DPS aerial patrols look for speeders in Southern Arizona - CBS 5 - KPHO

DPS aerial patrols look for speeders in Southern Arizona

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Speeding drivers traveling along Southern Arizona's highways have more than ground patrols to worry about. A plane will be watching for them, too.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety has designated one of its aircraft to look for speeding vehicles along I-10 on Saturday and Sunday.

The aerial patrols are an effort to prevent deadly accidents on I-10 and slow motorists down near the Pima County and Cochise County line, where DPS has received complaints of reckless driving.

The patrolling is made possible by a grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, which regularly provides funding for airplane enforcement details across Arizona.

This weekend, the single-engine Cessna plane will hover over mile post 292 on westbound I-10, near the Empirita Road exit, according to DPS Aviation Supervisor Andrew Dobis.

DPS has employed this type of patrolling for 50 years and it is a common method of speed enforcement in larger states, Dobis said.

A pilot and a spotter crew member flies about 1,000 feet above the ground as they watch over white marks painted on a designated highway where the patrolling is taking place.

The spotter starts a stop-watch the moment a fast-moving vehicle passes the white mark and stops the clock when it passes the next mark, after a quarter of a mile.

They don't use radars or lasers; just simple math.

"The stop-watch does the math for us. It is simply time over distance. So we know it's a quarter mile and the stop watch computes the time. It does the math and it gives us the speed the vehicle is traveling," Dobis said.

Dobis and his crew member will work with four Tucson-based DPS vehicles on the ground to catch speeders.

By the end of Saturday morning, the air crew already cited 41 speeders using this system, which Dobis said points to its efficiency. All of those vehicles were going at an average of 85 miles per hour, according to Dobis.

"It's an extremely fair way of measuring people's speed because we're averaging their speed out over a quarter mile. So let's say someone was going 100 miles an hour for the first part of that quarter mile and for the last part of the quarter mile, they're going 50 miles per hour. Well their speed will be averaged out and we time them at 75 miles an hour," Dobis said.

The aerial patrols will continue on Sunday at 8 a.m. until later afternoon, weather permitting.

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