Radar Love

The changing status of the radar detector in a hyper-surveilled world

In the fall and winter of 1961, in the back pages of Popular Science, Ebony, The Rotarian, and other magazines, a new product began to appear in small display advertisements. “Warning!” its headline advised. “Radar Speed Trap ahead.” The photo showed a tiny device, sheathed in a “smart leatherette case,” sitting on the dash of a car with a disembodied hand twisting its dial. It was called Radar Gard, retailing for $39.95, and while the device was clearly designed to elude law enforcement officials using radar guns to fine speeders, the ad copy also emphasized its status as a safety device. “Warns you to slow down if you’re traveling too fast. Helps prevent accidents by making you more speed-conscious.”

No doubt such claims didn’t pass the smell test for those who prefer zero-tolerance speed limits to technological workarounds. Fifty years later, that dynamic remains in place. “There’s no legitimate defense for” radar detectors, an Orlando Sentinel editorial insisted in January 2011. “Radar detectors serve one purpose: To warn speeders about cops ahead so they can slow down and avoid a ticket. And then resume speeding.”

If the millions of drivers who currently equip their vehicles with radar detectors were still using Radar Gards, that argument might seem more persuasive. But today’s radar detectors don’t just start sounding alarms when they sense a police officer hiding behind a nearby billboard. Top-of-the-line models like Escort Radar’s Passport iQ keep track of current speed limits and offer consistent feedback about your speed in relation to it. They feature built-in GPS and databases that include the locations of thousands of red-light cameras, speed cameras, and speed traps. At a time when domestic law enforcement agencies are using bird-sized drones to monitor U.S. citizens, when Transportation Security Administration personnel may know more than your physician does about the contours of your kidneys, such features give individuals a rare chance to turn the tables on the government, to unite with their fellow citizens and practice crowd-sourced anti-surveillance. And they arguably do make driving safer—at least if you believe it’s a good idea to have more information about the changing variables of the roads you’re navigating.

A website called The Radar Detection Museum teaches us that police have been deploying technology to catch speeders for more than a century. In 1902, for example, police in Westchester County, New York, hid in three fake tree trunks spaced out one mile apart. Each officer was equipped with a stopwatch and a telephone, and by virtue of this high-tech network they were able to determine how long a driver took to go from trunk to trunk, and thus how fast he was moving.

In the late 1940s, police started using radar to track a driver’s speed, and within a decade drivers started developing devices to alert them to where these radar machines were set up. In 1958 The New York Times reported that a young man named Kenneth Bressler was pulled over by police and found to have a large black box in his car with four antennas on it and a loud speaker to sound the alarm when radar was detected. Clearly the gizmo still needed a little work at the time, as Bressler was clocked doing 37 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone

By 1960, Selywn B. Goiter of Mortronic Industries was marketing a product called Radar Gard, which trade publications such as the newsletter of the Michigan Heavy Haulers’ Association were beginning to mention. In September 1961, Popular Science featured a three-page spread on a competing product, the Radar Sentry. Apparently that proved to be quite a sales boost. In January 1962, The New York Times reported that Radatron, the company producing the Radar Sentry, had sold 25,000 units of the device in the previous six months. By that time, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and the state of Connecticut had already banned the device, and several other jurisdictions were contemplating bans of their own. 

At that point, traffic fines were not as exorbitant as they are today, and the cost of radar equipment limited the number of police departments that adopted the tactic. Yet the possibility of thwarting such surveillance clearly struck a nerve with the drivers of the early 1960s. Like the first wireless TV remote controls, which had been introduced just a few years earlier, devices like Radar Gard and Radar Sentry were populist responses to heavy-handed technological overreach by powerful institutions. The booming TV industry was trying to use its technological advantage to force viewers to watch commercials as the “price” of its programming. Law enforcement was using its technological advantage to make drivers comply with speed limits to a degree that had previously been impractical to enforce. (There are only so many stretches of road where you can install fake tree trunks with police officers hidden inside.)

Today, that sense of technological overreach is on the increase as states and municipalities aggressively automate their power to impose traffic fines on citizens as a quick and easy way to boost revenue. In 2000 only 25 communities in the U.S. were using red-light cameras; now there are more than 500. Speed cameras are becoming more popular too, often with the express purpose of generating revenue to meet budget shortfalls. In January 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested California could extract nearly $400 million from its drivers if the state started operating cameras. Shortly thereafter New York Gov. David Paterson followed Schwarzenegger’s lead with a similar proposal.

