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You're not likely to come across an ad exactly like that and, if you did, you can be sure there would be a loud cry to deal quickly and effectively with the sponsor.

But change a few words, while leaving the basic approach alone, and you have a sales pitch that is fairly common. A quick venture with an Internet search engine turned up nine sites, in this country and Britain, huckstering a line of devices intended to thwart the law and blatantly encouraging potential customers to do so. Auto supply stores which Delaforum visited are a bit more discrete, but carry the devices on their shelves.

The products being offered detect or jam police radar and sonar. They sell generally in the $200 to $400 range but are

 

Highway speeds have long since rendered signs like this obsolete while intervals between speeding vehicles have decreased.

said to easily pay for themselves in fines not paid. To be sure there is nothing new about their availability. They have been around for several years, but updated models with new technology keep appearing.

And to keep up with the embryonic, but certain to grow, use of camera enforcement there are plastic license plate holders which dull the numbers when viewed straight-on but are said to photograph as a blank from just about any angle at which a camera would be mounted.

Sale and use of such stuff is legal in Delaware and, as far as could be determined, in every other state except California and Virginia and perhaps a few scattered urban jurisdiction.

Why get bent out of shape over that? After all, the opponent is only traffic laws and the men and women who enforce them.

At least one on-line outfit actually claims the purpose for locating highway radar is to remind drivers who happen to be inadvertently exceeding the speed limit to moderate a bit and drive safely. If they do so before the excess is detected, so much the better.

Consider, however, that in any jurisdiction over any measurable period, far more people are killed and injured in traffic accidents -- all but a miniscule portion of which come about as the result of breaking one or more traffic laws -- than during armed robberies. Comparative property losses come in even greater proportions.

There are very few people reading this article who were not personally involved during the past year in a highway accident or know someone who was. All but a handful allege, of course, that the other driver was at fault.

Forty-nine people died on Delaware highways through July 2. That's nine fewer than in the same period in 2001. As it happens, there were eight fewer pedestrian deaths this year -- two versus 10.

While consumption of alcohol and use of drugs, including legitimate ones, are the most frequently cited culprit in highway carnage, the fact is they have considerable competition from other causes.

Far and away the most pervasive traffic violation is speeding. In 2001, there were more than 55,000 tickets issued statewide. Driving-under-the-influence citations amounted to 3,700.

Travel on any road, at any speed and literally within minutes someone will pass or come bearing down from the rear and a hardly disguised attempt to induce you to increase speed.

What's more, prevailing speeds obviously are increasing. On Interstate 95 approaching Wilmington from the south, it's 70 m.p.h. or more in a 55 m.p.h. zone. Freeway speeds are common on roads such as Concord and Philadelphia Pikes. Posted 35 m.p.h. and 25 m.p.h. limits in residential areas are jokes. Flashing yellow lights in school zones are universally ignored.

An obvious conclusion is that drivers now regard the numbers on 'speed limit' signs as the lower, rather than upper limit -- the minimum rather than the maximum.

Considerable evidence exists to support a conclusion that official tolerance is probable cause for the escalation. A generally accepted rule-of-thumb has been that there is a grace range 10 m.p.h. over the limit. That, too, seems to be increasing.

Warnings that limits are "strictly enforced" are not to be taken seriously.

Because the Federal Highway Administration no longer requires submission of such information. Delaware Department of Transportation on longer routinely monitors average highway speeds. A spokesman told Delaforum it does so only when it is a factor in connection with specific projects. He said he could not provide nor obtain information on what has happened to speeds on widened Naamans Road in the year or so since that project has been completed. Regular users of the road do.

 

Posted on July 8, 2002

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