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Candid camera hands out costly, but valuable lesson

I have seen traffic vans in many parts of Medford and was even caught once, and it has made me a better, more cautious driver as I never want to be caught again. I live on a street where the speed limit is 25 mph, but there are many drivers who ignore that and just go charging down the street without any regard for limits. How does the Police Department choose where to place the traffic van? Can we make suggestions? Who is responsible?

— Theresa W., via e-mail

While getting caught is no fun, we here at the Since You Asked School of Road Rage and Proper Etiquette are pleased to know you're a better, not bitter, driver because of it.

The Medford Police Department determines where to place the photo-enforcement vans based on speeding hot spots (Highland Drive, Highway 62 and East McAndrews Road are among those with dubious reputations). They also place them in high-risk areas such as school zones and based on tips they receive from concerned citizens like yourself.

If you think there are a lot of speeders cruising through your neighborhood, Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen invites you to call the department's administrative office at 541-774-2200 and alert them to the problem.

As there are only two photo-enforcement vans in Medford, the police may first place a radar trailer on your block, which displays the speed of an approaching vehicle and records the speed of passing vehicles for police reference, said Hansen. However, the records kept by the radar trailers don't lead to citations.

If your street is a hot spot, police will send in the cavalry — a manned photo-enforcement van. Vans prevent police from having to chase down speeding vehicles by catching speeders with a radar gun and snapping an attractive photo of the offending driver, which is later mailed to them along with the ticket.

It's an expensive photograph: A driver speeding on a 25 mph street at 40 mph can expect to receive a $190 citation.

Police say the mere presence of the van seems to have a positive effect on drivers with heavy right feet. And that, they say, is more important than the revenue from the ticket (although they're not likely to give the money back once you're busted).

"It (a photo-enforcement van) is not meant to be a revenue generator," said Hansen. "It's meant to correct the bad behavior of speeding drivers."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.