"Speed Monitored by Aircraft"

On some of my cross-country road trips, I’ve noticed some road signs that say “SPEED MONITORED BY AIRCRAFT”. Sometimes, there will even be some painted lines on the pavement, presumably to give these airborne cops a means to measure my speed without using radar. Never, though, have I seen any patrol planes. The whole thing sounds ridiculous but could it be true?

I could almost believe this if I was on some heavily-travelled tollway or the like but most of the signs that I’ve seen were posted on two-lane rural highways.

Yep, it’s true. A buddy of mine was driving along a road that was marked like that one day and noticed a chopper flying overhead never thinking it was the coppers. About a week later he got a speeding ticket in the mail.

Now, i never saw the said speeding ticket, but he was rather pissed off about the whole thing, so i don’t think he was pulling my leg about it.

On I-93 in New Hampshire, they’ll have the airplane radio ahead to a policeman waiting at the toll booth. At the toll booth, they don’t even have to chase the offenders; they just usher them to the side after they’ve paid the toll. Then they’ll have one or two policemen on the side of the road writing tickets. Quite an assembly line, although I only see it about twice a year.

I used know an airborne California Highway Patrolman. He flew out of Daggett airport, about half-way between L.A. and Baker. He would clock a vehicle, then radio to a ground unit. Once he landed, but I don’t remember why.

My grandmother got stoped by a highway patrol man once who already had a ticket writen out for her. She was very surprised because she wasn’t speeding when he pulled her over. He told her that she had been speeding about 10 minutes ago and clocked by a helicopter.

Since she did remember seeing the helicopter she believed him.

This was several years ago and in Florida.

What is truly scary is if you have access to a police scanner, turn it on while you’re driving down the road. You may hear the cops in the air talking to the cops on the ground, so you KNOW they’re up there somewhere, but sometimes it’s still damn hard to see them.

One other thing - technically, in California, it’s illegal for the cops to write you up for speeding if they’ve measured your speed by timing your progress across marks on the pavement. The California Vehicle Code says that the use of speed traps as a means of speed enforcement is not allowed, and it then continues to define ‘timing over a measured distance’ as one form of speed trap. The key is to get the cop to admit that s/he timed you. Most of the time, they’ll say they timed their shadow on the ground, and paced you with their shadow. They’re lying, of course, but they know the game better than the average motorist.

He was pulling your leg. There’s no way you can just get a speeding ticket in the mail, it doesn’t work that way. Air patrols (a/k/a “bear in the air”) always radio down to highway patrolmen in cars, they pull you over and give you the ticket based on info from the air.

Perhaps in your state. Off-topic, perhaps, but in the great state of South Carolina, about six years ago, I knew someone who received a ticket in the mail with a photo of his license plate taken by a camera on a bridge. Radar gun on one side, camera on the other. He was a potent mixture of astonishment and rage when it showed up, but he never paid it, never heard anything (I don’t live there anymore) and I only heard of one other person who got a similar ticket. My guess is it didn’t go over well or didn’t hold up in court.

Yes, and if you don’t pull over they strafe you. :smiley:

Here in California, the signs say (well, most of the ones I’ve seen, anyway) “Speed enforced by aircraft”, which never fail to conjure up some scary images in my head. monitoring is one thing… but enforcing…

Er, photo radar, which we have here in Colorado works exactly that way.

A stationary camera photographs both the front liscense plate and the driver and they mail you the loverly photo and your pricey ticket along with it. The ticket costs $60.00 (IIRC) but no “points” are applied to your driver’s liscense for committing the offense.

In my hometown, they have (or had) signs on one of the major streets that said, “SPEED CONTROLLED BY AIRCRAFT”. I was always ready to tell any cop that pulled me over on that street, “But officer, it’s not my fault that the aircraft controlling my speed made me go too fast!” :D:D

It’s was on North Ave. (US-6) in Grand Jct., CO. It’s got stoplights about every 1/4 mile, so I really didn’t see how this was a viable way of catching speeders on a 35 MPH street.

When Chas.E said it doesn’t work that way, he meant that the cops in the aircraft have no way [I hope] of telling who you are.

Photo radar is stationary and takes pictures of the license plate up close. I don’t think you can get a good enough picture from a plane hundreds of feet away.

I would have to agree with starfish (I made that sound like a onerous task). While photoradars work on the ground because they are set up so that the photo will capture the entire front/back of the car, including the license plate, an aircraft cannot. While cameras today could take a crisply detailed photo of your car from “hundreds of feet away”, unless that helicopter is hover a few feet above the road, it ain’t gonna have the angle to photo your driver’s license. If it only took a picture of your car without getting the license, the cops wouldn’t even know where to send the ticket. And it would be the easiest ticket in the world to beat, unless you’re the only person in your state who owns a purple Yugo, in which case you’re not going to be speeding anyway (or, in the reverse, you deserve the ticket :stuck_out_tongue: ).


SuaSponte said:

I keep my driver’s license in my wallet in my back pocket, I don’t think I have to worry about a helicopter having an angle to get a photo of it.


The question I have is if indeed it requires the assistance of a cop on the ground in order to monitor speed through the air, why bother with the helicopter altogether? The cops in my area seem to have an easy enough time giving tickets without any air assistance. Unless it’s so that they can put the ground cops in places where they have no cover (as you’ll see them and slow down only after it’s too late).

Well it would seem that the use of an aircraft would prevent motorists from using radar detectors and other such equipment to detect police in the area. This would give the police a chance to catch speeders who wouldn’t normally get caught speeding. I think for the most part though it seems to be a deterrent.

It most certainly is. It (VASCAR) was the method used to catch me at the highest speed I’ve ever been busted doing.

I was all alone on the Florida turnpike between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Feeling invulnerable with my Escort/Passport 5000 radar/laser detector, I was doing 105 in a 65. All of a sudden, a cop appeared in my rear view from the exit I had passed a quarter-mile back. I saw this and adjusted my speed accordingly (read: pulled up on the emergency brake) but the State Trooper immediately pulled into my lane and closed the distance rapidly. I knew she (yes it turned out to be a rather attractive female trooper) hadn’t radar’ed me since I had a very sensitive detector that would always go off from miles away. I also knew that she couldn’t have even come close to pacing me, since she had just entered the highway. So I sort of assumed that she somehow saw me fly by for brief instant before she actually left the on-ramp, like maybe through the bushes that divided us, but I still doubted that since she was well behind me.

It turned out that she wrote on the ticket that she got me with VASCAR AND by pacing me which was total and complete BS. I looked around for a plane or helicopter too, and I never saw anything. For all I know, she could have been scamming me on that, but I doubt it since it looked like she knew who she was after as soon as she entered the highway.

I gave the ticket and $79 to my lawyer and never had to worry about the ticket again. It was thrown-out without any court-costs, fines, or points assessed.

-For more on VASCAR go to:

-For more on speed detection in general:

-Cool article to read if you’ve ever considered buying a radar jammer.


If you’re too lazy to go to the link, I’ll give you the heads up. DON’T DO IT!!!

near my home town they painted the lines the wrong distance apart and had to refund a lot of money for incorrect tickets.