Questions and Answers About Speed Detection

QUESTIONS
AND
ANSWERS
ABOUT
VEHICLE
SPEED
DETECTION
WHAT IS VEHICLE SPEED DETECTION?
Vehicle speed detection is the general name for a variety
of ways law enforcement agencies enforce traffic speed
laws. Methods include pacing, VASCAR, aircraft surveillance, hoses, ORBIS, traffic radar, and LIDAR (laser).
HOW DOES PACING WORK?
Using the pacing method, the police officer drives behind
your vehicle and matches your vehicle’s speed with his/
her vehicle’s speed. The officer can then determine your
speed from the speedometer in the police car.
This method is usually effective only at night. During the
day, a reasonably alert driver can spot the police car and
adjust to the speed limit before the officer can match the
driver’s speed.
2
 1996 Tandy Corporation.
All Rights Reserved.
RadioShack is a trademark used by Tandy Corporation.
Safety Alert is a trademark of Cobra Electronics.
SWS and Safety Warning System are trademarks
of Safety Warning System LLC.
WHAT IS VASCAR?
VASCAR is an acronym for Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder. VASCAR is little more than a combination stopwatch and measuring device. In its simplest
application, the police officer uses the VASCAR to measure a section of road. The officer then starts the VASCAR when a vehicle enters the section and stops the
VASCAR when it leaves the section. The VASCAR displays the vehicle’s average speed over the section of
road.
3
HOW DO AIRCRAFT FIND MY SPEED?
Police agencies mark a section of road with stripes that
are a known distance apart. Police aircraft then use VASCAR to determine vehicle speed. Typically, a police helicopter hovers over the measured section of road and
determines each vehicle’s average speed. Then an
officer in the helicopter radios to officers waiting out of
sight on the road, informing them of each vehicle’s
speed.
If your local law enforcement agency uses aircraft, you
can watch for the aircraft near marked sections of roads.
4
HOW DO OFFICERS USE HOSES TO
DETERMINE VEHICLE SPEED?
An officer places two rubber hoses across the road. The
hoses are like those at gas stations that ring a bell,
except these hoses connect to a box that measures the
time it takes for your vehicle to travel between the hoses.
Your vehicle speed is indicated on a receiver in the police
vehicle.
Since the hoses are not easy to see, are only a few feet
apart, and are used for collecting other traffic information,
this can be a very effective method for determining vehicle speed.
5
WHAT IS AN ORBIS?
ORBIS is a greek word meaning eye. An ORBIS traffic
speed detection system uses permanently installed rollover sensors in the traffic lane to determine vehicle
speed, and a camera to take a vehicle’s picture. A vehicle
travelling faster than a preset speed triggers ORBIS to
take a picture of the vehicle, including the front license
area and the driver. The date, time, and vehicle speed
are included on the picture.
Since ORBIS units are permanently installed, they are
easy to spot and avoid. Also, rulings by courts have held
that an officer must see the violation, so ORBIS has been
effectively ruled out in most areas.
6
HOW DOES TRAFFIC RADAR WORK?
RADAR (Radio Detecting And Ranging) devices bounce
a radio signal off of a moving object, such as a car. The
reflected signal is picked up by a receiver. Traffic radar
receivers measure the frequency difference between the
original and reflected signals. This frequency difference
is converted into a speed, which appears on the
receiver’s display.
Radar signals, like other types of radio signals, travel in
straight lines until they hit an object that either absorbs,
reflects, or refracts the signal. Radar receivers cannot
see around curves or over hills, so a vehicle must be in
the receiver’s line of sight for traffic radar to get a speed
measurement.
7
IS RADAR ALWAYS ACCURATE?
Usually, yes. A well-maintained, properly-tested radar
receiver, used by a professional operator, can be accurate to within 1/10 of a mile per hour.
The radar signal spans all traffic going in both directions.
