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Detecting Tailgaters With Lasers 1136

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-stand-so-close-to-me dept.
stoolpigeon writes "Police in Arizona are using laser range finders to detect and ticket tailgaters. An officer can now measure not only the speed of passing vehicles but also how close they are to one another. The detectors described in the article are built by Laser Technology Inc., a company that provides lasers for traffic control, engineering, and even tactical/military solutions. The article mentions how tailgating is connected to many accidents and incidents of road rage; this observation fits my experience."
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Detecting Tailgaters With Lasers

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  • Tailgating (Score:2, Informative)

    My experience, too. Tailgating is far more dangerous than mere speeding. So to with wanton lane changing, but that could be more of a CA thing.
    • by Iamthefallen (523816) * <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Monday December 04, 2006 @03:47PM (#17103204) Homepage Journal
      Tailgaters aren't that bad, I can live with them behind me.

      It's the fuckers that are really close in front of me I can't stand. How the hell am I supposed to be able to stop in time going 80mph when that guy is just 10 feet in front of me?!
      • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:22PM (#17105396)
        Like they say, there are only two types of drivers:

        The assholes in front of you, and the assholes behind you.
        • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:48PM (#17106796)

          The assholes in front of you, and the assholes behind you.

          ...and here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

        • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Insightful)

          by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:16PM (#17107250) Journal
          Did you ever notice that people driving slower than you are idiots and that people driving faster than you are maniacs?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pluther (647209)
            Did you ever notice that people driving slower than you are idiots and that people driving faster than you are maniacs?

            I have noticed that.
            But, fortunately, about 99% of the people on the highway with me tend to be driving at about the same speed.

          • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Insightful)

            by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @10:22PM (#17108498) Journal
            No, I haven't.

            You can drive slower than me and not be an idiot: don't hog the passing lane, don't match the speed of the drivers in the lanes who are right next to you (thus creating a wall), and be going at least 60 mph when you merge onto a freeway.

            You can drive much faster than me and not be a maniac: just take the first opportunity to go around me (I probably won't be in the left lane, or will quickly vacate it when I see your speed) rather than tailgate, and don't change lanes close enough to me such that I panic.

      • by wsanders (114993) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:25PM (#17105442) Homepage
        You're supposed to allow 1 foot for each 10 MPH of speed, you inconsiderate clod. And an extra 10 feet if you're watching a movie on the DVD player in the dash, and 10 more feet if it's a porn movie.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Yup, 10 feet seems about enough for the other motorists to avoid crashing into my "huge car"
        • Re:California rules (Score:5, Informative)

          by L7_ (645377) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:51PM (#17105894)
          I always thought it was a flat '2 second' distance. However, most people can't translate seconds (a time unit) into a feet (a distance unit) using the most basic of physics so they come up with the 1ft per 10mph of speed. This flat time rule is the same as your fluctuating distance rule: the slower you are going, the closer you are (in that two seconds you cover less distance) and the faster you are going the further back you are.

          I like to look at a car's rear bumper, see it cross one of the dotted lines or reflectors in the road as a reference point and count in my head 'one one-thousand', 'two one-thousand' and if I pass that same reference point in the road before I complete that second 'one-thousand', then I know that I am too close. Much easier to actually calculate than the 1ft per 10mph. ;)
      • Oh, so *you're* why I always store 300 kilos of concrete blocks in the trunk of my car.
      • Drafting (Score:5, Funny)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:51PM (#17105906) Journal
        I'm not tailgating, I'm Drafting. The extra 5% gas savings, is awesome, AND I have the benefit of saving the planet from greenhouse gases.
    • by nizo (81281) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @03:49PM (#17103230) Homepage Journal
      I always wanted a little TV in my car's back window, so I could show video of cars smashing into each other, bloody bodies flying into the air, etc which could be played when people follow me too closely. Either that or a pneumatic arm with a ballpeen hammer on the end to put holes into the hood of cars following too closely.
      • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:27PM (#17105500) Homepage Journal

        My idea was a flashing neon sign that says, "back off!"

