Technology helps Conn. cops catch speeding drivers

In their ongoing effort to slow speeding drivers, police are getting more detailed data, allowing timely enforcement in areas where speeding poses the most danger

By Jesse Leavenworth 
The Hartford Courant  

MANCHESTER, Conn. — In their ongoing effort to slow speeding drivers, police traffic officers are getting more detailed data, allowing timely, targeted enforcement in areas where speeding poses the most danger.

In use for the past year, digital speed signs and devices called Stattraks use radar to gather information on traffic volume and vehicle speed during every hour of the day. The three signs, which inform motorists how fast they're going, and two Stattraks have enabled more efficient use of the four-member traffic squad, unit supervisor Sgt. Stephen Bresciano said.

Also boosting the squad's efficiency, Bresciano said, are two longtime volunteers, Doug Curry and Andrew Main, who move the signs and detectors and replace batteries as needed. The volunteers' work allows traffic officers to focus more on enforcement, Bresciano said.

Enforcement operations typically follow residents' complaints and data collection. Citizens will call, for example, to say drivers are whipping by their house at all hours, endangering children and neighbors backing their cars out of driveways. In many cases, a Stattrack, a product of All Traffic Solutions, would be installed on the street for seven to 10 days. Most motorists do not even notice the plain-looking devices, which also are called "stealth detectors" and are about the size of shoeboxes.

Officers analyze computer reports on the data. Some summaries show complaints to be unfounded, either because of low traffic volume or few violators flouting the speed limit by more than a few ticks on the speedometer, Bresciano said. In cases that merit further action, police may post a digital speed sign to make drivers more aware of how fast they're going. The devices, which can be mounted to static speed limit signs, replaced bulky trailers.

Bresciano pointed to a recent report on Bush Hill Road traffic. From Oct. 11 to Monday, motorists traveled an average speed of about 39 mph on the road in the southwestern section of town, which has a posted speed limit of 25 mph. The average volume of vehicles each day was 3,663.

The highest recorded speed was 69 mph, but police focus on the 85th percentile speed, in this case, 44.88 mph. That means that 85 percent of drivers were traveling at that speed or lower. The 85th percentile calculation is used to omit extremes and determine the speed of most motorists on a particular road. Based on the traffic volume and recorded speeds, Bresciano said, periodic speed enforcement is warranted on Bush Hill Road.

Another recent example comes from Hackmatack Street. From June 3-14, about 9,900 vehicles traveled on the road, which is posted for 25 mph. In that period, 85 percent of the drivers were traveling at 39 mph or lower (the highest recorded speed was 95 mph on June 8 at 10 :15 a.m.). Speeding was too prevalent, Bresciano said, and posting of digital signs and enforcement followed.

The radar detection technology in the signs and Stattracks allows police to track volume and speed hour by hour and adjust awareness and enforcement efforts as needed. On Keeney Street from Oct. 11 to Monday, for example, reports showed that speeding was most prevalent from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Fines for speeding range from $132 to $196, depending on how much a driver exceeds the posted limit. One recently ticketed driver, Bresciano said, was a resident who had complained repeatedly about breakneck motorists on her street, the same street where she was stopped for speeding, he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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