The GATSO Camera is a common site at the side of our roads in the UK these days. We may hear sometimes about hand-held RADAR/LASER 'gun' traps. Then of course there is the more recent arrival of the Truvelo cameras, Mobile GATSOs and of course the 'Gatling-Gun'-style SPECs Camera Traps.
I am not going in this review to get bogged down by the heated arguments that people may have as to whether these sorts of methods of Road Traffic Law Enforcement might be a means just to tax the 'increasingly victimised' motorist or whether they really do save lives and have brought down the death toll significantly in certain areas. To get embroiled in such a discussion would take me away from the subject that I want to talk about here. I'll simply say that my heart suspects that the 'reality' for me is probably that there is truth that can be found sometimes from both perspectives/arguements.
The question is what is there available, for the 'most of the time' responsible motorist who may occasionally absent-mindedly go over the speed limit, to protect them from suddenly unwittingly getting 'flashed' etc when they might be doing 5 miles an hour over a speed limit whilst daydreaming a little. Short of being fuelled with paranoia and/or 'Pro-Plus' 24/7 (neither of which I understand are healthy options over prolonged periods time!) ... how about considering another alternative that might well (IF you are at heart a responsible driver!!!!) save your licence, potentially save lives, and help keep you on the straight and narrow????
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION
The SNOOPER S4 NEO
is different from the 'traditional' RADAR/LASER Detector
in that it (like 'Sat-NAV
' guidance devices that give you directions) also uses 'GPS' Global Positioning Satellite technology to advise you of where a lot of the traps are. Then there is the fact that it also comes as standard with a LASER detection device built in to it. Some of the Traps it May be able to offer detection against can be listed as follows:
- GATSO - Camera boxes on (approx) 10 foot posts by roadside/central reservation.
- TRUVELO - Similar to GATSO but take your picture as you approach rather than drive away
- DS2 - Type of 'mobile' speed trap with (approx) 3 foot high post by roadside that the Police unit connects to.
- Mini-GATSO - Can either be used from a van parked by roadside or over a bridge or maybe just without van! Some of which still use RADAR! So LASER detection on its own from the S4 NEO won't be enough in all cases! But you can buy an accessory device from SNOOPER that will also give you RADAR detection facilities!
- 'SPECs' Cameras - Fixed cameras on high towers that read your number plate a bit like a bar-code reader does. Look a bit like double revolving 'Gatling'-Style Machinegun muzzles. One takes your number plate down as you enter the stretch or road and another at a further known distance down the road. If it calculates that you have travelled the known distance too quickly it 'books' you.
- Handheld-LASER - usually looks like a gun that is pointed at your car and determines what speed you are doing.
- Handheld RADAR - as above, but less common these days in the UK although I am told may be still around in various guises. RADAR detection does not come as standard on the S4 NEO as previously mentioned … but you can buy a device that connects to the S4 NEO that can add this type of detection.
There are others that I may not have mentioned here - but these at least are the ones that come to mind right now. If anyone knows of others or believes that I am incorrect about the traps I have mentioned please send me feedback!OTHER SAFETY AND LICENCE PROTECTION WARNINGS:
It's not just fixed/mobile Camera and speed trap devices that can be detected by this unit! It also can be set additionally to warn of 'High Risk Zones' such as 'danger spots' where there has been history of incident/s of very bad accidents or sites notorious for mobile camera
units to 'lurk' from. Then there is also an option available to download and to detect schools too … so it also can be used to make you a safer driver as well helping to safeguard your licence!
HOW DO I USE THIS DEVICE?
Firstly - you MUST have an internet connection available from your PC/Laptop!!!
I usually plug the S4 NEO into my PC using the serial port
cables provided and the 'jack'-plug
socket that says 'RS232' on the S4 NEO. I then plug in
to a mains socket
and connect the other end to the back of the unit where it says 'DC 12V
' (when driving in the car it is this same socket that it gets connected to by a cable which is provided to plug in from the cigar lighter - unless you want to permanently 'hard-wire' the power cord to your car's 12Volt DC power
source … up to you!). There is software that they also provide on CD
that I loaded onto your PC in order that I could then have a program that will allow me to download the database on a regular basis to the S4 NEO. I understand that if you don't drive much or travel very far you Might (!) be OK with doing a download just once a week. On the other hand … if you do a lot of driving throughout various parts of the UK - like I can be known to do sometimes!! - Then it makes sense to download as much as every day!!!
Once downloaded I can plug the unit into the power-cord from the cigarette lighter in my car and either affix to double sided 'Velcro' to the dashboard or can use suction cups that affix to the windscreen to hold the device in place whilst driving. There is a user manual that offers guidance on subjects such as the best places to install the unit in the car.
The first 6 months
of using the downloadable database service was free. Then thereafter it costs me £4.95 UK Pounds per month to subscribe to the database.
IS IT INFALLIBLE?
No, I don't think so! Certainly at present … I very much doubt that it is foolproof. I have heard reports that the people who manage the database don't always verify and update the new sightings (that I have been advised to email in, rather than to upload from recorded co-ordinates) quite quickly enough. I also have had experience when they have got the direction of the trap not-quite-right (i.e. that it may be in a north direction but the database might have it down as being West) which means that the device may not warn you of a trap that you are approaching in those (hopefully somewhat rare) cases!
I have also read opinions by some people that the LASER detection device does not always work. That said I have heard reports quite to the contrary also. But seeing as I have not to date picked up a LASER trap I could not possibly say either way!
SO DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE ONE, THEN?
I think so … Definitely. Anything that can help to save your licence, even if it does not offer 100% protection 24/7 has got to be better than nothing! And there have been cases where I have not known the area I was driving through in the UK and the speed limit was not that obvious to me so it definitely helped me in those cases! A woman's clear voice warned me of the impending hazard/trap and what the speed limit should be for that area and then the LED Display showed the distance that I was from it as I drew closer. Say the speed limit was 40 MPH then the device will beep (on the current setting that I have it on) until I have slowed down to within the 40 MPH limit. It can be bought now for under £300 UK Pounds. If you value your licence and being a safer driver as much as I do - then you will find it (as I did) reasonably good value for money.
They say that peace of mind has no value. Well, this device does not offer me 100% peace of mind but it still affords more peace of mind than if I did not have an S4 NEO. I am not habitually a fast driver, I have (touch wood) full No Claims history, and a clean licence - and even though I own a fast car
(see my op titled "Rocket from the Land of the Rising Sun" if you wish …) I always try to respect the conditions of the road wherever possible and use my car with as much responsible judgement as I can. I have been to the funerals of both friends and members of family who have died in Road Traffic Accidents and at 37 years of age am quite aware of my own mortality. If one the other hand you are a driver that constantly stays within any given speed limit (which OF COURSE you will know the exact speed of … thought the entire road network of the UK!) then you may not find this device to be so useful. However for those of us who feel we would benefit from a little extra guidance … then the currently (as of today 19/09/05) 100% UK legal SNOOPER S4
NEO could prove to be a wise purchase!
If there is any information that I have mentioned above about this device, its functions, or speed trap devices that is incorrect then please send me feedback.
Thanks for reading this report.