Speeders may have new weapon against police laser guns

April 30, 1992|By Tom Incantalupo | Tom Incantalupo,Newsday

Chronic speeders will soon have a new weapon against The Law: a --board detector that purportedly can warn drivers if police are stalking them with their newest gadget, a laser gun.

The leading manufacturer of laser guns, however, claims that a detector will be useless against its device.

Cincinnati Microwave Inc. says that it will begin delivering its $99 laser detector in June.

Laser guns are used against speeders by an estimated 50 police departments nationwide. (The laser guns are not being used by the Baltimore City Police Department or the Maryland State Police, according to spokesmen for those agencies.) Proponents say the laser gun is more accurate than radar, especially in heavy traffic conditions, because its beam is narrower than radar's -- about 3 feet wide at 1,000 feet from the gun, compared with 300 to 400 feet wide for radar. That makes it less likely for an officer to confuse two vehicles.

And, proponents say, the laser's narrower beam makes a laser detector largely ineffective in warning a motorist in time to slow down. By the time the detector beeps a warning, they say, speed likely will have already been measured.

But Peter McAdams, product manager of Escort, a company that makes laser detectors, says that his new unit has a range of 2 miles -- at which point, he says, the laser's beam is wider than radar's, having been dispersed by auto exhausts and other airborne compounds. "So, it's quite easy to detect," he says.

Technically, that is true, says Mike Phippen, marketing manager of Laser Technology Inc. of Englewood, Colo., the larger of two U.S. producers of laser guns. But, he says, police officers usually aim the laser gun at cars no more than 1,000 feet away. Even if the officer misses, in the kind of heavy traffic for which the laser gun is designed the beam probably will never get much farther.

Escort's laser detector is about the size of a compact radar detector -- less than 3 inches wide and less than 1 inch high.

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