Problem drivers on a short leash

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

evading 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.

The device trips the system in the police car, as long as the offender's

transmitter is within a quarter of a mile or so, and a photo and description

of the offender pop up on the computer, along with a rough geographical

bearing of the transmitter's location.

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

Administration research project and is being tested by police in Norwalk,

Conn.

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.

"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 into adding a Global Positioning System function,

Rodgers said, 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 pay most of the

system's cost. The only cost to the police is the antenna for the patrol

car.

About the Author

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

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