In 2009, the city of Randolph, Missouri, population 47, made news for issuing 3,132 traffic fines, most of them speeding tickets. The fines generated an estimated $134,000 to $148,000, or more than half the town’s general fund revenue. Chevy Chase Village, Maryland, population 2,072, uses nine speed cameras to issue 150,000 to 180,000 citations a month, collecting $4.7 million in revenue in 2009 and $2.1 million in 2010.

In an environment where automated enforcement systems eliminate the elasticity that has traditionally informed speed limits, and where going just a few miles per hour over a posted limit will net you a $214 ticket 100 percent of the time, feedback devices like the Passport iQ become as integral a part of the driving experience as blinkers or windshield wipers. 

Consider the role they can play at intersections and other locations where automated ticketing cameras are employed. While many studies have shown that red-light cameras at intersections reduce the number of right-angle crashes, they’ve also shown that rear-end crashes can increase. When drivers spot that tiny camera mounted on the traffic light, instinct immediately kicks in. They want to avoid that ticket—in California, the current fine for running a red light is $436—so they slam on the brakes without warning, often surprising whoever might be trailing them a little bit too closely and thus ending up in a safety-induced collision.

Love them or hate them, red-light cameras add one more variable to the driving landscape, and that variable can often make drivers respond in sudden, hard-to-predict ways. As speeding cameras proliferate, they’re likely to have the same effect, with drivers shifting speeds in erratic fashion as they try to maintain compliance with posted speed limits. If you want to know how the people you’re sharing the road with might react at the next light, around that bend, and over the next hill, it will pay to have an early warning system alerting you to the presence of nearby red-light cameras, embedded speed sensors, and all the other monitoring devices that governments may adopt as they attempt to balance their budgets through high-speed revenue extraction. In a world of increasingly robust, zero-tolerance surveillance, the radar detector downshifts from a fuzzbusting tool of recklessness to a tool of caution. 

Contributing Editor Greg Beato (gbeato@soundbitten.com) writes from San Francisco.

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  • Some Call Me. . .Tim||

    "Radar detector" is going to end up as anachronistic a term as "dialing a phone"- they are becoming such integrated multi-role sensors.

  • ||

    If the ultimate aim ever actually was "reduction of harm" it was long ago superseded by the Punishment State.

  • fish||

    Already superseded by the "Revenue Enhancement State"! They want you to speed...so you can get caught....and most importantly pay that fine!

  • Realist||

    Absolutely

  • sarcasmic||

    This reduces policemen to revenue collecting officers, further eroding what little respect people have for those in the business of public safety.

  • Cyto||

    Actually, that takes them back to their original function as tax collectors. Remember the Sheriff of Nottingham? Before there was an income tax, city-states used tax collectors to raise revenue as needed. Basically an advanced version of a protection racket.

    Isn't there a The Who song that's relevant here?

  • J.R.||

    Beatles, if it's the one I'm thinking of.

  • Cyto||

    Not "Tax Man", although it is appropriate. Rather "Won't Get Fooled Again".


    Then I'll get on my knees and pray
    We don't get fooled again
    Don't get fooled again
    No, no!

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

  • Mensan||

    The early Shire Reeve was the chief official of a shire appointed by the king. While tax collection may have been one of their responsibilities, they were actually responsible for overseeing all of the throne's business in their particular shire, including investigation and prevention of crime. Many of them also acted as the judge in their jurisdiction. Included in their responsibilities was overseeing the serfs. Apparently, many modern sheriffs still think that's their proper role.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Goin' Mobile

  • ||

    One of the many triggers which produced the current libertarian me was the realization as a college kid in the Bad Old Days of 55MPH! ("It's not a good idea- it's just the LAW!") that cops were nothing more than roving toll collectors, randomly assessing an additional road use fee.

    The "safety" and "energy conservation" rhetoric was pure, unadulterated bullshit.

  • ||

    Yep. It's almost solely about revenue collection. I've noticed with myself and friends and family that the ticket/stop ratio has increased dramatically with the states' revenue shortfalls.

  • George V||

    I remember before the 55MPH went into effect and the police were driving down the I-80 doing 55MPH and blowing by them doing 80MPH, the current speed limit of the day. Good times!

  • Mensan||

    It's funny how things have reversed. Now if you are driving 55 mph, it's the cop who blows by you doing 80 mph.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If it were about safety and slower speeds, they wouldn't hide their damned vehicles almost all the time.

