• 9 Investigates red-light camera ticketing errors

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    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Red-light camera tickets can cost a lot, especially if you know you ran the light.
     
    But what if you received a ticket in the mail with your name on it, and the license plate and car weren't even yours?
     
    Channel 9 Investigative reporter Christopher Heath found out which central Florida jurisdictions have the most tickets sent out in error.
     
    9 Investigates spoke to Bill Tomala, who considers himself a safe driver. Even the State of Florida agrees because it designates Tomala a safe driver on his license.
                   
    “To get safe driver you haven't had a violation in certain amount of years,” Tomala said.
                    
    That’s why he was surprised when a red-light camera violation was mailed to his house.
     
    But that wasn’t the only thing that captured his attention.
     
    “What got me going: It was mailed to me to my house with my information. Only the vehicle [shown in the citation] is a box truck that does not look anything like my personal truck,” Tomala said.
                   
    Even the license plate on the violation wasn't remotely close.
     
    Tomala compared the plate number on his citation the tag on his actual truck.
     
    “This says E-6 or G-0-6-F-Q, or 0,” he said, referring to the citation and the tag on the box truck.
     
    “And as you can see, I have UG-DAWG,” Tomala said, referring to his own vehicle. “I'll give one letter out of there, that's it.”
     
    What's more, Tomala was at work at the time, half way across town from the red light he was accused of running.
     
    “It got me thinking, well how many more of these have happened?” Tomala asked.
     
    9 Investigates wondered the same thing. So we requested information from Gatso and American Traffic Solutions, the two major red-light camera providers for central Florida jurisdictions.
     
    While it doesn't happen often, mistakes are made. A.T.S., for instance, had 118 instances out of 72,000 in which drivers’ tickets were dismissed because the vehicles and tags pictured didn't match the person who received the violation.
     
    As some might imagine, not every red-light camera company wanted to reveal its error rate. Gatso, which represents several cities including Winter Park and Maitland, didn't turn over its records until our lawyer became involved and sent a series of letters to the company and the cities with the cameras.
     
    Gatso’s errors include 38 from Maitland; 26 from Winter Park; and 157 from Daytona Beach.
     
    “Basically the burden was put on me to prove it was not me,” Tomala explained.
     
    After 9 Investigates called the city of Edgewood about Tomala's ticket, the city told us the officer who sent the ticket out didn't catch the discrepancy and it already had another letter in waiting to be sent out to dismiss the violation.
     
    “Thanks to you guys for helping me out,” Tomala said.
     
    Most jurisdictions will dismiss your violation over the phone if you can prove the tag and vehicle on the violation are not yours. But in all instances, you should contact the city or county who sent you the ticket to alert them to the discrepancy.


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