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Traffic-Ticket Alerts Offered For PNDs

Harrisburg, Pa. — Phantom Alert is selling a software download for portable GPS devices that warns users of any of the 5,000 or more traffic cameras that can issue traffic tickets via the mail.

The Phantom Alert works with most Garmin, TomTom and Magellan personal navigation devices (PNDs), to alert users as they drive along their route of speed cameras, red-light cameras, known speed traps and DUI checkpoints, and school zones in the U.S. and Canada. Phantom’s database contains more than 110,000 such locations, it said.

Speed and red-light cameras are becoming commonplace in cities such as Chicago, New York, Washington and Phoenix. These cameras generally snap a photo of offending cars and issue a ticket to the owners by mail. In total, more than half the U.S. states have camera concentrations in some cities or counties, according to suppliers of radar detectors.

Phantom Alert recently began selling its service via “gift cards” offered through retailers and has sold the service via the Internet for close to a year. It claims 50,000 users in the U.S. and Canada.

Users connect their PND to a PC (via USB) and download the software. Depending on the type of PND, users can drag and drop the file into the PND interface or save it to the unit’s point-of-interest (POI) “loader,” which accepts third-party POIs.

“If you are driving and there is a red-light camera on the corner, it tells you, and you can select the distance of when you want the warnings,” said a spokesman.

The downloadable database is sold at a price of $9.99 for a month of service including updates, or $39.95/year or $99.95/lifetime.

Phantom Alerts collect its database from users who report the camera locations and other sources and verifies the sites independently, it said.

It appears that traffic-camera location may become a widespread feature in PNDs as Navteq, a leading GPS map maker, recently announced it will offer  the feature built into its maps.

TomTom said it offers free traffic-camera location in the U.S. through its TomTom Home Web site. Garmin said the data may be imported from third parties through its POI loader.