  • MrGuy||

    Good point...

  • Tom Walls||

    When I was about 12, I remember news footage of a state legislator smashing a Fuzzbuster with a hammer on the floor of the legislature. I coudn't even drive yet, but God, I hated that guy.

  • Paul||

    Undoubtedly that legislator drove drunk regularly and refused the breathalyzer when finally caught.

  • T||

    The revenue scam is completely transparent here in Texas. For minor traffic offenses, you can request 'deferred disposition'. Pay the fine, and you're on a 3 month probation. If you receive no further tickets in that 3 months, it never even goes on your driving record. One local jurisdiction can have you in and out of traffic court in under 20 minutes if you request this option. It makes the blatant cash grab aspect even more obvious.

  • ||

    In Millington TN, if you get a ticket from a city police officer for ANY moving violation, ANY now I say, All you have to do is go to the city hall and pay the fine, no court, no points on your record, doesn't get reported to the state, How's that for blatant money grabbing?

  • Pope Jimbo||

    The local cops in Millington have been corrupt jerks since I did a couple stints there in the mid-80's. Always ticketing young squids and jarheads on their way somewhere decent instead of spending their money at The Anchor (worst strip joint of all time).

  • MIllington Skanks||

    Buy local, y'all!

  • Fluffy||

    If the police really wanted to slow traffic down, all they would have to do is drive around on highways at the posted limit.

    Give me four on-duty cops on the Mass Turnpike around the clock and I will slow traffic down to a crawl.

    But then they wouldn't be able to write any tickets.

  • some guy||

    Bingo. Around here they like to park unused patrol cars out in the open in areas where people tend to speed or drive recklessly. Nothing changes an agressive driver's behavior like the sight of a patrol car.

    But this introduces hazards of its own. Like the red-light cameras it causes speeders to slam on brakes the moment they see the patrol car, which can cause a collision.

  • Qetesh||

    At least in this case, there's no revenue to be gained, so safety seems to be the motivation

  • Pope Jimbo||

    In Minneapolis, the cops never seem to be present on the main freeway into/out of downtown (94) during the week. They just let the traffic go.

    On the weekends though, you better not go 2 miles over the limit or they will get you. Even if the 4 lanes are completely empty because it is 7 am on Saturday morning.

    A buddy said that they used to get hassled by the feds for not meeting their quotas on the freeways, so now they have to get everyone on the weekend so that the regular commuters can go unmolested.

  • ||

    Radar detectors WORK to reduce speeding tickets. Cops don't give breaks on the street/road if they see one in your car.

    Cameras at various spots DON'T work as well. Always fight such tickets if you get them; it's more costly for the government to go to trial than it is if you just plea-bargain. Several cities have stopped their intersection cameras because they're not cost-efficient. They cost more than they generate in revenue.

  • Combaticus||

    I'd really like to see some gatso rebellion like they undertake in the UK.

    http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm

  • ||

    I can't find anything on line, but I distinctly remember reading an article years ago in which it was mentioned that police were originally opposed to car manufacturers installing rear-view mirrors in automobiles. 'Cause if drivers knew the police were following them, they'd slow down before the police could clock their speed. Apparently that was bad.

  • Paul||

    If only our current crop of cops showed the restraint and professionalism of Roscoe P. Coltrane.

  • J.R.||

    Well, in Roscoe's defense, the Duke boys were fairly hardcore scofflaws.

  • Ben||

    Hey they were just some good ol' boys. Never mean any harm.

  • Rob||

    Roscoe was light years ahead with regards to bureaucratic imcompetence.

  • Paul||

    citizens and practice crowd-sourced anti-surveillance.

    I wanted to create a network of people using those small Motorola handheld radios. Get a large community of users to pick a channel and then you could broadcast the existence and location of speed traps. People within your reasonable radio range would hear it and drive accordingly.

  • BigBob||

    This kind of thing already exists for anyone using a CB radio.

  • Paul||

    I know but how many drivers are going to install CB radios? For $15 anyone can buy a pair of those little radios.

  • Paul||

    Realistically speaking, you'd use more modern tools like twitter or social networking-- some form of instant communication. But that doesn't work so well when driving-- safety issues-- plus the small radio idea is kind of self-limiting in its coverage.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    In Korea a lot of the highways have a combo radar detector/camera that will take your picture if you are going to fast and send you the ticket.

