Types of Speed Measurement in the State of Florida

Speeding tickets are, by far, the most common moving violation, and in order to fight your Florida speeding violation, you need two things:

  • An experienced Florida traffic attorney
  • To know what method the officer used to determine your speed (laser, radar, VASCAR, pacing or aircraft)

While there is essentially only one way to speed, the ways to detect your speed are numerous, however not all methods are allowed in all states. As an example, Pennsylvania only allows state police (not local law enforcement) to operate radar. California forbids radar on some roadways, and has outlawed VASCAR, etc. The state of Florida currently allows all five methods of speed detection.

Types of Speed Measurement in Florida

  • Pacing involves an officer targeting a vehicle he or she believes is traveling above the speed limit, catching up to that vehicle, then maintaining a constant distance from the car for at least two-tenths of a mile. Most officers will try to follow the suspect for even longer than two-tenths of a mile as a method of avoiding having the ticket dismissed. There are inherent problems associated with pacing. First, many officers attempt to stay a substantial distance behind the suspected speeder in order to avoid detection, however pacing is only accurate at a closer distance. The officer must keep a constant distance between the cruiser’s front bumper and your back bumper, which requires both training and good depth perception. If you are aware the officer was close enough behind you to be seen in your rearview mirror for only a short distance, your attorney may be able to use this fact to your advantage at court. If the road you were traveling on is full of hills, curves, traffic lights or stop signs, you may also be able to show the officer did not pace you for enough time. Pacing at dusk or nighttime is much more difficult than in daylight, as the officer’s visual cues are nothing more than your taillights. If there is a significant amount of traffic, it can be hard for the officer to keep your taillights in clear view. Finally, the officer who paced your vehicle has to have stellar multi-tasking skills; after all, he or she must maintain a constant distance from your vehicle, must watch the odometer to ensure the full two-tenths of a mile have been covered, must watch the cruiser’s speedometer to determine your speed and must be aware of all other traffic on the road during the entire process.
  • Aircraft speed detection is not used as frequently as other types of speed detection due to the cost of the aircraft. Aircraft speed detection is generally used on open roadways where two fixed points have been pre-determined, rather than in heavy traffic or in a city situation. The aircraft officer calculates your speed by determining—via stopwatch—how long it takes your vehicle to go from point A to point B.  If the aircraft officer determines you are speeding, ground patrol is radioed. The ground patrol officer will verify your speed independently, then will pull you over and write your speeding ticket. The advantage you may have at your court appearance is that both officers are required to appear, or your attorney may ask that your case be dismissed. Your attorney may also challenge the aircraft officers reaction times related to stopwatch error. If the aircraft officer hesitated even briefly prior to pushing the timer as you passed the first marker, the reading would not be accurate. Finally, your attorney may question whether it was really your car that the aircraft officer kept in his or her sights the entire time, as it can be difficult to stare at an object continuously from an airplane for 48-60 seconds. Particularly if your vehicle happens to be a very common make and model, the aircraft officer may have mistaken another car for yours.
  • VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder) is basically little more than a sophisticated stopwatch coupled with a calculator. The VASCAR unit requires significant levels of human input, upping the chances of a mistake. The distance between two points is first measured. Once the officer sees a “target” vehicle pass point A, he or she pushes a button to start the electronic stopwatch, then pushes it again when the vehicle passes point B. The VASCAR unit is generally connected to the odometer of the police cruiser, which allows the officer to use the unit while moving. Operating a VASCAR unit is not all that easy to perform accurately. Your Florida traffic attorney may challenge a VASCAR reading of less than 500 feet or a reading taken at a distance greater than 1,500 feet (under the theory that the officer may not have actually seen you pass the second marker point). Your attorney may also question whether the police cruiser’s speedometer/odometer has been calibrated within the past six months, rendering it accurate when attached to the VASCAR unit.
  • Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) was used as far back as the 1950’s, although it has gone through several upgrades along the way as far as the bandwidth used. Radar uses radio waves which are reflected off a moving object in order to determine the speed of that object. Radar guns use radio waves similar to AM and FM radio transmissions, but with a much higher frequency. (The higher the frequency, the straighter the beam, the truer the reflection, therefore the more accurate your speed reading). Radars must be calibrated regularly, both from an independent radar company as well as by the officer who uses the radar gun at the beginning and end of each shift. Your attorney may be able to question whether the officer was properly trained in the use of the radar gun, and whether the unit was properly maintained and calibrated. Further, at 160 feet away from the radar gun, the beam width is approximately two lanes wide. This means the chances the radar gun was actually registering another vehicle rather than yours is particularly high. Especially if there was an 18-wheeler close to you—or even a large truck—the radar could have conceivably bounced off the larger object rather than your vehicle. Wind, rain and thunderstorms can also affect the readings on a radar gun, giving false signals If any of these adverse conditions existed during the issuance of your speeding ticket, your attorney may be able to prove the radar gun gave a false high reading.
  • Laser speed detectors are the newest form of speed detector used by police departments. While the laser gun looks like a radar gun, it uses a low-powered beam of laser light which bounces back from a targeted vehicle to calculate the speed. The laser light beam is much narrower than a radar beam, which means there is theoretically less chance of targeting the wrong vehicle. The accuracy of that laser light beam, however, is dependent on the officer’s ability to hold the unit perfectly still and the officer is unable to see the laser light beam, so may not point the unit accurately. In extremely dense traffic, it is possible for one beam to hit your car and another beam to hit another nearby car, increasing the chance of an incorrect reading. Laser guns are also subject to error when the wind is blowing or it is raining or snowing. In one test, a laser gun clocked a windblown tree at 70 mph. The laser gun must also undergo regular calibration and the officer must be trained to use the unit properly. Your Florida traffic attorney may be able to challenge your speeding ticket which was given by using a laser gun on any number of issues in order to have your ticket dismissed or, at the very least, keep points off your driving record.

How a The Law Place Attorney Can Help

It is important that you take your speeding ticket very seriously. You can take the first step in the right direction by hiring an attorney from The Law Place who also takes your speeding ticket very seriously. We understand that adding points to your driving record will not only increase the likelihood that your auto insurance will skyrocket, but should you accrue enough points, you could lose your driving privileges. Considering that over 90% of Americans drive their cars on a daily basis, and that losing the ability to drive could negatively impact your day-to-day life, it is all the more important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. The highly experienced The Law Place attorneys understand that you have many choices when finding an attorney, however we also believe our firm has the necessary legal tactics and strategies, learned through many years of helping clients just like you.

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