This morning I made the 200km journey to Launceston so that I could have my day in court to defend a speeding ticket I received back in May of this year.
My advice to anyone reading this – if you think you’ve been wrongly accused of a traffic offence then make sure you exercise your right and defend the accusation. I’m sure that the police count on a number of people being afraid to question the ticket, preferring to quietly pay the fine and forget about it.
I’m normally like that myself, but not so in this instance. I attended the court today and the police prosecutor indicated that they had no evidence to produce and that the complaint should be dismissed. I didn’t have to say a thing other than to confirm my identity whilst standing in the dock. The prosecutor did say that they’d tried to contact me to cancel our date, but my address had changed since the offence occurred. This is accurate, though it didn’t stop them from finding me when they wanted to deliver the summons a few months ago.
As I wasn’t able to read it out to the magistrate, I’ve reproduced my defence statement after the jump for anyone that cares to offer an opinion as to whether I would have had a chance or not.
On the day in question, I was travelling to Launceston for work. I was following a small truck and had been for about three kilometers as we came to a crest, which was also on a shallow left-hand bend. I could see around the left side of the truck that the road appeared straight and clear ahead, with a downhill section before it flattened out.
I indicated, pulled into the right lane (we drive on the left here in Australia) and proceeded to overtake the small truck. It was then, whilst in the right lane, that I noted that the road wasn’t quite as clear as I first thought, with a vehicle some distance away that was heading towards me that I couldn’t see earlier.
As we were on a downhill section, the small truck also sped up a little and it’s ironic that after preparing myself for this day, I now know that this is an offence in itself, though it wouldn’t have been obvious to the officer in the oncoming vehicle.
As there was a vehicle coming towards me, I completed the overtaking manoeuvre quickly and safely, and then returned to the left lane and quickly reduced my speed. As I approached the oncoming vehicle the officer flashed his lights. I pulled over immediately.
The officer showed me the speed that he’d recorded in his oncoming vehicle using a vehicle mounted radar device. I didn’t question the speed at the time even though I thought it was too high – at the time of overtaking I was too busy observing the conditions as I drove rather than with my eyes off the road, on the speedometer.
Thinking that the speed recorded was more than what I was doing, I have looked into the measuring systems used by these radar devices. As a car-mounted device can’t be aimed like a hand-held speed gun, or a stationary camera, it uses radar rather than a laser to measure the speed. The radar field emitted from these devices is accurate to a distance of about 100 meters, the field being about three feet wide at that point.
Beyond 100 meters the radar field increases in width exponentially.
My contention with this ticket is that:
a) The officer showed me a measured speed, but couldn’t show me that it was actually my vehicle that he’d measured. There was no photo recorded and at the only time that I may have been travelling close to that speed, I would have been parallel with, or just ahead of, the small truck I was passing.
b) At that point, I would have been at least 200 meters, perhaps even 250 meters from the the officer’s vehicle, widening the radar field to the point where it could have easily read a signal that was either from me, the small truck that sped up going down the hill, or some confusing signal that bounced partially off both vehicles, thereby throwing off the Doppler calculations used by the radar device to measure speed.
In my profession, I regularly work with confidence levels to provide some assurance about an observation that I’m making. In this instance, there are four factors at play that would erode my confidence in the accuracy of this measurement.
1) The speeding up of the small truck, unbeknown to the officer
2) The relative positions of both vehicles at the only time I could have been going even close to the measured speed.
3) The officer’s relative distance away from both vehicles at the critical time
4) The effect this distance would have on the accuracy of the reading, or the assurance that could be provided as to what was actually being read.
Note to anyone reading this:
I wasn’t sure that the device was a radar device rather than a laser. I was making an educated guess based on the research that I did. I could have enquired as to what sort of device the vehicle was fitted with, but didn’t do that.