Traffic enforcement has got to be one of the most thankless and depressing assignments for a law enforcement officer.
Let's face it, everyone speeds. And we all feel like we are entitled to do so. The speed limit is a suggestion to many of us. It's the law that we all pretty much ignore because we know we can drive that fast without mishap or tragedy. And we resent anyone, including traffic officers, who tries to get us to slow down.
Most drivers have pretty much come to realize that traffic enforcement officers can't really cover the roads. They also think that they can beat the citation in court. They're probably right about the odds of being caught speeding on most highways in this country. But if they do get caught, it's likely that you'll have them dead to rights.
Anybody who thinks he is going to beat a ticket in court may want to take a look at the latest tools in your arsenal. The newest radar and laser systems from law enforcement manufacturers were designed to both help you catch traffic scofflaws and eliminate the errors that can lead judges to dismiss citations.
Here's a quick look at some of the more innovative radar and laser systems on the market.
The coolest new product in the Decatur Electronics' line is the Radar Mirror Display, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a speed display that is built into the rearview mirror of the user's car.
"It's a natural direction to look in because you're looking in the rearview mirror all the time as you drive," says Kevin Morrison, a public safety product specialist with Decatur and a retired traffic enforcement officer. "I've had one in my car for a while now, and I like it a lot. It lets you focus on what you need to know, and it doesn't interfere with the function of the rearview mirror."
Decatur's Radar Mirror Display works with the company's Genesis II Select and Directional two-piece directional radar systems.
The Genesis II Directional allows an officer to restrict the radar's operation to one direction. Morrison says a great use for this is the monitoring of school zones. He explains that school zones are tricky because they have set entry and exit points.
"If you sit in the middle, you'll never hit the targets on either end," Morrison says. "If you sit on one end, you'll slow them down because they'll all see you and slow down before they get to you. But if you take directional radar and set it for the opposite direction and sit at one end of the zone and clock them as they enter the other end of the zone, you'll get all your targets."
The latest dash-mounted radar system in the Kustom Signals line is the Eagle II series. Kent Hayes, Kustom's product manager for speed products, says the Eagle II's advanced digital signal processing "gives it some of the best and quickest target acquisition on the market."
Hayes adds that the most innovative and patented feature on the Eagle II is the system's TruTrak vehicle speed sensor (VSS). According to Hayes, TruTrak eliminates shadowing, combined speeds, and fan interference, which can be a problem with some moving radar systems. Shadowing is an error that can occur when a radar measures a large, slow target instead of the ground speed and displays an incorrect patrol speed. TruTrak takes the speedometer input and directs the radar to look for the patrol ground speed in a narrow speed range.
Kustom Signals also makes a variety of handheld radar systems. Top of the line is the Falcon HR, a versatile radar system with direction sensing and selection that can be used as a stationary handheld radar or moving radar mounted in a vehicle.
In addition to its radar systems, Kustom Signals makes a variety of laser speed enforcement tools. Its two most popular laser systems are the Pro-Laser III and the Pro-Lite+, a binocular-style laser system.
Both Kustom Signals laser systems feature a square aiming reticle that simulates the width of the beam at the target. "At a thousand feet, you will see about three feet of the target that you are looking at through the reticle," says Hayes.
As the name implies, Laser Technology manufactures laser speed enforcement instruments as well as distance and height measurement instruments. The company's technology is one of the many benefits derived from military and space programs.
Back in the 1990s, NASA needed a way to measure the speed of the Space Shuttle as it approached the Hubble Space Telescope for docking. It couldn't use radar because that would damage the telescope's components, so it hired Laser Tech to develop a way to measure precise speeds and distances using lasers. This same technology was adapted by the traffic enforcement community.
Today, Laser Tech manufactures some of the world's most innovative laser speed enforcement devices. The company is particularly proud of its new Distance Between Cars (DBC) feature.
DBC is a modified version of Laser Tech's Ultralyte 100 LR laser system that measures time and distance between two following vehicles on a highway. Laser Tech's Paul Adkins says that DBC is an anti-tailgating tool. "Using DBC, the three-second following rule can be enforced by more than just a visual determination by the officer," he explains.
Another feature that Laser Tech offers in its systems is Accuracy Validation. "The firmware inside our laser will display an error message when panning or moving the laser from one car to another," Adkins explains. "If the technology is challenged in court, the technology is scientifically reliable."
Laser Tech's top-of-the-line speed laser is the Ultralyte 200, an extremely versatile device that can even be used for crash scene mapping, replacing a tape or wheel for distance and height measurements. Laser Tech sells field software, QuickMap 3D, that easily transfers data into CadZone's desktop software for courtroom-ready diagrams.
Adkins says that one of the best things about the Ultralyte is that despite its name, the device is rugged. "It has an aluminum casing, and is very durable," he says.
Another great feature of the Ultralyte is that it's powered by two C batteries, which means that officers can stop at a convenience store and never experience downtime during their shifts.
Laser Tech's latest release in the speed laser line is the TruSpeed, an economy model that gives smaller departments an opportunity to use lasers for speed enforcement.
Adkins says the best feature of all Laser Tech products is the accuracy they provide the traffic enforcement officer in the field. "All of our speed lasers have accuracy validation," he explains. "It comes down to this: You spend all this time in the field issuing speeding violations, then when you go to court, the last thing you want is to lose the case over inaccurate equipment. Then all your time, effort, and resources are wasted. We take great pride in the accuracy of our lasers."
Plano, Texas-based Stalker Radar (Applied Concepts) makes a wide variety of speed measurement tools, including the radar guns used to record the velocity of baseball pitches. Its latest and most innovative law enforcement product is the Stalker II.
The Stalker II is a handheld system with a rear antenna option. A Stalker spokesperson says the rear antenna option gives the handheld all the utility of a dash-mounted two-antenna radar. "You can set it to track a vehicle on both the front and rear," he says.
A Stalker II handheld system can also be mounted inside a vehicle, giving an agency flexibility and a lot of bang for the buck, according to the Stalker rep. "We think that the real appeal to this device is that a smaller department might have a couple of motorcycles and a couple of patrol cars. They can use the Stalker II like a dash-mounted system or the motor officer can use it handheld and stationary."
Stalker also makes a line of vehicle-mounted radar systems. The latest product in this line is the Stalker DSR 2X.
The Stalker DSR 2X combines two direction sensing radars in one package. "In stationary mode, you can track up to four targets at one time. You can track two stronger targets and two faster targets," the Stalker rep says. "In moving mode you are limited to two target zones."
Stalker DSR 2X buyers can choose from two options: Instant-On and Fast Lock. Instant On allows the user to turn the system on very quickly using an infrared remote. Fast Lock lets the system distinguish the fastest target from the largest target. For example, if a Corvette is passing a tractor-trailer truck, Fast Lock will track the 'vette and not the truck. Some systems would be confused in this situation since the truck is so much larger than the sports car.