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Visual Estimate, Airplane Radar and VASCAR

VASCAR is an acronym for Visual Average Speed Computer & Recorder. This is simply a small computer that will compute the vehicles speed based on the time it takes to travel a specific distance. Basically itís distance divided by time equals speed. Itís usually hooked into the patrol carís speedometer. One of the more devious applications of VASCAR is when an officer passes you on the highway at a significantly higher rate than you are traveling, it gives you a false sense of security. A few miles down the road, you will find the police officer waiting for you, since he knows the exact distance he has traveled, and the exact distance that you have traveled, he can compute your speed and issue you a speeding ticket. This is considered a speed trap in Washington and California and as such is illegal in those states.

Plane speed detection - This is very similar to VASCAR as the officer in the airplane measures the amount of time it takes a vehicle to cover a certain distance. The officer then computes the speed of the vehicle and radios it to a patrol officer on the ground who stops the car and writes a ticket. Having marks on the ground or highway are considered illegal in California as they are considered a speed trap. There are a few disadvantages to airplane speed detection which can work to your benefit in court. Usually the officer uses the airplane to pace the vehicle on the ground and get their speed. You must explain to the courts that the airplane speeds are measured in air speed which is relative to the surrounding air. If the airplane is traveling into the wind, the speed is slower than if the aircraft was producing the same amount of power with a tailwind. Also, it may be difficult to determine whether it was actually your vehicle that was spotted from the air, since many cars look alike from such a great distance. This could be the basis for a sound defense in court. A most advantageous problem is that this system relies on two different officers. Consequently, both officers need to be in court for a conviction. Itís difficult enough to get one officer there at a specific time and the odds of bringing both into court at the same time are slim. If both officers do happen to attend your trial, request of the court that one officer be removed from the courtroom so that each may be interrogated individually, and possibly contradict each other which would give you the basis for a defense of reasonable doubt.

Visual Estimate - Basically this is another term for guessing. The officer is relying on his training as a police officer in order to convict you. It can be extremely easy to defeat this type of ticket. It is very rare that you are going to encounter this type of citation because the officer and the court know they have only a minimal chance of defeating you if you challenge his ability to visually estimate speed. If you do have to counter his abilities to visually estimate speed, take any object and hold it straight out from you at arms length from your shoulder. Drop the object from that point, and ask the officer to tell you how fast the object was traveling before it hit the ground. To make it harder, use two different items, a heavy one and a light one and repeat the test. If you receive two different answers, you know he is guessing because all items will fall at the same rate of 32 feet per second squared, regardless of their weight. Make sure you have that data available to you so that you will remember it. If you measure the distance from the floor to your outstretched arm, the following table will give you a listing of the actual mph that that particular object was traveling just prior to it hitting the ground.

If the distance traveled is: The speed would be:
3.5 feet 10.2 mph
4.0 feet 10.9 mph
4.5 feet 11.6 mph
5.0 feet 12.2 mph
5.5 feet 12.8 mph
6.0 feet 13.4 mph

Let us presume that you received a ticket for going 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. If you drop the item from a height of five feet, and the officer estimates that the item was traveling at a speed of 15 mph, you can see from the chart above that he was off by 2.8 mph. Before you enter into court, figure out the ratio factor between the speed that you were alleged to have traveled, which would be 65 mph, and divide that by the actual speed of the item that you had dropped from 5 feet which is 12.2 mph. This gives you a ratio factor of 5.3. Since the officer estimated that the object dropped was traveling at 15 mph he was off by 2.8 mph. Multiply 2.8 times the 5.3 ratio factor and you will find that the officer was off by as much as 14.9 mph in his visual estimate. At this point, the officer will know he is defeated and the judge will just wait for your motion to dismiss.


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