The Most Common Ways Police Measure Speed For A Speeding Ticket
If you are a driver, odds are you have at one point or another either been pulled over by the police or witnessed someone who has. The police will pull you over for a varying degree of reasons, but one of the most common infractions on our roadways is “speeding”.
The police actively enforce speeding laws and do so in a number of ways. Commonly, there will be one officer doing enforcement and measuring the speed of vehicles passing by, pulling over any that are deemed to be exceeding the limit. However, there are also large “blitz” where many officers will team together to actively enforce a specific law. For example, “seat belt safety week” or “hands free” campaigns.
For an officer to pull someone over and charge them with “speeding”, they must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was in fact “speeding”. It has to be more than just a “hunch” and based on rational evidence. So, how is an officer able to measure your speed and determine you were speeding? They are able to do this by using methods the courts have deemed appropriate and reliable to measure a moving vehicle.
There are three main methods utilized by the police to measure the speed of a vehicle; Radar, Lidar, or by exercising what is called “pacing”. The latter is the least preferred method by the courts. Let’s take a look into how each of these methods is relied on to accurately measure speed and why “pacing” is the least preferred method.
“Radar” is used to measure the speed of a moving object and the most commonly used method by law-enforcement. It has been utilized by law-enforcement in North America since 1949. In simple terms, a radar gun transmits a narrow beam of radio-frequency energy out the front of the gun and looks for that signal to be reflected back to the gun after bouncing off an object. The farther away the vehicle, the wider and wider the beam spreads, causing the device to be less reliable as it may have received a signal off of a surrounding object. Officers are trained to use these devices and will commonly only lock in the speed of a vehicle when they are satisfied it is the only vehicle in the beam.
With advances in technology, it is very important to know that officer’s do not need to be stopped and use handheld radar devices to measure your speed. Most police cruisers are equipped with front and rear facing radar devices. These devices are activated with the flip of switch and can register the speed of an oncoming vehicle quite fast. Do not be fooled into thinking they must be stopped to be able to give you a speeding ticket.
Radar devices must be tested by the officer both prior to and following his enforcement duties. The officer must be satisfied the device is working in good proper order following the tests or the results may be found to not be reliable.
A laser speed measuring device that uses a laser beam to calculate the speed of a moving object. Unlike radar, which emits radio waves that stretch wider and wider, lidar uses a laser beam that can stretch a much farther distance than standar radar devices. This allows an officer to “lock” the speed of a vehicle long before the vehicle has even noticed the officer on the side of the road. I commonly hear from clients that tell me their speed at the time of seeing the officer, but it’s important to know that the officer may have seen you long before you have seen them.
Lidar is operated by a handheld device and the officer will be stationary in order to use the device. Lidar devices come in a range of models, some look like your traditional radar gun while others resemble a pair of binoculars. An officer will generally target the licence plate of the target vehicle with the lidar laser.
Similar to radar, lidar devices must also be tested by the officer both prior to and following his enforcement duties. The officer must be satisfied the device is working in good proper order following the tests or the results may be found to not be reliable.
“Pacing” is when a police officer will follow you in their vehicle, maintaining a specific distance from your vehicle while monitoring their speedometer. If a certain distance is maintained for a certain length of time, the officer will allege that you must have been going at the same speed as them, since you both maintained the same distance you must have been going the same speed. In theory, this evidence could be reliable, that is if all elements are followed.
The officer must follow you a certain distance, not closing or losing distance but maintaining the same distance. The officer must be following you at this distance for a certain length of time. It is not reliable if the officer maintains the distance for a matter of 1-2 seconds. It should be maintained for 1-2 kms.
This evidence is often flawed and that is because officer’s do not properly exercise the practice of “pacing”. Rather it is quite common you will see an officer accelerate their vehicle at an extremely high rate of speed, catch up to a vehicle and then make the allegation that they were going that fast simply because they chose to speed at such a high rate to catch up to them.
For example, an officer sees a car 2km ahead, the officer accelerates to 180km/hour and reaches the vehicle. He charges the vehicle for speeding 180 km/hour, even though he did not follow at this distance for any extended length of time. Now a different officer but in the same circumstances accelerates at the speed limit to catch up to the vehicle and pulls them over right away, the driver is not charged because the officer was able to catch up to them by going the speed limit.
The above example really highlights that the officer’s efforts to catch up to you will dramatically impact what speed they allege “you” were going. As you can see, the practice is seriously flawed and commonly abused by certain officers.
What to do if you get a speeding ticket?
If you have received a traffic ticket, I strongly recommend getting a free consultation from our office. You can receive a free consultation from most legal service providers and these consultations will help the strong stand out from the rest. After receiving a consultation, it is always wise to check the reviews of the company as well. To receive a free consultation from myself, please visit www.otdlegal.ca.