A year or so ago, I saw an article on a new technology which allowed business owners to install a small unobtrusive video camera on the mirror in their vehicles (www.drivecam.com). The camera constantly records the view out the front windshield (and optionally rearward into the vehicle) – looping every 20 seconds. When the camera sensed shock (such as impact from an accident) it would save the 10 seconds leading up to the accident, and the 10 seconds following the accident. Their website has some pretty interesting videos. Anyway, I wanted one for my personal vehicle. Unfortunately, Drivecam only sells to fleet vehicle businesses.
So, about 6 months ago, I started building my own with commercially available parts. I now have a camera, digital video recorder, and video monitor installed in my truck. The camera records to memory, and only when the vehicle is in motion (or there is motion in front of the truck). Not long after installing the system, I thought it would be even better if the speed and heading were imprinted on the video somehow. So, I installed a GPS and video overlay unit. Technical, yes, but here’s what it does… When I drive, I have a permanent recording of what is in front of me, stamped with day, time, speed and heading. It is extremely accurate – since GPS is document to be +/- 0.1 MPH.
Here’s where it get interesting… In mid-February of this year, I was stopped by a Pasco Deputy using a laser gun. When he pulled me over, he asked me “do you know how fast you were going”. Nervous, and not thinking about the video system, I said “No.” He told me 72 MPH (in a 55MPH zone). He then left to write my ticket. In his absence, I remembered the video system. I folded down my sun visor (which hides the video monitor) and backed the video up a few minutes. Crystal clear was my speed as I approached the Deputy sitting on the side of the road with his laser gun. The GPS recorded speed? 68.3 MPH. When the officer returned, I showed him the video.
“Cool! Our cruisers don’t even have that!”. I then asked him to reduce the fine to match the GPS speed – since it is accurate to 0.1MPH. The Deputy refused, stating that he tests his gun ‘every morning’. We parted ways. I then entered a plea of not-guilty, requesting a court date.
In the mean time, I did a BUNCH of research on both GPS and laser speed detection equipment (aka LIDAR). The most accurate LIDAR equipment is rated (by the manufacturer) at +/- 1.0 MPH (I have the documentation). That’s 10x worse than GPS. Not only that, but the testing of laser equipment falls WAY short of established standards used for radar guns. Laser technology uses distance measurements (unlike radar which uses Doppler/frequency shift). Consequently, if the officer moves as little “the thickness of a human hair” while trying to acquire a speed measurement (a phenomeon known as ‘slipping’), the shift in the laser target (i.e., from front bumper to windshield) will result in a recorded speed considerably faster than actual. This 10 minute British news broadcast points out, scientifically, how such errors happen. The very last quote in the video states “If you’re thinking of contesting a speeding allegation, there is something you should know. The police have told us that anyone who uses the evidence from our film to plead ‘not guilty’ could, if they lose, face a much bigger penalty in court”.
The difference between 68MPH in a 55MPH (13MPH over) and 72MPH in a 55MPH zone (17MPH) is the difference between a minor speeding offense, and a major (15MPH or greater). I have NO problem paying for my actual speed violation. I do, however, have a problem being charged with more than true speed. Especially if it means my insurance is increased or even canceled.
Here’s what it boils down to… How many drivers KNOW exactly how fast they were going when they were pulled over by law enforcement? I would argue very few. And, of those that just happened to know, how many can go to court and PROVE their actual speed? Up until now, ZERO.
The exciting angle on all of this is, I have evidence showing how fast I was going. Courts have taken judicial notice, making GPS technology admissible and acceptable in court cases - see this one.
My court date is TODAY (June 6th). I intend on representing myself, and will show my video to the judge. I’m hoping that this will do more than just draw his/her interest. From a legal/technical standpoint, the case should be dismissed once I’ve proven the State’s equipment to be inaccurate. Unfortunately, by showing my video, I’m admitting to speeding. The best I can hope for is a reduction in speed. An inaccuracy in state equipment (or training), whether intentional or not, represents a huge, unnecessary (and often un-provable) burden on it’s people. In traffic court, it’s your word against a sworn officer of the state. You are presumed guilty unless you can prove the officer wrong. I hope to do just that.
This is a short (and highly compressed) video of the actual offense, followed by a clip showing a radar sign matching my GPS speed. . I’d LOVE to prove my equipment against either radar or laser - which is why I am looking for a helpful cop.