Aimed at an object less than 1/4 mile away, the beam can
be as wide as six or eight lanes of traffic. The radar
receiver reports on the strongest signal it picks up. Vehicle size and shape can make a difference (a big truck
reflects a stronger signal than a motorcycle or small car).
This means that the radar receiver can sometimes pick
up a reading from a vehicle other than the one intended
by the operator.
ARE RADAR DETECTORS LEGAL?
It is legal to use radar detectors in all vehicles weighing
under 10,000 lbs in most of the U.S. However, regulations
prohibit radar detectors in several states. If you are not
sure, check with your local law enforcement agency.
8
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT RADAR
SPEED DETECTION SYSTEMS?
Technical advances have yielded several radar speed
detection systems you should be aware of.
Continuous Wave (CW)—This traffic radar system
transmits constantly. The detector alerts you up to several miles from the radar source in optimum conditions.
Continuous Wave Low Power—This traffic radar system operates like CW radar, but uses a much lower
power level. The detector can alert you up to a mile or
more from the radar source in optimum conditions.
Triggered CW, Stationary Mode (also known as
Instant-On, Laser Pulse, or Hawk)—This system transmits radar signals in bursts, and requires less than 1 second to determine speed. The detector senses the burst
and sounds a special signal up to several miles from the
source. However, since the radar gun only transmits signals when the operator triggers it, the alert range
depends on how often the operator triggers the gun.
Triggered CW, Moving Mode—This system uses pulses
to determine the police vehicle’s speed. Then, when the
operator triggers the system, it transmits a signal burst to
determine the speed of oncoming traffic. The detector
senses both the police vehicle speed pulses and the triggered signal.
9
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT RADAR
BANDS?
There are three bands in use for traffic radar: X, K, and
Ka.
X-Band—This was the first band used for traffic radar. It
was introduced during the 1960s and uses a frequency of
10.525 GHz (gigahertz). Many other devices, such as
automatic door openers and alarm systems, use this
same frequency range. Most false alerts occur because
of these non-traffic X-band devices.
K-Band—Approved for use in the mid 1970s, K-band
traffic radar units are lower powered and more difficult to
detect than X-band. K-band traffic radar operates at
24.15 GHz. Also, K-band is shared with other devices.
Ka-Band—Put into use in 1987, the original Ka-band
traffic radar devices could operate on a limited set of frequencies. In 1990 the FCC approved Wideband Ka,
which permitted these devices to operate between 34.2
and 35.2 GHz. Now Super Wideband Ka devices operate
on any frequency between 33.4 and 36.0 GHz.
10
WHAT CONDITIONS AFFECT RADAR
ALERTS?
Keep in mind that the following conditions can influence
the intensity or duration of a radar alert.
•
If the police are using instant-on/pulsed radar, the
officer does not trigger the unit to send a signal until
he or she has a clear view of your vehicle. To detect
this signal, you must rely on reflected signals from
radar directed at the traffic traveling ahead of you.
•
If the traffic radar source is positioned perpendicular
to the road, around a curve, or just over the crest of a
hill, the possible reception range is significantly
reduced.
•
Traffic between your vehicle and the traffic radar
source both blocks and reflects transmitted signals.
The presence of several large trucks between you and
the traffic radar could also significantly reduce reception.
•
Rain and humid weather conditions can absorb transmitted signals before they reach your vehicle, again
reducing the detection range.
•
If the traffic radar equipment is misaligned, it might
transmit outside the allocated X-, K-, and Ka-bands.
11
HOW DOES LIDAR WORK?
The latest addition to the police officer’s speed detection
arsenal is LIDAR (Laser Infrared Detection And Ranging). To measure a vehicle’s speed, LIDAR times how
long it takes a light pulse to travel from the LIDAR gun to
the vehicle and back. From this information, LIDAR can
quickly find the distance between the gun and the vehicle. By making several measurements and comparing the
distance the vehicle traveled between measurements,
LIDAR very accurately determines the vehicle’s speed.
