Florida Highway Patrol Looks for Speeding Drivers From the Ground — and High Above

A FHP pilot uses a calibrated stopwatch to measure a vehicle's speed from the sky

The Florida Highway Patrol isn’t only catching speeding drivers from the ground – it’s using a plane pilot to nab them, too.

As NBC 6’s cameras followed FHP troopers at ground level, Telemundo 51 flew with a FHP pilot 2,000 feet above Florida’s Turnpike – high enough where drivers had no idea the agency had an eye in the sky.

Anyone going over 60 mph risks getting a fine sent down to them from up above.

“It’s just one more method that we use to assure that people obey and respect the speed limits on our state roads,” FHP spokesman Joe Sanchez said.

Instead of radar, the law enforcement pilot uses a calibrated stopwatch to determine how long it takes the driver to go through two white lines painted on the pavement a quarter-mile apart. The stopwatch is designed to give the pilot the average speed of the vehicle.

“It’s the same thing as a laser or a radar – the aircraft does the same thing,” Sanchez said.

Without losing sight of the speeder, the pilot will tell his trooper colleagues who to pull over, as they are strategically parked on the highway.

One driver of a silver car got a big surprise when he was told he got fined from the sky, after the FHP said he far exceeded the speed limit in a 60 mph zone.

“The reason why I’m stopping you is the aircraft flying above you got you at 89 mph,” Sanchez told the driver. “No way,” he responded.

The driver said he was going 43 mph. He said the FHP’s speed for him was impossible – but from the air the pilot had already issued a fine that he’ll have to take up in court.

Another driver, although he was at fault, said he knows the air patrol is always around the area, and agreed with the FHP’s element of surprise to catch speeders.

”Speeding is dangerous, and I can tell you one thing from experience, speed kills,” Sanchez said. “So if you’re out here and you’re speeding on our roads and you’re putting your life in danger as well as others, you’re going to get a ticket from the Florida Highway Patrol.”

The FHP said it’s not required to meet ticket quotas, but patrols from the skies to keep the highways accident-free. Its pilot typically flies during rush hour during the week, and in the morning on weekends.

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