    On the brightside, all these points are well known and are actually programmed in GPS units. The car I rented would start dinging when you got a quarter mile away so you could slam on your brakes.

    It was pretty funny to see the maniacal Korean drivers go from their usual Death Race mode driving into Mr. Safe Driver mode around these checkpoints.

  • The Gobbler||

    iPhones have an app for this.

    True story.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I live in one of the few states in which use of a radar detector is illegal.

    I must say, it is one of the things about Virginia that find disappointing.

    I can drive around with a loaded gun lying on my dashboard, without requiring a permit or registration or anything. I can openly carry a gun in most places in the state, and with a not-very-hard-to-get permit, I can carry the gun concealed - including in day cares, banks, grocery stores, etc.

    But I can't have a little electronic box on my dashboard that beeps when it picks up a radar signal.

    Not that I would have one anyhow. I used to have a radar detector eons ago, but gave it up many years ago.

  • Paul||

    Driving around with a loaded gun doesn't fuck with the state's revenue. The radar detector does.

    Don't mess with a pimp's money.

  • ||

    A pimp's love is different from a square's.

  • Upgrayyedd||

    You better have my money, ho.

  • PotY||

    Not some...
    Not half...
    But ALL my cash...

  • MrGuy||

    Upgrayedd goin' get his money.

  • R||

    I have read that FCC regulations actually prohibit the banning of any device that simply passively detects electromagnetic radiation, and that it's possible to challenge any arrest or fine based on possessing a radar detector based on that law. I don't know if it's true or not, though.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Yeah well go ahead and try that out and let us know how it works for you.

    We'll wait.

  • Realist||

    It probably would work, but you have to take it to the Supreme Court

  • Sic Semper Tyrannis||

    It says so right there on the flag.

  • Sic Semper Tyrannis||

    Talk about violent rhetoric.

  • Mensan||

    Fuck Virginia! Those assholes gave me tickets for not having a front licence plate and for having tinted windows. This was on my car that was registered in Florida! Then when I called to see about appealing the ticket they told me I would have to appear in court. It would have cost me more money to go back up there to fight it, so I just paid fine. Goddamn bastards!

  • strat||

    What's interesting is that it's not at all clear the Virginia prohibition is legal. Management of spectrum and communications devices has been, for better or worse, explicitly preempted by the Communications Act since about 1934. I keep telling myself after I sell a company I should litigate this. I don't have a lot of confidence in the fairness of the system, but the FCC has been resolute in radio matters that what's been delegated to it is no one else's business.

  • Res Publica Americana||

    Do you guys support speed limits?

  • J.R.||

    Yes.

  • ||

    Not blanket speed limits that come with fines.

  • The Gobbler||

    No. Think Montana, 1968.

  • Realist||

    Yes in some areas.

  • ||

    "To serve and protect" has become "To serve and collect."

    If the government agencies can monitor citizens, citizens should be afforded the same courtesy.

  • ||

    Do you guys support speed limits?

    On private roads? Sure, whatever, dude. Its your road, make up whatever rules you want.

  • ||

    The government builds roads with a designed maximum speed of (clear road, clear dry weather) perhaps 95-100 mph. Safe speed in light to moderate traffic 75-80. Speed limit 55-65. Competent drivers who don't have their eyes on the speedometer instead of the road drive at the max safe speed. OF COURSE the point is to shake down motorists for fines as much as possible!

  • Highway||

    Charles, your understanding of design speed is not correct. The AASHTO design speed for interstates isn't ever over 75 MPH, and generally is set at 70. This is defined entirely by the physical features of the road: grades, curves, superelevations, clear space, object protection, interchanges, and anything else. It is not defined as a certain speed with a certain amount of congestion.

    Usually this design speed is used to set the minimum criteria. So if a road is designed to 70 MPH, then the most restrictive feature on the roadway is still acceptable at 70. Exceptions can be made where there is a lack of space, but are generally signed with warning signs. There really isn't a 'design speed' for a open flat stretch of road besides the clear space / shoulder width / lane width requirements.

    The design speed of roadways tends to fall in line with the 85th percentile speed, which is the speed at which 85 percent of drivers feel comfortable going, and thus would go if there weren't speed limit signs. There are efforts to try to set speed limits to those 85th percentile speeds, because the roadways are safer when you do that, since there is much less speed differential between people going the speed that feels fine to them and people who are afraid of the black and white signs (and cars).

