By Greg Welter
CHICO, Calif. — Officers with the Chico police traffic unit used a high-tech device called Lidar Wednesday to monitor drivers speeding west on the Skyway, where the posted speed limit drops to 45 mph at the Chico city limits.
Nearly two dozen motorists, all going more than 60 mph, were pulled over and ticketed in a two-hour period.
Officer Frank Deshler, who ran the Lidar Wednesday and radioed vehicle descriptions to officers waiting just down the hill, said the stretch of highway between Potter and Bruce roads records a lot of bad accidents.
There was no shortage of offenders at first, noted Deshler, who said he was occasionally calling in speeders two at a time.
The number of speeders noticeably diminished after Chico area radio stations announced the enforcement effort around 12:30 p.m., but Deshler said he was pleased.
"We want people to slow down," he said. "We don't care what makes them do it."
Deshler said several drivers hit the brakes hard when they spotted him, aiming the Lidar device at them from beside his patrol car at a turnout in the Skyway median.
By the time they saw the officer, it was too late. Deshler said he was identifying speeders from several hundred feet away, after they passed the 45 mph sign. Even if they had slowed to within the speed limit when they passed him, they were still pulled over and cited.
He said the $4,000 Lidar device, which uses the speed of light as a measurement, instantly calculated the speed of a vehicle, and the number of feet the vehicle traveled before it slowed down.
In at least of couple of cases, that was nearly 500 feet.
When he radioed waiting patrol cars, Deshler gave them a brief description of the driver, the number of people in the car, and even details like bumper or window stickers on the vehicle.
"We wanted to make sure we were pulling over the right car," he said.
From Deshler's vantage point, he was able to see the actual traffic stop.
"That's the one," Deshler would radio. "He's right in front of you."
Deshler said motorists on roadways like the Skyway often speed because they get caught up in a "pack" of cars. One driver may take the lead, Deshler said, and others will keep up, not paying attention to their speed.
On Wednesday Deshler said several ticketed motorists were on cellular phones and not watching their speed.
The fastest recorded speed during Wednesday's enforcement was 65 mph, according to Deshler.
Wednesday's special enforcement effort was planned for 6-9 a.m., but delayed due to rain, said officer Todd Lefkowitz.
He said another speed enforcement on the Skyway is scheduled to happen soon.
Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record
New high-tech device pinpoints speeders for Calif. police