Whoa — not so fast, officers - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Whoa — not so fast, officers

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Posted: Saturday, June 3, 2006 9:51 am | Updated: 3:24 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The arrest of a Hyundai Sonata driver who police said was doing 147 mph on the freeway raised a burning question in the minds of readers and automotive experts on Friday: Can the small sedan from South Korea really go that fast?

On Friday, the Tribune reported that Scottsdale police arrested Lawrence Pargo of Goodyear on suspicion of driving faster than 100 mph on Loop 101 four times the morning of May 21.

The alleged speed limit violations were captured by the city’s photo enforcement system, a one-of-a-kind pilot program that began in January.

City officials said the system, operated by a private company, is accurate.

But questions about the 2006 Hyundai’s performance capabilities led some to wonder whether the system’s underground speed sensors were working correctly.

“How did the cameras catch someone going 147 mph? Either (A, it wasn’t a Hyundai Sonata, or (B, the cameras aren’t accurate. I suspect B, but neither is good,” wrote an e-mailer to the Tribune identifying himself as Tom Covington.

Pargo was arrested at his home on May 26 on suspicion of four counts of excessive speeding, reckless driving and endangerment.

Scottsdale police Lt. Frank O’Halloran called Pargo a “very dangerous driver” whose velocities ranged from 102 to 147 mph.

Hyundai sales manager Mark Bryce said the Sonata was a safe family car and likely couldn’t reach that speed.

He said he believed it was more likely the enforcement system had a malfunction.

Car and Driver magazine’s Web site, www.carand driver.com, states that the sixcylinder model has a top speed of 137 mph. It was unknown Friday whether the Sonata Pargo was driving had four or six cylinders.

The car was leased or a rental owned by a Virginia company, police said.

Pargo didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Redflex Traffic Systems — Scottsdale’s vendor for the Loop 101 program — and the city defended the accuracy of the photo enforcement equipment.

“The equipment is 100 percent accurate,” said Jay Heiler, Redflex spokesman. “It has a long record of reliability. The Scottsdale police has cross-testing done on the equipment every two weeks by Redflex, and an independent testing method with laser equipment.”

Still, some have their doubts.

Bryce of North Scottsdale Hyundai at 15500 N. Scottsdale Road said he has 15 years of experience in the auto business.

“Based on just the engine power and the gearing with the frontal area, with the amount of air you’d have to push out of the way, the car couldn’t go that fast unless it was heavily modified,” said Bryce, who has owned several high-performance cars. “You’d have to have a specialized car to go that fast.”

Mike Castillo, a certified Hyundai technician at Larry Miller Hyundai in Peoria, said Friday that he would be surprised if a Sonata could go as fast as 147 mph with federally regulated speed limiters required on cars.

The limiters automatically slow the fuel intake and maintain the near-top-rated speed when someone drives it too fast, he said.

“Once a top-rated speed is reached, the speed would hover right around 134 or 136,” he said.

Dennis Alonso of Scottsdale, a car enthusiast and opponent of photo enforcement, said he believes the case of the speeding Sonata shows the fallacy of automated enforcement systems.

“I don’t think justice should be served out of a private, for-profit vending box,” he said.

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