License Plate Covers & Sprays Don't Work

ABC KCRG TV News in CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa Mark Geary, Reporter – Just about everyone occasionally speeds or even accidentally runs a red light. Now, a series of cameras keep the streets of Cedar Rapids under surveillance twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, more people will get caught breaking the law.

"It's kind of scary because you don't want to get a ticket, but it's great for safety,” driver Marie Lampe said, “I think if you break the law, you should get punished for that.”

Red-light cameras monitor busy intersections with a history of traffic problems. The goal is to make people drive more cautiously and cut down on the number of accidents and injuries. Violations caught by the cameras come with a fine, but do not appear on your driving record.

"There are a lot of cars that do a lot of illegal things,” driver Freddie Hill said.

Despite their benefits, plenty of people remain skeptical. Others have privacy concerns.

"I think big brother's watching us,” driver Ed Mulligan said, “I think they’re good if they’re for safety reasons, but if it’s for financial gain for the city and the government to make more money, I think it’s wrong.”

Cedar Rapids Police insist the cameras are not simply money-making devices. Instead, they argue the equipment is just another way to keep people safe. "All we're monitoring is criminal behavior. If you're not a criminal and you're not doing anything illegal, you don't have anything to worry about,” Sergeant Cristy Hamblin said.

A company called PhantomPlate claims its product will make your license plate invisible to the camera's eye. The company says all you need to do is coat your license plate with its PhotoBlocker spray and the cameras can't catch you.

"Everybody's looking for a shortcut to get away with something," Hamblin said, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is.”

We tested the spray with help of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. Instructions say to remove the plate from the vehicle and coat it four times. Just to be safe, we sprayed it five times. Then, we re-attached the plate and triggered the cameras.

Turns out the product did not shield the plate from the camera. Police could still read the letters and numbers. PhantomPlate also sells a plate cover that claims to block the cameras as well. It didn't work, either.

"It's not the ticket or the money that we're looking for. What we're really trying to do is save people from being injured," Hamblin said.

"I feel bad if people get taken for that money," Hamblin said.

Looks like these gimmicks really are too good to be true.

"I have a hard time figuring out why people are so worried. I don't have anything to hide," driver Vivek Sharma said, “I don’t think I’ll be spraying my truck.”

Therefore, it seems the best way to avoid a ticket just might be to stop speeding and running red lights.

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