How police catch speeding drivers
Grant Gottgetreu is a former police corporal who is known for having impounded more vehicles for excessive speeding than any other officer in British Columbia. The 27-year police veteran now works as a forensic consultant for traffic offences at Gottgetreu Consulting Ltd. We recently spoke with him to find out exactly how police officers catch speeding drivers. Here’s what he had to say:
Radar/Laser speed devices
There are two types of devices used in the province. We still use radar, we still use laser to get your speeds. They’re tested every day by the officer who takes them out on the road. There’s a series of tests specified by the manufacturer that have to be conducted on that radar or that laser at the start of your shift. The only time they go in for service is if during the testing procedure something didn’t work, they suddenly stop working properly or you dropped it and it didn’t work anymore. Radar and laser devices are not “approved” by parliament so police forces are free to purchase any of the devices on the market and continue to use them.
Sometimes you drive along the highway and you see this big white line painted across the road. You’ll travel a certain distance and you’ll pass another one. The police are timing you from the moment you pass the first white line to the second one. It’s sort of stop-watch enforcement generally that’s done with aircraft and normally up in the highways in the interior. The speed is an estimate calculated as an average over the particular distance.
That’s where police are following you and they’re basing your speed on their speed. You’ve probably seen (on the news) a clip from the RCMP Air One helicopter following a speeding motorcycle on the freeway, and they’re pacing. We can look down at our speedometer and see: I’m doing 80 and it’s a 50 zone. This guy is pulling away from me. He’s clearly doing more than 80.
Where a police officer stands on the side of the road and watches traffic, and visually estimates someone going over the speed limit. I’ve successfully prosecuted tickets only on my visual estimation alone. We can assign a speed to our visual estimation based on our training. It’s preferable to have corroboration of your visual estimate with radar or laser because it reduces the chance of an error. An experienced officer can make a visual estimate which may prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
What to do if you receive an excessive speeding ticket?
If the officer wrote you a ticket for excessive speed, the vehicle had to be impounded for seven days. If you have an excessive speed charge you’re deemed a high risk driver by ICBC, regardless if you’re RoadStar or you got a clean driving record. If you get an excessive speed on your driving record, you will need to pay the Driver Risk Premium in addition to the cost of the ticket and other expenses. More and more people are disputing excessive speeding. They’re disputing it in court, not because they weren’t going that fast, but because they hope to avoid that hit with ICBC.
What are the chances of an excessive speeding ticket being thrown out in court?
The most common reason is the officer didn’t prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt. They may have left a piece of evidence out, or they didn’t have the right supportive evidence to successfully prosecute their ticket. Normally it’s minor errors. I’ve seen cases where officers lose speeding tickets because they forgot to explain something routine and the lawyer picked up on it.
What would you tell someone who receives a traffic ticket?
The advice I’ve always said to people is there’s no harm in disputing the ticket. We all have a right as citizens in Canada to hear the evidence and to challenge the evidence that’s presented against us. In the last decade we’ve seen an increase in driving lawyers who are very skilled coming to court and fighting tickets. There were the BC Driving Lawyers first and now there are more lawyers defending tickets all around the province. My job now is to assist lawyers to identify defences and mistakes that the police make in driving cases.