        Problem is, everybody thinks they're a perfect driver, and get very weird when anybody tries to tell them otherwise. Hence all the road rage incidents connected to tailgating.

        My strategy is to slow down, but subtly, so they don't register that I'm pissed at them. I don't even brake, I just don't push the accelerator as hard as a normally do. Invariably the tailgater gets impatient and passes, without registering any change in my driving.

        It is, of course, frustrating to see bad driving and not be able to communicate your concerns to the other driver. But frustration is better than being targeted by a psycho.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Osiris Ani (230116)
          My idea was a flashing neon sign that says, "back off!"

          Like this one? [gadgetuniverse.com]

        • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wealthychef (584778) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:54PM (#17105948)
          A better strategy is to just vary your speed by +/- 2 MPH in a continuous cycle. Then even if they don't pass, they have to give you more room. Try it. :-)
        • My nutty idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tkrotchko (124118) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:10PM (#17106206) Homepage
          When I run into a tailgater, I (... and don't criticize me if this seems wacked out or dangerous) I pull to another lane. Then they go on by.

          And if I'm on a road that is 2 lanes, and I get a guy 2 inches from my bumper I (... get this...) I pull off the road for two seconds as soon as I can and let some other person deal with them as they rush on past..

          Seriously, I want to concentrate on driving, not whether some nutball in back of me is going to slip up and ram into me because he's got anger management issues.

          To my way of thinking, guys who slow down in front of tailgaters have the same mentality as the tailgaters, they only express it differently.
      • by russ1337 (938915)
        You could always adjust your rear windshield washer to squirt backwards..... if you do not have a rear windshield washer, adjust one of your front ones to squirt right over the car. Nobody likes being pissed on.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by operagost (62405)
        I just flick boogers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Somehow safety and the issuance of tickets are related? Tickets are primarily a revenue generation system. Any traffic improvement is a mere secondary consideration. If this laser device costs X then ticket generation will increase till the moneys generated are at least X times 10. Then and only then will the program be deemed a success.
    • Re:Tailgating (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bastian (66383) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:37PM (#17105668)
      Tailgating at night is particularly bothersome. I drove a subcompact car, and an SUV or truck on my tail with its headlights in my eyes is blinding. That's a really dangerous situation on the country roads, where I need to have enough vision to be able to watch for deer, fallen branches, etc.

      My usual approach is to just slow down to the point where I'm not overdriving my vision, but since this tends to anger the clueless fuckers behind me, they will often respond by getting even closer or turning on their brights, which just forces me to slow down even more. I don't know why they don't pass; apparently it takes an appreciable amount of intelligence to figure out that the guy who is currently driving at 30 but was going 55 when you first got on his tail is probably not going to speed up and it's easier to just get ahead of him if you really absolutely have to be driving 65 at night during deer season.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 6Yankee (597075)
        I hear a lot of my friends complaining about nocturnal tailgaters - particularly, as you say, the SUV-type things. And yet, a lot of them give me a blank stare when I suggest that they use the anti-dazzle feature of their rear-view mirror.

        "You see that thing for hanging the furry dice off of? Flick it."

        "Wow..."

        Unless they're lucky enough to learn after work in a high-latitude winter, most people will never drive in the dark with an instructor. Which is pretty scary, when you think about it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jerf (17166)
        I've been doing some limited experimenting with Pavlovian conditioning.

        Basically, you tune your speed to the amount of space between you and the tailgater. You slow down until they back off (usually they do), then you speed up. You stay fast until they start tailgating you again, at which point you let off your gas.

        One key is probably not to use your brakes, which makes this too obvious. I don't really want them consciously thinking about the fact that I am actively braking. That'll just piss them off.

        I'd s
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 14erCleaner (745600)
        A good countermeasure that I've heard of (but haven't tried yet) is to hit your windshield washers. If they're close enough to catch the overspray it generally will clue them in to get back further.
  • Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chacham (981) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:51PM (#17104138) Homepage Journal
    It seems like they could spend money on so many different things. . . . They need to catch speeders more than tailgaters."

