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PITTSBURGH -- Speeders beware.
Some suburban police departments no longer need telltale white lines, rubber strips or obvious patrol cars to catch speeding motorists.
A speed detection system called ENRADD, which stands for Electronic Non-Radar Device, uses infrared beams to measure a car's speed as it passes through a 3-foot-long section of road.
Sensors are placed on each side of the road. When a vehicle passes the first sensor, it starts the system's timing device. When the vehicle passes the second sensor, the timer stops.
A computer and display unit in a nearby patrol car calculates the vehicle's speed by dividing the distance traveled by the amount of time and displays the resulting number for the officer.
"When it gets you, it gets you," said Sgt. Kirke McLain, of the Bethel Park police. "It's a very accurate machine."
Because the system is small, it can be hidden behind a guide rail or telephone pole.
For the past year, Bethel Park and McKeesport police departments have used ENRADD systems loaned by the state Department of Transportation as part of a campaign to reduce aggressive driving. Both departments are now buying units, which cost $3,995.
The Moon, Monroeville and Northern Regional departments also have bought systems, said Jim Cowden, owner of the York County company that manufactures ENRADD. Northern Regional serves Pine, Marshall, Richland and Bradford Woods.
Mr. Cowden said his firm, YIS/Cowden Group, has produced more than 300 ENRADD units for departments in Pennsylvania and has trouble building them fast enough to meet the demand.
He said the system's appeal lies in its elimination of allegations of operator error because motorists trigger its timer. With the use of the VASCAR speed detection system, police officers must trigger switches that start and stop the timing device. Operator error is often brought up as a defense when motorists challenge their citations in court, police said.
Mr. Cowden said the ENRADD system consists of two sets of bars that look like miniature goal posts sitting on opposite sides of the road. The devices form the timing zone.
Information from the timing zone is transmitted to a patrol car. An officer must witness the car's passage through the zone.
"Everyone wants to argue an officer's reaction when he's clocking those white lines. They say, 'How do I know he timed me correctly because he has to flip the switch?'
"With the ENRADD system, the vehicle triggers the switch. It starts the clock and stops the clock. The officer has only to observe. He has no hands on, he just reads the display," Mr. Cowden said.
The downside: The system will not produce a reading if more than one car enters the timing zone at the same time.
The systems can be moved from place to place. McKeesport frequently has hidden them along Route 48, where speeding is a problem, Sgt. Carl Kuzel said.
"[Some motorists] also say it's unfair because they didn't see the police car and the white lines," Sgt. Kuzel said. "But the bottom line is if you obey the speed limit, this isn't going to be part of your life."