Virginia motorists are familiar with signs claiming "speed limit enforced by aircraft" such as the one on I-395N near Landmark Mall in Alexandria, but it turns out that the chances of receiving a speeding ticket by being tracked by an airplane are very low.
That’s because decreased funding, budget cuts and a lack of manpower have forced the Virginia State Police to cut back on its aerial speed limit enforcement program, according to The Daily Progress newspaper.
According to a Washington Examiner story from February, an aerial speed check has not been completed in Northern Virginia in the last three years.
The program was approved by the General Assembly in 2000. Between 2000 and 2008, state troopers issued a total of 5,117 tickets. Only 87 of those tickets came from five aerial patrols.
The Examiner story states that the money allocated to the VSP is not enough to cover the costs of operating the aerial program, so the program counts on safety grants and other revenue.
An average aerial trip will last between four-and-a-half to six hours at the cost of about $150 an hour for fuel and maintenance. Only a certified trooper-pilot can determine a vehicle’s speed. A trooper on the ground offers assistance to the trooper-pilot by pursuing speeder.
Costs aren’t the only obstacle that affects missions. Bad weather canceled a planned aerial trip in 2009, according to the Washington Examiner.
Virginia isn’t the only state seeing cutbacks in the use of their aerial program. Other states such as New York, California and Alabama have also seen decreases in the number of tickets issued from aerial trips either due to similar operating cost concerns or repurposing of resources, WTOP reported.