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Will a Spray Can Help You Avoid Traffic Tickets?
By Manuel Ramos

Drivers in Northern California are turning to a reflective spray to avoid red-light-running tickets.

The "Phantom Blocker" has been an Internet phenomenon on the East Coast for the past two years. Now, the makers say sales are picking up in the Bay Area. There's even a testimonial from San Francisco on the website, with a customer proclaiming, "It's already paid for itself."

The can sells for $29.99, and reportedly makes a license plate reflective, which inhibits a red-light camera from snapping a clear photo.

"We don't encourage anyone to run red lights," said Joe Stott, the marketing director of the company that makes the spray.

Stott says drivers are fighting a program that is just a revenue producer for cities.

"They'll do anything they can to generate revenue, and trapping people seems to be the easiest one," Stott said.

According to the directions, all you have to do is spray your license plate a few times and it becomes reflective. I tested it on an old, unused plate, because the San Francisco police say it's against the law.

"This would appear to be altering a license plate," said Lt. Al Casciato. "I would tell them to save their money. It's probably not a good idea. It will probably cause you a lot of pain and suffering if you're in an accident that is captured on film."

At San Francisco traffic court, where red-light running fines run more than $300, some drivers were tempted.

"If it really works, I would try it out," said Ryan Duval.

The people behind Photo Blocker insist it works and is legal, because police officers can clearly see a plate -- it's just tough for a camera to capture.

» 09-12-2003

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