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Police use hand-held or vehicle mounted radar units to

monitor the speed of vehicles for the purpose of traffic law

enforcement. The units are "low power" and have a range of only

about one-half mile. The range may be more or less depending upon

terrain, weather, and the size of the target vehicle.


Officers must usually be trained and certified to operate a

radar unit and to testify in court concerning readings obtained

with it.


Traffic radar may be operated in the stationary mode or the

moving mode. Radar units are designed either for stationary  use

only, or may have a switch to select stationary or moving

operation. In the stationary mode the officer parks the police

vehicle at an advantageous location and directs the radar antenna

in the direction of the target vehicle. The target vehicle may be

either moving toward the radar unit or away from it. If the

target is large enough or close enough to reflect the radar signal

back to the radar unit, the target's speed will be recorded.


In the moving mode, the officer's vehicle must be in motion

and can monitor the speed of targets approaching from the opposite

direction. The radar unit measures the speed of the officer's

vehicle and the speed of the oncoming target vehicle. The two

speeds are added to each other by the radar's computer. Then the

police vehicle speed is subtracted from the total of the two  thus

giving the target speed. The readout is obtained in a fraction of

a second.


The  radar unit must be calibrated at the beginning of each

shift. Some jurisdictions may require that the unit be calibrated

before and after each radar traffic stop is made. The unit may be

calibrated manually and electronically by the officer. Manual

calibration is done by striking a small tuning fork  "cut" for a

certain speed and holding the fork in front of the radar antenna.

If properly calibrated, the radar will indicate the same speed as

stamped on that particular tuning fork. The unit is also checked

by pressing a "calibrate" button  on  the radar and observing the

correct electronic  responses indicating that the unit is

functioning properly.


Traffic radar is prone to a few errors if not operated by

properly trained personnel. Radar units operated inside the

vehicle may read the speed of the spinning ac/heater fan. This

error is obvious because of the constant "speed" readout in the

absence of targets. The officer may re-orient the antenna or turn

off the fan while operating the radar. The radar may read the

speed of an unintended target due to the radar signal being

reflected off of large objects. Or the intended target may be a

small import car or motorcycle, and the speed actually obtained is

the "18-wheeler" further down the road. ( A larger portion of the

signal is returned from the "18-wheeler" even though it is farther

away.) These and other errors are easily avoided by the trained

operator who will choose a location favorable to radar operation

and will reject questionable readings when interfering targets or

objects are present.





Good radar detectors will detect a signal at a range greater

than that at which the radar operator can get a reading. The

detector may be able to receive the radar signal a mile or more

away, and this range is too great for the radar signal to be

reflected back to the radar unit for a reading. Don't relax yet!

Radar operators frequently leave the unit in the "standby"  mode

when no traffic is present. When the officers sees a vehicle

which appears to be speeding, he can take the unit off "standby"

thus allowing it to transmit and "lock" on to the target  vehicle.

If  you're that first vehicle, your radar detector will "beep",

"flash" or whatever at the same time you're being clocked. This

will, however, let the "cat out of the bag" and alert detector-

equipped cars further down the road. Some operators don't care

about detector equipped cars and will leave the unit on

continuously, knowing that there are plenty of non

detector-equipped speeding targets to be had.



Police Traffic Laser


Most new, high tech, items used by police agencies are never

seen or even heard of by the general public. This will not be

the case with the new traffic laser guns which began appearing

several years ago.


These new handheld speed measuring devices utilize a narrow

beam of light, transmitted in pulses, that strike the target

vehicle and then return to the handheld unit where the speed

is calculated.


The laser beam reportedly has a width of only three feet at a

range of 1000 feet. This makes it easy to pick a single

vehicle out of a pack and obtain not only a speed readout but

the exact distance to the target.


Radar detectors, which detect radio waves, are useless against

the new laser guns.

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