Speed technology develops faster than drivers
By Dustin Lemmon, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer
Dustin Lemmon / staff
Illinois State Trooper Ed Ryan uses a laser gun to monitor the speeds of cars on Illinois 5. The laser gun has surpassed the radar gun in accuracy, allowing officers to use a pinpoint laser beam to track vehicle speeds.
Developments in laser technology have been helping the Illinois State Police catch up to speeding motorists, who find it harder to dodge radar guns and other speed detectors of the 1990s.
Law enforcement officers across the nation now are using a large arsenal of speed-tracking equipment, such as radar guns, mobile radar tracking equipment and laser rifles.
The growth of speed-tracking equipment can be traced back to World War II, when the military first introduced radar tracking technology. Law enforcement officers were using radar technology to ticket speeding motorists before radar guns were even invented.
Ed Ryan, an Illinois State trooper based out of the District 7 in East Moline, said one of the first radars police used was a needle graph, which printed out readings of motorists' speeds.
The trooper noted the technology has come a long way since then.
``You could only use it on a nice clear day,'' he said.
Radar was ``later developed into a gun,'' the trooper said. Now that device is becoming obsolete for ISP, which has mobile radar detectors. ``You can actually be driving, and from a moving position track other cars,'' he explained.
Police now have a new weapon to monitor speeding traffic -- a laser ``rifle,'' complete with a scope to pick out the speeders.
The new technology, known as ladar -- an acronym for light detection and ranging -- uses a smaller infrared ray instead of a radar beam, to bounce off cars and track speeds.
Trooper Ryan said ladar can be more accurate than radar equipment because it has a narrower beam.
``You can point it 1,000 feet down the road,'' he said. ``The laser will be about 4 feet wide, while the radar will cover both lanes of the road.''
Ladar allows troopers to monitor a motorist's speed in higher-density traffic.
``With the scope you can aim right for the grill area,'' Trooper Ryan said. ``It can pick out your car in a pack of ten.''
Although ladar is more accurate than mobile radar, it is still in the infant stages. Like its predecessor, the radar gun, it is an immobile system and must be used while the officer is standing still.
Trooper Ryan said he thinks technology will develop ladar to the point that it too can be used in a moving squad car, but until it does radar will be the weapon of choice for officers battling speeders.
More officers have to be trained to make sure they pick up an accurate reading, he said.
``You can't just send somebody out there'' who hasn't had any training ``and say `Go knock 'em dead and write some tickets,'|'' Trooper Ryan said. ISP rules require that ``troopers have to have a refresher course every three years,'' he said.
Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.