Aircraft help cite speeders here

The in basket: State Trooper Russ Winger tweeted an aerial photo recently, taken from a Washington State Patrol plane he was in during speed enforcement on Highway 3. The photo appeared to be of the stretch between the Mountain View Road overpass and the Highway 308 interchange near Bangor. I’ve known that such airplane-assisted patrols occur here. They are the reason you see painted Vs on the shoulder of our freeways, used to time cars as they pass between them.

But I wondered how often the planes are assigned here, if they can work at night, how the ground patrol units make sure they get the right car and whether ticketed motorists are told that they had been clocked from above.

The out basket: Russ told me, “We do aircraft patrols in Kitsap County on average of 2-4 times a month in the better weather months. Sometimes less and very rarely more.

“The aircraft can (keep) up to 5-6 troopers busy but most areas, like Kitsap, do not have that many available so it is usually 2, 3 or 4. Normally we will work the emphasis for two hours, sometimes slightly less or longer depending on circumstances.

“We do not work these at night in Kitsap County. The aircraft are capable of working at night using night vision and recording equipment. Most speed patrols, however, are done in the daytime hours.

“The aircraft utilize marked ‘courses’ on certain segments of highways. They are marked in half-mile segments with the ‘Vs’ you mentioned. Up to three, sometimes four, segments or half-mile checks can be attained  on a vehicle prior to ground units stopping the vehicle. In this situation, specialized digital stop watches are used to calculate speed using simple time distance to determine vehicle speed. The pilot tries to get at least two half-mile checks in to get a good idea what the vehicle speed is. Only one check is required, however.

“It is fairly easy to see vehicles that appear visually to be traveling above the posted limit and also faster than the surrounding traffic. The pilot starts his speed checks on these vehicles. Sometimes they do not work out and the pilot continues observing for better targets. Most courts have accepted the validity of this type of enforcement technique and support its use.

“The pilot radios ground units the vehicle speed, color and sometimes the model; SUV, truck, car, semi, etc., as well as lane position and time of check. The pilot keeps his eyes on the vehicle while ground units move into position —  usually from the freeway on-ramp — to stop the vehicle. The pilot monitors the vehicle until the ground unit is directly behind (it), assuring that the correct vehicle is being stopped.

The pilot can also relay more violation information such as unsafe following distance and improper or erratic  lane changes that may be observed.

“The trooper stops the vehicle, makes contact and advises the driver the reason (example, speed was checked at 77/79, utilizing aircraft).

“Occasionally some drivers are in disbelief of this and will ask to see this phantom aircraft. Troopers will usually take the time to point out the aircraft circling overhead.

“Occasionally a driver will complain that there are no signs on the road warning them of this aircraft spying on them. In Washington State, this is not required — and most likely would do little good.”




3 thoughts on “Aircraft help cite speeders here

  1. it’s only a matter of time before manned WSP pilots are replaced with cheaper and more fuel efficient drones that will keep a watchful eye on us. to be followed by AI on motorcycles that will issue us the tickets.

    brb. got to adjust my foil hat.

  2. Most courts may accept this manner of speed checking, but I have to say that most judges do not. I have been caught twice this way and both times the judge threw it out. Because from what they told me I have the right to see the given speed. I did not deny that I was speeding and I would have paid my fine but if there is one thing I learned a long time ago is any time I get a speeding ticket (which is maybe 4 times in the past 20 years) is to always go to court to try and get it thrown out. I have only had to pay one ticket and that was in bremerton and I didnt realize that I was in a school zone because I was not paying attention and I was completely at fault and I accepted that.

  3. These are not unfightable tickets. I’ve seen them thrown out a number of times. If you were not speeding and you think it’s a case of mistaken identity, don’t argue with the officer or do anything else to be memorable. The courtroom is the only place that your statements will matter. Do not admit to speeding. If you were not speeding and they ask how fast you were going, just tell them you believe you were operating at the speed limit. Send in the ticket to contest it. Go to the courthouse and ask to receive a copy of the front and back of the ticket before the court date. If you weren’t speeding, tell the judge that. If you believe there was another vehicle in the vicinity that you were confused with, be certain to mention that. If you are certain you weren’t speeding, make sure to state that you weren’t speeding and that you know you weren’t speeding because you were monitoring your speed closely and you were not distracted. If you WERE speeding, you can still request a mitigation if you believe there are mitigating factors. Know and understand the process and you are much more likely to come out with a satisfactory outcome. Good luck.

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