    So yes, speed limits are set below the design speed of the road. But the design speed isn't based on traffic levels, and it's never "90-100 MPH" even on Interstate Highways.

  • Ray LaHood||

    85th percentile speeds, because the roadways are safer when you do that, since there is much less speed differential between people going the speed that feels fine to them and people who are afraid of the black and white signs (and cars).

    I don't buy your argument.

  • ChrisO||

    You've clearly never been to Wyoming or Utah.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    The design speed of roadways tends to fall in line with the 85th percentile speed, which is the speed at which 85 percent of drivers feel comfortable [...] There are efforts to try to set speed limits to those 85th percentile speeds, because the roadways are safer when you do that, since there is much less speed differential between people going the speed that feels fine to them and people who are afraid of the black and white signs

    This is probably good engineering. Certainly I don't know enough to argue with it.

    But I can't help but read this as "we set the speed limits according to the least competent quintile".

  • MJ||

    1. Accidents are caused by the least competent quintile.

    2. Most people in the least competent quintile think they are in the most competent quintile.

  • Mensan||

    ^THIS

    Every truly horrible driver I have ever known (except one) has insisted that they are an excellent driver.

  • Highway||

    That's the same perception problem people have in all areas of life. People always think they're smarter, more capable, higher class, higher ability, than they really are.

    Something that I think is skewing in accident reports is that the actual cause of an accident is not necessarily present in the aftermath of an accident. For instance, a moron wanders out of their lane, or some old lady drives 65 up the wrong side of the highway. Well, those people weren't in an accident, but the poor folks who had to swerve around them were. And those folks will claim "Well, I've never had an accident, I'm a good driver."

  • Highway||

    That's not the correct way of understanding it (and it is a kinda tough description to understand). It's not the speed that all of those 85 percent feel comfortable at. It's the high speed that 85 percent of drivers are under. So if you have a highway where under free flow conditions 30% naturally drive 60, another 30% naturally drive 65, 25% drive 70, and the remaining 15% drive 80, the 85 percentile speed would be 70, and that's where you'd set the speed limit.

  • Gray Ghost||

    But how do you determine "free flow" conditions, independent of the speed limit signs that are already on the road? Example: I-10 west of Houston, going to San Antonio is dead straight for much of it and flat. Had I the car that could do it (instead of the econobox I drive now), I'd feel comfortable going 100-120 on it. And I'm sure a lot of other drivers would too. That would raise your free flow conditions' speeds.

    But we can't go as fast as we feel comfortable, because of the existing speed limit and fears of tickets. How do Civ. E's and highway designers account for that? Also, have the AASHTO design speed criteria for an interstate remained constant over time, or have they been tightened?

    Because, having driven in Germany and driven in the U.S., I'm not seeing a lot of difference between the autobahnen there and a deserted well maintained stretch of interstate here. The interstates are usually wider, for one thing. Granted, the drivers there are one hell of a lot better than they are here.

  • Highway||

    For very rare examples, there are roads that would feel comfortable at 100+ MPH, if you were in a vehicle appropriate for that. But as you point out, you don't, and most people don't.

    As for determining 85th percentile speeds, they can generally be measured, even if the speed limit isn't at the 85th percentile speed. People tend to go that speed anyway, unless there is a history of enforcement. These studies generally tend to be confirmed if the speed limit is raised, because the average speed on the road does not go up by the amount that would be expected if speed limit signs were actually a speed limiting factor. Many times there is no increase in the average speed at all.

    Fear of tickets is very low, especially in officer enforced areas. Speed Cameras have more of an effect, but their locations are known, so they have an extremely local effect.

    AASHTO standards are somewhat conservative, as they haven't changed things like stopping sight distance or side friction as much as the capability of cars has increased. This is generally found to make designs conservative, but from a liability standpoint that's not a bad thing. Many of the measurements that are used for design speed are not based on the vehicle capability, tho, but instead on human reaction time (which hasn't really improved) or the straight physics of sight lines.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Well, of course it is not the right way to understand it. Not just the "Unskilled and Unaware" bit but also the congenital idiocy of adolescent males and the farmers-market-seeking behavior of the common octogenarian all fold into the what's really going on.

    But I can't help but read it that way.

  • Some Call Me. . .Tim||

    (channeling Almanian)

    You know who else advocated roads without speed limits?

  • seguin||

    Somalia?

