Expert Fitting Service

Speeding - The View of a Traffic Officer

The View of Speed Enforcement by a serving Traffic Patrol Officer in the Thames Valley Police Force.

The following Comments are the views of one officer and do not represent the views of any other officer or Police Force in the UK

Ask your self-a question, "How good a driver am I ?"

What makes you so good ?, Well very often drivers have a perceived perception of their skills based upon their own experiences and belief in their abilities.

If you are travelling 103 ft per second at what speed are you driving? Need to look up the answer.?

Do you know how to read the speed of a bend accurately?

Do you know how the police operate speed detection devices, or do you believe that your alertness and observation will keep you one step ahead of the game?.

Answer to consider. "Each and every time you decide to speed or break the rules of the road you will need to be lucky............

The police only need to be lucky once......

Speeding is often seen as a part of every day motoring and enforcement as an irritation to driving. Drivers do not regard speeding as unlawful if the limit is only broken by an acceptable margin. That margin is very often set by the individual's conscience rather than by any passed law or enforcement process.

"The vehicle is designed to travel safely at much higher speeds"

"I know what I am doing"

"It's the other road users that are the problem"

Sound familiar.......?

These same drivers often complain of the speed of vehicles in their own street but are happy to do it in other streets It's all-right but not in my back yard.

Speed enforcement is often regarded as the enemy and something to be beaten. If you cheat or defeat the system then all well and good, you are hailed a hero. The accident is never going to happen to you and if it does then it will be the fault of the other driver.... Won't it?

The fixed penalty system along with all of the speed enforcement devices now used are now seen as revenue collectors for the Government of the day. It has become a game of chance and risk and so often justified by the drivers who are caught. The idea is to avoid being detected and if caught to avoid successful prosecution by whatever means.

There are many devices now being employed to detect speeding motorists and equally as many devices designed to confuse and make them obsolete. Defences offered in court to undermine their credibility and of those administering them. Publications have been produced that detail how to avoid detection and prosecution.

Lets have a look at the most common devices and how they are operated:


The VASCAR device has been in use for many years in the UK and represents the most lenient form of enforcement to the motorist. It records the average speed of a vehicle and this will display a lower speed than the motorist was actually travelling.

The device measures time over distance and this produces an average speed. The police are trained over a prolonged period in order to determine their margin of error. The margin of error is in fact a variance of anticipation and not an error of reaction. This is often where people assume that an officer can have an area of weakness during its operation. It must be stressed that any error must be on the anticipation of the operator and not on their reaction time.

Try it your self. Set a stopwatch running and see how close to five seconds you can stop the timer running. After a few attempts you will find that you have anticipated the stop point very accurately and this how it works. When a vehicle is observed approaching the start of the check distance the operating officer can see both the start of the check and the target vehicle and can easily anticipate when the vehicle will strike the starting point. The same happens at the end of the check. The margin of error is very very small and often less than .03 mph.

It is the same anticipation as a group of people clapping in time with one another because they can anticipate when the next strike of the hands occurs. It is the same as someone recording the lap time of an athlete crossing the start and finish line: the timer anticipates the moment when the runner passes the start finish point and can record a very accurate time.

The VASCAR is a very accurate means of determining the speed of a vehicle and the motorist will have to prove that the operator did not operate it correctly, a very difficult thing to do. It is very unlikely that you will have a defence if caught with this device because you will have to show that the operator did not act in accordance with the guidelines. Most VASCAR check sites have been approved and are the only static sites used especially on Motorways where strict guidelines as to use are in force.

The following check using VASCAR is even more difficult for the driver seeking to avoid detection. The police drivers know exactly where to sit to be in a driver's blind spot and so often they can be very close to the target vehicle without the driver being aware. This also holds good for the following check using the calibrated speedometer.

VASCAR units in police vehicles have to be calibrated on a regular basis and from my experience they are, in fact most officers check the device at the start and end of each working day and that is well above the recommendations. If a case is contested the prosecution is often dropped if the device has not been calibrated correctly and in fairness officers generally do not use the device if the calibration has not been carried out.


This has become the preferred means of enforcement for most police officers, it is portable and very accurate and very easy to operate.

