By Police1 Staff
When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its most recent estimate of last year’s traffic fatalities, it revealed an unsettling trend: The agency projected that roughly 31,720 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the United States between January and September 2021, an increase of approximately 12% over the same period of the previous year.
And 2020’s numbers were already shocking to experts; indeed, the 38,680 deaths occurring on American roadways during that 12-month period marked the most recorded since 2007.
“I fear we’ve adopted some really unsafe driving habits, and they’re going to persist,” said Ken Kolosh, a researcher with the National Safety Council. “Our roads are less safe than they were pre-pandemic.”
And the U.S. Department of Transportation agrees, having released the federal government’s first-ever National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) in January of this year. “This is a national crisis,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We cannot and must not accept these deaths as an inevitable part of everyday life.”
While the plan takes a five-pronged approach to roadway safety, aiming to achieve “safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and [improved] post-crash care,” the latter two objectives explicitly rely on the efforts of law enforcement on the ground.
“Traffic enforcement specifically focused on dangerous driving behavior, including impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving, and failure to wear seat belts, remains critical to saving lives, preventing injuries, and reducing traffic crashes,” the NRSS reads.
But that isn’t the only part LEOs have to play when it comes to reducing fatalities. “Safe and quick incident clearance is critical to addressing not only crash survivability and first responder safety, but also the safety of passing road users,” the authors write. Estimating that the likelihood of a secondary crash increases by 2.8% for every minute the initial incident blocks a travel lane or poses another kind of hazard, they urge departments to work towards developing “robust traffic incident management practices.”
THERE’S TECH FOR THAT
Fortunately for agencies of all sizes and budgets, lidar is an affordable technology with a proven track record of helping officers achieve both goals.
LaserTech’s TruVISION combination lidar speed gun and digital video camera, for example, not only provides officers with an accurate way to perform speed enforcement in a variety of weather conditions but also enables video evidence capture at the same time – ideal for recording seat belt violations and distracted driving behavior.
Readings on a vehicle can be taken at a very long distance if required – the unit shoots out to 4,000 feet – and then the vehicle in question can be tracked to 250 to 300 feet, all while an HD quality image of the infraction is saved to the unit. From the time the infraction takes place until the image is taken, there is a video of the entire tracking distance, creating a critical chain of evidence.
The unit also comes with the option to purchase Distance Between Cars features, which allow an officer to objectively enforce dangerous driving behavior when a car is following another vehicle too closely.
Officers can also be confident that everything is working fine thanks to easy-to-run daily confidence tests, which, if completed regularly, negate the need to have the units recalibrated after leaving the factory.
And while the company likewise offers a standalone lidar-based crash scene mapping tool, enabling data collection accurate to one and a half inches, LaserTech also produces a unit that combines both speed enforcement and crash scene mapping capabilities, making the TruSpeed SXB a particularly attractive option for the smaller department with more limited funds. No matter the version, officers are guaranteed to spend significantly less time on scene, in some cases taking less than half the time of conventional measurement techniques.
And because the company’s data collection program LaserSoft QuickMap 3D – provided without annual/update fees – allows officers to see what they are gathering while in the field, any necessary adjustments can be made before heading back to the office, making it unlikely that officers will need to go back to re-shoot portions of the scene. The software also captures just the points officers need rather than the extra ones that would be collected with a scanner, once again meaning less time being spent stitching pieces of the scene back together after the fact.
But according to Product Manager Vinny Alvino, LaserTech “is more than a speed enforcement tool.”
“When people purchase any item,” he said, “they look for the whole package. The company, the training if applicable, service when needed and customer service always. LTI hits the mark on all those points.”
Indeed, the company experiences less than a 1.5% rate of problems with units leaving the factory, and as Alvino explained, “Our units literally last for decades.” And when units do require servicing, the average ticket time is around a third of the industry standard. There’s also a four-year warranty on domestic speed enforcement equipment.
“All of these intangibles,” Alvino said, “add up to a wonderful customer experience,” not to mention better-equipped departments and safer communities nationwide.
Learn more about how LaserTech can be a force multiplier for your agency here.