State Patrol says more aerial enforcement on the way as traffic picks up

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Law enforcement officers don't often tell drivers where they are, but an effort to get people to slow down might have some scanning the skies.

The Wisconsin State Patrol said it's going to start using its airplanes more as summer traffic increases.

“The idea isn't to write tickets, the idea is to get the voluntary compliance. That's why they're going to put out some of these flights that we're going to be doing on Twitter and announcing that we're going to be out there,” Sgt. Steve Tape said.

Tape, who has been flying for the past eleven years, said watching traffic from planes has been in practice for more than 50 years, as an effective way to see what other officers can't.

“Following too close, the aggressive drivers, you see a lot of that, cutting in when passing, that's the kind of stuff that you wouldn't normally see, when they're on the ground,” Tape said.

To catch speeders, the pilot watches vehicles pass markings on the road, flips a switch, then flips it again, when they reach another mark, one-eighth of a mile away, and the VASCAR system does the math.

The state patrol air support unit issued more than 1,500 tickets and 900 warnings last year.
Some drivers disagree with using the method, but say they'll slow down if they know they're being watched.

“I think it's kind of sneaky but I think if people are speeding then ... They deserve the ticket,” Eau Claire driver Brenna Hennessy said.

“I've been in the car with people driving and they say, if you see an airplane, you need to slow down, so I think if I knew there was going to be more airplanes out, if I saw one, I'd slow down.”

“It's probably not your driving that you should worry about, it's the other person's driving that you should worry about, and if you stay within the law, and stay away from people breaking the law, you should have no problems traveling safely.”

To be safe from a crash or ticket, Tape reminds drivers to watch speed and following distances, to drive sober and buckle up.

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