WASHINGTON — From time to time, drivers in the D.C. area see signs warning “speed limit enforced by aircraft.” But motorists most likely won’t see police planes when they look up.
The state police departments in Virginia and Maryland both say that the airplanes haven’t been used to track lead-footed drivers for some time.
Maryland troopers last used airplanes for traffic enforcement about five years ago, but that was to target aggressive drivers on the state’s highways, not necessarily speeders.
“The last time they were specifically used for speed enforcement was in excess of 20 years ago,” said Lt. Keith McMinn with Maryland State Police Aviation Command.
In Virginia, it’s been at least three years since troopers in the sky looked for speeders, according to Corrine Geller with Virginia State Police.
“In recent years, due to budget reductions and budget cuts, trying to be as efficient as we can with the money we have and our resources, we haven’t been able to conduct any of the aerial speed enforcement initiatives,” Geller said.
The cost of using the speed enforcement tactic and the manpower required were cited by both departments as a big part of the decision to stop the patrols from the air.
Aerial monitoring for speeders requires both troopers in the air and others standing by on the ground to pull over motorists going too fast.
McMinn also cited the cost of possessing and maintaining the equipment used to determine if a driver is speeding, as another reason Maryland decided against the program.
In the meantime, Tamara Rollison with the Virginia Department of Transportation said Virginia State Police have asked them to keep the signs up. The cost of maintaining them is minimal and the signs can last for up to 25 years according to VDOT.
Geller said there may not be immediate plans to resume speed enforcement from sky, but the method does remain an option for the department to catch speeders.
“Hopefully in the future when man power and funding permit, we can utilize this enforcement mechanism again,” Geller said.