GARY | Looking down on traffic on the Borman Expressway from the closed Chase Street overpass, Indiana State Police on Monday demonstrated a new weapon to help reduce crashes caused by drivers who speed, follow other vehicles too closely and change lanes unsafely.
What looks like a traditional hand-held speed monitor, the LTI 20/20 Lidar has new Distance Between Cars software that measures and records both how fast the vehicle is traveling and exactly how close it is to the vehicle it’s following.
“Even in a group of vehicles, this device clocks a specific vehicle. The laser beam bounces off the car, semi or motorcycle and returns to the device,” said Master Trooper Russell Hayes, of the Indiana State Police Lowell District 13.
As the information processes instantly in the Lidar device, a still photo of the vehicle is taken along with a video that records exact time and distance. The image of both the still photo and video are so sharp that the face of the driver is readily identifiable, Hayes said.
The information on the vehicle is immediately forwarded to another ISP unit to make the traffic stop. Although it’s not required, the state trooper can show the still photos and video to the driver on a computer. The images are downloaded within seconds to the troopers’ onboard computer.
“It’s hard to contest,” Hayes said. “It’s quite impressive in court. People can’t say, ‘That was my car, but I wasn’t driving it' or 'Someone took my car.’”
The units cost $5,500 each and are part of the SWIFT (Speed With Intent Following Too Close) Patrol that District 13 will implement in about two weeks, said Sgt. Wanda Clay, of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division.
Statistics gathered from statewide crash reports indicated that there’s some type of commercial vehicle/semi truck crash every 1.2 days for following too close and every other day for speeding, Sgt. Ann Wojas said.
“These crashes are mainly occurring on the interstates, U.S. highways and state roads with the Lowell District,” Wojas said.
In response to that information, the Lowell District has set up a joint enforcement effort with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division and District 13.
“I’ve been frustrated with the commercial vehicle statistics coming out of this district,” Clay said.
“We’re not out here to write a bunch of tickets. Our primary objective is to reduce all types of crashes involving trucks and cars by taking aggressive enforcement action for the top three crash causation violations – speed, following too closely and unsafe lane movement,” she said.
SWIFT will use a combination of marked and traditional unmarked patrol cars, as well as nontraditional stealth patrol vehicles, aircraft patrols and state police vehicles that look like INDOT work trucks.