Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wisconsin State Patrol announces results of aerial enforcement missions

To crack down on speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, Wisconsin State Patrol Air Support Unit pilots have flown 79 traffic safety enforcement missions this year as of September 30.

The State Patrol Air Support Unit currently has three sergeants, a trooper and an inspector who are licensed pilots. They fly three specially equipped Cessna 172 Skyhawk planes based in Madison, Oshkosh, and Eau Claire. From their airborne vantage point, they can detect speeding, aggressive driving, tailgating, unsafe lane changes as well as other traffic violations and relay that information to officers on the ground for enforcement action.

As of September 30, State Patrol aerial enforcement missions yielded the following results:

·         2,197 traffic stops

·         1,324 speeding citations

·         476 speeding warnings

·         Fastest speeding violation was 116 mph.

·         1,662 total citations

·         1,238 total warnings

Missions were flown over 26 different counties. Federal funding supported 71 of the 79 total missions. Sixty-eight of the missions were flown in August and September, which typically are high-traffic volume and high fatality months.

The State Patrol will continue aerial enforcement in October and will plan missions for 2013.

"Aerial enforcement is a valuable traffic safety enforcement tool. From the air, our pilots can identify traffic violations as they occur over an extended distance and expanse of roadways," says State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety. "In addition, pilots can detect traffic violations in areas that are difficult for enforcement by officers on the ground such as construction work zones, no passing zones, and roadways without adequate shoulders or median crossovers for stopped cruisers."

The goal of the State Patrol’s aerial enforcement is to improve traffic safety, which ultimately will save lives and prevent injuries, according to Major Huxtable.

"Speeding is prevalent and deadly in Wisconsin. Last year, 160 people were killed and 7,700 injured in speed-related crashes. Despite the obvious dangers of speeding, it is by far the most common traffic conviction in Wisconsin. Last year, drivers amassed more than 180,000 speeding convictions statewide," she said. "At higher speeds, you’re at greater risk of a crash. Furthermore, the violently destructive forces of a crash become more severe as speeds increase. Drivers traveling at high speeds for an extended period of time on the open road also tend to not slow down sufficiently when approaching an intersection, work zone or traffic congestion. By slowing down, drivers can save both time and money as well as conserve fuel. And even more important, obeying speed limits will help make progress toward the goal of zero preventable traffic deaths in Wisconsin."

Note: Digital photo (jpg) of an Air Support Unit plane is available at the WisDOT website (

Wisconsin State Patrol Air Support Unit fact sheet

State Patrol Air Support Unit capabilities:

Aerial traffic safety enforcement is an effective tool that can readily detect violations that occur over an expanse of roadways, including speeding, reckless/aggressive driving, and unsafe lane changes. Pilots also can detect violations in areas that are difficult for enforcement by officers on the ground, such as construction work zones, no passing zones, and roadway sections without adequate shoulders or median crossovers for cruisers.

In addition to traffic safety law enforcement, the Air Support Unit is trained and equipped to assist law enforcement agencies statewide in search and rescue missions, aerial observation for traffic control and direction, criminal and drug activity surveillance, tracking of criminal suspects, VIP escort support, aerial photography, and emergency organ transport. While monitoring enforcement actions, pilots also can enhance the safety of officers on the ground.

Current Assets:

·         Five active licensed pilots—three sergeants, one trooper and one inspector.

·         Three Cessna 172 Skyhawk planes based in Madison, Oshkosh and Eau Claire, which are capable of flying missions statewide.

·         Planes are equipped with VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder) for enforcement of speed limits. A You Tube video ( provides a brief explanation of how VASCAR works.

·         Planes also are equipped with thermal imaging devices for search and rescue missions and locating subjects attempting to elude law enforcement.

Summary of Air Support Unit missions in 2012 (as of September 30):

·         79 missions

·         26 different counties

·         Missions averaged—28 traffic stops, 17 speed citations, 21 total citations.

·         Missions were flown in March (2 missions), June (4 missions), July (5 missions), August (23 missions) and September (45 missions).


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