By Wayne Chen, CEO and Co-Founder of Adaptiv Technologies, LLC
Nothing ruins a ride faster than getting a speeding ticket. We all hate getting them, and we all know how-easy it is for us to be going faster than the posted speed limit whether we’re conscious of it or not. Sure, most of us ride responsibly and try to obey the posted speed limit, but it’s nearly impossible’ to do so all the time. For instance, how many times have you gotten yourself completely immersed in a ride-to where you’re just enjoying the road and the surrounding scenery without realizing that you’re going faster than you’re supposed to? Or how many times have you just been cruising along on a back country road when, all of the sudden, the speed limit drops by 30 mph as you enter a small town-and the posted sign is conveniently hidden behind a tree?
So how do law enforcement agencies catch us speeding? There are several ways. The most common speed detection device out there is the radar gun. The radar gun was first used in the 1950s and is still the predominant speed measuring device used by law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. Radar gun works by emitting radio waves at a determined frequency. When the waves bounce off a moving object (i.e., you on your bike), their frequency is shifted in proportion to the speed. The radar gun then uses the frequency shift (aka the Doppler Effect) to determine your speed. It can be used either stationary or while in motion and has the capability of picking up vehicle speeds whether the vehicle is going in the same–or opposite-direction of travel.
While the radar gun has worked well for law enforcement agencies for over 60 years, it has its share of drawbacks. One such drawback is that, in heavy traffic situations, older radarguns will tend to pick up the speed ofthe largest vehicle, not necessarily the fastest vehicle. .Actually, this is a great advantage to us riders since our vehicles are usually the smallest vehicles on the road. However, according to Carl Fors at Speed Measurement Laboratories, some of the Iatest radar guns have addressed this issue and can now pick up speed readings of motorcycles at distances in excess of one-half mile.
Another drawback of’radar guns is that the radio waves they emit bounce off almost everything. Because of this, these waves can be picked up by radar detectors. A radar detector will alert you if there is any radar gun being operated nearby, usually before the radar gun can pick up a reading on your vehicle. However, don’t think that owning a radar detector is a guaranteed way to keep from getting caught by radar guns. If you are in the only vehicle on the road and the hidden law enforcement officer waits until you get very close before turning on the radar gun, you won’t get much of a warning from a radar detector.
Laser gun, or Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), is starting to be used more throughout the U.S_ It uses infrared beams, instead of radio waves, to calculate the speed of vehicles.
Since infrared is a beam of light, the laser gun has to be precise1y aimed at the vehicle it is targeting. It also differs from radar in that this infrared beam doesn’t scatter like the radio waves from the radar gun. According to Fors, “Laser’s infrared beam is a mere 18 inches wide at 500 feet, compared to a traditional radar gun of 150 feet or all four lanes of an interstate highway.” This makes laser gun extremely accurate when obtaining the speed of the targeted vehicle.
But while LIDAR is generally accurate, it does have its drawbacks as well. It has to be stationary when it’s being used, and it doesn’t work all that well in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy fog or rain. (The drawback regarding being used in adverse weather, however, is being addressed. According to Mr. Fors, newer laser guns are capable of targeting and obtaining readings in all sorts of adverse weathers.)
SPEED CAMERAS AND OTHER TECHNIQUES
Speed cameras are also gaining popularity in parts of the country for being an efficient means for state and local agencies to enforce speed limits. Speed cameras typically employ a built-in, short-range radar gun or sensors embedded in the roadway and capture images of speeding vehicles. Tickets are then issued through the mail to the infracting vehicle. While this is an efficient way – for the state and local gencies to enforce the -speed limit, its legalities are currently being questioned, and the future of speed cameras is uncertain.
Other techniques used by law enforcement include the use of spotting airplanes and good 01′ fashioned pacing.
IS THERE ANYTHING A RIDER CAN DO?
SO, with all the aforementioned methods law enforcement agencies have on their side, what can we do to lower our chances of getting a ticket?
The best and the most obvious way is to not speed. Paying attention to the posted speed limit and constantly checking the speedometer should save you from getting tickets, and it’s also a good riding habit as well.
Being aware of your situation and environment can also help prevent you from getting a ticket. Law enforcement officers often like to hide around a turn or sit beyond the crest of a hill to catch people speeding. Check your speed before you approach these situations and, if you’re going a tad fast, back off a bit.
Lastly, having a radar detector can also help. Once you learn how to use it, it’s a great tool to help prevent getting tickets; however, it won’t guarantee you’re not going to get ticketed.
Hopefully, the information provided here will help you avoid getting that dreaded speeding ticket the next time you head out for a ride. Bottom line is this-ride aware! Enjoy your ride, but be aware of the posted speed limit, your speed, and the situation that you’re in.
About the author: Wayne Chen says he began Adaptiv Technologies, LLC after getting frustrated with trying to rig car radar detectors to his motorcycle. The company was formed in 2004, and its TPXTM-the world’s first fuUy-integrated, portable motorcycle radar and laser detection system designed for American and Metric Cruiser, Sport, and Touring bikes-hit the mar~et in 2008.