Tailgating: VAMA video measuring equipment

How VAMA video measuring equipment works

The VAMA video measuring equipment surveys the carriageway with two cameras. The first camera measures close range at 30 – 120 metres from the point where the camera is set up and the second camera measures long range at 80 – 350 metres.

The distance measurements are taken by the first camera. The second camera is designed to assess whether the person accused of tailgating was forced by the general flow of traffic to travel too closely to the vehicle in front. Both images are synchronised and can be used in the final evaluation.


Picture: © Steffen Niclas - Fotolia.com

The first camera measures vehicles over a distance of 50 metres as displayed by two markings at the edge of the carriageway. The markings are set at 40 and 90 metres from the camera. The camera measures the time it takes for two vehicles to cover the distance. The time difference between two vehicles is assessed in relation to the speed of the second vehicle in order to see whether it is tailgating.

The so-called principle of “half tachometer”, under which a distance of half the value shown on the speedometer should be kept to a vehicle in front, is generally considered to be represented by a gap of 1.8 seconds.

The entire measuring procedure is supervised by the police and recorded. If suspicions of tailgating arise, a frontal photograph of the vehicle and the driver is taken.

Generally, fixed penalty notices will display the average speed of the tailgating vehicle together with the distance in metres to the vehicle in front.

Operating conditions

The VAMA video measuring equipment is used to measure vehicles travelling at a speed of more than 80 km/h. For this reasons the system is normally only used on motorways and other high-speed roads.

Technical and legal errors

Tailgating may only be pursued by the authorities if it occurs over a distance of between 200 to 350 metres.

It is not considered tailgating if the front vehicle brakes or if the following vehicle briefly travels to closely to the vehicle in front.

The authorities select stills from the video material to present in the case. It may be the case that the selected photos show the accused at a less advantageous point in time than other photographs. Our lawyers therefore may decide it is in your interests to examine the evidence more closely with a view to presenting photos which document a more advantageous point in time.

To calculate the distance between two vehicles the rear axle of the first vehicle and the front axle of the second vehicle and are taken as measuring points. These are then marked on the photographs by lines. Often, the poor quality of the images or poor ambient lighting can lead the authorities to make errors when calculating the distance between the vehicles. Our lawyers would examine this point too.

The timing of a photograph is often overlaid over the image and depends on the shutter speed of the camera. Only when the clock and camera have been calibrated together, is the time indicator considered to be accurate. If such calibration has not taken place, the authorities must make allowances for possible calculation errors.

Tailgating measured at a large distance is also more likely to suffer from calculation errors.

In some cases even the distance between the markings on the road can be double checked.

If you have been accused of tailgating and VAMA video measuring equipment was used by the authorities, we can defend you! Call our team of expert German lawyers on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0, preferably before you fill out the pre-trial questionnaire.

Back to Tailgating

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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