Photo-enforcement vans don't have authority to break law

I recently saw — for the second time — the Medford photo enforcement van (or whatever it is called) make an illegal U-turn in order to position itself to catch drivers doing illegal things. Unfortunately, this time he didn't do it right in front of me, so I didn't get the satisfaction of pulling right up to him and blasting on my horn for blocking traffic. Is that van somehow classified as an emergency vehicle and allowed to break the law in the name of carrying out justice?

— Bruce Wayne

You're writing us to ask about doing illegal things in the name of justice, Mr. Wayne? You?

Are you sure you're not asking for a cape-and-cowl-clad "friend?" Is "photo enforcement van" just code for an exceedingly dark, fast car with nocturnal winged creature symbols painted all over it?

Either way, we're always happy to help out a fellow detective. We're big fans of your friend's work.

As to your main query, no, radar vans are not authorized to violate traffic laws. Under Oregon law, the van is considered a marked police vehicle. An avalanche of details on that can be found under ORS 810.439. Per another Oregon law — ORS 801.260 — "emergency vehicles" require lights and a siren, which the van does not have.

"Photo radar van drivers are not authorized to violate traffic laws," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau says. "If someone witnesses a violation, they can contact the Medford Police Department, and it will be thoroughly investigated."

Before you call the radar van's U-turn "illegal," see whether it matches up with ORS 811.365. U-turns cannot be made within an intersection controlled by an electronic signal, on a highway within the limits of an incorporated city between intersections, at any spot on a highway where vehicles approaching from another direction cannot see them, 500 feet within the incorporated limits of a city, or 1,000 feet outside of a city.

Did your sighting match any of those? If not, then quick, to the Batmobile!

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.