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TRAILER SERVES AS CONSCIENCE FOR WOULD-BE SPEEDERS

Smart Trailer, being tested by town police, may be the best speeding reminder since speed bumps were invented, Orchard Park Councilman Steven McCarville believes.

"I saw it on Freeman Road a couple days ago, and it really caught my eye. It works, and we should consider buying one," he said at the recent Town Board meeting.

The $15,000 device is not unfamiliar to area motorists: A self-contained trailer parked at the side of the road whose blinking digital readout shows your approach speed. Most drivers traveling over the limit will slow down.

"We always have a few people who hit the gas to see how high they can get it to read," said Police Chief Sam McCune. "Of course, they could be surprised by a radar car parked just beyond the trailer."

With 160 miles of road to patrol -- most of them in good shape, a lot of them straight -- Orchard Park will always have speeders, the chief believes.

"That's the single most common complaint we get in the summer," he said. "People want us to post radar patrols, even on dead-end streets. Folks are outside more, their windows are open, they are walking or riding bikes and so they are more conscious of auto traffic. And of course, with dry roads and fair weather, people tend to drive faster, too. We can't send a radar patrol to every street, so this helps."

Besides alerting motorists to their actual speed, the trailer saves every "hit," to create a log of how many cars pass, at what time of day and at what speed. Its computer can calculate average speed, the mean speed and the "85th percentile." That's a safe travel speed for any road, determined by the speeds most motorists find it comfortable to drive. If made the limit on that road, 85 percent of motorists will travel below or at the limit.

"The trailer can do traffic surveys while it's working. That's an important feature for a town growing like ours," McCarville said.

A printout from Freeman Road, for example, showed an almost constant high traffic density from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It also showed most drivers travel that street at speeds ranging from 35 to almost 50 mph. It is posted at 30 mph. If the limit were raised to 40, most drivers would likely comply.

"But there's no way that will happen," McCune said. "If the trailer warnings don't help -- and they seem to, we would back that up with radar cars and tickets. We've had the device on California Road, Freeman, Berg and will place it on a few others."

The trailer also has the capability of photographing a license plate and issuing a ticket without an officer present, but that's not legal in New York. "However," McCune said, "we might just back it up with a radar car."

He added that he does not know how long the trailer's effects last, "but I've had calls from California Road residents who thanked me. They said it cut down speeding significantly in their neighborhood."

After the two-week loan is up, the device will head to West Seneca to be tested by that police department.

And Chief McCune already has included the trailer's $15,000 purchase price in his next budget request.

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