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Pittsburgh-area woman mistakenly gets traffic ticket from Philadelphia

Pittsburgh woman mistakenly gets traffic ticket from Philadelphia
Pittsburgh woman mistakenly gets traffic ticket from Philadelphia 03:43

WEST VIEW, Pa. (KDKA) -- A case of mistaken identity led to a six-month-long mix-up. A woman from the Pittsburgh area said she was getting repeated notices about a red light violation. The only problem: the traffic ticket is from Philadelphia -- a place she's never been. 

Caroline Ydstie and her husband Matt from West View drive a blue Honda Civic. So imagine their confusion when parking tickets from the Philadelphia Parking Authority for a white Ford started arriving in the mail. It says she ran a red light on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia. 

"They wanted $175, which seemed like a lot for never having parked in Philly," Caroline said. 

She's never parked in Philly, never ran a red light in Philly, never even been to Philly. She thought it was a simple mix-up.

"The Philadephia Parking Authority had sent me to collections at this point and when I asked them what had happened, they said, 'oh, you need to check with PennDOT again' so I emailed PennDOT and they said, 'oh, you'll have to go to court,'" Caroline said.

Not happening, she said. 

"That was going to cost more than what I owed for the ticket," Caroline said. 

So she called KDKA Investigates who found the person who actually ran the red light. Spoiler alert: he's from Philly.

His white Ford has a plate that's nearly identical to hers -- a literal flip of one letter difference, a W to an M. 

Philadelphia Parking Authority said a human error inputting the plate into the system got his red light-running tied to her plate.

"The license plates were off by one letter, which, the font is similar, so I can see someone overworked typing in the wrong thing, but at that point, they should clearly see that my wife's name is not Elmer and that a blue Honda Civic is not a white Ford Escape," Matt said.

It calls into question the accuracy of these red light cameras and the process on the back end. They require a technician to review the red light pictures, weed out any errors, confirm the plate and send out the ticket. In this situation, that created the error. 

"The copy of my registration and the form I filled out should have showed them that that was not my car," Caroline said. 

But it didn't, until KDKA-TV started making phone calls. So here's what you can do to defend yourself.

View the photos and videos. Was it actually your car? What color? What type of car? Does it show you running a red light?

Understand the red light rules: in Pennsylvania, the owner of the vehicle is liable for the penalty.

And know the penalties. A fine of $100 is usual, but there are several times, like within the first 60 days of the red light operating, when they aren't allowed to fine you.

Caroline's glad she fought to keep her money.

And as for her plans to go to Philly? "Maybe with a different license plate?" she said with a laugh. 

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Parking Authority issued this statement: 

"The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) apologizes to Ms. Caroline Ydstie for any inconvenience caused by a license plate clerical input error that occurred when a 'W' was inadvertently entered into the system instead of an 'M' - which resulted in her being wrongly notified of a violation that was meant for another vehicle. The clerical error has been rectified and Ms. Ydstie will not be responsible for the violation or any fine."

KDKA-TV producer Tory Wegerski contributed to this report.

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