Problem drivers on a short leash

People who try to drive on a suspended license will have a much harder time

trying to evade the police if they are sentenced to wear a new wireless

device on their wrists.

A component of Optimus Corp.'s Problem Driver Detection System, the

device beams a coded signal to police cars equipped with a special antenna

and a mobile computer.

It trips the system in the car, as long as the transmitter is within

a quarter of a mile or so, and a picture and description of the offender

pops up on the computer, along with a rough geographical bearing of where

the transmitter is.

The system was developed as part of a National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration research project and is being tested by the Norwalk, Conn.,

police.

Because the transmitter is coded specifically for each offender, the

police will know instantly that a person's driving has been restricted,

said Wesley Winn, Optimus' director for new business development. That provides

probable cause for the police to stop a car, even if it turns out the offender

is only a passenger in the car he said.

"With the growing acceptance of using detection technologies at stoplights,

this system could also be used so you could have receivers at fixed locations

as well as in police cars," said Chuck Rodgers, the company's vice president

of engineering.

Optimus is also looking at how to add a Global Positioning System function,

Rodgers added, so the precise location of the transmitter would be known.

That could also be useful for providing information to other officials,

such as probation officers.

Under the plan worked out by Optimus, the offenders themselves pay for

most of the cost of the system. The only cost to the police is the antenna

for the patrol car.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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