LIDAR uses a laser beam of invisible infrared light. The
beam reflects off any flat surface on your vehicle. Since
the beam is very narrow, it is impossible for any laser
detector to indicate how far away the LIDAR source is.
From the illustration, you see that a vehicle (right lane)
can receive little or no signal while a vehicle nearby (left
lane) is targeted. By moving the LIDAR gun only slightly,
the vehicle in the right lane could be targeted and its
speed could be determined in less than a second.
12
WHAT AFFECTS LASER ALERTS?
•
The maximum effective range for LIDAR is about
2,000 feet. In optimum conditions, a laser detector
detects LIDAR signals up to a couple of miles away.
•
Since water absorbs infrared light (the type of light
used by LIDAR), LIDAR range is greatly reduced on
humid, foggy, or rainy days.
•
Laser detectors cannot pick up LIDAR over hills or
around most curves.
•
Laser detectors are almost completely immune to
false alerts. Treat every laser alert seriously...yours
could be the next vehicle targeted.
•
If the laser alert sounds, immediately take the appropriate action. Laser is not like radar; you do not get
much advance warning.
•
If you are driving over the speed limit and are in the
lead of a group of vehicles when a laser alert sounds,
you have probably been caught. Like instant-on radar,
there is no warm-up time. Speed detection takes
about .3 seconds...half the time it takes your foot to
move to the brake.
ARE LASER DETECTORS LEGAL?
Laser detectors are legal in all states as of April, 1995.
13
WHAT CAUSES FALSE ALERTS?
Ideally, a detector should only alert in the presence of
police radar. However, because other devices share the
X- and K-band with police radar, false alerts sometimes
occur. Generally, a false signal produces only a short
audio and visual alert. Since they are most often weak, it
is possible to drive out of the signal’s range very quickly
and receive only a brief alert.
Automatic Door Opener
Although many times you can easily identify the probable
source of the false signal (supermarket, bank, commercial building, and so on), you should exercise caution until
you can verify the source. The X- and K-band alert pattern caused by a non-police source can look like the first
alert caused by actual police radar. For this reason, you
should always take the appropriate action whenever your
detector sounds an alert.
14
WHAT IS A RADAR DETECTOR
DETECTOR?
In areas where radar detectors are illegal, some officers
have a VG-2 radar detector detector. These are very sensitive receivers tuned to a frequency commonly generated by radar detectors.
Some radar detectors do not generate the frequency a
VG-2 can detect, however. These radar detectors, marketed with the keywords Ghost or Stealth technology,
also cause less interference with other radar detectors
and generate much weaker electromagnetic fields.
HOW ABOUT PHOTO RADAR?
Photo radar is a low power radar system that triggers a
camera, similar to ORBIS operation. The officer need
never pull over your vehicle...the registered owner of the
vehicle is mailed the ticket along with a photograph of the
violation. Since power is very low, typical detection range
is less than 500 feet. Currently, photo radar is used in
only a few areas, but it is a technology to keep an eye on.
DRIVE SAFELY!
Radar and laser detectors are meant to keep you alert
and aware of traffic conditions. They are not a license to
speed. Drive safely and always wear your seatbelt.
15
WHAT IS SAFETY ALERT AND SAFETY
WARNING SYSTEM?
These systems are low-power transmitters used by some
emergency services and road crews to alert drivers to
hazardous conditions. The Safety Alert system can indicate stationary, moving, or railroad hazards. Radar detectors that are Safety Alert compatible indicate the
presence of a Safety Alert signal.
The Safety Warning System is similar to Safety Alert,
however it operates at a higher power level and can alert
you to many different emergency or hazardous conditions
in the area (58 different messages are currently defined,
with 6 additional messages reserved for future use).
While neither of these systems are in widespread use
yet, there are already several different radar detector
models that can detect these systems. These systems
have the potential to dramatically increase a driver’s
awareness of road hazards, and decrease the potential
for traffic accidents.
RadioShack
A Division of Tandy Corporation
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
8/96
Printed in the USA
Download PDF