From the Skies: Cuts in Virginia Aerial Traffic Enforcement

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VA Cutting Speeding Tickets Enforced by Aircraft

Virginia has limited the number of speeding tickets issued by aircraft enforcement. It is just one of the many states in the country that have decreased their aircraft patrols to catch speed and traffic violators.

Driving on Virginia’s interstates, you may see large signs stating “Speed limit enforced by aircraft.” In 2000, Virginia State Police initiated an aggressive aerial traffic enforcement campaign to catch violators on the state’s roadways. However, since 2007, those programs have been cut drastically. In 2011, the State Police’s aviation division, based in Richmond, flew one mission, issuing tickets to only 20 drivers. It flew four missions in 2010 and didn’t fly any speed enforcement missions in 2009.

Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police, said “Due to economic conditions and mandated budget cuts… we’ve had to look at cost savings.”

Speed enforcement flights were once paid for with federal grants, but with cuts in federal spending, police departments around the country have put their troopers back on the highways.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that aerial enforcement missions require a plane, a pilot, a spotter who times cars as they travel between road markings, and a number of police cruisers on the ground to issue the speeding tickets. It costs Virginia State Police about $150 an hour to fly the planes. That number includes fuel and maintenance, but not officers’ salaries.

The use of aircraft was advantageous in enforcing violations in heavy traffic or over long distances. However, developments in laser technology have evened the field for officers on the ground, making aerial missions almost obsolete for police bureaus facing major budget cuts.

But not all states have done away with aerial traffic enforcement. The Ohio State Highway Patrol issued over 16,000 speeding tickets from aircraft last year. Florida issues an average of 30,000 tickets ever year from the sky.

While police in Virginia may be decreasing their air patrols, laser speed readers are filling in and traffic patrols are as numerous as ever. Contact an attorney if you’ve received a speeding ticket in Virginia.

The Weiland Firm, PLC is a leading Virginia Traffic Law Firm
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