Police Trapping Tailgaters With Smart Radar

Device Measures Distance Between Cars

Colorado State Patrol troopers and Denver police are cracking down on tailgaters with a laser gun that can detect speed and distance between two cars.

The federally funded program is called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks or T.A.C.T., and targets cars that tailgate big rigs and vice versa.

"Following too closely is the No. 1 cause of accidents on the highway," said Denver Police Sgt. Christopher Hoag. "Ninety percent of all the accidents that my unit handles on the interstates are following too closely."

Denver police are focusing on Interstate 25, while state patrol troopers are targeting Interstate 70 through Jefferson, Adams and Weld counties.

Teams of officers use the radar to track vehicles from bridges over the interstates and dispatch half a dozen "chaser" patrol cars to pull tailgaters over.

Hoag said in the past, officers have been forced to write tailgating tickets based on eyeing the distance between two vehicles.

"It's very difficult and onerous to try to prove it in court," said Hoag.

The laser gun breaks down the distance between vehicles to a fraction of a second.

Anyone driving less than one second, or six vehicle lengths behind a car at highway speeds, can be pulled over.

"Anything under a second is, without a doubt, following too closely," said Hoag.

The key to avoiding a ticket, Hoag said, is to remain one car length behind a car for every 10 miles per hour you are traveling.

"Pay attention to what you're doing," he said. "The whole thing comes down to patience."

The fine for following too closely is $130. Hoag said the campaign will last throughout the summer, with two additional week-long crackdowns in the months of August and September.