Expert Fitting Service

The Visit.

I was given the opportunity today, 17th September 1999, to visit Aylesbury Police Station, and meet the officers behind the wheel of those Police Traffic Cars and Bikes you either love or hate.

The first thing I noticed was how welcoming they all were. The tea was on the table before I arrived, very welcoming after a 4am start to arrive for the shift on time.

The most concerning thing I noticed as a tax payer is how understaffed and swamped in paperwork the Traffic Team was. Half a dozen of them covered a large part of Thames Valley, Not a bad thing I hear you say. Well if you are a speeder then I guess so, but if you are a victim of an accident or want the help of the police, it could be bad news.

After being introduced to the members of the team and also the Accident Investigation department, I was shown some of the equipment they use for speed enforcement.

The first item was the LTI 20-20 Laser gun, this unit was well used showing signs of paint loss, Graham was quite enthusiastic with this bit of kit. He showed me how they do a pre-check before they take it out, next was the VASCAR 5000 unit.

We then headed off to a nice straight stretch of road just outside Aylesbury, he planned to show me how the equipment was best used.

The car being used to transport this equipment was a Vauxhall Senator MV6, with big letters on it saying 'POLICE' and rather large orange stripes. Easy to spot you say, well I would have thought so, it did not take long to see how blind some drivers are.

10 minutes into the journey Graham pulled his first punter, a moron that decided to overtake two cars and a lorry before pulling up behind another car that was following the Police Car. So what you think, well the two cars and the lorry were all indicating to take a right turn.
When stopped the driver said, he neither saw the vehicles indicating, nor did he see the big bright police car. Makes you wonder!

We pulled into a layby, we had at least 1000m view of the road, a nice straight road with a 60mph limit, in fact this road was a speeders top 10 road.

First was the laser gun. Standing on the side of the road with his high visibility vest on, not behind a bush or sign, but in plain view, Graham was targeting vehicles in the sight of the Laser gun that I could not even see. A dot on the horizon you could say. With the steady hand of a trained Marksman, Blip went the gun, 59 mph, at over 750mtrs distance. I was impressed, he smiled as he told me that they can do 1km, but that takes a bit of doing he said. I got the impression there is a bit of competition over who can do the best distance.

None of the car drivers knew, until it was to late.

One of Grahams colleges joined us, he was also in a Senator, he was here to do a test run, he traveled at 60 mph according to the calibrated speedometer towards us, blip went the gun, 59 mph was the speed. Now that's pretty good, I was told that if he were doing 59.9 mph, the laser gun would report 59 mph, so its in favor of the driver, by a small amount

He passed the unit to me, the first thing you notice is how heavy it is, looking through the sight you get a very bright red dot. The rules are simple put that red dot between the wheels on the oncoming car, target the numberplate, pull the trigger and wait for the high pitched blip. In fact, you don't wait at all, in 0.3 of a second you know what speed and the distance the target vehicle is doing. It was frighteningly easy.

They don't even have to point the gun at you to get a reading, by pointing the laser at two different points, getting the distance between them, they can use it just like a VASCAR.

How you say, well, once the unit knows the distance between the two points, you use the trigger at the starting point and the finish point as the vehicle crosses each, the gun can be facing the ground at this point, it will calculate the speed.

I asked a question at this point to clear up a bit myth regarding what speed would be displayed if it was pointed at a stationary object, this was due to the case in the US, reported in my site.

Graham pointed it at a parked lorry, car and a sign all over 150mts away all were stationary, and the reading was zero in all cases, even when he took a reading when walking towards the vehicles. So that puts the US case into doubt.

While demonstrating the system, one driver stood out from the rest, he was pulled over, 85mph was the speed, foreign driver, who thought he was immune to the UK courts. The police can prosecute foreign driver, but the way they do it is, they arrest the driver, bring him up in front of a magistrate at the earliest possible time, who will deal with the offender accordingly. He was given a caution.

Well after playing with the Laser gun, I have no doubt that this system works and works well. A very recent court case in the UK also proved without doubt the system is accurate, in fact the defendant ended up paying court costs over £15,000

The next item was VASCAR, now I thought I knew all there was to know about this system, but all I knew was how it worked. How to get the best out of this system was a new ball game all together.

First was the run to check it and give me the basics, Graham used fixed points such as a bridge, tyre skid marks, signs and even a small stone on the road, yes a stone.

Any fixed point will do, he said with another grin.

