The noPhoto is a license-plate frame that promises to get you out of traffic tickets.

How many times have red-light cameras zapped Jonathan Dandrow? The guy's so P.O.ed about them that he's gone and built a gizmo that neutralizes them with pulses of blinding light.

The noPhoto device is a license-plate frame that is embedded with small but powerful lights. When it senses the photo flash from a traffic camera preparing to take a picture, it does a lightning-quick series of calculations and sends out its own well-timed flash. The result is that the noPhoto floods the license plate with light at the moment that the camera is taking its picture, creating an overexposure that makes the plate look wiped clean of letters and numbers.

Dandrow isn't the only one staging technological war against the machines that patrol our careless driving habits. He's joined by a league of supporters who have donated more than $20,000 on his Indiegogo page (now removed) to make noPhoto a reality. Already, he's overcome the problem of police sirens (and at one point, even the sun) setting off the gadget's flashes. Here's footage that Dandrow put out as proof that it works:

But disregarding its functionality, is this device legal? Could it attract more tickets when an annoyed police officer discovers it?

I contacted the authorities in my home state of Virginia about the noPhoto, and here's how that went: A spokesperson for the DMV sent me to an agency website stating that it "is illegal to mount license plates frames, colored glass, plastic or any other type of covering on your license plates that alters or obscures the letters, numbers, decals or the state where the vehicle is registered, and when the registration expires." That didn't exactly address light-based obfuscations, so she directed me to the state police.

A state police representative wondered if it's more of a question for legislators, before saying it's not in their bailiwick because they deal mostly with red-light-free highways. A spokesman for Arlington County, which has red-light cams on local streets, did not get back to me. That left a representative of the automated-traffic industry to speak out against the noPhoto. Charles Territo of American Traffic Solutions, which has installed more than 2,900 camera systems in the U.S. and Canada, sent me this statement:

"This technology and technology similar to it have been around for years. The best countermeasure for avoiding getting caught by a road-safety camera is now and has always been depressing the brake pedal and stopping on red."

But he skirted a query about its legality. So is the noPhoto okay to put on your car? The answer is a resounding, Maybe!

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  3. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  4. a photo of a BYD-built electric bus.
    Transportation

    A Car-Centric City Makes a Bid for a Better Bus System

    Indianapolis is set to unveil a potentially transformative all-electric bus rapid transit line, along with a host of major public transportation upgrades.

  5. Life

    How Bad Is It to Let Your Cat Outside?

    Your adorable house cat is also a ruthless predator. A conservation biologist makes the case for keeping cats indoors, or at least on leashes.

×