  • Res Publica Americana||

    Doesn't it suck that the only state without helmet laws has only 1,000,000 people living in it?

  • Cyto||

    Illinois? Iowa?

  • The Gobbler||

    Minnesota?

  • Realist||

    Chicago has around 2 million and unfortunately it is still part of Illinois.

  • LarryA||

    Unfortunately.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Er...Wolfram alpha says Kansas has 2.8 million people.

    Or does people motercycling all over the state bare headed not qualify as "without helmet laws"?

  • Res Publica Americana||

    New Hampshire. More than 1,000,000, but still

  • Mensan||

    There are only 20 states that require a helmet. In every other state they're only required for minors (I know it's 21 in a few states, and Florida also requires insurance, but you know what I meant).

  • Old Man With Candy||

    Texas?

  • ||

    %$& helmet laws. Show some personal responsibility and wear one, no matter what the law says.

    Yes, I ride. All the gear, all the time, no exceptions, law or no law.

  • O'Brien||

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

  • ||

    Alright here I go again. I know I'm probably the only libertarian police officer you guys know, but I feel I need to weigh in. A few points:

    1. Yes, several municipalities, counties, and states use traffic tickets as a revenue source. This is not true for all jurisdictions though. A little research can show which are which. Most state law enforcement agencies have their ticket fines go directly into a special fund that is used for charities or other beneficial programs, Florida is the one I'm most familiar with that does this. The agency I work with does not see any of that money, it goes to a state fund.

    2. Most of this "go write tickets to increase revenue" stuff comes from the higher ups in the agency or the local government. The officer who is pulling you over and writing a ticket is not getting that money, and most likely hates working traffic anyway, but he has been threatened to write tickets by his boss.

    3. Which is my next point, we hate working traffic. Well most of us do anyway, there are those who love it but they generally have some other kind of mental problems as well. I write just enough tickets to show that I'm doing something, and they are generally for expired registration or something where all you have to do is fix it, show up to court with proof, and they don't make you pay a fine. Don't get me wrong, I will cite someone who is driving like an idiot and endangering other drivers, but I don't go looking for that kind of thing. I have criminals to catch and I don't really care to look for traffic citations all day.

    4. Related point, I'm all for radar/laser detectors, apps that show speed traps, red light detectors, etc. I wasn't always a cop and I hated that kind of stuff before I became one, so it would be kind of hypocritical to flip flop. If those things make people aware and they slow down, great. That means less times I have to come out and work a stupid traffic accident (which I hate) or even worse a fatal accident (which I hate even more).

    5. To sum up. Don't lump us all in together, I hate working traffic along with most other officers, and slow down. You're not the problem going 10 or 15 or even 20 over, it's the idiots who are going 30 or more over, talking on the phone, and eating a sandwich. They're ruining it for everyone else, because we all know what local governments like to do...overreact.

  • ||

    Yes, you are the only libertarian police officer I know. How do you feel about drug enforcement?

  • ||

    Personally, I think most of it is a waste of time. Professionally, I will do what I have to do when required by law or policy.

  • Mensan||

    "I know I'm probably the only libertarian police officer you guys know..."

    That reminds me; has anybody seen dunphy around here lately?

  • Highway||

    "1. Yes, several municipalities, counties, and states use traffic tickets as a revenue source. This is not true for all jurisdictions though. A little research can show which are which. Most state law enforcement agencies have their ticket fines go directly into a special fund that is used for charities or other beneficial programs, Florida is the one I'm most familiar with that does this. The agency I work with does not see any of that money, it goes to a state fund."

    This is a disingenuous argument at best. Even if that revenue goes into a general fund, or a special programs fund, it's still revenue that the government is counting on, and they budget for it. If that wasn't coming in, they'd have to cut spending somewhere. It's not 'found money', it's a source that they're obscuring. So maybe fines from tickets you write don't go right in your pocket. But they go into the government's bank account, which is tied to the same accounts that end up paying for your job.

  • Gray Ghost||

    And for hilarious proof of this, go google past issues of the Houston Chronicle, for the gnashing of teeth from Houston City Council over the lost, already-budgeted projected revenue from now-illegal red light cameras.

  • ||

    Even in places where that is true, it still only serves as motivation for the elected officials that make policy. There is no incentive for me to write tickets, my salary doesn't go up, I don't get a bonus. Instead of focusing your ire on police officers who are just doing their job, how about focusing it on the people you elect that make these laws and policies?

