Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Big brother is watching you

This information was passed on to me by Scout John and comes from the Courier newspaper.

Spain operates a network of traffic monitoring devices, not only looking for drivers who are speeding or those who skip trough red lights, but a new range monitors looks out for such bad practices as using a mobile phone and the use of seatbelts.

Here are the five types of monitoring devices currently in use.

1. Fixed Cameras: These devices are nicknamed “speed traps without operators” as they are located along the road network, usually at the side of the road, or sometimes on poles or across the carriageway, and monitor vehicles as they pass, recording those who exceed the maximum permitted limit.

2. Mobile Radars: These require an operator, or a small team, and are often located in unmarked Guardia Civil vehicles, as well as some in marked cars belonging to traffic law enforcement groups, including the DGT themselves. Depending on the type of equipment, the recording vehicle can either be static or moving.

3. Fixed-Section Radars: These devices operate over a fixed distance of road and monitor the average speed between two points on that section. These devices are often considered to give a more realistic impression of recorded speed as the driver doesn´t usually react instantly when they see one, and so the average reading is a more likely to be the true speed.

The camera at point “A” records the number plate as the vehicle passes, including the date and time. Using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, the car is then recorded as it passes point “B”, and the time it has taken to cover that distance recorded. If the journey has registered an average speed above the permitted limit then the details are sent to a central processing point where the fine is automatically processed and sent to the driver.

4. Red-Light Cameras: This type of equipment does not measure the speed of a vehicle but takes a photograph if the vehicle has failed to stop at a red light. In Madrid alone this year there have been an additional five of these cameras installed  with another four due before they become active in June.

5. Pegasus Equipped Helicopters: Pegasus is the name of a recording device fitted to most of the DGT´s traffic helicopters. Distinctive by their yellow and light blue colouring, these “eyes in the sky” can catch offending motorists from a kilometre away and at a height of 300 metres, recording the average speed and vehicle characteristics, as well as monitoring for other traffic violations.

Once the infraction is recorded the data is sent immediately to a central processing point, the Centro de Tratamiento de Denuncias Automatizadas, or ESTRADA, where a fine is automatically issued. In the event of a serious offence, the helicopter crew will summon ground crews to intercept the vehicle.

Although the article mentions five types of monitoring devices in use, there is also the new type which monitors mobile phone and seatbelt use. The first set of these have only just been installed and will continue to roll out across the road network during 2016 and 2017.

There is also a further monitoring device which is sometimes confusing to motorists, as these metal boxes live alongside the road network but have no visible means of taking a picture. They are identifiable by a square marking in the lane nearby, which is a monitoring sensor, sending information to the roadside box. These devices are used to monitor traffic flow statistics and are not used in enforcement, which is why they have no means of recording individual vehicle details. They are able to record the vehicle type and the number of vehicles using an area, providing essential data to road planners.

In total, across Spain, there are currently 800 fixed cameras, 16 Fixed-Section Radars and 6 helicopters equipped with Pegasus, as well as countless patrols from both the Guardia Civil and the police.

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