E.V. firm's device detects speed cameras - East Valley Tribune: News

E.V. firm's device detects speed cameras

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Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 6:39 pm | Updated: 9:35 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Although it costs $117.50 more than paying for one photo speed ticket, a Gilbert man thinks the speed camera detectors his company sells are worth far more than what they cost.

Don Norton, president of Cheetah USA, said his home-based company has sold about 200 Global Positioning System mirrors - they clip on to a vehicle's mirror - since they became available in Arizona on May 1.

Click on the graphic for a larger view
The Cheetah GPSmirror is a speed camera and red-light camera detector.</p><p>How it works graphic by Scott Kirchhofer/EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, SOURCE: Cheetah

He said sales have doubled since the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced nearly two weeks ago that it hopes to begin a statewide photo enforcement program in September to include 100 systems with 60 stationary speed cameras and 40 mobile speed units.

"Technically, the more cameras there are, the better for us," Norton said. "It's music to my ears. If they got rid of every camera, if we didn't have to deal with Big Brother, I'd have to go back to computer work."

DPS said it wants to have 50 cameras working by the end of September when legislation expanding the statewide program takes effect.

The rest would be ready by January. Drivers will be cited for going 10 miles over the speed limit with the fine for errant motorists $181.50.

The GPS mirror costs $299, plus $9 shipping.

"After what would be the second ticket, it's money in your pocket," Norton said.

DPS Lt. Jim Warriner said that Cheetah's devices are legal in Arizona and basically serve the same purpose as DPS speed cameras.

"If it accomplishes the same job - getting people to slow down - then it's good," Warriner said. "We want people to understand that we're serious. Hopefully, they'll drive the speed limits."

Warriner said DPS won't list speed camera locations on its Web site. He said that speed limits are posted and "people will figure it out."

He added that signs warning drivers of approaching camera locations will be posted well before a driver gets to a camera location, fixed or mobile.

Norton, who bought the U.S. rights to Cheetah from the Scottish company in 2006, disagrees with not listing locations of speed cameras.

"We're saying play fair with drivers; publish the locations, or it will give further ammunition to critics that these cameras are purely for revenue purposes," he said. "It would be very difficult to argue otherwise."

Norton said a radar detector cannot find modern speed cameras or red-light cameras because they don't emit any radar signals.

A speed camera detector uses the same GPS technology as a navigation unit to work out where a driver is.

It compares a driver's location against the camera locations stored in its memory.

When it gets close to a location, it sounds an alert.

Using GPS location also means that camera detectors do not malfunction with false alarms.

The portable Cheetah devices can be plugged into a cigarette lighter outlet.

They weigh 1 1/2 pounds and are 12 1/2 inches wide, 3 1/2 inches high and 1 inch deep.

They have voice, tone and visual alerts to identify approaching cameras.

There are directional camera alerts, advisory speed limit announcements and warning distances that adjust with the vehicle's speed.

Norton said the system also contains a GPS tracking device that can be used if a driver is lost.

Camera alerts on his devices are given at distances from 400 yards to 800 yards, depending on the speed or the road, he said.

Favorite locations that camera vans are known to use regularly are updated into Cheetah's proprietary Trinity Database.

Drivers can download this data into the product to receive safety reminders in advance of these common mobile sites.

There are no subscription charges or download fees for camera updates.

Drivers can also store up to 100 personal locations in the mirror's memory.

Reminder alerts will be given at these stored locations, until the driver deletes them.

On freeways like Loop 101 where photos cameras were in place during a test period that ended in June, drivers can set an over-speed alert feature.

Norton said if drivers are keeping up with traffic and unaware of their speed creeping 10 mph over, a voice alert will remind them to slow down before they risk getting a ticket.

"This is not like a radar detector for speeders that gives false alarms and detects enforcement too late anyway," Norton said. "It's all about safety, and making drivers more aware of their speed, surroundings and when they are approaching hazardous areas."

Norton said his devices come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

They can be hard-wired to a vehicle's fuse box for permanent mounting.

Norton said a dash-mounted version will likely be available next year.

DPS said that placement of initial stationary photo radar systems will be based on serious injury and fatal collision data in partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The stationary systems are expected to be placed on major freeway stretches including the junction of interstates 10 and 17, and the ministack at I-10, Loop 202 and state Route 51.

Those are spots where DPS says crash rates are exceptionally high.

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