Man plans to use math to fight photo radar ticket, but it may not add up to victory

A Winnipeg man says he plans to use a simple math equation, and Google Earth Pro, to fight a photo radar ticket that claims he was speeding.

Abdul Bari says he can prove that his car was not speeding the day he got the ticket

Abdul Bari says his photo radar ticket doesn't add up, and he's planning to fight it in court using his own calculations. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

A Winnipeg man says he plans to use a simple math equation and Google Earth Pro to fight a photo radar ticket that claims he was speeding.

Abdul Bari says by using Google Earth Pro to figure out the distance his car travelled, which he estimates based on the two photos on the ticket, he has calculated that there is no way he could have been travelling more than 50 km/h, even though the ticket says he was going 65 km/h.

"I used Google Earth to calculate the distance, and where my car would be, I even put a safe extra distance to my car to make sure that I put a buffer distance so that I am 100 percent sure," said Bari.

Bari, a geographic information systems (GIS) instructor at Red River College, says he holds a masters degree in urban planning and a bachelor's degree in architecture, and is well versed in math and physics.

Bari says he used a simple mathematical formula that takes the distance he says his car travelled, divided by the time it took for the camera to take two photos, to figure out his speed.

The exact time that lapsed between the two photos appears to be 0.82 seconds, according to information on the ticket. Bari says with the buffer space he added, he'd be going as fast 60 km/h, but using the actual location where he believes his car was, it places his speed at around 50km/h, the posted speed limit.

"Less than fifty kilometres, right around 49.85 or something. It could not have been 65 kilometres per hour as they are saying," said Bari.
Bari says he used Google Earth Pro software to calculate the distance his car travelled between the first and second photo on the ticket to prove he was not speeding. (Supplied)

Bari says aside from his math, he knows he wasn't speeding that day because he is familiar with the area where he got the ticket at Main Street and Logan Avenue, and knew about the camera.

He says that day he and his wife were on their way to a museum in the North End when they passed through the intersection.

"The car in front of me, a white car, zoomed really fast … and that's when the camera flashed," he said.

"I was just jokingly telling my wife, who knows [maybe] we are gonna get the ticket because he was driving too fast," he said.

Bari says he also did the math to figure out where his car would have been had he actually been going 65 km/h.

"My car would have to be somewhere where the white car is ... to be at 65 km/h," said Bari.

"Mathematically, if they can prove me wrong, prove me wrong," he said.

System based on sensors, not photos

Winnipeg Police Service wouldn't comment on Bari's ticket, because it is before the courts, but did say that the photo radar cameras use sensors to determine a car's speed, and the photos are taken after the infraction has already occurred.

"A vehicle drives over 2 sets of loops that are installed under the road surface. The time it take to travel between those two sets of loops is calculated and a "time over distance" calculation produces a speed reading," a police spokesperson wrote in an email.

The sensors, according to information found on the WPS website, says the first sensor is located near the stop line, and the second sensor is about two metres back from the first.
This graphic, available on the WPS website, shows approximately where the sensors are positioned, and where the photos are taken. (Supplied)

"Once the system determines that the vehicle is over the set threshold, the camera is triggered to take an image before the vehicle crosses the stop line. The second image is triggered to be taken at a preset interval distance and is based on the speed of the offending vehicle," police said.

But Bari says he's not convinced he even passed over the second sensor, based on his estimations of where his car was when the first photo was taken.
The first photo on the ticket (left), shows Bari's car just before it enters the intersection. The second photo shows the vehicle inside the intersection. Bari uses estimations based on this distance to calculate his speed, within one second of time, to determine his rate of speed. (Supplied)

"Someone might have caused the offence. My argument is, have I committed the offence or not? This has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt," said Bari.

Outside expert needed

Len Eastoe, president of Traffic Ticket Experts, says Bari's case will be an uphill battle.

He says there are many variables in Bari's arguments, including the exact time apart the photos were taken, as well as estimates about the distances and where the car was when the photos were taken.

"If you're estimating things and guessing at some of the positions of the vehicles and where they might be, you're going up against an electronic device that's cut into the roads with sensors that set off different things, and that's a proven device already for a number of years," said Eastoe.
Len Eastoe says Bari will have to find an expert willing to testify to support his calculations because he can't act as his own expert. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Eastoe also says that Bari will need to find someone who can corroborate his work and be willing to testify to it.

"I would say the court is going to be very skeptical of that [argument], and would want a lot of proof and an expert who can testify to that, and he can't be his own expert, that's not allowed," said Eastoe.

Eastoe says there have been a few photo radar tickets fought based on the pictures and the seconds, or fractions of seconds, apart they were taken.

"Most of the time, once it's explained in court — how and why those seconds are the way they are on the ticket — it blows their argument out of the water," he said.

Bari is confident his calculations are correct and says technology can't always be trusted to be correct.

"When I teach my students about a machine or a database, whatever you put in the database [is] exactly what] the database will tell you," he said.

"Machines are not smarter, you are the smarter person behind the machine," said Bari.

Eastoe says he welcomes a challenge to the system, and thinks the photo radar system needs to be looked at again regardless, because it doesn't do what it was designed to do, which is reduce speeding.

"I think if he's confident of his evidence and his calculations, then he should put that to the court. I think it's important, because you never know when something is going to convince the court and change all the rules," said Eastoe.

A Winnipeg man says he plans to use a simple math equation and Google Earth Pro to fight a photo radar ticket that claims he was speeding. 2:29