It projects a pencil thin beam of laser light onto the target vehicle in the area of the front registration plate. Providing it makes a clean strike it will record the vehicle speed. By the time the average motorists has seen the police vehicle the check has almost certainly been completed and very often the officers are moving away before you pass them.

Speed detection devices in my experience do not work because by the time the driver has reacted to the speed trap it is too late. And in the case of VASCAR it does not work at all. If a driver travels many many miles on the Motorways of this country he cannot sustain the level of concentration that enables him to react in sufficient time. It is human nature. He must also trust his luck that any detection device will actually work and that he will be able to react in time.

He will then, if caught, rely on something in the procedure being wrong to enable him to get away with the offence. If this is considered then there are too many odds stacked against the speeding motorist.

The bottom line is that if you decide to speed then the chances are that at some point in time you will be caught. As a Motorway patrol officer I often sit in full view of oncoming traffic and side on to the direction of travel. The average motorist still travels past in excess of 100 mph claiming not to have seen you. It makes you wonder how these people would see and react to a real emergency?


This is the tool in the police armoury that attracts most comment. "It's unfair, or un-sporting of the police. It's sneaky or underhanded?"

The police use the unmarked vehicle as a pure enforcement vehicle, often armed with all of the speed detection equipment and Auto vision as well. Its aim is to detect the more serious breaches of Road traffic Law, the very high speeds or anti social behaviour demonstrated by the minority of motorists. It removes the half-mile safety bubble around the marked police vehicle. This is the area in view of the police officers where everyone becomes the model driver. The officers manning this vehicle see drivers in their true light and target the worst offenders. To these officers who witness and deal with the aftermath of many fatal accidents, the carnage and long lasting images it is not a game, but a deadly serious business.

With every road death there is a grieving family and lost loved ones that leave a legacy that lasts another lifetime.

In the late summer of 1998 I had stopped a driver of a Subaru Impreza for driving very fast along a country road in Oxfordshire, a "decent chap" who suffered my words of wisdom. I was aware however that he was not really listening to me. He had a racing background and knew how to handle the car?

As I spoke to him two cars travelling in opposing directions had a head on collision directly in front of where we were standing. A closing impact speed of 100-120 mph.

One of the drivers lost an arm and another his sight permanently. He technically died three times on route to hospital and will carry the legacy of the high speed with him for the rest of his life.

The driver of the Subaru? Well needless to say he opened his eyes and really saw what happens when things go wrong. It is sad that the only way to reach some people is for them to experience the reality of a high-speed impact? I do not recommend it to anyone.

The next time you leave home to get into your car take a long look back at what you have and how precious it is to you.

Speed, or the love that a daughters smile carries?

Speed, or the love of a son so deeply cherished ?

The Legacy.

"I broke the silence with the faint opening of the ward door, the mother sat tearful and empty at her daughters bedside. The broken shell of her daughter lay distorted and twisted upon the covers. "She's only twenty three and so full of life", but no longer.

Her companion for the evening took a bend too fast and lost control and struck a tree. He died instantly. The girl survived..... for what future. The police officers, myself included, cried tears of hopelessness at having witnessed the aftermath of yet another needless accident."

Drivers will speed past the accident scene within a few hours and perhaps they might notice the wilting flowers lain so carefully. A few miles away the families of those involved live their own nightmare....... but who cares because it is never going to happen to you.

Safe motoring to each and every one of you, but remember if you break the rules you must accept the consequences of YOUR actions and the effects that it has upon other people. If you do not heed the advice do not complain when the results of another's actions affect you ?

A Serving Traffic Patrol Officer
(Name and address supplied)

Question concerning speed from the same officer.

Two vehicles are travelling along the Motorway, one in lane two and one in lane three.
The vehicle in lane two is travelling at 70 mph
The vehicle in lane three is travelling at 100mph
At a given point the vehicles are alongside one another.
At this point they both have stop because of an obstruction ahead.
The vehicle in lane 2 skids from 70mph to a stop. At what speed is the vehicle in lane three still travelling when the vehicle in lane 2 is stationary ?
The answer

The vehicle in lane three will still be travelling at 71mph???

100mph = 147ft per sec. On impact it all ends in less than half a second?

Will you have time to work it out......?


Every day, on average, 10 people are killed and around 120 are seriously injured in road accidents



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