WSP cracks down on speeders from the sky

YAKIMA, Wash. -- We've all seen the signs on the highway that say, "Speed enforced by aircraft."

Although we might not believe it, they're actually up there and cracking down on speeders.

The old strategy of keeping an eye out for cop cars around the corner and in your rear view mirror, won't always be enough especially when the cop's in the air.

"When we have that aircraft up we get the people that are doing the stuff when police officers aren't around, and so this is a huge part of it and trying to get people to leave that halo on while people are driving their cars all the time," said Trooper Darin Foster.

From the air, troopers can see speeders for a longer period of time, and watch for drivers tailgating or cutting off others.

The process is simple. No radar, just old fashioned stop watches.

Once troopers eye a car that appears out of flow with traffic, they time how fast it takes them to cover a mile, and calculate their speed.

The pilot then radios to the troopers waiting on the ground, who pull over the surprised speeder.

KIMA pulled the numbers and found how many speeding tickets have been given through the aviation unit in our area.

In District 3, which includes Yakima, the numbers have risen since last year, already at more than 500.

In district 6, which includes Ellensburg, we're at more than 1000.

More than just giving out speeding tickets, WSP's planes are used for things such as search and rescue and high speed pursuits.

"One night about midnight we found an alzheimer's patient, elderly person that had walked away from a nursing home and she was up to her waist in the Puget Sound, and if it wasn't for the camera and having that crew out that night she most likely would have died," said Trooper Troy Davis.

WSP's up in the air a couple days a week in the Ellensburg and Yakima areas. Everyday catching speeders at over 100 mph. All in an effort to promote safety and end traffic fatalities.

The highest recorded speed they've caught was at over 120 miles per hour.

In a four hour shift they can typically give out close to 40 tickets.