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Face masks fool Finland's speed cameras

Some mask wearing drivers caught speeding by automated police cameras get off scot-free.

Nopeusvalvontakamera Korialla Kouvolassa.
One of Finland's recently upgraded traffic surveillance cameras. Image: Antro Valo / Yle

Many of Finland's traffic surveillance cameras have been updated over the past year and now use high resolution technology, but the use of face masks by errant drivers is causing occasional problems because they can't be identified.

A few percent of drivers caught speeding on traffic cameras ended up not being ticketed for the offence because they were wearing face masks at the time, according to police chief inspector Dennis Pasterstein.

In order to issue a fine for traffic infractions, police need to be able to identify the perpetrator.

In the case of automated traffic cameras, according to Pasterstein, if an individual is wearing a face mask or their face is obscured with something else, police are unable to issue fines.

"For example, if a driver is [caught in the photo] talking on the phone while wearing a mask, the case would be closed and go away," he explained.

Registration plates and scars

If a surgical mask is worn correctly so that the edges are nearly at eye level and near the ears, then there is very little recognisable area, he explained, but noted that police are able to use other features, such as a hand tattoo, to identify people.

"For example, the face may have scars, spots or marks that can identify the driver," Pasterstein said.

He estimated that since masks became more commonly used in Finland, approximately one to two percent of drivers caught speeding on camera have escaped being fined, and that police can do nothing about the situation.

"Of course one might wonder who the driver is protecting himself from if he's in the car by himself, but it may be that he already put on the mask at home as he left for the store," he said.

Vehicle registration plates can trace the identity of its owner, but traffic violations require identifying the driver. Vehicle owners can dispute fines if they weren't driving at the time of the violation.

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