Question: Is “pacing” a car an acceptable manner for determining speed?
Quick Answer: Yes, pacing is an acceptable manner for determining speed when a peace officer can base a car’s speed on his own perception and on years of experience and training in checking speed and pacing.
Facts: A trooper stopped defendant Ronald Hammen for speeding after watching him travel approximately 2,000 feet before turning right into the driveway of his home. Based on the timer associated with the trooper’s car video system, it took Hammen’s vehicle 31 seconds to travel the entire distance. Twenty-six seconds expired from the time Hammen’s vehicle left an intersection to the time he applied his brakes and then his turn signal in preparation for the turn into his driveway. The officer estimated Hammen was traveling 54 to 56 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone.
Why this case is important: Visual and other non-technical estimations of speed have been under attack, and this decision reaffirms that an officer can rely on training and experience to make such determinations. This court found that an officer’s visual perception that a vehicle was speeding, coupled with years of experience, constitutes specific and articulable facts that provide the officer with reasonable grounds to make an investigatory stop.
Keep in mind: The trooper who used this method of pacing did so by positioning his cruiser three to four car lengths behind the target vehicle and following it for two or three tenths of a mile. He kept the distance between the vehicles constant while monitoring the speed of his own cruiser.
Visit the Fifth District Court of Appeals website to read the entire opinion.