    What else would you suggest we do to enforce traffic laws? I agree that red light cameras are a bad idea (most of the time the police dept has nothing to do with those, the city installs them itself) When someone runs a red light or blows through a stop sign right in front of me should I do nothing? When that happens other drivers look at me with that "aren't you gonna do something?" look on their face. So it seems this is another instance of "I want you to enforce the law on everyone else but not me."

  • ||

    A shout-out for Trapster, a social networking app for Android and iPhones that allows drivers to report speed traps so others using the app can be warned ahead of time. Terrific idea, and free.

  • Realist||

    In about 1954 traffic radar first came out in my home town. Back then you didn't need a radar detector...even if you were half blind. All you had to do was watch for a police car parked at the side of the street with about a 100 kids on bikes (me included) all around the police car and a policeman standing by the back of the car with a big black box on the trunk. LOL

  • despindle||

    Here in CA, the red light cameras take one picture of the license plate and one of the driver's face. Then they mail a ticket to the address on the registration addressed to the car's owner.

    The problem is (for the cops) if the person who is driving is not the registered owner then they have no way of knowing who should get the ticket. So if it was someone else driving, the owner can just show up with the ticket and say, "it wasn't me," and it will be dismissed. They will ask who it was but you don't have to answer.

    So my car is registered to my wife and my wife's car is registered to me. :)

  • Boss Tweed||

    The next step will be to change the law to require the regstered owner to pay the fine.

    And while they're at it, require you to supply a credit card number to register the car so they can just charge the credit card.

  • Mensan||

    They worked around that in Florida. The law here says that the owner has to pay the fine unless they provide the identity of the person who was driving.

  • ChrisO||

    In the Washington DC area, they solved the problem of speeding by having such an inadequate, messed-up road network that congestion is pretty much constant.

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  • Old Man With Candy||

    Selywn B. Goiter?

    Really????

  • ||

    A friend of mine was stationed in, and scheduled to leave Germany. A few days before his departure, he got a "camera" speeding ticket in the mail. The picture showed the plate and his face, as well as the speed he was traveling.

    The day before his departure, he mailed in the ticket with a PICTURE of the money he owed.

  • ||

    I'm a speed limit nut.

    First, there is talk about enforcing traffic laws. That is OK....if the speed limits were set correctly. It is outrageous that some zones are 55 when they should be 70 plus. Then you get pulled for 57 and fined excessively by cops who "hide" to "get ya". That is where I have the big problem. 57 in a road that should be 70 or 80 and being fined excessively for it is wrong, plain and simple. That is the point, and I think to now, we accept it because the chances of being caught are still pretty low if you're smart about it. But I do find it odd that in bigger cities, where traffic gets more dense, and limits drop, I often find I'm going 20-25 over and with the flow. I think we all realize with this many cars, you're chances of getting picked off are extremely low, so we speed more than we do in the middle of Wyoming. That tells me something too.

    Otherwise, target truly dangerous driving. Not paying attention, no signal, swerving through traffic. I NEVER see those people getting stopped. Shoulder riding, extreme tailgating etc. But I get stopped for 3 over and fined hundreds of dollars.

    our speeds need more variability. Open spaces in TX or WY, NE, let them be 80-90-100-your choice. Slow down for towns, ramps, badly maintained roads, poor sight distance. 70 is not appropriate for every situation.

    I also find it odd that cars today go, stop, turn better, have better headlamps, better tires, and when you do crash are miles safer, and yet we're still driving at or below speed limits of the 60s. Why?

    In Germany, you can get a SClass benz and drive 150mph. But it drains you. So after a few minutes you slow. Or traffic makes you slow. You go at the pace you feel comfortable. This is the same country where 2 lanes over is a tiny Fiat with 100hp that can barely brake 100mph after 5 minutes of acceleration, and it works fine. I also see lots of fast cars going 80mph comfortably as well even if they could be doing 120. It all works. Stay right, pay attention. That's it.

    How much time could we save if we could drive faster? I'd be tempted to drive to Seattle a lot more if I knew I could get there in an hour less time.

    But most of all, the feeling of freedom when you can drive at the pace you feel most comfortable is truly liberating. Even if you choose to do 75mph, or 110mph, not paying attention to the next cop hiding behind the overpass, not staring at the speedo constantly, and just focusing on driving the way you want to drive is truly a wonderful experience. It really is.

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