States Cut Back on Use of Aircraft to Enforce Speeding Laws


New York state highway signs warn, “State Police aircraft used in speed enforcement.” The New York State Police, who once routinely used planes to clock motorists, haven’t written a single ticket in that manner since at least 2005, reports the Associated Press. “It hasn’t been entirely eliminated,” Sgt. Kern Swoboda, a state police spokesman, said of the signs. “We still have the airplanes.” In budget-conscious times, he said, launching aircraft to catch speeders isn’t fiscally prudent. New York is one of several states to scale back the use of aircraft for traffic enforcement because of budget cuts or concerns about cost-effectiveness.

Typically, aerial enforcement programs involve a plane, a pilot, a spotter to time vehicles as they travel between lines painted on the road. and several cruisers to pull people over and issue tickets. “That ain’t cheap,” Swoboda said. He added that updated laser technology now allows a trooper on the ground to get speed readings over long distances and in heavy traffic – two situations where aircraft used to be superior. The California Highway Patrol still has 15 planes used to catch speeders, but spokeswoman Fran Clader said that as the annual air operations budget has dropped from about $12 million to $8 million, aircraft became more focused on supporting searches and pursuits.

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