Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Thousands of unsuspecting drivers were photographed and many say aren't happy about it."

TxDOT uses hidden cameras for road survey

October 9, 2007

KVUE News (Austin, TX)
Copyright 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation used hidden cameras, recently, as part of a roadway research project. Thousands of unsuspecting drivers were photographed and many say aren't happy about it.

From one end of Interstate 35 to the other, TxDOT set up almost two dozen hidden cameras.

Over a two day period they took snapshots of license plates. The registered vehicle owners were identified and now those people are being asked to fill out a survey.

Herb Sleeper's SUV is one of 150,000 vehicles captured on camera.

The snapshot happened after he recently took a trip to Kansas. The camera that took his picture was one of 21. They were hidden in orange construction barrels along the interstate. Sleeper didn't know it until TxDOT mailed him a survey to fill out.

"The questions were, where did you come from and where were you going, and how often do you do this," Sleeper said. "It is kind of spooky, like big brother watching you all the time."

The highway candid camera project took place in September and lasted only two days. According TxDOT spokesperson Gabby Garcia, the research project has a $700,000 price tag.

Garcia admits the project may seem a bit intrusive but says it was necessary.

"Think long range, think ahead, plan ahead -- that's what this survey is meant to do -- is meant to give us a better indication of what's to come on I-35 based on todays' travel pattern, today's travel demand," said Garcia.

And to do that, the survey goes beyond asking where you started where you ended up. It gets a little personal -- wanting to know how many people were traveling with you and how many people live in your home.

TxDOT has gotten about 200 phone calls asking what's going on. About 3,000 people completed the survey.

TxDOT is hoping that out of the 150,000 snapshots, they will get back 15,000 surveys. The first bit of usable data is not expected until early next year.

© 2007 KVUE Television, Inc.: www.kvue.com

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