PhantomAlert GPS Device Warns Driver of Speed Cameras

The program, which can be installed on a car's GPS, tells drivers when they are near a speed or red-light camera. Video by Dan Morse/The Washington Post
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 2009

Steven Forage, a software salesman who spends at least five hours a day in his car, juggles a lot on the road: finalizing deals over the phone, sipping coffee, checking e-mail. One thing he no longer worries about, though, is speed cameras.

"Fuzz alert," an electronic voice called out from the console of his Cadillac recently as it approached a speed enforcement camera in Montgomery County.

At 300 feet, another warning: "Ding, ding. Ding, ding. Fuzz alert."

"It helps you conform," Forage said of the warning system. "If you've forgotten where the cameras are, or get distracted, it refocuses you."

The system, known as PhantomAlert, feeds the locations of speed cameras and red-light cameras into standard Global Positioning System devices and prompts the devices to warn drivers when they are near one. PhantomAlert has subscribers throughout the nation, including more than 2,000 in the Washington region, said the company's owner, District resident Joseph Scott.

Scott said he expects that number to rise because of a new Maryland law that permits cameras, now allowed only in Montgomery, to be installed in work zones and near schools throughout the state. "It's going to be very good for us," he said.

Scott said police should be thrilled by PhantomAlert, particularly because officials say speed cameras are designed not to generate money but to slow drivers.

"Not only should they support us," he said, "but when they mail out citations, on the back they should say, 'Get PhantomAlert.' "

Scott and a handful of employees scour government and police Web sites for camera locations. But subscribers send in most of the locations, which are added to PhantomAlert's database.

Customers also report locations where police often work radar guns. The reports can veer toward the personal.

"Lincolnwood Officer Gordon lies in wait behind grassy knoll as unsuspecting drivers on NB McCormick Boulevard exceed 50 mph," an Illinois motorist advised June 1. "He hits them on radar, and it's easy pickings. . . . Don't risk it!"

In Lincolnwood, Ill., police Sgt. Richard Solomon confirmed that Jeff Gordon, a detective, recently worked radar along McCormick.

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