Most hi-tech speed trap giz­mos have feet of clay

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

NEW SPEED cam­era tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing the de­vices more re­li­able, au­thor­i­ties claim, more ef­fec­tive in con­trol­ling speeds and more dif­fi­cult to beat. But whether the new hitech sys­tem will be proof against le­gal chal­lenges re­mains to be seen.

The new “av­er­age speed over dis­tance” tech­nol­ogy makes use of two fixed cam­eras at mea­sured points on the same road. Num­ber plate recog­ni­tion soft­ware will pick up a ve­hi­cle’s regis­tra­tion plate as it passes the first cam­era. When the car passes the sec­ond cam­era, the time taken to travel the dis­tance is mea­sured and an av­er­age speed cal­cu­lated .

The tech­nol­ogy has been suc­cess­fully used in KwaZu­luNatal; plans are un­der way to in­stall sim­i­lar de­vices on “hell run” stretches in the West­ern Cape.

The “av­er­age speed” tech- nol­ogy re­places sev­eral older de­vices which, over the past few years, have been shown to be un­re­li­able. Just how un­re­li­able emerges from the fol­low­ing: A UK court ear­lier this year threw out Pro­laser ev­i­dence af­ter it was demon­strated the mo­torist was recorded trav­el­ling at a speed in ex­cess of the ve­hi­cle’s top speed.

In 2002, then-di­rec­tor of traf­fic in Cape Town, Greg Dun­can, was clocked at a re­mark­able 205km/h in a 60km/h zone. In court pro­ceed­ings – where Dun­can claimed un­fair dis­missal – ev­i­dence was led by the de­fence that the Pro­laser de­vice was un­sta­ble and could be eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated. To il­lus­trate this ev­i­dence was led of a jog­ger cal­i­brated as roar­ing along at 109km/h.

An­other speed trap, known as the Vas­car de­vice (used as a mo­bile mea­sure of speed over a dis­tance), has also been found to be un­re­li­able. In Scot­land po­lice were, in Fe­bru­ary, ad­vised to dis­con­tinue its use as in­ter­fer­ence from ra­dio waves and cel­lu­lar phones ren­dered it in­ac­cu­rate.

Cape Town traf­fic spokes­woman Merle Lourens said the Pro­laser was no longer used in Cape Town. An un­dated Depart­ment of Trans­port in­ter­net based doc­u­ment, bear­ing the Ar­rive Alive let­ter­head in­di­cates that both Pro­laser and Vas­car have been used in South Africa.

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