Agencies of all sizes can benefit significantly from lidar. Every community has problem traffic corridors where roadways are congested and speed is a primary factor in collisions. If law enforcement management is going to ask for increased and more effective enforcement from their officers, they must provide the tools to do the job. At about $4,000 a pop, lidar is almost twice the cost of a standard radar unit. Laser systems are simply more expensive to make. The upfront investment also includes required lidar training for operators, above and beyond the standard Doppler radar course. Keep in mind that "you get what you pay for," and the extra expense up front is recouped in many ways. Lidar provides greater enforcement opportunities, less court time for officers, more guilty pleas/verdicts and an easier maintenance regimen.
Although lidar systems require a standard "once-over" inspection by the officer prior to each deployment, internal system checks are done automatically, and no calibration is required. This is a great time savings for the officer or technician assigned the job of keeping maintenance records on any speed enforcement devices.
Companies providing lidar products are sensitive to market pricing compared to other speed measurement tools, and they are competitively addressing the issue. Watch for improved lidar systems in the future that include additional features at lower costs. The more uses for the tool, the easier it is to justify the expense as departments get "more bang for their buck."
According to Gus Lora, product manager for the Traffic Safety Division at Laser Technology Inc., located in Centennial, Colorado, possibilities under development include Bluetooth technology, allowing for wireless download of speed data to an officer's pocket PC. Imagine how convenient this option would be for a "quick and dirty" speed survey to better assess problem areas in a city.
Lidar units are handheld and mobile, so they can be easily shared by patrol officers or those specifically assigned to traffic enforcement. Purchasing one or two units to augment other speed measurement tools is a small investment to test the benefits lidar has to offer, but don't be surprised if officers fight over who gets the unit each day. Cops go for what works, and if lidar's selling points prove true by providing greater accuracy, ease of use and air-tight evidence in court, there will never be a lidar sitting on the shelf in the equipment room.
Lidar may not be the revolutionary change in speed enforcement that radar was, but it may be a good "shot in the arm" to renew and improve traffic safety enforcement efforts.
Capt. Lisa Solomon is an 18-year veteran of the Paso Robles (California) Police Department. She has held many assignments throughout her career, including field training officer, D.A.R.E. officer and detective.