Traffic Law and Physics

About a month ago, a physicist from University of California San Diego was given a ticket for running a stop sign. Most people grumble, cry, but ultimately hire an attorney or pay off the fine. Not Mr. Dmitri Krioukov though, he had science and math on his side to fight the law.

With physics on his side he presented a modest 4 page paper titled The Proof of Innocence in which he explained the triple coincidence that took place the fateful day he was stopped.  The abstract reads:

“[In this paper], we show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police officer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satisfied: (1) The observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) The car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) There is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign.”

The conclusion Mr. Krioukov reached is that the officer’s “perception of reality did not properly reflect reality”. Basically, the officer was wrong. This case may be set precedence for other cases where people may want to challenge an officer’s decision for traffic matters.

Mr. Krioukov in return didn’t have to pay the $400 fine to the state of California. This is a good reminder to not be so quick to write off high school calculus as it may come in handy and save you your hard earned money.

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One Response to Traffic Law and Physics

  1. That is a great example why you should go to court and not just pay the fine. Also a great example of the different ways you can apply physics in everyday life.

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