Mar 6, 2013 8:58 PM by Zach Thaxton
If you're among the many who think those "Speed Monitored by Aircraft" signs along the interstate are bogus, think again. In just two and a half hours Wednesday, more than 20 drivers were pulled over for driving more than 85 miles per hour near the former Pinon Truck Stop in Pueblo County. "We do use aircraft and we use them pretty often," said Trooper Kevin Betts with Colorado State Patrol. "Every now and then, there's people that are like, 'Hey, there's no airplane up there.' And we just call (the pilot) on the radio and he'll fly right down and turn his wing."
The average speed of the 20 drivers cited for speeding between 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on southbound I-25 between mile markers 113 and 110 was a whopping 89 miles per hour -- 14 miles an hour more than the 75 miles per hour speed limit. "For a two and a half hour operation with over 20 contacts, that's a lot for the Troopers on the ground," said Ryan Carlson, one of four State Patrol pilots who fly in three planes across the state's interstates and state highways. The planes do not measure vehicles' speeds with traditional radar, but rather by roadside markings every half mile. The pilot observes the time it takes for the vehicles to progress from marking to marking and then divides that time by the distance to determine the speed. Unlike radar, which pinpoints speed at a specific moment and location, airborne speed checking allows the pilot to observe a vehicle's speed continuously. Carlson says that allows him to determine whether the driver is truly speeding over a distance rather than, for example, quickly accelerating to pass a slower vehicle then returning to the posted speed limit.
When the pilot observes a driver in violation, he communicates with Troopers staged on the ground below and alerts them to the vehicle's make, model, violation, and proximity to the Trooper. In most cases, the vehicle in violation is pulled over within seconds of the Trooper entering the roadway. "It's just another tool that we have and it is a valuable, valuable tool," Betts said.