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No date for photo laser yet: police

Regulations allow use of technology

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES
The DragonCam uses a laser-based, digital-imaging enforcement system that captures speeding vehicles.

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WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES The DragonCam uses a laser-based, digital-imaging enforcement system that captures speeding vehicles.

PROVINCIAL regulations introduced before Christmas give police a new way to catch speeders by camera -- photo laser.

How soon police deploy the new laser system -- which is like a traditional laser speed-measuring device but it also takes a photo -- remains up in the air.

However, police said it will not be used on a trailer, such as speed-reader boards used at road-construction sites or in school zones to urge drivers to slow down, as the regulations allow.

"That's not something we're contemplating on using," Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said Monday. "It's just an option with the new system."

The regulations prove the province has given its blessing to police to start using DragonCam photo-laser speed guns as long as they're mounted to a vehicle.

DragonCam uses LIDAR -- light detection and ranging -- to measure the distance to an object, such as a speeding vehicle, by sending out a laser beam to calculate its speed.

Rather than the swath-like beam of radar, LIDAR pinpoints its target up to 600 metres away.

Not only can police tag someone speeding with DragonCam, they can snap a high-definition photo or even take a video.

Traffic-enforcement activist Todd Dube of WiseUp Winnipeg said the new laser system eliminates criticism about the shortcomings of photo radar, specifically how it is used on Grant Avenue near Nathaniel Street.

WiseUp argues the radar unit's beam is reflected by metal poles and produces false speed readings.

"With the laser they can leave behind all the valid arguments we've properly raised," Dube said Monday in an email, adding WiseUp plans a second court challenge to the Grant and Nathaniel unit in March.

WiseUp abandoned its first challenge last September.

Police have always had the ability to use photo radar on trailers.

In 2001, before photo enforcement was fully rolled out, police said they hoped to use a speed trailer, a photo radar-equipped trailer set up at construction areas.

The trailer functioned as a warning sign that measured the speed of oncoming vehicles and posted it on a reader board. That gave the driver a chance to slow down.

A second camera then measured the speed of the vehicle as it passed by. A ticket would be sent to the owner if the vehicle were speeding. Police only used the speed trailer sporadically.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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