How They’re Tracking Speed

If you’ve been driving since you were sixteen, and you’ve reached the mid-thirties range, chances are, you’ve been pulled over by a police officer at one point. Whether it was for a tail light or because your lead foot led you there, chances are you’ve encountered a roadside police officer. For some of us, we know it’s coming, as we flew right past the office and noticed him a little bit too late, but for others, it’s as if he or she appeared out of nowhere. If we didn’t see him, how did he catch us? How is he tracking speed?

Well, there’s a long and a short answer to this question. The short answer is that he’s wily, and we were too busy speeding to look around. However, more often than not, the officer was using one of several different devices and we weren’t even aware it was happening. Not all speeders are caught by a single officer posted up on the side of the road with a radar gun, although it is probably the most reliable method, there are several different ways a policeman can track your speed. Some of the means by which your speed is measured will astound the average driver.

  • Radar – Radar is the most effective and most widely used method for speed detection by patrolmen. It’s very seldom able to be contested, and it’s pretty exact. While it isn’t magical, and can’t separate one vehicle’s signal from another, they’re pretty able to get the gist of the rate of speed at which you’re traveling. It sends out a radio wave, and bounces it back to the machine, allowing the office to see the truth with his very own eyes. If you really want to, you can fight a radar speed measurement in court, but you’re probably going to lose.
  • Pacing – Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like. Pacing involves an officer following you for a reasonable distance and discerning your speed from this method. This works mostly when people aren’t paying attention, as normal people back their speed down to a slow crawl when they’re in the vicinity of a police officer. Pacing is highly arguable in court, as regular road conditions can interrupt the pacing period. Traffic lights, weather conditions, hills, and curves can all effect how pacing is used for tracking speed, and therefore this is a ticket you can fight, if you have legitimate reason to do so.
  • Aircraft – When a highway volunteers that your speed is being enforced by aircraft, they’re actually serious about that!   While it involves a complex formula and a bunch perfect conditions, there are planes in the sky monitoring the speed of vehicles on the highways beneath them. They’re either measuring how long it takes your vehicle to travel from point A to point B and then calculating your speed based on that number, or else the pilot is performing his own version of pacing, as referenced above. Neither method is known to be particularly reliable for tracking speed, however, and is often fought against for lesser fines or fewer points.
  • VASCAR – Right now, you’re probably asking yourself in an excited tone what VASCAR could be, as it sounds terribly fancy with its important acronym.   Here’s the thing, though, it stands for Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder, which basically amounts to a lot of watching, a stopwatch, and a calculator. Yep, with this method, the officer is sitting in a previously decided upon location that has been measured for an exact distance. They watch cars pass between the two points, and then calculate the rate of speed by how long it took the car to travel from the beginning to the end of the decided route. This one depends largely on the human element, so it can be pretty easily argued.
  • Laser – The newest of the speed detection methods, laser is basically like a radar gun with better vision. A laser is more of a precision instrument, and its smaller beam can single out one car, a feat which radar has yet to fully accomplish while tracking speed. It’s also faster than radar and can measure your speed in less than half a second. But, just when you’re thinking we are all getting busted, for sure, laser is actually not considered to be as reliable, because the beam isn’t easily seen and many people will argue that there is no guarantee that the laser was held still enough on one part of the car, thus rendering the reading moot.

There are, surely, other ways that sneaky police officers catch our law-breaking selves, but these five are the main methods. If you’re unjustly accused of speeding, many of these readings can be contested in traffic court. However, if you know you were speeding, don’t waste the judge or the officer’s time, pay the fine and go home to lick your wounds. Yes, it will smart a little bit, but at least you won’t be tying up half a day sitting in traffic court.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *