Most hi-tech speed trap gizmos have feet of clay
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.