People who follow too closely behind other cars are now easier to punish
I've explained what "following too close" is and why it's dangerous; so how does law enforcement plan to attack the problem?
It's called a "distance between cars" chip or DBC chip. In this pilot program, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department was one of only seven agencies selected statewide to participate. South of Eugene, the only other agency experimenting with the system will be Grants Pass police. Oregon also happens to be the only state nationwide doing this program, so we're the guinea pigs for the whole nation.
What happens is that we send two of our laser speed guns back to the manufacturer and they install this new DBC chip in each and recalibrate the units. The cost of this was $625 for each laser, but the Oregon Department of Transportation kindly picked up the tab on two units for each agency selected for the program.
Once we get them back, we'll start to use them immediately. That's why I wanted to get this information out to warn the motoring public that this is coming.
Here's what the updated lasers will be able to tell us:
* The speed of the first car.
* The distance from the laser operator to the first car.
* The speed of the second car.
* The distance from the laser operator to the second car.
* The distance between the two cars (front bumper to front bumper).
* The time difference between the two cars.
How the police use it is to get a speed reading on the first car, then within four seconds get a speed reading on the following car. With those two things, the laser with the new DBC chip will give the above listed readings.
We'll enforce two things: speed and following too closely. So theoretically we could cite the lead vehicle for speeding and then the second vehicle for both speed and following too closely.
The nice thing about this new technology is that now, rather than trying to go to court with a subjective case based on the officer's observation, we can take the hard facts of speed, distance between the two cars, and the time between the two cars and present a case based on perception-reaction and simple physics. The other nice thing is that Justice of the Peace Joe Charter has seen this technology demonstrated and appears to endorse its methodology. He will be the arbiter when the cases start showing up in court.
I've no doubt there will be plenty of cases to review too, at least until drivers get the message that following too closely is no longer going to be tolerated as much as before. I'm hoping that these new lasers will have a similar effect on tailgaters as the last few years of pedestrian enforcement has had on drivers' reactions to pedestrians.
Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.