    Umm, no. Tailgaters are worse. There can be a smart speeder. There is no such thing as smart tailgater. Becauses, it is not speeding that causes accidents, it's the person speeding needs to take extra caution. It can be done, even if it usually is not. Tailgating in-and-of-itself is dangerous.

    "I've seen people at 0.04 seconds. That is less than half a second," he said.

    Talk about enlightening comments. :)

    Some of the comments there say that someone else will just pull ahead of you. Ahem, they will then get tickets. That's the point. Then they complain that they're close for a minute and get tickets, well, this complaint and the first complaint are opposites.

    I hope these tickets work. Next we can take on gawkers.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plover (150551) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:04PM (#17105172) Homepage Journal
      Well, if they're going to tag people for tailgating, I want them to issue tickets to the clowns going less than the speed limit in the left lane, too; and those who speed up as you attempt to pass them.

      I think the best way to reduce road rage is to eliminate the butt-heads who get in my way :-)

      • by joshetc (955226)
        Very very insightful. The only thing that keeps me from tailgating 24/7 is the hope that one day the prick in front of me doing 35 in a 45 will get a ticket for impeding traffic.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by QuesarVII (904243)
        I agree completely!

        People don't tailgate just for fun (at least not most of them)! I feel that if the car in front of me can get the hell out of my way, then the driver is obligated to. Tailgating someone when they have no where else to go is pointless and rude too though.

        I don't know how many nights I've driven home on our local 2 lane highway, seeing 2 cars driving side by side at the speed limit or just below, with dozens of cars lined up behind them wanting to pass. The front person in the left l
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MBCook (132727)

        I agree. I've wished for years there was some kind of system where I could press a button and report a complaint on a car. You could chose a simple complaint (tailgating, speeding, going too slow, running lights, etc) and then it would be tied to their license plate. These would be agregated and people who get high numbers of complaints (i.e., the worst drivers) could then be "investigated" and ticketed. Bonus points for putting a camera in every car and attaching a little video clip so you can show the guy

    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:23PM (#17105412) Journal
      What bothers me more than tailgaters is tailgaters who avoid EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PASS YOU, even when there is another lane going the same direction. If they're tailgating when there's no chance to pass, okay, they're annoying me, but I at least understand their position. If they're tailgating me while passing up every opportunity to pass, WTF?
  • by webrunner (108849) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:22PM (#17105392) Homepage Journal
    The detectors described in the article are built by Laser Technology Inc.,


    Wow, what a name. Wonder how they came up with it? I guess they're just creative.
  • They can just ban the SUV. No fancy lasers needed.
  • by 6Yankee (597075) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:26PM (#17105472)
    Especially BMWs.

    (I have a tow-ball.)
  • We have all sorts of crap in Arizona for traffic now. Cameras are on the streets, intersections, and even the highways here in AZ. They even do the mobile van units to photograph speeders. While some may it works and lowers speeds, it is total BS. Everyone around here knows it is about the money and the new stations even report on the nice boost of income the cities have seen from photo tickets. As a result many(at least 30%) have some sort of flash reflective cover on their plate to prevent the camera from
  • What I hate... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IflyRC (956454) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:27PM (#17105496)
    I try to be a safe driver. So, I drive with the intention of leaving a couple of car lengths between me and the car in front. What happens? Someone sees that as an invitation to merge on over!! Next thing I know my "safe space" is down to inches. Best thing to do then...I upset the guy behind me and slow down opening up more of a gap trying to manage between not letting someone over and making sure I have some room to stop.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:05PM (#17106122)
      As someone else pointed out, it's a form of drafting so it saves fuel.

      Plus, sometimes, if you're trying to help somebody out, you come at their bumper from an angle and then just a light tap and you slide into the lane. You spin the other guy out, and it he's any good, he can probably avoid hitting anything deadly.

