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COUNTYWIDE : Trend is for Kinder, Gentler Speed Traps

Solar-powered radar trailers that tell drivers how fast they are going are catching on in Orange County.

In the last year, Tustin and Buena Park have purchased trailers. Irvine made two of its own. Yorba Linda expects to receive two trailers next week, Mission Viejo has two budgeted and Laguna Niguel is thinking of buying one.

“It’s the latest thing,” said Jerry Crabill, a traffic engineer with Berryman and Stephenson Inc., consultants in Santa Ana. “What they do is identify visually to the driver how fast they’re going. And it’s proven that it slows the driver down.”

As the driver approaches the trailer, he sees a digital display of his speed, as well as the recommended speed limit, Crabill said. The natural response is to slow down, fearing a nearby police officer.

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Crabill, who acts as traffic engineer for several Orange County cities, said about 95% of drivers who come upon a radar trailer slow down at least 5 m.p.h.

Tustin has been using its trailer, which cost $7,000, since January. About three times a week, it is placed on a major thoroughfare or in a school zone or along residential streets where speeding problems have been identified. When it is sunny, the trailer can be used more frequently but if it is cloudy, it might be used only twice a week.

“The purpose is to achieve total speed compliance,” Tustin Police Sgt. Brent Zicarelli said. “It’s voluntary compliance for the community. It’s less expensive than putting an officer out there.”

Zicarelli said the Police Department has gotten numerous calls about the trailer--both from cities interested in buying one and residents who drove by it.

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“People say they think it’s great. They are looking at their speedometers again,” Zicarelli said. “We did have one person calling to say he thought it was unfair and wanted to know when he was going to get a ticket. When we told him he wasn’t going to get a ticket, he thought it was great.”

Sgt. Jim Lowder of the Irvine Police Department, which made its own trailers for about $1,500 apiece, said it saves the city money to set up the trailer rather than to station an officer--who has no intention of issuing tickets--by the side of the road with a radar gun.

“We look at the trailer as a tool to educate the public and gain compliance before we send an officer out there,” Lowder said.


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