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speedingA significant number of people receive traffic violations every year. The most common traffic citation issued to motorists is for Excessive Speed. Florida law requires a law enforcement officer confirm an estimated speed with a measurement made by an electronic or mechanical speed measuring device.

Law enforcement officers in Florida rely on five different types of electronic or mechanical devices for speed determination:

A. Laser – Since its approval as a speed measuring device in Florida back in 1994, Laser has become the most common method of speed determination statewide. As its name implies, the speed determination is made by several distance measurements made of the target vehicle over a period of time to determine its speed. Laser makes it easier to single out a specific vehicle traveling in heavy traffic. Considering Laser’s “target specificity”, motorists traveling in large packs of speeding vehicles cannot feel secure anymore. However, since it relies on laser light, the device does have a few shortcomings:

a) Because of its reliance on quality optics, Laser cannot be used through a closed window.
b) Since light can be refracted by a source of water, rain and fog will interfere with its operation.
c) The Laser device relies on a “heads up display”, thus the law enforcement officer must actually place the beam on the target vehicle to obtain a reading. By being required to do this, the law enforcement officer must be in a direct line of sight with the target vehicle.

B. Radar – At once the most common method of speed determination, Radar is still widely used by law enforcement in Florida. As opposed to Laser, Radar uses a variety of radio frequency pulses to make its distance measurements over a period of time. Radar is preferable to some law enforcement officers since it is effective while the officer is moving. Since it doesn’t require a line of sight on the target vehicle, it also allows the law enforcement officer to monitor traffic from a more concealed location. In addition, a radio frequency will not be affected by weather conditions or glass windows.

C. Aircraft Enforcement Detail – Most often the one method that motorist don’t take into account for. Aircraft Enforcement Details (Wolf Packs) are primarily operated on large, major highways. A law enforcement officer observes vehicles from an airplane cruising high above the roadway. That officer (or Spotter) uses a special stopwatch to time a target vehicle traveling between two pre-measured marks on the roadway, and a speed is calculated based upon the time it too to traverse the particular distance. The Spotter than radios to another law enforcement officer who is in one of several vehicles associated with the Enforcement Detail. Once that vehicle’s driver (Chase Officer) is advised of the description of the vehicle and the alleged speed, the Spotter guides him/or behind the appropriate vehicle for a traffic stop and subsequent citation issuance.

D. Pace Clocking – Perhaps the oldest, and most “low tech” method of speed measurement. A law enforcement officer keeps an even pace with a target vehicle, and uses his/her automobile speedometer to determine speed. Although Pace Clocks are most commonly conducted from behind a vehicle, it is not uncommon for a law enforcement officer to attempt a pace clock from beside, and in front of a target vehicle. Many Pace Clock determinations are made at night where motorists least suspect that they are being monitored.

Over the years, I have had several people come into my office and relate stories about the vehicle tailgating them late at night on a dark road. When they sped up to gain some distance from the vehicle, they saw the lights in their rear view mirror.

E. Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder (VASCAR) – Until the widespread use of Laser for speed enforcement, VASCAR was quite common. However, over the years, it has become less and less prevalent in speed enforcement in Florida. VASCAR works in a similar fashion as the stopwatch used by the Spotter in a Aircraft Enforcement Detail. A vehicle is clocked at ground level as it travels through a pre-measured course, and a speed determination is made. Although I haven’t seen a VASCAR case in my area of Florida for quite some time, the Florida Administrative Code still has rules governing the testing of VASCAR units, and there are some VASCAR devices on DHSMV’s approved list for speed measuring devices.

F. Visual Estimate – Although Fla. Stat §316.1905 and Fla. Stat. §316.1906 imply that law enforcement should verify their speed estimations with a electronic or mechanical speed measuring device; law enforcement officers, Judges, and Hearing Officers may try to admit evidence based upon a visual estimation in some cases. From my experience, Visual Estimates are attempted to be admitted where the alleged speed is especially egregious (ie. more than 50 miles per hour over the posted speed).

PLEASE NOTE: There are several requirements in Florida Statutes and DHSMV regulations that govern the maintenance and use of electronic/mechanical speed measuring devices. An experienced attorney will know what evidence is needed to admit the results of a speed measurement in traffic court.

Rick Silverman - Traffic Attorney