      It's a normal part of driving. If you can't handle it, you have no business on the road.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        As someone else pointed out, it's a form of drafting so it saves fuel.

        It only saves fuel for the person behind. It costs the person in front more fuel. If you're a team, you can save fuel overall, but drafting to save yourself fuel at the cost of some stranger's is being an asshole, and a dangerous asshole to boot.

        Plus, sometimes, if you're trying to help somebody out, you come at their bumper from an angle and then just a light tap and you slide into the lane. You spin the other guy out, and it he's any
  • We seemed to have stopped wondering and asking why people behave badly in the first place.

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:29PM (#17105538)
    It's not tailgating, it's drafting! Have you seen the fuel prices these past few years?
  • "The majority of the reactions I get from drivers are that they don't realize they are tailgating."

    Pyeah, right...
  • by SQLz (564901) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:46PM (#17105792) Homepage Journal
    In heavy traffic, if you constantly change lanes, tailgate anyone in front of you, shake your fist in fury, you will get most places a lot faster.
  • by dircha (893383) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:50PM (#17105888)
    In traffic, leaving more than a single car length between you and the guy in front of you gets you cut off. It's an invitation for some asshat in the next lane over to cut in. You know the type.

    I tell ya... roof-mounted laser gun turrents. "We've got a Jetta at 3 o'clock! Get in there and keep him occupied until I can engage the damned lightdrive!"

    That and enemy symphathizers - traitors. You rode that bumper like an animal in heat and kept the Jetta out of your lane. But what's this? The Jetta pulls ahead and that weak-willed pansy Corolla two cars ahead lets him in, after all your work! "Dammit man, we're trying to hold a line here. Get on that fucking bumper and ride it for all you're worth you fucking pussy!"

    Where did these people learn to drive? Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dmatos (232892)
      And I keep trying to explain to you, lasers will do no good. Some asshat in front of you cuts you off, so you lance his car with a beam. Good for you. Now there's a pile of molten slag in your path that you have to avoid, which you can only do by cutting off someone else.

      What you really need is an RPG. With luck, the explosion will launch the fragments of the offending vehicle completely out of your path.
  • by eric.t.f.bat (102290) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:46PM (#17106768)
    The road is a bubble sort. Assholes get to bubble forward, sensible drivers pull back. This is good because, coincidentally, forward is where all the accidents are.
  • Nahhh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bluesman (104513) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:49PM (#17106820) Homepage
    Just start ticketing people who brake for no reason on the highway.

    In fact, there's hardly ever a reason to brake on the highway.

    If you have to brake on the highway, either you did something wrong, or the person ahead of you did.

  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:50PM (#17106864)
    You'll just register as one long vehicle.
  • by Stiletto (12066) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:09PM (#17107150)
    I'm going to be the contrarian here. Most tailgaters I see (including myself, of course) have legitimate gripes. If you have nobody in front of you and a queue of cars behind you, chances are you are going too slow!

    I always try to be aware of my surroundings, including looking in the rear-view mirror. If I'm in the left lane and there is someone approaching from the rear, it's easier and safer to reserve moral judgement about their character and do the smart thing--pull to the right at the earliest possible opportunity and let him overtake me. Why can't everyone manage to do that? See, when I happen to be the one in an unusual hurry, 9 times out of 10, the guy in front of me in the left lane is totally oblivious of my presence. To wake him up, I either have to drive dangerously close, pass on the right, or hit him with a few high-beam blasts. It's a no-win situation for both of us.

    Same with a single-lane road. If you simply must drive slow and enjoy the view, have the courtesy to pull to the shoulder when people approach who actually have a destination they are looking forward to reaching.

    Sure, there's the occasional idiot who gets in the left lane and tails everybody within inches, making them all pull over one by one, but these tailgaters are in the minority.

    Please hang up the phone, be aware of your surroundings (especially the people behind you), and keep up with the flow of traffic. In short, drivers should be participants, not obstacles.
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