As we went under a bridge he set the starting point for the distance, (the shadow moving over the dash was the starting point), we carried on down the road into a layby, and pulled up along side a drain, yep this was the end of the set distance, the unit was set, he had set what distance he wanted, but it had to be over the minimum distance for the unit.

Now watching in the rear view mirror he waited for the first vehicle to come along, anticipating the point where the vehicle went through the shadow, flick went switch, and we waited, once again anticipating the point where the vehicle went past the drain, flick went the switch. We had a speed. Easy as that.

I watched as Graham timed a few vehicles and often he would abort the timing because of obstructions.

"We never guess the point the vehicle crosses the timing marks, if we can't be sure we don't bother and that driver is lucky" he said. He showed me that now he has a distance between two fixed points he could even get drivers in the opposite direction.

Human error on VASCAR, well I thought it could make quite a bit of difference to the speed reading, a quick demonstration on how not to do it, showed a speed that was not much higher.

Remember these guys are professionals, highly trained and skilled in there jobs, they know how to use the equipment to its best.

So what next, well I brought with me some of the free stuff sent to me by manufactures of defensive equipment, in this case a Laser Jammer, $480 worth of jammer 400mtrs to 10mtrs cover they say. With a simple two minute installation.

We all wanted to see if it worked. We fitted it to our test car, as per the instructions supplied and off we went, four runs down the road later and I was sure glad I never bought it.

Graham just smiled and said we have not seen anything that works yet. He then went to tell me a story about a driver with a £500 Detector, Radar and Laser. He complained when he was stopped that it never went off, and to make matters worse, when they pointed the Laser gun at it with only a few inches between the units it still never went off.

Back to the station we went, a quick snack, and another chat.

Now what did I think of the morning with the police, well, it opened my eyes.

These guys are without doubt well-trained and highly skilled drivers. They have to do many jobs within their roll as a Traffic officer, with very few resources and little thanks. Paperwork seems to swamp them at the best of times. But when most would give up, they keep going. They show a large amount of leniency towards drivers, so if they stop you its for a good solid reason.

If you think all they do is hide waiting for the speeders, then think again, its not what I saw. They don't need to hide, most drivers on the stretch of road we were on did not even see us, looking no further than their bonnet, braking the speed limit, overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic in fact all sorts of stupid driving.

They are real human beings not a robot wanting to nick every speeder in the land. They nearly all disagree with some of the speed limits set around our country, and often refuse to enforce them. I saw only cautions given rather than tickets this morning, for offences that should have got a ticket in my eyes. Instead they got a lecture, and most of the time going in one ear and out the other.

Remember if you don't see a bright well-marked police car, what hope do you have in seeing something happening or obstructing the road in front of you that could kill you.

Treat them with grace and the respect they deserve, one day you may need them.

"We're here to make the roads a safer and better place, we only want the drivers that drive badly, showing no respect to other road users", one officer told me.

What made the most impact today was listening to them talking about having to tell relatives of accident victims that a member of there family has just been killed, you could hear it in the voice and see it in their eyes.

Some spoke of sleepless nights, where they could still hear the screams and crying of the mother, father, daughter or son getting the news that a member of their family was dead.

All we see most of the time is the flowers on the road, what impact does that have? None.

No one wants that job, but they always end up doing it. Don't give them a reason to have to tell your family.

Drive with common sense. They have had one fatal accident a month in the last year which has been speed related, not necessarily over the speed limit either and all the victims have had a family to inform.

One very good point was put across to me...

"You may be doing what you consider a safe speed, a speed that could be over the limit, you may not be the one to have that crash or cause that crash. But someone somewhere has your name marked, and if you can't react in time because of his or her mistake, you could become a killer or you could die".

Do you really want to pay that price?

What I saw and heard today has made an impact, an impact that will make me think about my actions. I like to thank the team at Aylesbury for giving me the time and opportunity to have an insight to what goes on. To clear the myth up.

Keep up the good work lads.

And thank you.

On Reading the above I got a reply from Graham the Traffic Officer who showed me round....


I have read your report from Friday, thanks for an honest view.

I have to admit that I was moved to tears concerning the families that we so often have to inform. The task never gets any easier, if anything it gets harder every time.

There will always be a few rotten apples in the barrel but we will have no time for them, the officers that you met are all good guys and we work and play hard together. We are, at the end of the day, family men who, despite popular belief, actually care. My son was almost killed in an accident a few years ago and because of my wife's excellent police training he is alive today.

Thanks for a well balanced and honest report. It does do you credit.

Regards and keep in touch,




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