Talking robot, stop-sign monitors promote safety on road

While the standard method of deploying more patrolmen on city streets has helped reduce pedestrian and other traffic accidents, some police departments have come up with a few novel ideas.

Sgt. Dave Sherburne of the Colorado State Police in Greeley devised a system to catch stop-sign violators. He converted speed monitoring loops (sensors placed in the pavement near traffic signals or on highways) to measure a car's speed in fractions of a second as it approaches a stop sign.

Accident data, as well as recorded time of day and day of the week when most cars are moving too fast to stop at an intersection, tell the Greeley police when and where to stake officers. Sergeant Sherburne says the program's success has spurred the department to apply for federal funds for a large-scale application.

Orlando, Fla., on the other hand, has a new twist in teaching traffic safety. It has just sworn in OPD2, a walking, talking robot policeman with a traffic light in its right arm, a video camera in its belly, and a wireless, two-way microphone system.

Chief William Koleszar, who came to Orlando in February 1981, says, ''One of the things we did not have here were school liaison officers.''

''There was a 'talking' Volkswagen in Nevada, but we didn't have a gimmick. Then we heard about the Atlanta Police Department's success with a talking robot that they used to help communicate with frightened kids.''

The result was a specially designed $15,000 robot with Orlando badge No. 92, a police cap, and a'trailer that has ''Home of OPD2'' on the back.

''Most people think that there is a midget inside - he's that agile. The robot actually does hear and an officer outside the room responds to questions.'' Chief Koleszar admits OPD2 is a gimmick, ''but it's getting the safety message across.''

OPD2 was paid for by a Law Enforcement Trust Fund set u' by the State of Florida, with money from the sale of airplanes, cars, boats, and other equipment confiscated from drug-running operations.

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