state treasury in 2012-2016, not including parking violations. Speeding violations averaged 16% of the tickets issued, but in financial terms their proportion of the total amount collected is far greater; they accounted for 60-70% of state revenues from traffic fines during those years. These cameras also generated tens of thousands of tickets for crossing intersections on a red light. It is believed that the flow of revenue from fines grew substantially in 2017 because the Knesset raised the ceiling for fines for speeding imposed without a trial to NIS 1,500 after the enforcement speed threshold was lowered.

The direct fines, however, are only part of the damages for which the state is liable to be sued. It is believed that tens of thousands of driving licenses were invalidated, some for prolonged periods, during the years during which the A3 system with nearly 120 active cameras was in operation. The state is liable to be sued for damages incurred by these invalidations through both individual and class action lawsuits. It was reported yesterday that Israel Police had stopped issuing traffic tickets for speeding detected by A3 speed cameras based on the Gatso company's systems pending a test of the cameras' reliability.

The deputy state attorney issued the order for the suspension and the test. The Israel Police traffic department announced that the stationary cameras would continue documenting speed violations, while the decision about actual enforcement would be taken after the test is completed. The deputy state attorney's order was preceded by a two year-old test case in the Akko Magistrates Court conducted by Advocate Tomer Gonen, a Haifa lawyer, representing 20 drivers who received tickets from the system. During the trial, serious doubts were raised about the process for testing the cameras' reliability. The police nevertheless stepped up the pace of issuing traffic tickets using the system, among other things by lowering the speed threshold for issuing tickets.

The State Comptroller published a severely critical report in February 2016 about the use and operation of the A3 system. The report stated that the high-speed cameras project was replete with organizational and value failures affecting almost every aspect of its construction and operation. The State Comptroller examined the project, in the which the state invested over NIS 100 million. The examination, which was completed in early 2015, included the tender stages, construction, and operation of the system.

The report stated that the State Comptroller's Office took a grave view of the systematic failure in effective operation of the array of cameras, and also regarded "with extremely gravity the order for 40 more cameras at an additional cost of NIS 4.8 million in annual spending on operating the A3 project even before the police solved the failures in operating the first cameras installed."

What will happen if the A3 system of cameras is legally declared unreliable? If you have received a speeding ticket photographed by the A3 system of cameras, you still do not have grounds for demanding compensation or cancelation of your speeding points. It is believed that the state will do all it can to retroactively declare the cameras valid in order to avoid opening a Pandora's box of lawsuits for already issued tickets. Furthermore, the ticket-producing machine is still operating in full force with an option to issue them when the test is concluded. A theoretical scenario, however, in which the District Court, or even the High Court of Justice, invalidates the reliability of the system's speeding tickets cannot be ruled out.

What happens in such a case? We asked former Israel Bar Association transportation committee chairperson Adv. Shai Gilad a number of questions relating to a possible invalidation of the A3 cameras' reliability.

"Globes": Say I received a ticket with a fine option. I did not appeal; I paid it and was given speeding points. Do I have grounds for a retroactive appeal?

Gilad: "Payment of the find constitutes confession of a violation. Someone who paid the ticket fine without appealing it is therefore in a legal position inferior to that of others who appealed their conviction in court, went through a trial, and had their appeal dismissed. Nevertheless, there is still a theoretical legal path for requesting a retrial on the basis of new evidence."

What happens to the points given as a direct result of a violation filmed by A3?

"Getting the points removed is a very complicated business, especially when violations committed several years ago are involved. At the same time, if the points are still in effect, there is a possibility of having them retroactively reversed."

What happens if a driving license was invalidated following my conviction for a photographed violation or as a result of points accumulated from such violations?

"Theoretically, if the reliability of A3 cameras is disallowed, the damage caused by invalidation of licenses can be assessed and a lawsuit filed for them This is only, however, if it is proven that the A3 tickets are solely responsible for the invalidation.

The A3 cameras also filmed violations of crossing intersections on a red light. Are these tickets also liable to be invalidated?

"In contrast to speeding tickets, crossing intersections on a red light are documented with still photographs that film the car committing the violation together with the traffic light. The chances of an appeal against such tickets are therefore not good."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 11, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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