From the Archives

The Southern Democrat, July 29, 1954

Radar traffic control unit demonstrated

Members of the State Highway Patrol were here Monday to demonstrate a new traffic control unit which operates electronically. The device was mounted on a car parked near the temporary courthouse and recorded the speeds of the vehicles traveling Highway 25. A number of local officials and businessmen were invited to observe the demonstration.

In charge was Lt. Roy Bradford of Decatur. Assisting were Sgt. H.E. Lee and patrolman C.R. Clayton of Gadsden and patrolman George Brown of Oneonta. According to information disclosed Monday, the state will begin using the radar control unit as soon as similar demonstrations have been made in every county in the state.

The machine consists of a picture box from which emanates an electronic beam which measures the speed of any vehicle moving from any direction along a highway. The speed is registered on a dial similar in appearance to a speedometer. Operating from a battery, the device can be left mounted on a car or can be mounted on a tripod. Its range is about 200 feet and, to be effective, it must be placed not more than 18 to 24 inches from the highway else the beam would not be broken by the traffic. Two-way radio contact with a second patrol car could bring about arrest of speeders. A member of the patrol stated that the radar unit is not to be used as a “speed trap” but as a deterrent for those drivers inclined to exceed the speed limit. It will either be mounted on a marked patrol car or on a tripod with warning signs that the motorist is entering a radar-controlled traffic area.

A comparison of traffic deaths in Alabama and Mississippi during the Christmas-New Year’s holidays was given by members of the patrol. In that period, Alabama chalked up 34 deaths to Mississippi’s one. Officials in that state say that credit in great measure for such a low fatality record is accorded the radar unit. It has been in use in Mississippi for the past two years. It is now being used in more than 30 states.

Alabama highlight

In early Alabama the construction and maintenance of the main thoroughfares was made a public obligation from the outset, and all roads subject to public control were called “public roads.” There were thousands of roads opened and maintained by the efforts of individuals or communities – usually called “country roads” – that intersected and linked together the public roads. Though usually very rough, they made the public roads available to the great mass of people who did not live on them, and in many communities they were the sole means of intercourse.